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post #1 of 24 (permalink) Old 02-05-2012, 03:01 PM Thread Starter
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Default First Time Poster: Trying To Balance Actual Need Vs. Want

Hi All,

Glad to have what seems to be a well-rounded and friendly forum to ask dumb questions.

Turns out, I really enjoy building things. Over the past 1-3 years I tackled a few projects. The projects increased in intensity and their challenge; the more challenging the project, the more invigorated I became and the more fulfilled I felt at the end. Here's the basic project list, over the past two years:

1) Loft Bed (built to plan specifications);
2) hanging bike rack for three bikes;
3) Floating drum riser for electronic drums;
4) shelves throughout old and new place (classic mounting shelves);
5) air conditioned dog house;

All of these projects emphasize function over form, much to my wife's displeasure. (but, the doghouse is nicely painted and seems to be my best work so far).

I purchases several new tools in the past 2-3 months, in preparation for not only the dog house, but also for the delivery of several projects. Two friends saw the doghouse and announced they wanted me to build something for them (a chicken coop and a standing desk). I cut a simple deal with them -- nothing like getting paid while you're learning: I said I'd build it so long as they paid for materials and gave me $100 bucks.

In addition to a toolbox filled with "regular" tools, I have these power tools:
1) a few drills;
2) circular saw;
3) dewalt table saw;
4) Ridgid miter saw;
5) Ridgid router;
6) black and decker belt sander;
7) two reciprocating saw (I screwed up the measurements for the opening to the AC on the doghouse, so I had to rip a new hole :-)).

In addition to the paid chicken coop and standing desk, I'd like to build a bookcase for my newborn son. On the others, I've had plans to work from -- which, in my view, made it much more simple. I've drawn the plans on sketch up for the bookcase (with the google color scheme to match) -- and I'm more or less ready to start.

In addition to the tools, I've made a great effort to try to read as much as I can about the tools I intend to use. I have 3-4 table saw books (Toplin's Table Saw Magic, has really caught my attention), several router books, and some general interest woodworking books. I've read alot of that stuff, but I'd really like to dig in and get building again. But, there's a wrinke. . . (isn't there always a wrinkle!).

I am continually caught between trying to build jigs that make things easier and safer (see below for that discussion) and trying to actually do some building. Yesterday I caught the wood necessary for Toplin's Universal Rip Fence. (I ordered the particular parts necessary for it online, but they won't be here for a few days). In wading through his "sketch" plans, I saw one word that set me on a multi-day/hour detour: biscuit. Turns out, he wants a biscuit joint between two plywood pieces (I suppose not only to ensure 90 deg angles but also to ensure strength and stability).

So, I started to search the internet. I determined I could go buy a biscuit jointer for a few hundred bucks. I also determined that one could use a router with a specially designed bit to also create a biscuit joint. (Neither of the big box retailers around here seem to have that bit set). And, this is far afield from my initial goal of building a bookcase. I realize the right tool would be the biscuit joint, and also realized I could probably configure the universal rip fence with a 2x2 or 1x1 up against it to accomplish the same idea as the biscuit joint. So, I struggle with what I call "tool creep" and with "jig creep."

And, I want to build the universal rip fence so I can use the taper rip fence that Toplin has in his book (those parts are also ordered and due to arrive by next weekend, so this weekend, like last weekend, is basically lost). The taper rip fence would be used in the next three projects I have. Truth is, I cheated at the taper rip fence by screwing boards that had to be ripped to a piece of plywood at an angle and got them ripped for the last two projects, but it may not have been 100% safe, and it's clear to me there will be many taper cuts in my future).

OK, so what's the goal -- _and_ what's the question, right?

My goal is to enjoy this as a hobby and actually build useful things. (With a more ultimate goal that when my wife and I move to San Diego (from LA), I want to buy a fixer and use some of these skills for that work).

THE QUESTION(S):

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?
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).

