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designing and building with wood channels my creativity and challenges my mind.
This blog is a record of my life in my studio.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Tools of the Trade

Four Belt sanders?  Yes, for Wine Wings
There are thousands of traditional and modern tools used in woodworking.  For many trained and formally educated woodworkers, traditional hand tools are sufficient to build nearly any piece of furniture.  But for those of us who want to spend more time bringing designs to life than training their muscle memory to wield hand tools perfectly, modern power tools represent the road to happiness.  Power tools provide unmatched accuracy in the hands of woodworkers-in-training.  They can also get the job done faster and better than hand tools in many applications.  This can be important to clients, keeping the time it takes to complete a project (and henceforth, costs) to a minimum.

Unless you're ready to hire a commercial contractor for your next home improvement project, chances are the craftspeople on your project are working with less than the full spectrum of important tools.  It's even less likely they'll have access to a shop space of their own.

My shop manager, Kris Venegas (www.venegascarpentry.blogspot.com), is a carpenter who freelances around the Boston area.  He has access to my studio and all the tools within.  When you hire Kris, you're ensuring that the right tools will be used to get your project done properly and on time.  You'll also enjoy less disruption in your home, since Kris will be able to build and prep much of your project in my shop, rather than in your living room.

Here are some of the major power tools we have:

Festool Kapex Miter Saw: The most accurate siding miter saw on the market; I keep my Kapex well-tuned for accurate, square cuts and miters.
Delta 14" band saw with upgraded motor: I switched out the stock motor on this saw, doubling the power.  The band saw allows me to re-saw my own veneer, cut curves, and more.
Wide Belt Sander: a professional tool rarely in the quiver of the carpenter, the wide belt sander allows for flattening of wide custom-made panels & cabinet face frames, as well as smoothing of custom-cut veneer.
Workbench, vises, and clamps: my shop has one traditional workbench, outfitted with an end vise and a front vise.  I also have over 100 clamps - including 4 10-foot pipe clamps, 8 4-foot bar clamps, 10 3-foot pipe clamps, and countless smaller clamps of all shapes and sizes.  If it's made from wood, we can build it!
Northtech 12", 5 HP table saw: more likely to be found in a metal-working factory than in the back of a carpenter's truck, this behemoth weighs in at roughly 800 lbs.  Its 5 HP motor is nearly twice as powerful as "professional" cabinet saws, five times more powerful than a contractor's table saw, and - with its 12" blade - nearly twice the sawing capacity of typical 10" table saws.

Jet Metalworking Drill Press: this 2 HP drill press stands on our shop floor and weighs 350 lbs.  It's the only way to bore accurately placed, properly angled holes.  Many carpenters must make do with a hand-drill and brute force - which almost never results in a straight hole.
Delta 6" Jointer: at 6" wide, this jointer is small by jointer standards.  But having a jointer of any size is an absolute MUST for cabinetry and furniture making.  Without a jointer or jointer plane, milling up truly square and flat lumber is impossible.  A lot of carpenters simply don't pay much attention to squareness, which is fine for hanging cabinets.  But if you want to make cabinets, this is a critical tool. 

DeWalt 13" planer: a planer lets you flatten lumber stock and achieve two flat, parallel faces on a given board.  A good planer is the second part of the "holy trinity" of furniture-making power tools: the jointer, planer, and band saw or table saw.
 Accuspray HVLP spray finishing system: finishes and paints are traditionally applied with a rag, sponge, or brush.  With proper technique and enough time, you can get a great finish the traditional way.  But with a professional HVLP spray system (these aren't available at Home Depot, by the way....), the whole process goes much faster, and with much better results.  So...how do you want your job finished?
Drills, bits, hammers, hand saws: I have a wide array of drill bits, router bits, Forstner bits, dovetail saw, dozuki saw, framing squares, speedsquares, marking and measuring gauges, and more...
Delta 10" Contractor's Hybrid table saw: at 1 3/4 HP, our Delta Hybrid saw is more powerful than portable table saws, but less powerful than "professional" 3 HP cabinet saws.  I use my 10" table saw for general table saw work.  When more power is necessary, we have the Northtech industrial saw, which eclipses those "cabinet" saws. 
Festool Trion Jigsaw and OF 1400 plunge router: the best of the best, the jigsaw and router are must-have contractor's power tools.  Combined with Festool's incredible dust collection system, they make powerful, dust free tools, perfect for on-site work. 
Festool Rotex & EPS sanders: these two circular sanders perform the same functions as a belt sander and an orbital sander.  These sanders are great for on-site work, because - like all Festool tools - dust collection is impeccable.  That means that when your project is finished, there isn't a fine layer of dust covering your home. 

Festool Domino joiner: Festool's version of the classic biscuit joiner lets anybody join case parts and build cabinets or other furniture pieces.  The Domino chops perfect mortises, into which go specialized floating tenons, or Dominos.
Festool TS-75 plunge saw: The Festool TS-75 is the most powerful circular saw on the market today.  It can be used freehand, but I prefer to use it with Festool's Guide Rail system, which allows me to mark and make perfectly straight, perfectly located cuts.  And, of course, Festool's duct collection system picks up 90% of the dust.  When we need a table saw on the job site, and we can't actually bring one of our table saws, the TS-75 fits the bill perfectly.
High-End table & miter saw blades: how many times do you think a carpenter has to leave the job site and run to Home Depot for a new saw blade?  More often than you'd like to think, I promise!  Home Depot doesn't stock these saw blades, which include 12" all-purpose blades for our monster saw, and a variety of blades for the 10" saw: thin-kerf rip blade, 20-tooth thick-stock ripping blade, 80-tooth crosscut blade, and a dado set for cutting grooves in wood. 
Spindle Sander: these are perfect for sanding curved surfaces.  Another cabinet-making essential.
Festool CT-33 dust collector: the heart of Festool's dust collection system, the CT-33 is the biggest of Festool's dust collection line.  Key to great dust management are the tool-triggered vacuum action, dust-less bag changes, portability, and good suction. 
Traditional hand planes: here you see a jack plane, jointer plane, and jack plane, all honed, lapped, and ready to go.  Some people use hand planes all the time.  I don't, but there are certainly times when a hand plane is the tool of choice.  These three planes allow me to "scrub" a panel roughly flat, smooth it with the jack plane, straighten edges with the jointer plane, etc...  For the final smoothing step, I sometimes use a cabinet scraper instead of sand paper, lending the piece a mirror finish.
Traditional frame saw: made in Germany by E.C. Emmerich, this frame saw lets me make quick crosscuts without taking the time to set up complicated cut on the table saw.  It's especially nice for cutting tenons in the ends of boards, and crosscutting boards to length.

Well, there you go!  I didn't show you everything, such as the battery of 4 (yes, four!) 6" by 48" belt sanders, two huge industrial stationary dust collectors, all the clamps, other hand planes, brushes, dyes, finishes, the dust-free drying room, etc.  But now you have a sense of the tools of the trade.  And you also know that Kris has access to all the tools he needs to get your project done right, and done on time. 


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  2. Great job putting all these together. I love reading helpful articles in just one spot!

    Tom Bradly