*** This post is courtesy of Tom Iovino of Tom’s Workbench ***
A few years ago, a colleague of mine at work stopped me in the hallway. She had just returned from an extended leave of absence due to the passing of her father. “Tom, I don’t know if you know this, but my dad was a woodworker. We have his collection of tools, and I was wondering if you wanted to take a look at any of them for your workshop.”
Wow. I was floored. That was quite an honor to be considered to receive something so precious from my coworker’s dad. I told her I would come out and, even if I didn’t take anything, I would help give her an idea of what each of the tools was worth. I drove to her condo that weekend and she led me to a storage shed for her unit. As she cracked the door to the shed, I have to confess that my mind raced with the thought of being able to expand my meager tool collection and fill some needs in my shop. The reality was quite different. As we pulled tools out of the shed, they were caked with years of rust. Insects had taken up residence in warped 1970s vintage plastic cases. Wooden handles on tools were cracked, warped and, in some cases, completely falling off.
“What happened?” was the question that raced to my mind – and reflexively slipped from my lips. My coworker said that her dad was slowing down in his old age, and the neighbors were afraid he might hurt himself working with the tools. So, they took them to an old barn and just let them sit for about a decade. Apparently, the barn wasn’t as weather tight as they had expected. No one ever checked on them… decided to put them up for auction… or cared for or maintained them. I told her that if there was something special from his shop (there was a well-worn square that was protected in a case), she should save it as a memento, and that the rest of the stuff was just too far gone to salvage.
As I drove home feeling disappointed – at the tools and myself for being a jerk – my thoughts turned toward my own collection of tools. How could I prevent my tools from ending up like those poor, rusty specimens? That’s when I decided to throw myself into the maintenance mindset. It doesn’t take hours of slavish devotion to keep your tools in tip-top condition. Actually, I follow a pretty simple regimen to help keep my investment shiny new and working great.
Shop cleaning is such a turn off for many woodworkers. I mean, wouldn’t you rather be in the shop creating beautiful pieces of work than scrubbing the teeth of your table saw gears with a toothbrush? Yet, simply using proper dust collection, vacuuming dust from your tools and scraping off any dry glue beads from your clamps can keep them working like new for years.
Woodworking is mostly about making big pieces of wood into smaller ones, then – in many cases – figuring out how to attach them to other pieces to build a project. None of these tools works well if they aren’t clean and sharp. Plane irons, router bits, chisels, table saw blades… they all deserve good treatment. Not only will your work look cleaner, but sharp tools are safer and put less strain on power tool motors.
In Florida, I’m always battling humidity and I sharpen my tools with water-lubricated diamond stones. I always make sure my tools are dry before I store them, and I keep a rag dipped in furniture paste wax nearby to wipe them with to keep rust at bay. There are lots of products out there to help you get rust off your tools or to put a barrier up to prevent it from forming in the first place.
I once read a comment by a woodworker as to what he hopes happens to his tools after he passes. “I want my children to fight over them like ravenous jackals battling over a zebra carcass on the Serengeti.” While I hope my two sons have better manners, I hope one day they find the tools in my shop in good shape and ready to help them if they would like.
*** Specials thanks to Tom Iovino, a true Shop Monkey, for this post. He will be providing posts on a monthly basis for Eagle America, check back again soon. ***
I know it is spring time and for those of you north of the Mason-Dixon Line, the last thing you want to do is think about snow and ice. Well…today you just have to appreciate them because of someone combining them with woodworking tools!
I was reading a post on HJHNews.com about students from the Caine College of the Arts at Utah State University. Wouldn’t you know that right there in the article they say, “Who knew that chain saws, hammers, chisels, grinders and bubble and router bits could be put to task to help make one of the most beautiful works of art in Utah?” Yup, they used router bits to help make a gorgeous ice sculpture that weighed 7,800 pounds!
That made me think about you and the other woodworkers who read our posts on The Cutting Edge. The question of the day:
- Have you ever used your router and router bits for something OTHER THAN woodworking? If so, what did you make?
Post your answers as comments, we can’t wait to hear what you have been up to!
As you know, woodworkers are very hard to shop for and that is more evident at this time of year. So do you trust your family to get you the right router bit you need? Do you think they know that you need a new dado set for your table saw or that a Kreg pocket hole jig will really make you smile? If not, then we have two suggestions for you.
We have put together a comprehensive list of Great Gift Ideas for Woodworkers. This special category includes many of our most popular items categorized by price: Gifts under $25, Gifts under $50, Gifts under $100 and for those of you who have been very nice this year, Gifts over $100. You can easily send a link to this special category to your friends and family, or you could take it one more step.
You can click over to our site and create your own woodworking tool wish list. Once you have added items to your list on our site you can easily email it to those close to you, or you can print it and hang it on the fridge as a subtle hint. So with Christmas fast approaching, get to work on making sure you get the right woodworking tools under the tree…as opposed to another ugly tie or new pair of socks!
This post is based on a blog comment we recieved from
September 12, 2009 at 12:49 pm
A shaper can be a nice tool to have in the shop.
Here are some things to consider:
- Heavy weight / cast iron table top = more stability
- More powerful motors
- New models can use shaper cutters or router bits
- Slower operating speeds = less chance for burning
- Heavy weight = less mobility
- Initial cost can be higher
- There seem to be less specialty profiles for shaper cutters opposed to router bits.
- Shaper Cutters can be expensive
A nice 3 HP variable speed router in a router table with a router lift can do almost everything a shaper can do. You have to consider how much space you have and if you will ever want the unit to be mobile. It is easy to pick up a router table and put it in the back of a truck or van and take it to a friend’s house or on the job in a pinch. A shaper is not so easy to move. For the most part, it comes down to personal preference and what you are most comfortable working with!
The woodworkers at Eagle America want to know:
“What was your favorite woodworking project?”
Tell us and upload a picture to show our fellow bloggers.
• The number one secret is to use the correct blade. For particleboard or MDF, it is suggested to use a triple chip grind blade with 80 teeth. Man-made materials can quickly dull saw blades. With a triple chip grind, the corners of every other tooth are chamfered at 45°. The teeth between are either flat top rakers or alternate top bevel teeth. Each chamfered tooth creates a rough center cut, which is then cleaned up by the rakers. Along with the correct blade, a zero clearance insert is recommended. The insert will provide a solid surface under and right up to the blade. This will give you a safer cut and because the wood fibers are fully supported, they are less likely to fray or tear out.
• Number two would have to be a properly tuned saw. Most importantly, your fence and miter slots in your saw must be aligned parallel to the blade. Your saw blade teeth should be raised so that half the carbide is showing over your stock. By using dust collection, you will deter debris from collecting around your saw teeth and obscuring your cut. A respirator is advised when cutting MDF due to the urea-formaldehyde resin content.
• Number three — on to the actual cuts. For many materials, scoring is one way to assure a good cut. If using thin material, stack cut using double face tape to secure the stock. Masking tape is a good way to keep fibers in place as the cut is being made, but be careful when peeling the tape off after cut.