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A Man Who Has Nothing In Particular To Recommend Him Discusses All Sorts of Subjects at Random as Though He Knew Everything

What A Three Hundred And Fifty Pound Doorstop Looks Like

I don’t do ToolTime often here. There’s a reason for that.

As a general rule, everybody has a backwards process for purchasing tools, especially gadgety-type tools. It goes like this:

-If it was easy, I’d do it.

No, you really wouldn’t.

It’s the same idea that gets you into trouble in house design. If you had a big fancy tub, you’d bathe luxuriously every day. If you had a pool table, you’d play all the time. If you had an elaborate kitchen, you’d become a world — or at least, neighborhood –renowned chef.

But you stand in your shower every morning and look at your jetted tub over there, you start storing boxes on top of your billiard table, and you make mac and cheese in your stainless steel microwave and put it on your granite countertop.

To predict what others would benefit from, you have to watch what they try to do even though it is difficult, and make it easier for them. I used to often be consulted for strategies to remake existing rooms in large houses to entice the occupants to even enter them, never mind use them. I used to refer to them as “furniture mausoleums” –rooms inhabited only by chairs, the specter of Martha Stewart, and the ghosts of paychecks past. You don’t go in there because all the living never happens in a living room anymore. You’re not going to sit in a hoop dress and read The Mayor of Casterbridge while fanning yourself and waiting for Jeffery Devonshire Fairfax the XXIV to call.

And so it is with the tools. If you’re struggling mightily with next to nothing trying to make things, then you’ll probably get the benefit out of tooling up. Otherwise, forget it. You’ll become what Kliban called the Satisfied Hammer Owner, a guy with forty five different hammers displayed inside a series of hammer-shaped outlines on your pegboard. Every so often you’ll dust them and rearrange them.

I have to cut a lot of wood, as you could imagine. It is a calamity for the central machine in a wood shop to be disabled. And because I intimately know what I’m trying to do, I know exactly how to proceed. Here’s how my little rat mind works, and how yours should, too, in any situation like this:

  1. Is it broken? (Well, it sounded like a coffee can filled with bees and washers being thrown at a plate glass window, so, yeah, that’s a definite possibility)
  2. Do you need it, really? (Well, not really. I only use it twelve hours a day six days a week, so it is kinda handy)
  3. Can you fix it? ( Give me two weeks, and the run of a machine shop, and I’ll come up with something. I’ll be bankrupt in two days, so maybe that’s a bad idea)
  4. Can you jerry-rig it? (Sure. I did once already. That’s why it’s a total wreck now. And the words “jerry-rigged blade spinning at 3500 RPM” don’t make me feel like Christmas.)
  5. Can you get someone else to fix it? (Sure. I’ll carry it up the stairs, and bring it to Taiwan. It’ll be good for me, cardiovascularly, I’m sure.)
  6. Can you get another one? (Absolutely. It’s on a truck from Pennsylvania right now.)
  7. Can you afford it? (No. But it costs more not to buy one than to buy one. That’s the logic that escapes everyone. Which leads me to…)
  8. Can I keep going?

Absolutely. I can go out to the shed and find an old, crummy one and hook it up. I love the gentle massage of table legs being hurled at me by the blade because the motor can’t cut hardwood in a tapering jig. I like the popping circuit breaker, too. Just like old times. You see, I first bought a real cabinet saw years ago, when I noticed I’d been trying to make furniture, over and over, with nothing but a few useless and broken tools and my wits.

I’ve lost my wits. But I’ll have decent tools, by god.

7 Responses

  1. You’re welcome to have mine, except it’s west of the Mississippi and you’re not.

    Still, ain’t America grand? Order another one, better and cheaper than one available a decade ago, and it’ll probably be there in 2 days.

    If I had any money, I’d buy something from you. So I’ll just wish all the best.

  2. I built my kitchen in England with a Wolfcraft table that allowed me to wedge my handheld circular saw upside down under a sheet steel table with a fence held in place by wingnuts. When I had to cut some wood this summer I thought it would be prudent to get a real one, and the 30-year-old Rockwell with its odd 9″ blade that I found on Craigslist was just the ticket, and such a luxury over what I was accustomed to. But I’m still quite wary of it until I can work out how to retrofit a splitter and guard.
    When I was in England I did use the power shower, which in retrospect was probably about as safe as the saw. Perhaps I got a charge from showering in the same cubicle as an operating 30A 240V electrical appliance.

  3. Been there. Done that. It is a terrible feeling to have bearings fail in the middle of a production run.

    Unless you have a compelling reason to keep it, you might consider pitching the old “backup” saw when you deep six the broken saw. Keeping it will cost you more than you expect because it probably doesn’t run true and is underpowered.

    Good luck. Hope you are up and running shortly.

  4. If I, too, had any sheckels at all I’d order from you. In the Interweb of My Mind, I’ve already done so.

    I’d like to see two different exercises: one, where the appearance of a home is all that matters, and hang any form of practicality. It must look great. That’s the only design spec. Two, the home must be designed for the maximum practicality of those people in it, while sublime unconcern for appearance at all. Then see where the bocci ball lies, as it were.

  5. “I’ve lost my wits. But I’ll have decent tools, by god.”

    I look forward to the possibility od meeting you someday.

    People who know what “important” means are simply too far apart and few between.

    My first advice is to make the safety backup half again as robust as whatever method you come up with to do the lift.

    I built two 6′ long connecting ramps that mated end to end, each section using two 2×12’s mounted on 4 2×4 crosspieces. The ramps were wide enough to cover the width of the basement stairs, less the 1×4 bumper strips screwed on the outside edges of the ramp. Ramp faces were covered with scrap low pile carpet remnant.

    The top of the ramp hooked, via hinges (as do the ramp sections to each other), on to a platform holding a 1200# rated boat winch. This platform is anchored to the stair landing via a redhead hidden beneath the carpet. The cables run between the two 2×12 ramp members and above the connecting 2×4’s. They are a tight fit; I could have fished a runner of plywood or something on the back of the ramp to generate some more clearance but I’ve never gotten around to it.

    I had a friend build a skip about four feet long, with an eye welded on the center of the underside, “uphill” end of the plate. There is a second eye on centerline welded about six inches closer to the center of the plate. This second eye is for the safety cable that belays from a pulley anchored next to the boat winch. The plate was flat but for a one inch lip welded across the lower edge. The lip was slotted to accept two inch webbing to secure the load.

    The wood ramps have one inch holes drilled in the center of the ramp on twelve inch centers down their length. The safety bar(s) are constructed out of .25 x3″ x(about 20″ weld steel with a one inch pin welded at each end. You leapfrog the safety bars down the ramp in front of the load so it can’t fall more than two feet. Yes, this means that somebody is in front of the load… which means that I only used the bars once, and was lazy and lucky the second time.

    I’ve moved a six hundred pound gunsafe and a shop-built solid cherry wood desk down the steps. we used a delrin plate to skid the loads inside across the carpeted floors.

    Safety first!

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