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  • Tools - What level of precision & quality?

    As a novice to woodworking, the abundance of tools and widely varying quality levels has been daunting. Despite much research, I am still perplexed at times on what level of tool quality and precision I really need. This is especially difficult, as I would rather buy "nice" once, than buy cheap, then buy AGAIN, the "nice"stuff I really did need.

    As an example, consider a straightedge for ensuring flatness of my TS3660, other tools, etc. Do I need a 24" or 36". How accurate? A Veritas 36" steel unit is good for no more than .0015" error over the entire length, for $66. Or, Or, I could save money and get a 38" aluminum model that is accurate to .003", but cost $40. In order to use the TS-Aligner I intend to get, an engineer's square is desirable, as is a 45 degree angle block, but these too are widely varying in precision. The TS-Aligner products are not inexpensive. Even the TS-Aligner could be considered overkill I suppose, especially since I have a Starrett combination square. That with a dial indicator may be adequate for tool setup?

    I need more tools, so don't want to burn money up on precision I don't really need.

    - Phil
    Last edited by Phil3; 06-16-2008, 07:22 PM. Reason: Grammar.

  • #2
    Re: Tools - What level of precision & quality?

    Think of what you're making. A miter cut on a picture frame has to be accurate across it's width. However, wood is more fluid than metal. It does tend to move over time. Given a hundred or so years, that piece of furniture you made for your kids has now gone to the grandkids. The top has been moving all this time, but thanks to the figure 8's or whatever joining you did, it's still just as flat and smooth as the day it left your shop (except for that water ring from your son's party that weekend you went to the beach....). The mortice and tennon joints are still strong though they've loosened just a tiny bit. No one can tell though because the 1/64" of moisture loss in the entire joint makes no difference.

    How accurate do you want to be? I believe in being as accurate as I possibly can, given that I don't want to pay $66 I can't afford for the super-duper dead-flat measuring bar. I look at them in envy. I probably always will. When I hit the lottery, I'll buy one of each of them for the new shop. Well...lottery money I'll make it two cause I always drop the silly things!!

    For now, I can do without.
    I put it all back together better than before. There\'s lots of leftover parts.

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    • #3
      Re: Tools - What level of precision & quality?

      I like to think of quality hand tools as long term investments. Any that will get serious use should really be of highest quality. If you end up not using them, they retain far more selling value than lesser quality tools. Spending $1000 on good measuring and layout tools may seam like alot of money but think of it over say 50 years of enjoyment and they really aren't costly at all. Buy what you can and save up your funds. Sometimes you'll get lucky and find really good condition used tools where the owner took great care of his/her tools. One tool I really feel is a must have is a quality Combination-Square with 12 inch rule. You can add on additional heads over time to make a really awesome measuring tool out of one. In this case Brown & Sharpe, Mitutoyo (quality from Japan) or L. S. Starrett quality does pay off. I personally recommend Starrett as they have great customer support. This is one tool you'll really get your money's worth out of when setting up stationary and bench top machinery.

      Left picture shows a kit and right picture is the basic tool. You can get different rules for them in several lengths and with different scales on them.

      A good steel L square that's say 12" x 18" and another 6" x 12" is good to have. You don't need fancy, but you do what quality. There's nothing more *&^%#$# than a square that's 89.5 or 90.5 when it needs to be dead on at 90.00 degrees.
      Attached Files
      Last edited by Woussko; 06-16-2008, 09:31 PM.

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      • #4
        Re: Tools - What level of precision & quality?

        I tend to invest in higher end, but feel there is some point of diminishing returns. On lower priced tools, I am more willing to go higher end, as the dollars just aren't that much more. As such, I did buy a Starrett combination square, model C33H-12-4R. $67 for a high end tool that is a core instrument in a wood shop seemed to me to be a wise investment.

        Who makes good L squares?

