Glad to have what seems to be a well-rounded and friendly forum to ask dumb questions.
Welcome to The Router Forums. It's good to have you join us. I look forward to reading your posts, questions and answers alike. In particular I like how much energy and though you put into this particular post. This forum is top notch for tons of information and being a friendly atmosphere to exchange it in.
1) When do you build jigs? A friend says, when you've rigged something twice, that's the time to build the jig, agree or disagree?
During the last six months of actually setting up the workshop I have wanted for a long time I have made several jigs. Just about every time, it was a situation where I needed to make one or buy one to finish whatever the project of the moment happened to be. My attitudes towards that are changing so much that I have been picking up 'material' for use in the construction of several jigs.
I ordered the 50 buck assortment of fancy UHMW plastic from this link
I picked up a box of 3.25 in wide Hickory Flooring at close to closeout prices from Home Depot
. There might be a cheaper place to get hickory in 3/4 thicknesses, but it doesn't seem to be the average hardwoods dealer.
One thing that I do differently from most is create 'cheater sticks' that I hold onto for just about any measurement I will need to make more than two or three times. This is the most effective way I have found to cope with my poor vision. I Take as much time as needed to get the 'template' cut right, and use it to set the tools.
2) When do you buy tools?
It's unrealistic that I'm going to buy every tool at every turn. That said, I'm not afraid of investing in tools. In fact, I try to be frugal about it -- I've been looking for additional clamps on eBay and Craigslist, and some of the tools I've gotten for 50% by purchasing second hand on craigslist).
I love collecting them far more than my budget allows. That being said, when I'm just plain tired of doing without it, or when a Craig's list opportunity pops up and sets the hook in me for an item that's been on my 'get me when you can list'.
As a kid in school I only took one semester of wood shop as compared to 6 in metals, 2 in plastics and 2 in electronics. As such, I know enough about machines in general to know that I know damn little about the finer points of woodworking power tools.
I have compensated by going cheap in both tool specs and source. That strategy is working, though I would have been braver about starting out on Craig's list if I had it to do over again. That being said, I am soon to upgrade out of my first table saw, perhaps even this week if a CL deal goes through. I learned what I needed to know about buying table saws for the $200 tuition I paid on the first one. Who knows if I will sell it, or go 'machinist' on it and turn it into a ripping mill.
Within this, would you buy a biscuit jointer, the router bits, or configure the universal rip fence in another way?
I have had some curiosity about biscuit jointing, but not nearly enough to dive in. It's not that I am opposed to it in anyway, and I do believe that it has it's applications. It's just a priorities vs. resources thing. I do want to try some of the advanced joinery router bits available, but may not get around to shelling out the 50-200 bucks it will take before a project demands it (or can help fund it. I have a habit of building the cost of a new tool into a job quote!)
Right now my highest priority for 'major power tool' purchase is a 'thickness planer'. It turns out that just about any board that hasn't been rounded, has 6 sides that need to be contended with. Ends and Edges are easy, faces not so much.
Most shops get a jointer before a thickness planer because edges need adjusting more than thickness. In my case the opposite is true. I use a lot of cedar fence boards because they are cheap (Because they haven't been surfaced). It is also possible to do edge planing on a router, and to a lesser degree on a TS with a blade suited to edge surfacing.
The planer will save me money on wood, which is a good thing for a cedar freak like me. Getting the fancy plastic and hickory transformed into custom fence systems and jigs for the major power tools I have already and building a better router table will have a bigger impact on my shop's functionality than 'one more tool' ever could.
Thanks again for joining up and taking the time to share where you are at in the crafting universe. Questions provoke thought, especially those as well asked as yours. Just thinking about how to answer them has helped me in my quest to build the super shop.