Rants #2: The hobby woodworker dilemma

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Blog entry by Ottacat posted 01-25-2014 03:51 PM 2055 reads 0 times favorited 13 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: Jointers Part 2 of Rants series no next part

Here is my beef – the hobby woodworker that is looking for machinery that is of good quality, safety and performance often has to buy machinery designed for commercial shops and pays a large premium as the that calibre of equipment often has much longer duty cycles and is more heavy duty than required by a hobby woodworker.

Here a couple of examples…

Jointers typically have two cutterhead options – flat knives and helical cutterheads. There is a hefty premium for a helical cutterhead. Flat knives in jointers are a PITA to replace and reset. Helical cutterheads are extreme overkill for a hobbyist in terms of duty cycle. A logical alternative would be a cutterhead with disposable knives that are self-setting like those in most lunch box planers. Yes, you can buy aftermarket versions but they are so expensive you might as well go helical to start with.

Dust collectors. How many HF single stage dust collectors with cloth filters are out there? You want to step up in terms of safety and performance. Well you must go into the + $1000 price range for some sort of cyclone setup that offers better filtration and the convenience of a barrel to separate most of the waste. The funny thing is there are countless articles in magazines and builds in the project section on this website on how to take a single stage collector and make safe and perform well. Why can’t a vendor license the Thien baffle and sell a single stage collector with a separator all on a single moveable stand? There have been to project builds feature here lately that do just this. I’d love to be able to just go and buy something like that.

Mitre saws. Now I know they aren’t considered real woodworking machinery but rather a contractors tool. But why or why does every model out there have to spew dust like its a feature? You want a well designed one, well go buy the Festool Kapex and pay its ridiculous price.

So here you see right off the bat, a hobby woodworker can buy a cheap jointer, dust collector and mitre saw and deal with poor performance, excess dust and tools that are frustrating to work with, or they can be pay 2 to 3x the cost and buy equipment that is normally used by production shops. This just doesn’t make sense. There are real business opportunities for companies that want to roll up their sleeves, invest in engineering and make products targeted at hobby woodworkers.

13 comments so far

View poopiekat's profile


4833 posts in 4651 days

#1 posted 01-25-2014 04:38 PM

Not everyone believes that surrounding yourself with screaming machinery is a good way to spend your leisure time.

Sorry, just my opinion, but I liberated myself from the obsession with fancy-schmancy consumer toolage long ago, and advocate others to do the same.

-- Einstein: "The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift." I'm Poopiekat!!

View shipwright's profile


8618 posts in 3715 days

#2 posted 01-25-2014 04:53 PM

Focus on skills rather than equipment. With good skills you can do good work with lesser tools. Without the skills there’s no amount of money that will buy you results.

Just my opinion.

BTW, here is what you can get in good quality shop equipment for less than $2500.

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

View jumbojack's profile


1691 posts in 3541 days

#3 posted 01-25-2014 04:54 PM

I dont feel right with a clean floor. My tiny shop is either clean (between projects) or a complete disaster. I am just finishing up a bedroom set and swept about 30 gallons of debris out to the driveway and into the barrel. Dust collection is a catch if catch can situation.
Yeah my jointer is almost a toy, I went through quite a bit of trial and error to finally learn how to get true sides and edges.
Planer is HF, kinda cheap, but with sharp knives and a measuring device I am able to get nice flat true lumber to slide out the other side.
There is a miter saw in the shop, but it is going to the Habitat for Humanity charitable re-store, maybe a beginning contractor can use it; I dont.
I can not imagine buying a jig I could make in the shop. I am not production oriented, WWing being a hobby, I relish taking the time AND effort to make quality things with the hobby tools I own.

-- Made in America, with American made tools....Shopsmith

View ScottStewart's profile


120 posts in 3049 days

#4 posted 01-25-2014 05:01 PM

This is exactly the story that led to Grizzly tools. I don’t have any of their stationary stuff, but a lot of it seems to be well reviewed here.

View lepelerin's profile


498 posts in 3242 days

#5 posted 01-25-2014 05:45 PM

If you work in a production shop, yes it might make sense to invest big $$ in nice machines. If you are a hobbyist it might not make much sense to invest the same amount of $$, except to make your man ego feels better. Look at my big expensive machine.
I took the route to do my best with what I have, mostly hand tools. My power tools are limited to a table saw (ridgid) a planer (dw735) and a router (bosh1617). the rest is hand tools. and love it the way it goes. More and more I use hand planes instead of my dw735. Dust collection is my 6.5 gallons thein baffle system.
Yes there is still dust but it’s a hobby for me.
I like the wireless, dustless, noiseless atmosphere in my shop.