Within this, would you buy a biscuit jointer, the router bits, or configure the universal rip fence in another way?

Any other thoughts appreciated. I'm just trying to figure out some stuff and have some fun along the way :-).

--Craig.
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post #2 of 24 (permalink) Old 02-05-2012, 04:19 PM
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Craig, You have certainly looked at your endeavor from several angles. You will never collect all of the tools one might use in woodworking, but there are several that can be done without. I've built many bookcases, museum display cases, custom furniture, cages and hundreds of prototypes for all types of things, and quite frankly I do not own a biscuit joiner, nor do I have plans to get one anytime soon. My bookcases have utilized dado joinery, dowel joinery, bracketed joints, ledge joints and rabbet joinery. You will get many opinions on this that will differ from mine, but I personally feel that biscuit joinery is over-rated. Above all, be safe doing whatever you choose! OPG3
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post #3 of 24 (permalink) Old 02-05-2012, 04:53 PM
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post #4 of 24 (permalink) Old 02-05-2012, 06:42 PM
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Default Juggliing Need vs Wants

The basic thing I started doing early on was using simple, inexpensive, doweling jigs made by Sears to do aligned joints and end joining small cross section pieces to their mating pieces. This takes time in the setup, but is as effective as a biscuit joiner and, in my opinion, stronger.

I have 'graduated' into biscuit joinery and use it often to align and join flat panels made from several boards, and right angle joinery in furniture cases and cabinet carcases. The doweling works just as good.

In the past, currently, and in the future I will use techniques that employ rabbets, dovetails, dadoes, splined, mortise and tenon, lapped joints, even a drawer box bit for the router in preference to do a biscuit joint in the piece I am making.

That said, there are reasons for using a biscuit joiner in large scale/quantity work such as kitchen cabinetry. Biscuit joinery is fast, lends itself to quantity mass production, and does indeed align edges and faces accurately. (Although you can screw it up by making a mistake {;<) )

But, based on 55 years of experience, I recommend that you perfect all the other methods of joinery first. The best fine furniture artisans I have met, never use the biscuit joiner.
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post #5 of 24 (permalink) Old 02-05-2012, 07:00 PM
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Hi

Just my 2 cents

If you want things to turn use a round pin but if you must use dowel pins use square ones

===

Quote:
Originally Posted by Clyde_WoodBee View Post
The basic thing I started doing early on was using simple, inexpensive, doweling jigs made by Sears to do aligned joints and end joining small cross section pieces to their mating pieces. This takes time in the setup, but is as effective as a biscuit joiner and, in my opinion, stronger.

I have 'graduated' into biscuit joinery and use it often to align and join flat panels made from several boards, and right angle joinery in furniture cases and cabinet carcases. The doweling works just as good.

In the past, currently, and in the future I will use techniques that employ rabbets, dovetails, dadoes, splined, mortise and tenon, lapped joints, even a drawer box bit for the router in preference to do a biscuit joint in the piece I am making.

That said, there are reasons for using a biscuit joiner in large scale/quantity work such as kitchen cabinetry. Biscuit joinery is fast, lends itself to quantity mass production, and does indeed align edges and faces accurately. (Although you can screw it up by making a mistake {;<) )

But, based on 55 years of experience, I recommend that you perfect all the other methods of joinery first. The best fine furniture artisans I have met, never use the biscuit joiner.



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post #6 of 24 (permalink) Old 02-05-2012, 07:20 PM
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Default When to Jig or Buy Tools

Your friend is correct in recommending a jig to do 2 or more items the same.

I build two types of jigs. Universal and project specific.

In the Universal category, some examples of I have made:
1. A "box sled" for projects that i need to have squared ends and prevent chip-out.

2. A miter sled with extension arms that permit me to do right angled moldings and picture frames in quantity and always square.

3. Several sliding sleds for my router table that enable me to handle small parts and end rout rials and narrow pieces.

4. An adjustable jig to hold shaped parts for pin routing edges safely.

Lots more can be listed.

