really don't need five cordless drills, seven routers or 24 antique
hand planes, but I can't help it. I'm a tool nut. Are you?
Have you ever bought an old woodworking machine just because it looked
cool? Tried a new tool and said, "Wow! This just changed my life!" Used
a big, industrial machine and wondered how in the world you could sneak
it into your shop?
We'd like to hear your stories. So e-mail or send us a letter about a
tool or machine that really gets you excited. We'll pay you $100 if we
publish your story. Please include a photograph, too. We'd prefer a
digital image, but a slide or print is OK.
E-mail your entry to firstname.lastname@example.org or write to us at The Tool Nut, American Woodworker, 1285 Corporate Center Drive Dr., Suite 180, Eagan, MN 55121.
I'm a big fan of old cast-iron machines. When a local boatbuilding shop
went out of business, I jumped at the chance to buy a 1920's vintage
14-in. tablesaw, made by American Machinery. That's right: it takes
14-in. blades. What a saw! It's so heavy, I had to rent a forklift to
get it into my shop. It's got two arbors, one for a rip blade and one
for a crosscut blade. They're mounted on a turntable. You can quickly
change from one blade to the other simply by turning a crank. I love
showing this off to my pals.
When I bought this saw, it looked like a derelict. I spent hours
cleaning and polishing, and when I was done, I realized I couldn't even
turn it on. It had a three-phase motor, and of course my home shop
isn't set up for that. I replaced the motor with a 220 volt, 3 HP
Baldor, which set me back about $400. After spending all that time and
money, I'm very happy: I've got a real piece of history, and an awesome
The Best Jig Ever
My life as a woodworker changed overnight when I bought a Leigh mortise
and tenon jig. I'd promised my spouse to build an entire set of dining
chairs by Thanksgiving without realizing how many complicated joints
I'd have to make. A friend told me about the Leigh jig and how much
time it would save, so I swallowed hard (it cost over $600!) and ponied
Right out of the box, I made ultra-precise joints, and greater
precision means greater strength. I could literally dial in the fit to
within a few thousandths of an inch, but more importantly, it handled
every joint in my complicated chairs with ease, and some had very odd
angles. That's what changed my woodworking world: after these chairs,
I've gone on to design more challenging projects with curves and
compound angles. With the Leigh jig, I know I can put all the pieces
Here are some supplies and tools we find essential in our everyday work around the shop. We may receive a commission from sales referred by our links; however, we have carefully selected these products for their usefulness and quality.