Category: Cool Tools

On Cool Tools

You may or may not have noticed  by now that I have a thing for tools. Not just for tools that every Tom Dick, and Harriette might have in their shop, but especially the tools that the average Joe doesn’t have. I take an odd delight in being able to pull out a tool and do a job for a friend when I know they are thinking, “Boy. I wish I had one of those.”

To a certain extent I get this when I pull out the big miter saw or Paslode Impulse nailer, but those are just tools that many guys have (even if mine are better). But tools like a biscuit joiner or a dovetail jig – those are tools that my friends who know a bit about woodworking get a bit of a drool over.

The other day I was at a buddy’s house installing some new laminate flooring. That is a job that has a few tricks, even though it is pretty quick and easy. But when you have to run any kind of new flooring through a doorway, you run into a bit of a sticking point. Do you just try to run the new flooring around the jamb? (You don’t). And if not, how are you going to go about cutting it off? Do you have a jamb saw? Not unless you do flooring for a living, you don’t. Do you try to cut it off with a hand saw? You can try, but it usually makes kind of a ragged cut. Do you have one of those fancy one sided Japanese thingys? That will work, but it is a lot of work.

What you do is pull out your brand new 18v multifunction oscillating cutter. When I pulled that baby out and quickly cut off the offending jambs in a nice smooth accurate line in no time at all, I am sure my guy was quite envious. Even though he covered well.

I know that it’s not cool to be so happy with myself over something like this, but It’s a little vice, and there is so little joy in the world.  Later I’ll tell you about a tool that left me on the other side of this equation.

But meanwhile, here’s a video so that you too can be jealous of me.

Need a Jump(er Pack)?

Even if you would like to spend all of your spare time and your spare cash on woodworking tools or other cool tools,every once in a while you need to buy a tool just because it makes sense. What makes sense these days is often the the type of tool that isn’t a lot of fun to own but is critical in an emergency. A car battery jumper is one such tool.

There are times when you just don’t want be at the mercy of the kindness of strangers, and having yourself or your loved ones stranded on the side of the road in the dark is one of those times. No longer is it necessary to stand by your car with the hood up forlornly hoping someone will come by with the tools and knowledge to help you get your car started when the battery is dead. That is no fun even when you are in a parking lot and you left the lights on too long and drained the battery. Heck its no fun when you are in your yard and someone left the radio on too loud and the other vehicle you should be getting a jump from won’t be around for hours.

need a jumpWith a car jumper pack you can have a portable car starter at hand at all times. You just charge the unit (keep an eye on the charge level) and carry it along with you at all times. Then in the unlikely circumstance that you find yourself stranded with a dead battery you merely pull the starter unit out of its storage place and connect it to your battery and follow the simple instructions in order to jump your own vehicle.

You need to be careful to use the unit wisely, of course, so that you don’t overheat it and damage it or your car, and a jumper won’t start the car if whatever caused it to stop in the first place is an underlying condition that needs to be addressed, But if those are not the case, if you just need a jump to get you on your way, then a car jumper system is just the thing that you need. Its the kind of inexpensive insurance policy that just makes sense to own, even if you (hopefully) never need to use it.

And who knows, one day perhaps you can be the good samaritan that comes to the aid of some poor traveler who has not yet had the wisdom to purchase the insurance policy that you are so wise as to obtain.

And ain’t that a mouthful. Happy charging.

On Table Saws

The centerpiece of any real woodworking shop is a table saw. It is the one piece of equipment that can’t very well be replaced by some combination of other, lesser tools. It is really the workhorse of the shop.

But how do you decide the best table saw for your space? There are three major components to a decision like this. How big is your shop? How big is your budget? Do you have to move it?  Some combination of these three factors will lead you to the answer you need. In my case that means a portable tablesaw.

I have always wanted one of those really big contractor saws. You know the ones – enclosed base, huge bed, big damn sawincredible fence system. Preferably one with an extended bed for wide rips, outfeed tables with rollers to handle long pieces, and enough power to handle four by oak material with ease. There is a problem with that. A saw like that requires a really big shop. It takes up an incrredible amount of room, and to be honest, if you have a need for a saw like that, it means you are going to be running some big stuff through it. (maybe).

Saws like that also cost a lot of money, especially with all of the add-on goodies. They are worth it, but still.

The other problem aside from space, is that I still dabble enough that I need a saw that I can haul around wiht me now and again. Not for nothing, but you really can’t move a contractor saw with any much less than a moving truck. And not a small one at that. I don’t have one available, so whatever saw I choose will have to get from place to place in the back of a small pick up truck.

So what I did was start by checking out the various saws offered by the major manufacturers of contractor job site tools, including some of the second tier ones that have proven to have good offerings in their line up. My criteria were that it be a solid, well built machine that would handle some abuse. That it have a decent warranty and good reviews.

After that I concentrated on the fence system. I consider the fence to be the key piece of a good table saw. An excellent fence will make it easy to make accurate, consistent cuts with a minimum of fiddling. A cheap fence will make that nearly impossible. After that comes the stand. I refuse to sit on the floor to make cuts on a jobsite any more so a stand is mandatory. And I have had experience with trying to haul around a small saw on a fixed stand – not too hard with two people, very difficult for one. So the stand needs to be collapsible and in reality is going to need wheels. Both for loading and for moving around the job.

One last thing to consider is how easily the saw allows for adjustments to blade height and angle. This is important for the same reason a good fence is, with the additional caveat that fighting with these can be extremely annoying. Large adjustment wheels are preferable, and if possible two of them. Most saws of this type combine both in one method, so that may be asking a bit much.

Soon I will have made my decision, and the centerpiece to my new shop will be in place. Then on to the rest of my tool bucket list.