        - Phil

        Originally posted by Woussko View Post
        I like to think of quality hand tools as long term investments. Any that will get serious use should really be of highest quality. If you end up not using them, they retain far more selling value than lesser quality tools. Spending $1000 on good measuring and layout tools may seam like alot of money but think of it over say 50 years of enjoyment and they really aren't costly at all. Buy what you can and save up your funds. Sometimes you'll get lucky and find really good condition used tools where the owner took great care of his/her tools. One tool I really feel is a must have is a quality Combination-Square with 12 inch rule. You can add on additional heads over time to make a really awesome measuring tool out of one. In this case Brown & Sharpe, Mitutoyo (quality from Japan) or L. S. Starrett quality does pay off. I personally recommend Starrett as they have great customer support. This is one tool you'll really get your money's worth out of when setting up stationary and bench top machinery.

        Left picture shows a kit and right picture is the basic tool. You can get different rules for them in several lengths and with different scales on them.

        A good steel L square that's say 12" x 18" and another 6" x 12" is good to have. You don't need fancy, but you do what quality. There's nothing more *&^%#$# than a square that's 89.5 or 90.5 when it needs to be dead on at 90.00 degrees.

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Tools - What level of precision & quality?

          I got the Groz set from Woodcraft. It's a 3 piece L-square set that also includes a simple caliper. I just checked and found this set from Woodcraft on sale. It's a 4-piece set with a case.
          The four sizes you need most often are contained in this Engineer's Square Set - 2", 3", 4" and 6".
          They still have the Groz, but I can't find the kit price that includes the 3 squares and the caliper. The Groz squares are $9.99 each according to the website.
          I put it all back together better than before. There\'s lots of leftover parts.

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          • #6
            Re: Tools - What level of precision & quality?

            I have to wonder what that $66 straightedge would help you do?

            If it tells you your TS3650 is .01" out of flat, will it make your cutting any better or worse? What exactly would you do about the .01" anyway? And the cheaper model would tell you just as much.

            I can't really think of a woodworking tool that needs to be within .0015" over a 36" span.

            For angles, the Wixey digital angle gauge for about $30 is all you'll probably need for machine setup.
            Last edited by jbateman; 06-17-2008, 04:41 PM. Reason: typo

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            • #7
              Re: Tools - What level of precision & quality?

              According to some, .01" is marginal, but even I am not entirely sure why. I have asked that question without a sound answer. As a novice, I don't know what problems I might encounter, if any. Shimming the wings would largely fix any flatness issue, but not if the warp was confined to one single chunk of iron.

              Yes, I liked the Wixey device. Fast and apparently, more than sufficiently accurate.

              - Phil

              Originally posted by jbateman View Post
              I have to wonder what that $66 straightedge would help you do?

              If it tells you your TS3650 is .01" out of flat, will it make your cutting any better or worse? What exactly would you do about the .01" anyway? And the cheaper model would tell you just as much.

              I can't really think of a woodworking tool that needs to be within .0015" over a 36" span.

              For angles, the Wixey digital angle gauge for about $30 is all you'll probably need for machine setup.

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Tools - What level of precision & quality?

                A Wixey and a good tape measeure is all you need. You can't flatten your tabletop if it was out a little. Use the tape to measure from the miter slots to the blade and adjust accordingly. The Wixey will take care of any angles.
                info for all: http://www.hoistman.com http://www.freeyabb.com/phpbb/index....wwtoolinfoforu --- "I like long walks, especially when they are taken by people who annoy me."

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                • #9
                  Re: Tools - What level of precision & quality?

                  I've got a $15 dial gauge that I rarely use....I can dial in my TS surprisingly close using a decent combo square....a piece of wood with a screw on the end referenced to the miter slot works well too. No TS Aligner needed IMO. My straight edges are average decent quality...$10-$15 set of three that I use more for rulers than straight edges...once I confirmed that my jointer bed and TS wings are flat, it's not something I need to recheck often. As long as I can check for square, that's about the only place I really feel I need "picky" accuracy, and even that can be achieved (or at least checked) with a $3 student's plastic square. I do find the Wixey angle gauge for $35 to be a great acquisition. I also really enjoy using a good aftermarket miter gauge, and good quality cutters and blades.

