Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Five FAV-rite Tooooooooools.

OK, let's all sing it together!  Come on, you know you want to......  OK, well maybe not. ANYHOW!

I wanted to hop on the festive holiday season bandwagon and share a few ideas with you.  If I had been smart and listened to my wife, I would have had a full 12 days of tools, likes, and ideas, but because I'm a bit slow out of the gate, we get 5 instead.  I hope you understand.

So today we get my 5 favorite tools.  I spend hours every day using various machines and hand tools to make a living.  I've always had the attitude that you need to have the right tool for the job.  I have fallen prey to the marketing ploys of tool makers and retail stores over the years, and have indeed purchased several "great tools" that now do an amazing job at collecting dust and taking up valuable shop space.  However I have found a handful of amazing tools that make my life both easier, profitable, and put a smile on my face every time I use them.  Keep reading below for my Five FAV-rite tooooooooooools.

#5. I LOVE my power feeder.  I've got a European made feeder that is the cats meow. 

At first I thought it would be a bit of a luxury item that wouldn't get used unless I had a huge project that needed a few thousand feet of something.  Boy was I wrong.  I use it all the time, on both the Table Saw, and on the Shaper/Router table.  This beauty gives me consistant feed rate and pressure at all times.  When used for shaping, I wouldn't claim I save any time, but EVERY piece of material that goes through it comes out the other end looking identical, and it takes a bit of the brainpower needed out of the equation. (I can always use the help)  Now, when I slap that baby on the table saw and use it for dado's.... that's a whole different story. THAT is a time saver.

#4. Who likes Pizza?  I do, but this Domino is no pizza.  (WOW, that was bad, sorry)

The Festool Domino (photos stolen directly from their website) is a hand held mortising machine that is worth it's weight in gold.  It is like a biscuit jointer on steroids.  With this tool, I am able to make amazing mortise and tenon joints on just about anything.  Furniture, cabinets, or finish carpenty work.  It is an engeineerimg marvel worth every cent I paid for it.  I will suggest that if you get one, buy the whole kit, and also the storage container with the assortment of tenons.  Having the options of sizes is great.  Funny story........... I used this machine to set a room full of balusters in a floor a while back.  I set up a strait edge on the fir floor so the tool had a nice strait edge to follow.  I began cutting/drilling the first of 200ish holes only to realize that I had perfectly alligned to tool with EVERY blind nail used to hold down the flooring.  Uggggggg.  Well, I had to move a bit slower, but the Festool chewed through EVERY single one of the nails.  I was blown away.  The carbide bit was trashed when I finished, but the tool saw no signs of wear.  Great tool.  You need one.

#3.  The key to proper allignment, square cuts, and accurate measurments start with a good square.  I love my 6" Starrett adjustable square. 

The machining on this tool is exuisite.  It is freakishly exact and a pleasure to use.  I used to love collecting old squares just for fun, but soon realized that they are pretty damn useless if they don't read right.  Buy a good one.  You won't regret it.

#2. Clamps!  Who doesn't have enough clamps?  I am finally at the point of having just about all the clamps that I need on a daily basis.  And there is a tie for the two that get used the most. #1. Bessy K-body clamps are out of this world.

I've been buying a pair at a time for years now.  They have a ton of clamping pressure, keep things square-ish, and play well with others in the sandbox.  They don't flex like pipe/bar clamps, and they rest square and flat on the bench either vertially or horizontally.

#2 are my Irwin Spring Clamps. 

I only have four of them, but that's all I have found that I need on a regular basis.  They are amazing on installs to alligning cabinets, and they are the clamp I grab in the shop for holding gigs, workpieces and for pulling small loose joints tight.  Don't be fooled by the old cheep ones that won't hold two pieces of paper together.  Spend a few extra bucks and get ones that could crush a bowling ball.

#1.  Without question, the # 1 tool that puts a smile on my face EVERY time I use it, is the Festool Circular saw. 

When used in the shop, I use it to strait line rough cut lumber.  It has a special place in my heart as well when used to cut large sheet good.  I handle a lot of 4x8 sheets, and have no problem using the table saw for 95% of those cuts.  However when I need a square panel that is 28"x 91" the table saw fails, and out comes the Festool.  I know some people with limited space use it to rough cut large sheets as well to make them easier to handle.  But where the tool really shines is when cutting a strait line that isn't parallel to anything.  70" at one end, 70 5/8" at the other end for example.  No problem.  "We just had new floors done, and now none of the doors open."  Pop the hinges, make two marks on the door, slap the rail down and cut a perfect strait line. Door goes back up.  Client smiles and you go home happy.  ahhhhh, it's a good day. 

I seldom even bring a table saw to job-sites anymore.  The Festool sets up in very little space, and with the vacuum hooked up, creates almost no dust.  I've owned both the small and larger versions of the same saw.  Personally I did not find the larger saw to be worth the money and weight.  When I got the big saw, I was hoping to gang cut 3 sheets of material at once in order to improve efficiency.  Sadly, the saw doesn't have the guts to do that kind of cutting day in and day out.  Plus the weight and size is a bit to manly for my dainty little self.  Be sure to get about 3 sizes of rails and connectors, and a few different blades.  It's not cheap, but if there is one tool in my arsenal that has paid for itself about 200 times.  It is this spectacular tool.  And for the record that handsome young man featured below is NOT me.  Although I do wish.  :)

So there you have it.  My five favorite tools.  If you have any that you use and love, please chime in below in the comments.  It really is a personal preference thing, and your's will likely be different than mine, but I'd still love to hear your thoughts.

We'll see you in a couple days for the next installment of some calling birds.



  1. When the housing industry gets going again and I can make some decent money again, I'll consider the Festool circular saw. My shop is very basic at present and several of my tools need adjusting. For example, one of the fence bolts on my biscuit jointer is striped. My miter saw is out of whack, so I'd be hard pressed to give you my five favorite tools.

  2. Ha ha! I've got my 5 favorite tools Jeff, but I've also got a shop full of striped bolts, saws that don't cut strait and a few old dinosaurs that need replacing. I feel your pain. I can't say enough amazing things about that saw. Right after I did the blog post today I had to cut some wonky sheets and strait-line a few pieces of Black Walnut. With a sharp blade, that thing can do anything. Thanks for taking to time to chime in!

  3. Also, I'd be interested in some photos of the project you are working on :)

  4. You got it Jeff. I just wrapped up for the day, and was thinking I should take a few photos. I'll get some out into the world tomorrow!

  5. here's a favorite tool of ours ...

    nice blog jason !! hi jeff !

  6. Thanks for the note Dan! That Jeff guy seems to be everywhere. I sure am lucky to have him following my ramblings. :)

    About 5 minutes after I made this original post I started having regrets that I left out a couple of my favorite hand tools. Your spokeshave is a perfect example. I love all the powerful wattage sucking machines, but a good old tool that fits in your hand like a glove is something that can't be replaced. I may just have to a post in the future about my deep love of my rabbeting block plane.

    Thanks for chiming in!