With the holiday season approaching far too rapidly to be able to accomplish all the gifts I thought I would have time to make for family, friends, and good customers, I settle in on a rainy afternoon to give some thought to what I might like to receive as a gift, the creation of my “wish list.”
I am among the fortunate. My shop is over-equipped with all sorts of tools that are focused on woodturning as well as several antique hand-tools and the more generalized contractors’ tools that every shop collects. Not only did one of my sons make major contributions (see blog “Resolutions for 2016”), I have been guilty of pursuing the philosophy of “wait until you see what I can do when I buy my next tool!”
Most of my accumulation are well-loved legacy tools from the busy shops of my grandfather, father, our family farm, my father-in-law, an uncle-in-law, a brother-in-law, and two older friends with whom I shared a project or two and the passion for design/build years ago. Some of the tools even came from two of my sons, cast-off tools they no longer need or already replaced with a must-have newer model. Many others came from the irresistible “bargain-shelf” marked-down jumble of inexpensive tools that my father or others were unable to pass by without purchasing on their way to the cash register with the item they originally went in to buy.
One of my favorite antique treasures is my father’s first ¼” electric drill from either the late 40’s or early 50’s which survives in working order with its complete kit of honing wheel, stand, and an assortment of accessories.
Others of my legacy tools — a working 1940’s 10” bandsaw from Homecraft, a reciprocating cast-iron jigsaw, and many assorted chisels, planes, saws, and scribes – all deserve better than the metal shelving storage in the dark back corner of the shop where I keep them – just in case.
Using these older tools has the benefit of reminding me of their original owners, and occasionally they have just the right feature for a special job, reinvigorating their value. But the reality is that they take up a great deal of space, have worn electric cords and ancient heavy motors, work inefficiently, and have long ago earned a more dignified retirement. Like the ever-growing pile of “valuable” future turning blanks (the logs out in front of my shop) that I am destined to leave as part of my legacy one day, the assortment of old tools needs to be addressed.
One way I decided to address these is to build a wish list of the selected tools that I have the greatest use of and replace them with new, modern, precise, and fully functional upgrades. For example, I have an old set of Milwaukee drill/drivers from the mid-1990’s that my son gave me when the first set of batteries wore out. I replaced those clunky and expensive batteries twice (amazing), and they now need to be charged frequently.
The new Festool PDC 18/4 Quadrive Cordless Drill, perhaps even the Set, looks like it might be just the step in the right direction. It is lighter, stronger, more versatile, and has the new batteries that will last longer than I am likely to work in a day. I will put that high on the list because that is a universally desirable tool for many different applications.
Given the steady dimming light of my aging eyes, the Magnetic Flexible Arm LED Work Light adds just the right note to my list. I am forever adjusting and adding clamp-on lights to whatever I am working on, and moving into the LED age offers many benefits – more light, less power, greater life.
Although I already run a large Bridgewood dust collector in the shop (as a woodturner I have far more chips than dust) and a standard aging Jet ceiling filtration unit that I purchased in the late 1990’s, I am far more aware today of the dangers of accumulated dust throughout the shop and the challenge it poses to health and safety. Adding a second Air Filtration Unit would make a great deal of sense, particularly given my regular parade of students in the shop and my own seven-day week there.
Another old technology, from about 1994 if I recall correctly, is my old-model airshield face- protection, the one that had built-in triangular rechargeable batteries that are no longer available and no longer recharge. Because it was inefficient and battery life short-lived, I have used it in the past ten or so years. On one recent cedar porch-post turning job, I struggled with filtered facemasks, steamed-up glasses, and frustration. The newer Trend Airshield Pro would appear to be a prudent and valuable addition to my list that I can resolve to use.
One tool that might be just for fun extremely helpful is the Air-Filled Cushion Contour Sander with sleeve assortments. I end up doing a great deal of repair sanding to various jobs, and from what I have read it fills a need.
One other tool, often overlooked, that I do not need to put on my list is my primary workbench, an antique relic that my grandmother gave my grandfather in kit form as a wedding gift (did I ever tell you what a wonderfully insightful woman she was?). Pictured here, I use it regularly every day and appreciate its sturdy versatility and value. Ironically I inherited another identical one from my father-in-law that my oldest son spirited away to his loft shop at Brooklin Boatyard. Other than having to put it up on wheeled blocks to raise it to a more convenient height for my taller use, this bench has been through it all, and I plan to make special mention of it in my will for my grandson. The new high-quality benches are terrific, but I am not wooed from my old favorite in this case.
Good tools with lasting value make a difference. In a world where too many things are used and discarded too easily, committing to buying the best of tools, like the best of materials, is the secret to demanding the best from yourself in your work. Life it far too short to use inferior tools or materials.