Woodworking power tools.....What are the "best buys"?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Bob Sorel, Nov 16, 2001.

  1. Bob Sorel

    Bob Sorel Stunt Coordinator

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    Hi guys,
    Since it looks like I will be building speaker cabinets and subwoofers for some time to come, I figure that I should invest in some decent power tools. The Craftsman, Skil, Black and Decker tools that I already own are dying one by one, and I would like to replace them with better quality tools, hopefully at good prices.
    For example, about 6 months ago I bought a Grizzly table saw, and this is an absolutely wonderful tool at a very reasonable price. It has a very powerful motor, a smooth, accurate "Shop Fox" fence, and cast iron wings, and I bought it brand new for about $525, if memory serves. Comparable products from Delta, DeWalt, or Jet cost $900 to $1000, and in some cases were not as good.
    One of my mistakes was to buy a Craftsman router. The plastic housing actually broke on the inside, allowing the armature wobble badly. Luckily I had bought the replacement guarantee for an extra $6, so Sears replaced it free of charge. I have no confidence in this product, and the extended warrantee will be over soon, so when (not if) it breaks again, I would like to replace it with a better unit.
    My Craftsman sander and Skil corded drill both bit the dust recently, and my Ryobi cordless drill won't be far behind.
    So my questions are these:
    What power tool company builds rugged, reliable good performing tools for the lowest cost?
    Are Grizzly's other power tools as good as their table saws?
    Do you recommend buying any particular company's "set" of power tools, or should all tools be bought individually?
    Where's the best place to buy power tools?
    Please make recommendations on the following:
    Router (plunge not necessary, but useful)
    Sander (preferably small and lightweight)
    Corded drill
    Cordless drill (18 volts?)
    Non pneumatic stapler, brad, and/or nail gun
    Jigsaw
    I am not doing woodworking for a living....just a hobby, but I want to use quality tools that will not need replacing a year from now. I will appreciate any and all recommendations.
    Thanks,
    Bob
    [Edited last by Bob Sorel on November 16, 2001 at 05:58 PM]
     
  2. SalMaglie

    SalMaglie Stunt Coordinator

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    I'd suggest you look at some dedicated woodworking sites for research into quality power tools. Badger Pond at www.badger-pond.com is a friendly community of woodworkers with an extensive archive of their forums. Also try the archives of rec.woodworking at http://groups.google.com/groups?hl=e...ec.woodworking
    Just type in a search like "plunge router" and you'll get numerous threads of people looking for recommendations and numerous replies. You can also go to the library and look at various woodworking magazines for articles on tool reviews. Libraries often have an extensive number of back issues for your search.
    I've found that Grizzly tools have a love-hate relationship with woodworkers. Seems like people either swear by them or hate 'em. I have a Grizzly bandsaw that performs well enough, but I'd rather have the Jet but didn't have the budget for it. For a jigsaw, I just got a flyer from Grizly in the mail yesterday and their G8994Z for $59.95 is a good deal that got a Popular Woodworking magazine Editor's Choice award.
    For cordless tools and corded hand power tools, just about any of the major brands amongst Makita, DeWalt, Porter-Cable, Bosch, and Hitachi will last a lot longer than those from Skil or Craftsman. People will chose different brands and models a lot of the time based on ergonomics. Try window shopping locally at Home Depot, local woodowking stores, and even the corner hardware store to test for how they feel in your own hands. To get an idea of prices, try http://www.toolseeker.com/ . They don't cover every tool seller on the net, but it's a good starting point.
    Sets aren't necessary, and to give you an idea of what I have and where I bought it, here's a list from my garage/shop:
    Corded drill: DeWalt 3/8" DW106 keyless paid $50 at local hardware store sale.
    Cordless Drill: Porter-Cable 12V. With 330 inch lbs of toque, it does everything I need around the house. I got a reconditioned model at Amazon.com for $99 last Christmas. Right now Amazon.com has them new for $139. Unless you have to have more torque than that, or are going to have some other cordless tools that run for a bit of time during their operation(ie; a circular or a sawzall), I'd recommend a lighter 12V or 14.4V model over a 18V or 19.2V.
    Jigsaw: Grizzly G8994Z, see above.
    Sander: I have a Makita 5010 Random Orbit sander I paid about $60 for locally, and an old Makita 3x24 belt sander I picked up at a flea market for $40.
    No router yet as I've been a furniture making hobbyist up to this point which I've done mostly by using nonpowered hand tools. My neighbor 2 doors down has a full car speaker building setup in his garage and if I need any routing done, I just walk over and see if he can fit me into his schedule.
    hope this helps and good luck
    [Edited last by SalMaglie on November 16, 2001 at 08:11 PM]
     