Project specific jigs include:

1. A two jig setup to mass produce gift boxes from crown and other types of molding.

2. A jig to create plunge router mortise holes for slats in the cradle for our first grandchild, and it survived for the subsequent two also.

3. A jig to accurately create routed inserts in a table project.

4. A jig to produce Mortises and tenons in a table project.

In a sense some of these could become "universal" if I make projects that require my pulling them down and re-using them.

The best jig making advice I received from a friend who is not only a master craftsman, but has taught woodworking. His advice:

IF You want to do it right the first time, make a jig that will ensure accuracy. And make it so that you can use it in the future for similar purposes.

When to buy the new tool? My rule of thinking is:
1. Can I do it accurately and safely with what I have?
2. How many times might I use this in the future?
3. Can I make a jig that will do the job from what I have on hand?
4. Is the money in the bank?
5. Is this a Fad tool? Or how well is it made?
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post #7 of 24 (permalink) Old 02-05-2012, 07:39 PM
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Hi Craig,

If I am going to be making more than one of an odd item for a project i make a template.

If the material I am using is real expensive, even if I only need one I make a template.

If I will be doing the same procedure multiple times on a project I make a jig. If I think I will use the procedure on other projects I would make a better jig, adjustable for size and any other variations.

If I make a template, even a simple thing like a hole template I keep it, it may come in handy.

Always mark the template with special information for it's use so you don't have to figure out what bushing and bit to use or what size hole it will cut with a pattern bit. Remember you can reduce the size of a cut you make from a template with the use of bushings and different size bits so you are not limited to what is marked on the template.

I buy hand tools if I need one for a special task and it is not outrageous.
I buy power tools when they are on sale or clearance, or if I find a good used tool somewhere. I watch prices on tools that I need for replacements if one goes out on several sites and always always always check at the local stores when I'm there to see if anything is on clearance. If you find something that is really marked down to get rid of the final remaining stock left and there is more than one don't be afraid to get the manager involved and ask if you take the rest of the remaining stock if he will give you an even better deal. If they really want to get rid of them he will jump at the chanch to get rid of them at an extra discount to you. Sell the rest to pay for the one you want to keep and you might be able to buy some other tool you want.

If I don't know if I would use it very much ( like you question the biscuit jointer) don't buy it, look for other methods to build the project. If you know you will use it a lot then watch for it on sale.

Hope this helps,
Mike

Mike
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post #8 of 24 (permalink) Old 02-05-2012, 07:51 PM
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G’day

Welcome to the router forum.

Thank you for joining us, Craig.

All good advice posted above.

I have a biscuit joiner but no longer use it after I found out about pocket hole joinery....
This is all part of the learning curve, Craig.

As to buying power tools, go more for what you need rather than what you want - unless you have limitless wallet........

James
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I don't profess to know everything, and I may learn something new.

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post #9 of 24 (permalink) Old 02-06-2012, 02:52 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tkleff View Post
Hi All,

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.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tkleff View Post
THE QUESTION(S):

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.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tkleff View Post
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.
[/quote]


Quote:
Originally Posted by tkleff View Post
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.

wbh1963 is flowing with the grain in Arlington, Washington, USA

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post #10 of 24 (permalink) Old 02-06-2012, 09:00 AM
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Biscuits are fine and good, and have their place most times. However do a survey and you'll find the most regrettable purchases have been these tools.

Why? A router and a slot-cutting bit serves basically the same purpose on a lot of joints. Or you can cut any width slot and use a hardwood spline.

Or you can use dowels. Never had the itch to try them.

A pocket hole jig is, I think, a much better investment. A lot of people don't like mechanical fasteners, but can make life a lot easier. You can get the most basic kit for about $20, or you can go whole hog for $140 - still less than some biscuit joiners.

If you feel the need to buy a biscuit joiner, buy one with metal fences.

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