Trust me – you need a sawdust vacuum in your shop

It doesn’t seem like it , since most of the time the sawdust really doesn’t affect you. Aside from having to blow your nose, which seems to have done an awesome job filtering the dust from the air, there don’t seem to be any harmful effects.

But that is an illusion. If you spend a lot of time in a closed room with fine dust particles filling the air, you are doing damage to your lungs. And like smoking, though the effects might not show up now, in later years when you need all the lung capacity you have left, that is when those effects will show up.

Each little fine particle that works it’s way down your windpipe into your lungs and embeds itself leaves a tiny bit of scar tissue. None of those tiny scars make much difference, but thousands of them add up over time, leaving you with reduced lung capacity.

custom furnitureIn addition to that, some species of wood may be carcinogenic, depending on who you listen to. The last thing anyone needs in today’s complicated world is another carcinogen. We are bombarded with them in our homes, in our food, in the environment. In fact pretty much anywhere we are on any given day.

So a good saw dust collector system is an improvement that any serious woodworker should seriously consider. Though it may be a difficult decision, since necessarily the money to be invested in the dust cyclone will be money that could also be spent on the next woodworking tool on your list. Keeping the dust off the floor and out of the air might seem to pale in comparison to the value of a new 15″ planer or a horizontal router.

But the fact is that a beautiful table or a magnificent chest cannot keep you healthy in your declining years. It cannot help you walk or play with your grandchildren.

On the other hand there is a daily advantage to having a clean shop. It makes the experience of creating beautiful and durable things out of wood more pleasurable than it already is.

And though a timeless piece of furniture can well be an heirloom bequeathed to the ages, the truth is that even though your offspring may treasure those pieces when you are gone, it is likely they would rather have you to treasure as long as they can.


Hand Me The (Electric) Plane Truth

Just a little play on words there.

Over the centuries there have been many improvements made when it comes to tools. Nearly all of them are improvements or adaptations of older technologies.

toolsThe wood screw that is either the bane of every carpenter’s existence or his salvation, depending on his point of view, evolved from much older tech. The screw itself was originally designed as a method of moving water into irrigation canals. That is a shaft surrounded by helical threads did. Usually made from wood.

That progressed to something like a screw that was use in presses. Then at some later date it was adapted as a method for holding things together. Later as other technologies improved it was  made of metal, then standardized and then mass produced. To the point where, for many circumstances, it has replaced the tried and trusty nail as the primary fastener used on the job.

The old brace and bit  became the drill motor, then the hand drill, then the cordless drill, and in a borrowing from other tools for other applications, to the impact driver that is the preferred method of fastening with screws today.

When I was a young man and wood siding was the predominate covering for the houses we worked on, we used to carry a block plane with us whenever we were working on siding. If you are not familiar, a block plane is a smallish plane that can be easily carried in a carpenter’s apron, and is quite handy for making final adjustments to cuts before installation.

Nowadays, as wood siding takes a back seat to other (fake) methods, the block plane is not as prevalent on the job, certainly not for siding anyway. But the manual plane has evolved into the handheld electric power plane.

Though not a tool that was ever used much for things like siding since it is just too awkward to be used like that, the electric plane still has manifold uses on a job site, at least when it comes time to do some finishing.

Not only is it the premier tool for doing things like shaving down wood doors, in higher end jobs there are often relatively massive boards being used in applications where much finer trim would be used in entry level houses.

This trim often needs to be massaged in order to attain the level of fit and finish that the buyers of these homes expect. Once filing and sanding have been ruled out, for instance when  fair bit of material needs to be removed, out comes the electric hand plane.

When used by a competent carpenter, a planer can remove material at a quick rate and with notable fine control. This means that scribed edges can be modified and tested at a rapid pace.

Much in the way that the cordless impact has changed the way that carpenters do their jobs, the electric plane has made another facet of the operation quicker and easier, while also improving the end product.

Technology impacts every area of our existence today. Changing at an ever faster rate. To the extent that those changes make our lives easier, we can rejoice in them, all the while realizing that craftsmanship lies with the man, not in the way he goes about his craft.

Got a thing for stuff

I have been accused of an addiction for stuff. Guilty.

shiny thingsI like nice things and I have a tendency to try to get hold of them even when that is unwise. It is just fortunate that I work in a trade where owning nice things is an asset. And one that offers plenty of excuses for buying those things.

Every day I wander through the world with a tool box full of tools that have a lot of value, and I am also fortunate to live in a part of the country where those tools that I haul around are relatively safe from malfeasance. There have been many times when I have left my tool box unlocked and never have they been troubled. In all my time, including leaving tools unattended in the box of the truck itself and returned the next day to find them still there.

Many is the time that I have wondered what I would do if I lost thousands of dollars of tools in one fell swoop. Would I try to replace them all immediately or would I back up a few years and try to get by with the minimum amount I needed?

I guess we should just assume that is pretty much a joke question. Given my history I would probably opt for replacing them, only with better ones.