I 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 magazine, 2915 Commers Dr., Suite 700, 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 saw.
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 up.
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 together!