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Modify your tools?

823 Views 15 Replies 12 Participants Last post by  Axis39
So, I am typically quite respectful of my tools… I take care of them, baby some… they are my living. I work with them every day and I need them to keep performing.

But, yesterday was an interesting day for me… I own a Dewalt track saw. I own some Festool track. I have committed to the TSO Parallel Guide System. All of these are relatively recent purchases.

I have the TSO GRS-16 90 deg fixture and love it. But, I also want the parallel guides. I ordered some a while ago, and the tracks are on back order. But, I do already have the track clips that attach the rails to the track.

I had to make some repeatable cuts yesterday, and decided to jerry-rig some guides for myself using the TSO clips. Well, we cut out some bb ply, cut a groove down the middle, recessed the clips into the ends, built some stop blocks and used some old knobs from an old something or other. Put it all together, hooked it to the track and we were pretty excited….

... Until we figured out that the bottom plate of the saw is too wide to fit in the area where between the ridge the saw rides on, and the clips!

It took me about a minute to decide it was better to shave the saw plate, as opposed to trimming the clips (thinking down the road… other accessories would probably also need to be trimmed). So, we took a grinder, a belt sander and a file to the edge. Now there's a nice space so that the saw works, the clips work, and we got our four wardrobe doors cut out perfectly.

It's a funny mindset I have about not wanting to modify stuff… and yet, I have done it a million times over the years. I will say, it was hard to put a metal grinding disk to a perfectly good, relatively new, tool. But, in the end I'll probably forget I even did it in a couple of days… It'll just work and I won't think much about it ever again. But, getting up the gumption to do that to a tool?

What have you guys modified, if anything, to get the job done? Or, do you feel it's totally sacrilege?
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I have few tools not modified, or at least tuned past OEM spec. Saw handles, totes, power tools.
Tools are tools to be used. Now I guess I would not modify a Stanley #1, but I would never have one anyway.

Looking at the Makita track saw. As I understand it, Makita and Festool tracks are compatible.
Back in the day I modified many a Craftsman tool for a specific use, sometimes a one of. The good thing about modifying Craftsman was with their unconditional guarantee, you could bring it back, and swap it for a brand new tool. I found this nugget when I worked at Sears for 8 years as a kid. We had a pretty large box of modified tools at any one point in time, modifications that someone thought was a good idea, at least for a while.

So I understand the allure of the perfect tool for the job at hand. On other, you fix it you keep it tools, I'd just have to be convinced that my planned "fix" would be an improvement. Being stuck with the end result could be a deal breaker.
This one is tricky for me. I feel like my willingness to modify a tool is inversely proportional to its cost and age. I have a (small) collection of pre-war hand tools and I could never imagine modifying them as I'd feel somehow sacrilegous. To me those tools hold a mystique and a story. Maybe I'm making that up in my head, but that's how I see it.

Newer, cheaper, mass produced tools with an expected life cycle are not nearly as touchy for me. I do tend to make one last calculation of 'how much is this going to cost if I have to buy another one if you screw this up Ryan?'.

Is it weird to have an emotional attachment to an old piece of metal that you have no personal history with, from a time before you were even alive??
If you are worried about resale value of tools, then woodworking is probably not a lifelong hobby. I personally modify whatever tool to improve its usability or comfort. I recently filed my LN saw handles to fit my hands better. The resale value is more of a concern for whoever does my estate sale.
lol, yeah resale value of wood working tools is a kin to putting money down the drain, rare if one recovers costs of tool purchase.
i,m presently selling a half dozen work trucks, compressors and generators along with acoutrements for each truck.
amazing what folks will give for experienced tools
Rj in az
I have no concerns about resale. I don't resell my older tools. I either give them away to someone who'd appreciate them or they stay with me. I'd agree that planning for resale of woodworking tools is a bad idea. I guess I just have a soft spot for items of perceived nostalgia!
My first router table have a Freud FT2000 router in it. The base of the router had a small opening for such a large router (these were the "3 1/2 HP" routers of the Freud line). The small opening would not accommodate the large panel raising bits. No problem, I took a hacksaw and cut the opening to be large enough for the 3 1/4" wide panel raisers…worked great. I had no qualms about doing it, and wasn't concerned in the slightest about the tools value.
I have no concerns about resale. I don't resell my older tools. I either give them away to someone who'd appreciate them or they stay with me. I'd agree that planning for resale of woodworking tools is a bad idea. I guess I just have a soft spot for items of perceived nostalgia!