  3. Bob Sorel

    Bob Sorel Stunt Coordinator

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    Sal, that is a very thorough and excellent reply! You have given me a wealth of information, and just as important, places to search for it. I will certainly heed your advice and research my options before making any further mistakes by buying inferior tools. I will also be sure to check out your recommendations on the individual tools,as it seems to me that you have considerable experience and know your tools. Thank you very much, and if you think of any more good suggestions, please post away!
     
  4. SalMaglie

    SalMaglie Stunt Coordinator

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    Well I'm not that experienced since I'm just a home hobbyist, but I have been into woodworking for a few years now and I read some of the internet forums on a regular basis. Since I'm just getting into speaker building with a sub about halfway done, I'm new to this area of DIY though. My problem is that I've been doing most of my woodworking with hand tools and a lot of that doesn't apply to MDF speaker enclosures so it gives me an excuse to buy more tools, right? [​IMG]
    One thing that has me envious of my neighbor is his panel saw. Muscling around those 4x8 sheets of MDF would be a lot easier cutting them on a panel saw. Sure wish I could afford one of these $1,000+ wonders, not to mention the space it requires. I just located a plan with the hardware included: http://www.woodsmithstore.com/panelsawkit.html
    Haven't found anybody who has built one yet. Now if only I can find the space for it. About the only other thing I'd throw into a recommendation list, if you're going to get heavily into veneer work, is a vacuum press. That and maybe some Bessey K body clamps for glue ups. They are THE best clamps, but kind of expensive.
     
  5. ThomasW

    ThomasW Cinematographer

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    Older and Wiser......
    Wish I knew 30 years ago what I know now regarding tools. Started off getting 'bargins', ended up replacing them, all of them, some several times. Moved up in quality with each replacement. Had I known then I'd have dealt tools as the investment they are....
    I wouldn't buy a set of tools by any one brand. There are too many ergomonic issues that come into play. I'm left handed. Some tools are build for right handed users. Others interestingly enough are left handed (designed that way by accident I'm sure).
    I have the big 3.25 hp Hitachi plunge router. I bought this after having used one borrowed from a friend. This is a monster and goes through MDF like a hot knife through butter.
    Later decided I also wanted a smaller/lighter router so I got the Porter Cable dual base pkg. These were/are quite nice. Over the summer I helped a friend build 2 huge tube subs and the AS-15. He had the DeWalt 621 with the built-in dust collection system. This was wonderful, we routed in the basement when the outside temp was 90+degrees. My jig saw makes more saw dust than this router. So I sold my Porter Cable set and got one of the DeWalts just because of the dust collection. Now the Hitachi is still my favorite router, but the DeWalt get more use.
    For cordless drills yes 18v is the way to go. The 24v models are just too heavy. 14v don't have enough power
    Don't bother with electric nailers/staplers/etc.
    Bite the bullet and get an air compressor. Air powered tools have much more power and aren't that much more expensive.
    Buy brand name tools. IMO it's worth the extra money for the quick sevice and support afforded by name brands
     