                  Wood is fairly prone to movement and doesn't require machinist tolerances to be right. Set your machines to be square. Make your stock flat, straight, and square from the beginning of a project, then strive to be consistent with length and width cuts (always use the same tape measure and use stop blocks whenever possible), and you'll find yourself right where you want to be.
                  Last edited by hewood; 06-18-2008, 06:03 AM.

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                  • #10
                    Re: Tools - What level of precision & quality?

                    Originally posted by Phil3 View Post
                    I tend to invest in higher end, but feel there is some point of diminishing returns. On lower priced tools, I am more willing to go higher end, as the dollars just aren't that much more. As such, I did buy a Starrett combination square, model C33H-12-4R. $67 for a high end tool that is a core instrument in a wood shop seemed to me to be a wise investment.

                    Who makes good L squares?

                    - Phil
                    And you bought a Ridgid table saw, dude that isn't even close to being a higher end piece of equipment, your off by thousands of dollars. But I'll tell you what, it is the best saw for the bang of a buck. Don't be so fussy, accuracy needs to be there but as Sandy said, for picture frames....
                    Great Link for a Construction Owner/Tradesmen, and just say Garager sent you....

                    http://www.contractorspub.com

                    A good climbing rope will last you 3 to 5 years, a bad climbing rope will last you a life time !!!

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                    • #11
                      Re: Tools - What level of precision & quality?

                      It is all relative. For what I intended to do, I was looking at the TS2400LS. In that context, the TS3660 IS higher end, and is perhaps overkill for what I need. No question, the TS3660 is an outstanding value.

                      After reviewing the TS-Aligner Jr. manual, there is virtually nothing that it does on a table saw, I can not do with a dial indicator, its magnetic base, a Wixey angle finder, and my Starrett combination square. The TS-Aligner Jr. does have a tight fitting piece for the miter slot, but one can save about half the price by using one's own miter square (TS-Aligner Jr Lite). The TS-Aligner models appear to make the whole process go faster and I might get it for that reason, plus its accuracy, and uses on other equipment (i.e. miter saw blade angle).

                      - Phil

                      Originally posted by garager View Post
                      And you bought a Ridgid table saw, dude that isn't even close to being a higher end piece of equipment, your off by thousands of dollars. But I'll tell you what, it is the best saw for the bang of a buck. Don't be so fussy, accuracy needs to be there but as Sandy said, for picture frames....

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Tools - What level of precision & quality?

                        Phil,
                        First of all, Good Questions. This is a good thread. I’ve done Engineering (ME) all my life and had always worked to extreme tolerances. I have always had a tendency to carry that thinking into my woodworking. It’s hard not to but it is rarely necessary. I have many of the high end tools mentioned and use them every day. I had looked at the Veritas steel straight edges but even with my inner need for accuracy I could not bring myself to buy those steel straight edges at those prices for woodworking. What I did get, as a compromise to myself, was their 24” Aluminum model for $28.50. I feel it all boils down to “get the best you can afford” but don’t go nuts. Upgrade later if you feel it’s necessary on the small things. Most of the big tools will last for years and you will learn to work around those that have negative idiosyncrasies. My father had a 10” Craftsman TS that he bought in the mid 1940’s. My brother used it until a few years ago, then sold it and bought a Grizzly. That’s over 50 years of use. It couldn’t even come close to today’s equipment. Was it perfectly flat? Maybe. It cut wood straight. On the straightedge length question; I would suggest 24” for most every day use. I use mine several times a day. You may need a 36 incher now and then but that length can get a little unwieldy for quick checks. My long straight edge is an inexpensive 50” circular saw guide for cutting plywood. It probably isn’t even rated in thousands of an inch, maybe tenths. But that’s good enough for most woodworking. All the guys have given you great advice. Hope this helps.
                        Last edited by JJCiesla; 06-26-2008, 12:44 AM.
                        Jim

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