Our Shop: Nice, But Not Overly - Popular Woodworking Magazine

Our Shop: Nice, But Not Overly

 In Chris Schwarz Blog, Woodworking Blogs

Our magazine’s workshop is an odd duck. In some ways it’s equipped better than some commercial shops (with our eleventy-billion new routers) I’ve been in, but it lacks sorely in other ways (no spray booth). While we have a wide variety of tools that pass through our hands for testing (many of which never get written about , we’re picky) we also have a core set of machines that almost never gets changed.

Since the day I walked in the door here, we’ve had the same Powermatic 66 cabinet saw. We’ve changed lots of things about the saw, mostly relating to its crosscutting functions, but the only real maintenance we’ve ever had to perform on it is cleaning the worm gears and replacing the arbor bearing and assembly late last year.

We’ve had a couple powered jointers, but for the last five or six years, we’ve had a Bridgewood 12″ jointer. A couple years ago, one of the other editors and I disassembled the jointer and installed an aftermarket spiral carbide cutterhead. It was a nightmare operation, really, but the machine is now working quite well, except the dang fence. The fence doesn’t want to seem to hold at 90Ã?° to the table. I’ve been tweaking it these last couple weeks (maintenance never ends), and I think I’m closing in on a solution.

We’ve had three power planers , right now we have a Yorkcraft 20″ model. All of the machines are connected to a central cyclone system from Oneida and controlled by EcoGates, which are blast gates designed to open and close automatically. However, because of some additional wiring we had to do to satisfy the county building inspector, they had a finicky early life in our shop. Robert Lang, one of the other editors, has a particularly intimate (perhaps too intimate) knowledge of the EcoGates as a result.

A Laguna 18″ band saw handles the heavy resawing. Love the saw; not love to the old Euro guides , we should replace those. We also have a Oneway lathe (sweet), Grizzly spindle/disk sander (also sweet) and Performax drum sander in the permanent collection. Pretty much everything other tool we have gets swapped out, which is a blessing and a curse.

For our machinery, we either paid cash for it or swapped advertising space in Popular Woodworking. There’s no free lunch there, I’m afraid. Our shop equipment might seem like a fantasy to some home woodworkers, but I would like to add a few caveats. One: We generally have four or five people who work on this equipment. And two: We operate under some serious deadline pressure when building furniture for the magazine. As a result, we sometimes feel like we’ve just barely got the tools to handle our work. Case-in-point: Working in my shop at home is much nicer because I can always get time on the table saw, I don’t have to clean out the overfilled dust collection bin before I start work and the tools are set up like I like them , not someone else.

There are other really odd things about our shop worth noting. It’s actually as much a photo studio as it is a woodshop. The bulbs in the ceiling are all a certain color temperature for our digital photography setup. The walls are painted in a hue that makes it easy for our graphic designer to tweak the background using Photoshop. And just try finding the right wrench for your router. Senior Editor David Thiel spent half a day yesterday sorting all our router wrenches and collets. I think he’s got us squared away now.

So most of my early work on the Creole Table uses these heavy-duty machines. After the walnut acclimated to our shop’s humidity level, I broke it down into manageable chunks using our DeWalt 12″ miter saw (we swap this tool out with other brands occasionally). Then it was off to the jointer and planer to get these chunks to thickness. Usually I like to get my stock as close to finished size as possible before processing it with the jointer and planer. This usually involves the band saw and table saw. I can generally get much better yield in my thickness if my 2-1/4″-wide legs are taken from 3″-wide stock instead of cutting them from 12″-wide stock, for example.

For the Creole Table, I was going to have to first tweak the slabs before ripping the legs from them. The problem was that the grain , though nicely rift-sawn , was running at an angle. The grain wasn’t parallel to the edges of the board. So the first step was to make one long edge of the board parallel to the grain. So I had to mark an angled line on the face grain. Marking walnut can be tough , it’s such a dark wood. We tried five or six solutions. Next week I share the best one we found.

