In the Past
With the projects I have done thus far, it has been necessary to figure out methods for completing tasks which would otherwise be done on a machine, by most woodworkers. To get my router table flat, I spent hours upon hours going over it with my router, then with a belt sander and finally with Robert Burns the mouse sander. I didn’t have any hand planes at that time. Now I do and I can tell you, even though I am still developing my hand planing skill, it would have gone much more quickly with them.
To get the board to the correct thickness, to make my tiny walnut box, I had to remove over half of its thickness. This took a lot of effort and time. It also wasted a half the wood. To get the cuts right for my box, I created a jig, to be used with a chamfer bit. The list goes on, but you get the idea.
I have been thinking for a long time that it is time to make a major tool purchase. When I began woodworking may people told me that the most important major purchase I would make, is my table saw. It seemed like it might actually be a commandment. Their reasoning seemed, well, reasonable. The safest table saw is the Saw Stop, so I got it in my head that is what I wanted.
As time passed and I learned and read more, I found that Festool makes a plunge cut circular saw and track system, which seems to do the same thing. There is a table which one can get, with all sorts of additional attachments, and even dust collection. I am a fan of Festool, because of Marey the PSB 300 EQ, which is a jigsaw, though it is technically a saber saw, but if I called it that you would imagine something different. It is sort of like how people use the word decimate to mean completely destroy, though it only means to kill one in ten, but if you use it correctly, people won’t get your meaning. I digress.
The point is that I had heard that it does ‘Everything’ a table saw would do and more. It is the and more that caught my attention. It is light weight, can be folded up, and taken to the job site. I don’t have a job site, but I do have delusions of grandeur about replacing the deck on the house, and I could see setting it up in the backyard and having a deck building free for all.
Ask the Experts
I sought help from my tweeple on twitter. (mom, that isn’t a typo, I meant to say tweeple, it is twitter speak). There was a lively discussion about the two options. One person pointed out that it wasn’t really apples to oranges, as the Saw Stop is around 2500 apples, while the Festool would be around 2000 oranges with all the gizmos. This assumes that the price of apples and oranges are one dollar a piece, or 0.7967 Euros each. This was a valid point and made me wish I had some fruit to snack on.
The real question I had was could the Festool really perform all the same functions of a table saw? There were several good suggestions of things that the table saw did better, and a few things that people didn’t think the Festool system could do at all. One concern was cutting pieces smaller than about 4″. This I researched and there is an add on device which allows cutting down to 1/32. It was while doing this research that I ran across a Festool Forum. The Talk Festool Forum was very helpful. I was able to read a lot about the plunge saws and track system. It seems that some very avid users believe that a table saw is still necessary.
So it seems like this would be the end of our story. The conversation with the woodworkers on twitter also yielded another, here to fore, not considered possibility. I could get a bandsaw! There were several very convincing arguments made. This had never entered my mind, so I started to do some research. I started with Laguna who makes a very nice looking and apparently a high quality bandsaw. The word on the street is that it works great, but getting it set up can be hard, sometimes they forget to include the instructions and they have a history of sub par customer service. This frightened me a little.
Then yesterday Larry sent me an email. There is a sale this fourth of July weekend, which runs through the 9th. (The sale, not the weekend.) Many of the items are 15% off. I love a sale and there was one in particular which caught my eye. The 18″ Jet. So today I went to ACME and talked with Del. Del is great. He knows me, he reads my blog on occasion, and he is a straight shooter. The best part about Del and the folks at ACME, is that they have experience. He not only answers the questions I ask, but also the one’s I haven’t asked, but he knows are important.
For instance, I did not ask, “With such a large distance between the bed and top of the bandsaw, will it effect quality of cut?” He explained that the 18″ would resaw larger piece of lumber than the Powermatic PWBS 14″ bandsaw. The 14″ is set up to only handle a maximum of 6 inches. Which might seems strange at first glance, but he explained that there is an extension one is able to add, to increase it’s capacity to 14 inches. The reason one might want to generally leave it in the 6 inch setup is that the quality and accuracy of the cut will be improved by having the little bits which hold the blade closer together. This is an excellent point. 90% of the walnut and cherry boards I have, are in fact, less than 6 inches in width.
He also went into a very detailed discussion about how to set up the bearings so they are close to the teeth, but NEVER over lapping. “One hit from the bearing on the teeth will ruing a blade”. He showed me how to set it up properly, what to look for on the wheel, and pointed out a part of the fence which could be better, if one was using it for resawing. Apparently it is important to have a slight bump in the middle when resawing. This lets one get past tricky spots with grain. These are all bits of information which I never would have thought to ask about.
He also pointed out that the bigger Jet 18″ couldn’t take some of the smaller blades which one would need if they wanted to do curved cuts and scroll work. I had never considered these types of cuts, but you can bet that if I couldn’t do them, I would be a little bit disappointed. So I am glad he mentioned it.
I did ask about rip cutting and cross cutting. Those are two things I would want to do on my table saw. He said that this bandsaw would handle those tasks well. So when he was done, I turned to him and said, “I would like to buy an burnisher.” Which I did.
I bought a Crown Tool burnisher. I need it to properly get the burr on the Stanley 80. As for the bandsaw, it is now $849.00 before the 7% sales tax. I don’t know if I am going to buy it or not, but I do know that it has moved up on the list. I have a few days to mull it over, so if anyone has any thoughts, please chime in.