Dust Bad

Dust Bad. Wood Good.

We all have a love for playing with wood, that is why we have a continuing interest in finding out all we can about things that we are already really know about. But it may be that we have our head in the sand as well. Because even though we know on some level that sawdust is a bad thing, we deny to ourselves just how ad that can be.

The problem, I suppose, is that we have to decide between getting another tool that we really, really want, and getting the dust cyclone that we still covet.  Woodshop dust collection systems are cool things, and cyclone dust collectors are even cooler. There is something about that big cyclone sitting in the shop that makes a woodshop feel like a nearly professional level operation.

So we crawl around in piles of sawdust that should never make to the floor of the shop, we spend the day breathing in fine particles that we know are going to be bad for us in the long run. Telling ourselves that it really can’t be that bad for a day or two, or a month or two, or a year or two.

But this should not be a trade off that you should rationally be willing to make. That machine that you want is one that you have been doing without for a long time by now. It will wait for a while longer. The dust that accumulates in your lungs every day continues to accumulate. The wood projects that you could be creating will be able to be created at any point in the future. The damage being done to your lungs cannot be undone at a later date.

industrial dust collector

One of the problems that you run into when you are deciding whether or not to buy a dust collector, is the number of choices there are that have to be made. The cost of a good system can really mount up and it’s hard to take it just a step at a time. The pieces that are needed to put together a good system, one that will be affective as more than just window dressing, cannot be put together later. You need a collector, all the piping for the machines you have in the shop now, and ideally a filtration system to hang at the ceiling.

It makes no sense to go the economical route with all this stuff, since you  are making the plunge anyway. It’s going to be costly, but by the time you decide to invest you already have decided that your lungs are worth it.

Buy the best sawdust system you can. And if you need to wait for a while to save for the system you need (while putting off buying those tools you want…), then you should just put together a mobile single tool system that you can run with a shop vac hooked to each machine as you use it.  that is far from and ideal choice, but it will do in the short run and it is infinitely better than just letting the dust pile up.

Perhaps set a box fan in a window with a filter in front of it to take care of the fine particles for now – they are the ones that really do the damage.

One of My Favorites – Drill Impact Combo

Ever buy a tool that you have been wanting and been even happier with the result than you had even hoped to be? When you use a tool for the first time and think “where have you been all my life?”, you need to stop and appreciate it.

That was my first thought the first time I used a cordless impact tool. The ease with which one of these can drive a fastener is a true revelation. The screw runs at more speed and with less torque than it would if you were using he cordless drill to do the same job. And it does it while weighing about half as much. The combination of these factors means that spending a day running fasteners with an impact will leave you much fresher when evening comes.

Of course there are a couple of trade offs to make. The first is that the tool is designed to take driver bits. this means that if you want to use it as a drill you will need to use the bits that have hex shanks on them, which is an added expense.

The other thing is the noise. These darn little drills make a lot (a lot!) of noise. This can make for a long day, especially if you are inside. Which counteracts some of the advantages noted above. If you are comfortable doing so, or can learn to be, ear protection would definitely be a good idea. Of course if you are working with any of the extremely noisy tools used in woodworking you should be well aware of the need for hearing protection already.

The way that I came to own one of these drill/impact combo sets was the way that probably most do. At least most of us that have been using a cordless drill for a while. I had been aware of these kits for a while but had a perfectly useable Ni-cad drill that I had been using for years. Then came a day when it was obvious that my old tried and true set was on its last legs and I was going to need to replace it.

So began the search for a replacement. Though I had never actually had my hands on an impact driver, reading reviews quickly made it obvious how useful one could be. I immediately widened my search to include combo sets. Then I widened it again when it became obvious that lithium was the greatest new thing since, well, Ni-cad.

After a while, reading reviews and running out and actually getting my hands on tools, I had narrowed my search to a couple of options. An affordable one (that I miss timed the specials on) and the more expensive Makita set that I eventually purchased.

I say eventually because I did have to spend a while overcoming the sticker shock that the price label on the lithium impact combination sets had on them. Still after one mis-step involving metal vs. plastic chucks, I was the proud owner of a couple of new drills. The Drill motor even had a setting for hammer drill, which has been another revelation it works so well.

As I mentioned above, after using the impact tool I wondered how I had put off this purchase for so long.

If you are looking for a new drill and are on the fence at all – don’t be. I am virtually certain that you will be as happy with a combo it as I have been.

Then Again…

Though a portable planer is a great tool and is able to do things that a full size planer just is not, like move from place to place easily. There is nothing like an actual surface planer. It is one of the cool tools – when you put one in your shop, you feel like you have arrived, or at least taken one more step on the way to being an honest to goodness craftsman.

That might be over playing it a bit, but in combination with a good jointer a thickness planer can accomplish things that are very difficult or time consuming to achieve any other way. There are very few options when it comes to smoothing out a rough sawn board, or changing the thickness of a piece of lumber to the specs dictated by a custom piece of furniture that you want to build.