Christopher Schwarz

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Showing 5 comments
  • Alan DuBoff


    Thanks for posting this, it actually makes me feel better about owning the DeWalt, although it is 2db higher than the Makita, 2db is quite a bit, but it’s not the only one in that range from your numbers.

    The one thing I like about the DeWalt 12" is that it has a slightly deeper cut, and can comfortably cut through 4"+ thick wood, where the 10" Makita I think will only do about 3 5/8", but it’s been a while since I spec’d that out.

    I also like the fence, and the table locking adjustment was one of the selling points for me, I agree that it is very easy to change and I do it a lot. I’m not unhappy with the saw, just haven’t been able to compare as I only have the DeWalt.

    However, I had to buy 2 clamps, which should be included with the saw, IMO, and the Makita has one as I recall.

    I’ve cut some bow’d stock that will bind if not using the clamps, so I like to do that for safey reasons. I have the stand and consider it to be a great compliment, Folds open in seconds, and the saw attaches in a few more.

    I rarely use my table saw for crosscutting, the SCMS does handle most stock I work with (with the exception of panels, hardboard, or extremely wide stock). The DeWalt 12" SCMS does handle that for me quite well. My wife won’t let me use it past 10:00pm though, she says it’s too noisy. Maybe the Makita would be also…:-/


  • Christopher Schwarz


    The DeWalt is not particularly loud. I just went out to the shop and it tested at 98 dB at two feet away. When we tested 10" sliders a couple years ago, here’s how they shook out:

    Bosch 4410: 96 dB
    Delta 36-240: 103 dB
    GMC SMS250LSRUL: 98 dB
    Hitachi C10FHS: 96 dB
    Makita LS1013: 96 dB
    Milwaukee 6497-6: 95 dB
    Porter-Cable 3807: 99 dB

    The DeWalt is in our shop for endurance testing — we borrowed it from DeWalt. When we’re done it will go back to them or we’ll sell it on their behalf and send them the money.

    I rather like the saw because of the fence, the enormous capacity and the way you adjust the saw to cut a true 90° — most saws take a couple hours to tweak right. The DeWalt takes moments.


  • Alan DuBoff

    Chris, I was curious about your DeWalt SCMS. I have the model that predates it, and there is one thing that really annoys me abut it. This is such a loud saw. It’s a good saw, and I’ve gotten plenty of use out of mine, which was bought to cut up about 800bf of knotty pine t&g, and it was a great saw. But my one complaint is that it is LOUD!!!!! The 2 loudest pieces of machinery I have in my power tools is my DeWalt 735 planer, and my DeWalt 708 SCMS.

    It’s made me wonder if it wouldn’t have been better to gotten the Makita 10" slider, as I was planning to do when the sales droid convinced me to get the DeWalt. I do like the handle on the DeWalt better, but the Makita is quieter and cuts a similar width, just not as deep as it’s a 10" blade.

    Do you own the DeWalt because you felt it was truely a better saw? Or do you own it because you got it for testing and "the price was right"?;-)

  • Christopher Schwarz


    I started out very modest. I built all my first pieces with a jigsaw, circ saw, drill, block plane and a few assorted hand tools. You can go far with just those tools.

    Are you looking for a list of machines, hand tools or hand-held power tools? And what are you going to build? Cabinets? Small boxes? Chairs?

    Sorry to answer a question with a question. If you can give me some more information I should be able to cobble together some more tailored advice.

    Christopher Schwarz

  • John Leslie

    Thanks Chris,

    As a newby woodworker who is just starting to ‘tool-up’. I would be interested to hear your thoughts in some future blog on the order in which to buy. Thus far I have been charting a course between tools required for projects I read about and budget. But most every project published seems to start with the assumption that you already have a full complement of power and hand tools. And that is when I bump into the budget (g). I am trying to follow your and other pundits advice and get quality tools the first time around but that only slows the tool-up process.

    So if you are ever in the mood to reminisce about the bad old days when you were just starting out and think about how you might advise a beginner to aquire tools at a pace commensurate with his learning curve, I am all ears.

    – John

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