Thursday 16 February 2012

Introductions: The Woodshop

There is a subject that I will be emphasizing whenever I get the opportunity.
I don't believe that it can be overstated how important skills, tools, and equipment are to the homesteader.
I understand that in an effort to scale back consumption of goods and energy, a person should seek the simplest and most efficient means of accomplishing jobs.  I understand that many tools and gadgets are actually inferior to their predecessors.  I understand the expense and the space required.
I just don't think you can be self-sufficient if you can't perform trade skills on your own.  I also don't believe that most modern homesteaders have the time available to do things like the pioneers did.
Technology has evolved from a need.  Carefully used and managed, I see no reason to cast aside the progress that has been made.
Having said that, poor quality tools and equipment, and the idea of  'the better mouse-trap' have over-burdened us with products that do not live up to expectations.

Having finished up with pig processing, I am ready to start into some woodworking projects.
(Those of you who are waiting for the Hog workshop, rest assured that it is coming along.)
To be honest, many of the projects are simply finishing those which were never fully completed for one reason or another.
Speaking of which, I finished the lamp.  It needs some tinkering, but it's up and working.

So, I put away the meat-saw and brought out the wood working gear.
My stuff is modest and mostly old.  But, the value is much greater than the cost.
If you are going to do wood, these pieces are the basics.

Notice the smoothing plane.  Quality hand tools replace electricity, but not Time.
Before you get bored and skip ahead, you need to know about the jointer.
It is used in conjunction with a table saw to make your pieces of wood straight.
I don't mean smooth.  I don't mean even thickness.
Straight, like a ruler.  No bows, no cups, no crowns.
It can be done with a table-saw alone, but you will have to make some additional tools and jump through some hoops.
If you are going to do any serious wood-working, you must have a jointer.

Below is the thickness planer.  It works in a similar way to the jointer but it will not straighten your wood.
It will, however, make it the same thickness throughout the board.
It also smooths out the surface and removes the oxidized top layer.
If you are going to be using a lot of reclaimed lumber, then you need a thickness planer.
Sure, grey wood, stained wood, and darkened wood look great without any surface prep.
But, mossy wood, mouldy wood, and water stained wood don't always look very appealing.

Thickness Planer
My first entry into real woodworking started with a small mitre saw.
I was doing some carpentry with a swede saw, but it sure wasn't very pretty.
Don't get me wrong.  If all I had was the Swedish bow saw, I could still cut wood.
As soon as you get into angles and bevels, the mitre saw can get you going with little skill.
Expensive handsaws will also work, but then we start talking about time again.
The mitre saws also take care of carpentry work like framing and trim.
The big compound mitre saws are great machines but be careful.
You get what you pay for and they can be expensive.  They are also more suited to carpentry rather than wood working.  I don't have one so maybe I'm just jealous.

Compound Mitre Saw
Of course, there is the table saw.
I own a cheap one and an old one that was cheaper than the cheap one.
So cheap in fact, that it was free.
If you are strapped for space, a fold-down unit still does a nice job.
I could get by with either the heavy old one or the crappy new one.
I use the old one for inside, and the portable gets used in the yard for carpentry work.
Our chicken coop has wood siding that was reclaimed  2x4s.  For extra value, I ripped each board into 2 1x4s with the portable table saw.  It's been a workhorse for me.

The old inside table saw

They just don't make'em like they used to.

The Radial-Arm saw.
Wow!  Don't get one of these unless it's free or cheap, or you simply must have one.
Look at it go!  It goes everywhere!  It'll even climb up your work and chop your arm off.
It doesn't get any more versatile than this.
If you want just one saw, this one does it all.
I love my Radial-Arm saw.  I just hope it loves me too!
Who put that over-sized blade on there?  That's crazy!  
Oh yeah! I did that.  Freaking awesome!  

I don't like to push brands, but if you are on the look-out for good used stuff, then watch for these tradmarks.
The companies were two and then joined.  I don't know the history, but there is a ton of this equipment out there.

Sometimes, you have have to work with what you've got.
It's a belt sander strapped to a work bench.
I'm not too proud of this one but the price was right and it works.
It just doesn't work at what it's supposed to.

I still use corded drills.
I have three that are from the seventies.
Corded drills are hateful when the cord pulls out of the sockets just when it's most inconvienient.
I've held off on a cordless because I know that they are the hottest selling consumer power tool, and so they are over-priced.

Safety equipment is a must.
You don't need body armour, but the eyes and ears are fragile.
Blindness and tinnitus can't be fun so don't mess around.
Another consideration is dust control.
Wood dust is cancer causing so if the dust you are making is fine, then get a mask.
I'm bad for this one, but I mind my ventilation and get out when I think it's getting to be too much.

It might seem like a lot.
It is really.
But, if you buy some good stuff, then it will last a lifetime.
The old cast-iron tools are proving to go beyond generations.
Again, making sure that equipment is serviceable is crucial.
Parts do wear out.  Motors burn out.  Repairing broken tools should be inevitable.
Throwing broken tools out is inexcusable.
The cheap goods available now are a waste.
If you want to lessen your impact, search for used gear and then take good care of it.

If you like wood products, then making them yourself is affordable and rewarding.
You may customize whatever you wish.
The initial expense might be great, but in the long term, you will be ahead.
Personally, I don't consider woodworking as a hobby.
I enjoy it, but it is really more of a necessity.
I love wood products.  Especially since wood is a natural and renewable resource.
Acquiring the skills and equipment to work with wood will give you more control over the materials that are used in your home and life.

Here is a sneak peek at the next light fixture.
They are solid copper garden lights, courtesy of the dump.
I will reconfigure them into something special for our home.


  1. Tools are wonderful things!
    You can never have enough of them it seems...
    But where to put them all is my question?
    My shop suffers from a severe lack of space.
    The belt sander currently is hanging out by the door along with the bandsaw because they both cant fit in the room.
    Maybe those tools will have to get around to building themselves a new shop!

    1. That's the big dilemma with tools and equipment.
      I'm fortunate right now because my basement isn't finished.
      When I finish the basement I will lose my woodshop.
      I have an outdoor mechanical shop so I may put casters on my gear so I can wheel out what I need into a workspace when I need it.
      Really, a new building is in order.
      All joking aside, when building a house, many people build the workshop outbuilding first. It gives you a great base out of which to work. Very smart.