I suppose that with a really good bandsaw set up to resaw you can thickness a board, at least that’s what I’ve seen on TV. But I don’t think that that is really an option for an average joe like most of us. Even then you would be left with a surface that is going to take hours to get smooth without the help of, you guessed it, a wood planer.

planerAnd I know for sure that a table saw set up perfectly and running the correct blade can make a cut smooth enough for a glue up. But again, it’s the “perfectly set up” and “correct”, read expensive, blade that make this operation a non starter for many of us.

Being able to run board or boards through a jointer and then get the thickness right on the money, glue up a wider board, and not have to spend hours and hours working through sandpaper grades to get a finished piece is worth the price of admission.

Get yourself a suite of tools from a reputable manufacturer, even one like Grizzley, and set yourself up a shop that will be the envy of all your friends. And their friends and all the other people that really don’t like you that much.

Another Great Tool

I’m sure you know how useful a benchtop planer can be in woodworking. But are you aware that there is a small handheld planer that can do much of the same work?

And electric handheld tool like a planer is a useful piece of equipment once you understand how it can be used. There can be quite a learning curve if you never used a  hand plane. Or if you have the misfortune of having your only real experience be a disaster trying to plane a block of wood in 8th grade wood shop.

The single best use for a planer like this, in my opinion, is for making doors smaller. Doors that rub the carpet or doors that have swelled in the summer humidity to drag on there openings.

But beyond that, there are many uses that you might not even be aware of. There’s all sorts of information on sites like electrichandplaner.com that can show you some of those uses. Many of them hadn’t even occurred to me, and I have been around the block for a while.

Since that disaster in middle school, it hasn’t even occurred to me to run a plane across the electric planersurface of a piece of wood to change its thickness or to take a bow out of it.

So check on the site to get some tips on how to use a hand planer and what you should look for when you are going to be selecting on.

To be honest with you, after looking into it a bit more, there are many things that I can do with one that I really don’t have any ability to do at this time.

I always feel badly when I have a tool that I am not utilizing to its fullest potential. It just goes to show you that no matter how many things you learn over the years there are always other things to learn. The old days were not always the best days. The new tools allow you to perform tasks quicker and better than you could in the old days.

Embrace that.


Choosing the bandsaw you need

You might think that a bandsaw is a luxury tool. One that you don’t really need. And it is true that a bandsaw is certainly not the first tool you would buy for your shop, there are much more important ones you need first.

A good table saw. A router table. Perhaps a jointer and a planer. A good miter box.
old band sawAll that being said, a bandsaw is a very useful and versatile tool that can do things that are difficult or impossible to do with any other tool or collection of tools. And that is the hallmark of an important and useful tool.

You can cut vertical curves in any thickness of wood with a bandsaw. That is something that is nearly impossible to do with a saber saw. You may be able to cut wood up to a couple of inches thick with a saber saw and get the cuts vertical with a good router, but beyond that, you are pretty much out of luck.

And then there’s resawing which is really difficult to do well with any other tool.

When it comes to choosing a band saw there are a couple of things to look for.

The standard for the small shop is a 14″ bandsaw with a 6-inch throat. A step up would be tho purchase one that can have a riser block added to increase the height of the throat to 12″. This is a really useful feature if you do plan to do any resawing.

Look at the size of the table that the work will rest on. A larger table will make it easier to hold larger pieces of wood stable when you are trying to cut them. You also want a table that can be tilted. This allows you to make straight complex angle cuts on large pieces of material.

The cases that hide the wheels the blade runs on should be solid, but easy to open in order to change and adjust blades.

Blade guides are of critical importance. They contain the blade and keep it running true. It is vital that this part of the saw is of quality design and manufacture. Many guides are solid blocks that wear away as the saw runs against them, but higher quality bandsaws may opt for rollers. These run behind the blade and keep it in place and running freely as you push the material into the blade.

make sure that the base the saw rests on is stable. If you can choose an enclosed base, as it makes controlling the dust that is a normal part of any sawing operation to be controlled.

When it comes to motors, bigger is better. When it comes to a serious 14″ floor model bandsaw a one hp motor should be considered a minimum. While you might be able to get by with a smaller motor, the patience required will be monumental.

When it comes down to it, buy the best quality tool that you can possible afford. You are unlikely to be sorry.

Coming Soon

This will be the place where you can come to find information if your passion is in tools.  Are you fascinated by tools of all kinds?  Are you especially fond of any tool that can improve your enjoyment of your woodworking hobby, at least in theory?

Dream of a tool and learn about it. Maybe you can even persuade yourself to buy it and put it on the shelf.  That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Millions of consumers that can tell you that there is a quiet enjoyment to be had from having a cool tool on the shelf that is going to come in really handy on “that day” when you have the need for it.

This is a tool addict no judgement zone.  Enjoy it, there are so few these days.

Come back soon, come back often.  We look forward to your patronage and hope that you will find this a valuable addition to one small corner of your life.