  6. Bob Sorel

    Bob Sorel Stunt Coordinator

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    Thanks, Thomas, I was hoping you would chime in, as I know that you have been building speakers and subs for many years, and thus have a lot of experience in the same arena of work that I am engaging.
    You must have chuckled a bit when you read how I have been destroying cheap tools and looking for new ones, having already made the mistakes I am now making. I think I will stop wasting my money trying to get away with any more cheap tools, bite the bullet and buy good ones. The frustration of having a tool break when you are in the midst of a project is not something I want to continue doing [​IMG]
    In regards to a cordless drill, I thought Sal's 12 volt unit might be a little weak for speaker building, and I was planning on going to 18 volts simply because I felt it would offer more "beef" when I needed it. I still have a 12 volt Ryobi hanging around for lighter duty jobs, but it just doesn't have the torque when I need it.
    Sal and Thomas, do you think that any of the major tool manufacturers, DeWalt, Milwaukee, Hitachi, Porter Cable, Bosch, and Makita are equally high quality products, or does any company stand out either above or below the rest? Any of these companies I should NOT consider? Any that I have missed?
    It looks like good tools don't come cheap, so I should find the ones with the best ergonomics that work for me and then shop for the best price on THAT tool. Thanks again, guys. You have saved me from making more mistakes in my tool purchases [​IMG]
     
  7. Brian Bunge

    Brian Bunge Producer

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    Bob,
    A very good friend of mine is a partial owner (with the rest of his family) of a storage building manufacturing company. They have 3 or 4 DeWalt 18V cordless drills that get daily use. They use them to attach the metal outer skin over the 2x4 walls as well as attaching flooring, etc. He would be lost without them! My Dad also does a lot of home remodeling (and hopefully some HT construction in the future) and uses the 18V DeWalt as well.
    At least around here it appears that the DeWalt is THE cordless drill to use!
    Brian
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  8. SalMaglie

    SalMaglie Stunt Coordinator

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    You can't really compare a Porter-Cable 12V to a Ryobi 12V. While the Porter-Cable has 300+in/lbs of torque, the Ryobi doesn't even come close to that. Not that I'm trying to talk you out of buying a 18V, I just wanted to point out that just because 2 drills are both 12V it doesn't always tell the whole story.
    If you are set to buy a 18V, I'd recommend the reconditioned DeWalt 18V at Amazon.com for $120 which is a lot cheaper than a new one. Now a lot of people don't think buying reconditioned cordless tools is a good idea, but I've had a good experience with mine. Besides, it seems like these companies that make cordless tools are coming out with a new battery technology every few years, so I don't think it's something that you can count on to last 10 yrs or more as the technology becomes obsolete, and the battery life is sucked out of them.
    As for which company is best, I don't think you can pin it down to just one. I happen to like Porter-Cable, but I know that their plate joiner has some serious faults while the DeWalt is much better for that particular tool. IOW, each company has it's strong points while occasionally putting out a lemon of a tool that they didn't put enough effort into. An example of a tool that's been the industry standard for years is the Bosch 1587AVSKK jigsaw(I went with the Grizzly because I couldn't justify, nor had the budget for, a $150 jigsaw) . If you want a beefy right angle drill for running wire inbetween studs in a wall, then the Milwaukee is the standard and what most electricians use. For the most part though, let ergonomics be your guide, especially for a tool that's going to be in your hand for a period of time like drills and sanders.
    good luck and happy tool hunting
     
  9. Pete Mazz

    Pete Mazz Supporting Actor

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    I'm a cabinetmaker by trade and have used most makes at one time or another. You will never regret buying a quality tool. On the other hand....
    Routers:
    Bosch is my personal favorite. Well balanced, easy adjustments.
    Makita a close second. Porter Cable have had too many problems with switches and cords.
    Sanders:
    Porter Cable. Same problem with switches and cords, but the sanders are great.
    Jig Saw:
    Bosch. Bosch. Bosch.
    Cordless drills:
    Makita 9.6 V has plenty of power for screws and smaller drilling chores.
    Drills:
    Many good ones. Makita, DeWalt, etc. If you will be using large diameter hole saws, you should get a 1/2".
    I second the idea of getting a compressor. Air tools are relatively cheap and usually last forever. Air sanders are much better than their electric equivalents. A nail gun or staple gun makes quick work of assembly. Hell, just to have some air to dust things off, including yourself, is worth it. [​IMG] If you have any interest in spray finishing, make sure you get a compressor that will put out enough CFM to do the job.
    Pete
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  10. ThomasW