- RyanGi
Haha. I went through this a while back with old 1980s BMX bikes. I rode them when I was 10 years old through Jr High. A few years back the prices of these skyrocketed and I bought a couple frames and started building up complete bikes with NOS parts. Some people including some friends asked why I wasn't building it to factory spec, as that was best for resale collector prices. I told them because when I was a kid, half the fun of riding BMX bikes was going to bike shops and buying upgrades for our bikes. Nobody really kept their bikes stock, that was the nostalgia for me. The "keep it stock" was kind a of a false goal that collectors without emotion were interested in.
Being a Shopsmth user, modification is the norm. One is a "shorty" and the other has installed the Jointech Saw Train and router table. Both my Sklll 77 and it's baby brother have been modified for use on a shopmade track saw. Of course, all my router bases are modified. The DW 735 planer now has a spiral head. All of my mods are are reversible. But, there ain't no way I'm about to swap out that planer head or remove the Jointech system.
Unless you are a tool collector, where modifications ruin the piece, there is no stigma to modifying your tools. Since some of my other hobbies are machining and blacksmithing, I am making and modifying tools all the time.
Anything is fair game for modification. One of the most notable mods was to a brand new OF2200. The dust shroud that attaches to the router plate was too large for the dedicated bit we wanted to use. So that got cut to size and glued back together.

Dust collection mods are the most common but we'll happily cut into any tool if there's an improvement to be made. Yesterday I chopped our stainless steel food prep table (used for finish mixing) in half with an angle grinder because two small tables is now more useful than one large one.

One bandsaw is missing the lower blade guides. It got in the way of a dust collection mod and removing it didn't have an effect on bandsaw performance.

Resale value is never a consideration. The only deciding factor is whatever makes a tool better for us.
I'm w Ryan. Modifications aren't sacrilege, but I always hesitate to modify my pre 1800 tools. Partly because you can't uncut cast iron, partly. because I have a fascinating respect for something that has lasted 120 years.

I disagree with "If you are worried about resale value of tools, then woodworking is probably not a lifelong hobby". I have been hobby woodworking most of my life, yet still find tools that I want to refurbish - find I don't need 6 of them - then sell them. So I don't drill hang-holes or grind away lever caps or file earmarks onto the edges of my tools. If I need to modify a handtool, I usually find a hopelessly broken one and grind away at it.
I've definitely done that Mike. Have a tool I want to modify, then go out and find a used or broken up one and modified the hell out of it. I do find that most quality, well made tools are thought out to work a certain way. If you use it that way, it tends to respond the way you expect. Of course that's not true of all tools. Harbor Freight is great for stuff I wanna make my own version of!
Someone once told me long ago - If you can't afford to lose/break/modify it, you can't afford to own it.

Over the last few decades I've come to realize just how true that is… and yes, I've got a few things I can't afford.
Firs toff… Sorry to drop a topic and ditch for a while (work got crazy busy and I haven't had them to even visit a forum for a while now).

I laughed at the 'if resale value' comment., I am also a musician and in that world guys are always worried about resale value… Not me, I never think anything is temporary when it comes to tools or guitars and amps! LOL

It's funny, I have a bunch fo other tolls I've modified… Most of them are inexpensive hand tools… This was a weird one for me because it was new-ish and expensive! LOL

Good to hear others do as I do, and think just like I do!
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