View Brett's profile


955 posts in 3676 days

#6 posted 01-25-2014 07:09 PM

I get your point and feel the same way, to an extent. I would love to have all of the fancy stuff with a palace of a shop but I don’t. And that’s ok. I don’t need it, I want it. You may have noticed that some “woodworkers” are really just collectors. Collectors of tools. That’s ok too. It’s what each of us wants with our hobby. I do feel a bit of the “pressure” to buy bigger and better tools but then I have to ask myself… Why? For me, it boils down to what do I want out of this hobby. Do I want to be a tool collector, do I want to be a woodworker. I am a little of both. I get what tool I can within reason when I “need” it and upgrade or buy big because I want to. If features offered by the tool, especially “safety” features like saw blade brakes and HEPA dust collection are my MAIN concern than, you are right! I will have to pay those high prices and that stinks! Hopefully the technology will filter down to the consumer/contractor grade products and the prices to produce them will come down too. Then we can all reap the benefits. In the meantime, I will have to take the extra precautions to protect myself from the tools that I have with the knowledge that I have. I can’t depend on someone else to do it for me.

-- Hand Crafted by Brett Peterson John 3:16

View Texcaster's profile


1293 posts in 2591 days

#7 posted 01-25-2014 11:06 PM

If you invest in 3 phase power to the shed a whole world of used industrial machinery opens up. It often goes for a song. Not all of it has a large footprint.

-- Mama calls me Texcaster but my real name is Mr. Earl.

View Woodbutchery's profile


432 posts in 4503 days

#8 posted 01-25-2014 11:09 PM

Ottacat, I have to say it’s an interesting rant.

In the end, it’s a hobby. I’ve been doing this over the course 5 1/2 years, and that’s nothing compared to some of these guys. And in that little bit of nothing I’ve already come to appreciate the use of self-made jigs, understanding the limitations of machinery no matter how precise it’s supposed to be, and the use of hand tools for fine details whether in joinery or milling.

I think of my shop as fairly simple but when I inventory the machinery it’s a fine shop for what I want to do; 10” table saw (Jet), 6” jointer, 12.5” planer (delta), 17” drill press (Delta), and a 14” band saw (also Delta), along w/ various drills, sanders, and routers. With the exception of drills, routers, and table saw, everything else is used.

And I do decent work with it. It’s nothing as far as production is concerned, but it amazes the kids, the grandkids, the wife and the relations. That’ll do, for a hobby.

But I understand the desire for the larger-ticket items, and like you, I wish they wer more within reach. So. If you find a co. that is putting out a reliable Saw-Stop-like table saw with the same safety mechanism that works as reliably as the Saw Stop for $350, shout out. I’ll take me a swing at one of those.

-- Making scrap with zen-like precision - Woodbutchery

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 3607 days

#9 posted 01-26-2014 01:40 AM

You really need to get a Grizzly Catalog and study it. They have addressed the majority of your concerns. I have a lot of their stuff and have been very happy with it in my hobby shop. My chip separator cost basically nothing and was a quick and simple build.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View Dark_Lightning's profile


4239 posts in 4026 days

#10 posted 01-26-2014 02:31 AM

If it is that much of a hobby, maybe you should use hand tools all the way. You can find all kinds of utube videos that show how to do all your work with hand tools. The WoodWhisper” has a lot of videos.

-- Steven.......Random Orbital Nailer

View Bill729's profile


241 posts in 3999 days

#11 posted 01-26-2014 03:28 AM

“This just doesn’t make sense. There are real business opportunities for companies that want to roll up their sleeves, invest in engineering and make products targeted at hobby woodworkers.”

That sounds like a tough market to serve to me. Think of the litigation. Think of the regulation. Think of the legal fees. Are you going to pay good wages and benefits to your engineering staff and those that work in your factories? I don’t think you’ll have a problem finding people willing to roll of their sleeves—it’s the other things. Would you invest your money to help start up a company like this? If so, you can name it.

View dschlic1's profile


491 posts in 2887 days

#12 posted 01-27-2014 06:18 PM

One of the issue with mid size equipment is the size of the market. Small market and there is not enough sales to justify the design and tooling expense. For hobbyists there is a alternative and that is used equipment.

View Bill729's profile


241 posts in 3999 days

#13 posted 01-27-2014 07:20 PM

Lepelerin wrote: “If you work in a production shop, yes it might make sense to invest big $$ in nice machines. If you are a hobbyist it might not make much sense to invest the same amount of $$, except to make your man ego feels better. Look at my big expensive machine.”

Like you said, it’s a hobby so it doesn’t have to “make sense” financially any more than playing golf makes sense financially. And I think you could enjoy both of those for much less money than it costs to smoke cigarettes. The entry costs are just higher.

As dschlic1 mentioned, one can save a lot on used equipment. I recently bought a used Delta Unisaw myself. However, it is my experience that the time-costs of searching for used equipment are not insignificant at all. I’ve learned that if you can end a search by paying an extra $100-200 for a piece of machinery you want, that you should do it —even if it doesn’t “make sense financially”. Otherwise someone who thinks like that will have what you want, and you’ll still be searching—like the person I outbid on the Delta Unisaw.

Have fun!

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