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Stationary Tools | Fall 2013 Out Here Magazine

Power equipment prized for speed and accuracy

By Noble Sprayberry

Anyone outfitting a workshop should consider a high-quality table saw an essential, says John Phillips, owner of The Cabinet Maker in Milwaukee, Wis.

Fast, accurate, and reliable, the saw makes possible the detailed work critical for his business.

A table saw is a cornerstone of a line of equipment known as stationary power tools. While many people start out with a drill and hand-held circular saw, they often graduate up to the class of tools known for speed and precision.

Pairing the right equipment to the job is the key, says Phillips, a certified remodeler. And, do not assume bigger equipment is immobile.
"For example, they have bench-top drill presses or even the smaller table saws that sit on top of a workbench," he says. "Those might be a next step for someone who doesn't have a shop, but who has set aside space in their garage. That's how a woodworker typically starts out."

Then, it's about finding the right tool for the most common jobs.

A lathe, for instance, can shape wood and complete a range of chores.

"It's a fine piece of equipment," Phillips says. "You can do a lot with them, and for a couple of hundred dollars you can get a pen lathe and start turning small pieces of wood."

A drill press can prove vital in tasks where a hole must be drilled to a specific depth or when precision is paramount. "It's good if you want to make sure you've got that hole drilled at 90 degrees and you're not coming off at an angle. With a hand drill, you're not going to have that accuracy," Phillips says.

In a busy shop, particularly for someone with a lathe who needs to keep chisels sharp, a bench grinder is convenient. Similarly, a grinder can save plenty of effort for anyone who needs to sharpen lawnmower blades, or similar implements, Phillips says.

Someone who needs to cut conduit or metal can put a metal-cutting bandsaw to work, including folks who primarily work in wood.
"Always work within your budget, but my advice is to buy the best tools you can afford," he says. "You’re never going to regret it."
"Sometimes with furniture, where it might have brass corners or brass inlaid into the wood, there is a potential need," he says.
Phillips also considers a cut-off saw, or a chop saw, one of the most important tools in his shop.

"They're good for accuracy and repetition," he says. "They're great for cutting miters. For trim work. Picture frames. Making doors, or even in rough construction. It's going to give you nice, clean, accurate cuts."

And when people ask him for purchasing suggestions, Phillips offers one tip: "Always work within your budget, but my advice is to buy the best tools you can afford," he says. "You’re never going to regret it."

Georgia writer Noble Sprayberry is a frequent contributor to Out Here.