    ThomasW Cinematographer

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    Bob
    Left me also add another vote for refurbished tools. My DeWalt 18v drill and little cordless hand saw and 621 router have all been refurbs and they are/were as good as new. The refurbs have the same warranty as new and save about 20+%. You can also find good prices on refurbs at http://www.toolking.com
    I bought multiple Makita 9.6 volt tools when they were the only battery powered tools available. They've held up fine, but the battery life is too short compared to the 18V stuff
    I have a very good friend who's been finish carpenter for 40+ yrs, so many of my purchases come from his recommendations. Milwaukee used to make fine tools, but the current crop according to him aren't the quality of old.
    I've used the smaller Bosch routers and they are very very nice. But for down and dirty thick 1-1/2"+ MDF work, nothing beats the big Hitachi.
    The fit and finish on the DeWalt router is poor compared to the Bosch, but the DeWalt dust collection system is so fantastic that it's a must have in my book.
    I use a DeWalt Plate joiner, and a Porter Cable "electronic control" jigsaw, it's not as quite as good as the Bosch, but it uses the low buck universal blades.
     
  11. Bob Sorel

    Bob Sorel Stunt Coordinator

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    Last night a friend of mine came over to help with a small wall patch job (I just put in a heating loop/zone in my theater), and I happened to notice that he was using a DeWalt 18 volt 3/8" cordless drill. I used it for awhile and found it very comfortable, with gobs of power compared to my wimpy Ryobi 12 volt. Sal, I know that a quality 12 volt drill will have much more torque than my Ryobi, but I felt very confident armed with this particular drill. Thanks to Sal's heads up on the $120 refurbs available from Amazon, as well as the votes of confidence from both Sal and Thomas concerning refurbs, I have decided on my first purchase [​IMG] I still have my 12 volt Ryobi for the light duty jobs, so I feel that between the 2 cordless drills I will now own, I should be covered under most situations.
    Since I like to also have a corded drill on hand, do you guys think I should get a 1/2" VSR as my choice? Another friend of mine recommended Milwaukee as having the best corded models, but based on new info presented here, it might not be the best choice currently. Suggestions, both in size and make?
    I've decided to bite the bullet and buy a compressor as well. I don't plan on doing any painting (but you never know) with it, and my main purpose would be for stapling/nailing and sanding, and I want it to run on 120 volts. There are a lot of different sizes available, so I could use some suggestions as to what I need for my purposes, both in terms of tank capacity and CFM's. BTW, I do NOT plan on working on my car with air tools. At my age, I let the dealer do all my mechanical work [​IMG]
    I haven't made any decisions on other tools as yet, with the router being the one I am most concerned to get right. I like the idea of the big Hitachi, but since I work in my garage, the DeWalt DW621, with its built in dust collection system, is also very appealing. A carpenter friend of mine owns a Porter Cable router, and he offered to let me try it out to see if I like it (he swears by it). After killing one Craftsman router, and dealing with its overall poor performance, I want to get this one right. Oh yeah, and whatever router I buy must also fit a Jasper Jig. After using a Model 200 for some time, I don't know how I ever lived without it!
    [Edited last by Bob Sorel on November 18, 2001 at 07:20 AM]
     
  12. Deane Johnson

    Deane Johnson Supporting Actor

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    There is some great wisdom being spread in these posts. It's just plain cheaper to buy the good stuff in the first place.
    Back in the 1970's, I purchased a bunch of Craftsman power tools. Using them for just household things, they haven't gotten a great deal of use. However, almost all of them have been replaced by Dewalt, Porter Cable, Makita, etc.
    What is surprising is how much better the major brands work and handle in regular use, let alone how much longer they last.
    My list:
    Cordless drills: Dewalt, Makita, Ryobi
    Biscuit joiner: Porter Cable
    Power hand plane: Makita
    7 1/2" Circular saw: Makita
    Compound Miter saw: Makita LS-1011
    Table Saw: Delta
    Radial Arm saw: Montgomery Ward (40 years old, still humming)
    Radom Orbital sander: Ryobi (not very good)
    Finishing sander: Makita
    Pnuematic brad nailer: Hatachi
    Left over Craftsman not yet replaced, but planned:
    Belt Sander
    Router
    Jig saw
    I mention all these things because it surprises even me how far from grace Craftsman has fallen since I started buying tools.
    Deane
     
  13. ThomasW

    ThomasW Cinematographer

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    Bob
    My corded 1/2" VSR is an old Black & Decker commercial model. It sees very little use unless I'm mixing drywall compound, thinset, grout etc. My DeWalt 18V is the large 1/2" hammer/drill. It sees the most use of any of my drills.
    As for compressors you need to decide on size based on use. For nailing/staples etc the little pancake models are nice. But things like sanding/spraying require a bigger tank and higher air flow. I originally bought a DeVilbiss Pro 4000 3.5hp 20 gal. This is an oil less unit and it's adequate for almost everything except sandblasting.
    So later on when I wanted to do some sandblasting (something only real men do) I bought one of these, 2-stage, 175psi, 17.6 cu ft/min, 60 gal tank, a paultry 650 lbs. [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [Edited last by ThomasW on November 18, 2001 at 11:51 AM]
     
  14. Pete Mazz

    Pete Mazz Supporting Actor

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    You would need a large compressor to run air sanders and some sprayers. They probably run about $500 and up.
    For staplers and nailers, what Thomas said, a small compressor is fine. Look into the pre-packaged kits that have a compressor, gun, hose and fittings as the best bang for the buck solution. Porter Cable offers a couple, one a finish nailer and one a brad nailer. For building enclosures a 2" nail length is enough, depending on the material thickness, of course.
    Routers, like some other tools, have a particular "feel" to them. These are some of the things I look for. I like ones that are not top heavy, have the needed switches and adjustments within easy reach of the handles. You want a 1/2" collet capability and probably at least 1 1/2-2 HP. I prefer plunge routers for template work and dadoing ease. Most will have some sort of stepped and adjustable depth stops. Some are also much louder than others. If you're going to be doing a lot of veneer or laminate work a large router can be unwieldy. Look at trimmer routers for this type of work. Bosch is my favorite here again.
    Unless you need the ability to drill large holes with a drill (>2"), the 3/8" models are much lighter and have enough power to do everything else. Look for variable speed and reversing capability along with a keyless chuck. I have a DeWalt and Makita and like them both.
    I happened to be in Sears the other night and was very impressed with their tool selection. Everything seemed to be on display so you could get a good feel for it. Prices also seemed to be pretty reasonable.
    Pete
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  15. James Mudler

    James Mudler Stunt Coordinator

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    Sal,

    Funny you mentioned the panel saw from Shop notes (woodsmith) I just ordered the kit. I was in Lowes this weekend measuring theirs. I going to make some changes to meet my needs. I'll post my results when I am finshed. Probably 1st of the new year.

    Table saw - Ryobi BT 3000 - hate it

    Jig saw - Porter Cable (PC)

    Router - PC 2hp Plunge & old (1960)Craftman 1.5 hp

    Drills - (2) Makita 9v; milwaukee 2.9v; old B&D corded 3/4

    Sanders - PC orbital 5" and old Craftman beltsander

    Drill Press - Delta

    Miter saw - Delta

    Biscit Jointer/Pocket joints - Ryobi and Kreg

    Nailers - PC and Standley Bostich

    Air Copressor - 5hp Coleman

    Current Panel saw - PSI with B&D woodhawk circular saw.

    Dust collection - (2) shop vacs and PSI tempest - Have the kit, next project.

    All Craftmans tools were my Grandfaters....the old stuff
     
  16. Greg_R

    Greg_R Screenwriter

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    Bob,
    I'd suggest looking at the following:
    Router: Read Pat Warner's website for lots of good suggestions. Be sure you get one with a 1/2" chuck. I use a Porter Cable 690 combo as well as a Hitachi M12V.
    Sander: I like the Bosch sanders for their ergonomics & they won't kill your hand after a minute of use. Make sure you get a Random Orbit Oscillating sander (prevents swirl marks).
    Corded Drill: Make sure it has a good chuck! You might be better served getting a drill press (so you can use hole cutters and hole saws more accurately).
    Cordless Drill: Panasonic... read the reviews on Amazon from all the users who have ditched their Dewalts. I don't see why you'd need a lot of power for drilling screws in MDF... I wouldn't go higher than 14.4V. I should mention that I use a drill press for making any hole saw cuts.
    Nail Gun: I don't use one, can't help you here.
    Jigsaw: If this is for a rough cut, then get a cheapie. If you want more control & a better cut then you'll need to spend more. Bosch has long been the standard in jig saws...
    Greg
     
  17. Brian Bunge

    Brian Bunge Producer

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    Bob,

    I use the Porter Cable 690 combo as well (plunge and fixed base). I think it's a great router and the Jasper 200 Jig does fit it. I must say though, that I'm tempted to get the DeWalt unit with the dusk collection design. My Dad and I are setting up a woodshop in the back room of his antique store and would really like to keep the MDF dust to a minimum. If so, then I'll probably move the PC unit to dedicated duty in a router table yet to be built. Then I can just add a dust collection hood to the table.

    Brian
     
  18. Sam C

    Sam C Stunt Coordinator

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    My list:
    Cordless drills: Skil 14.4, Makita Right Angle
    Corded drills: Porter Cable (This thing is a beast and will break your arm if you let it)
    Biscuit joiner: Dewalt
    Circular saw: Porter Cable Worm Drive
    Compound Miter saw: Dewalt
    Radom Orbital sander: Dewalt
    Finishing sander: Crafstman
    Right Angle Grinder: Dewalt
    Router: Porter Cable
    Jig Saw: Dewalt
    Recipro Saw: Milwaukee SawzAll
    Other hand tools
    Dremel and lots of accesories
    ryobi triangle finishing sander (These are worthless)[​IMG]
    Items on the list to buy:
    Dewalt Surface Planer
    Drill Press
    Table Saw
     
  19. Rob Lloyd

    Rob Lloyd Stunt Coordinator

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    My list of stuff:

    Cordless Drill -DeWalt 12v

    Corded Drill - Bosch 1/2" hammer drill

    Sanders - PC finish, DeWalt 5" RO (I'm returning it)

    Routers - PC 690kit, Hitachi M12v for table, Jasper jig

    Table saw - Jet contracors w/ Beisemeyer Commercial fence, link belt, Forest WWII blade, Extension tables and router table built in.

    Miter Saw - DeWalt sliding compound

    Jigsaw - Bosch

    Planer - DeWalt 12"

    Grizzly 2hp Dust collector

    Drill press - Delta benchtop

    4hp compressor, nail guns - brad, finsish, stapler

    Asturo ECO/SSP HVLP sprayer (works w/ the really small compressor) w/ pressure pot.

    Lots of hand tools

    Leigh Dovetail jig

    Kreg Pocket jig

    PC Biscuit joiner

    RotoZip

    I've used all of it as jobs come up. I've rebuilt most of my house myself so I can easily justify my tools w/ the wife. Now I'm getting started w/ the fun stuff - furniture and speakers.
     
  20. Jack Gilvey

    Jack Gilvey Producer

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    Well, I'm not even qualified to sweep sawdust in the shops of the other guys in this thread, but I also believe in buying the "good stuff" at the start.
    My favorite tool combo is my DeWalt 621/Jasper 200. It does everything I ask it to perfectly. The router itself is powerful enough for my purposes, and is compact and nicely balanced, very easy to handle and operate. As usual, getting the best bits makes a big difference.
    I also have a DeWalt 3/8" drill and a drill-press jig I got at Home Depot (you can see it in this picture ) . Makes it easy to get nice, perpendicular holes.
     

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