he first observation I must make is that a workshop is not essential for a hobbyist woodworker or DIY person. Space is a big constraint in most Indian cities and few can afford the luxury of an exclusive workshop. In most parts of Europe too, I have seen people using whatever space they have for their woodworking without having a dedicated workshop. One enthusiast in Kolkata who had imported a terrific panel saw decided to install the machine in his sitting room.
However, it is usually only in places like the United States, Australia and some other country where space is not a problem that hobbyists can think of having a dedicated workshop. I have a small workshop because we had a servants’ room that is no longer used and do most of my ripping and other messy stuff in my verandah. Besides, I live in the suburbs where it is cheaper to have a house with spare rooms!
|My Home workshop|
I do not have much space in my workshop and so have made a habit of stowing away my machines after use. This has the added advantage of keeping my tools clean and in good condition. In north India, dust is a huge problem and can ruin the best of machinery.
What are essential tools depends on what you wish to achieve. For a hobbyist woodworker very few tools are required but if you are going to be doing a lot of woodworking, then a different set of tools will make life easier. I am going to list just the essentials as there is no end to the various tools and accessories available.
Top Six Tools for the Home
A. Measuring Tools
|Measuring properly and accurately is the key to good woodworking|
Hobbyists often do not pay attention to the fact that accurate, good quality measuring tools should be a priority. A vast variety of measuring tools exist for a variety of jobs. I have listed the most basic. Apart from those listed, there are gauges for measuring angles, tension, inclines and so on. Most of these tools are cheap except for a good measuring tape – I have a Stanley – and quality squares which are milled to a high level of tolerance. Squares are very useful for making sure that your measurements and consequently your cuts are perpendicular.
B. Cutting Tools
Hand saws (Rip and Cross cut)
A vast variety of cutting tools are available from the simple hand saw to the complex and expensive panel saw. A hand saw is a must for hobbyists as it is quick and useful for making quick cuts that do not require a great deal of accuracy. A master woodworker can use a hand saw to make perfect cuts but I am not one, so I depend on my circular saw for more accurate cuts. I would love to have a table saw but do not have the funds or the courage to go for one.
C. Sizing Tools
Belt Sander or plain sandpaper (and plenty of elbow grease!)
The hand plane is a great tool but it requires patience and skill to operate properly. Moreover, to get clean shavings, the blade iron needs to be constantly sharpened, which for a lazy person like me is too painful. I prefer my power planer (see review).
D. Joint making Tools
E. Assembly Tools
F. Finishing Tools or materials
Sandpaper of various grades from 180 to 600
Sanding block made out of a piece of wood or stiff foam
Shellac or your choice of finish
G. General Purpose Tools
Punches are very useful tools whose utility is often overlooked. Nail punches are required for pushing nails below the surface of the wood to give the wood a good look and enable proper finishing. The holes created by nail punches have to filled up with putty or some other material. A centre punch (called a sumbi in Hindi) is used to make a small starter hole in any material that is to be drilled. Buy one that can make holes both in wood and metal.
H. Sharpening Tools
Most hand tools require a fair amount of maintenance to keep them sharp, clean and rust free. Before the Monsoons I douse most of them with WD40 or Mustard oil. Sharpening the plane irons, chisels, saws and knives is a major activity and one that I prefer not to get involved in.
I had purchased a Skil grinder thinking that I will use it to sharpen my tools but soon learnt that was a bad idea. I use it to sharpen some gardening tools, axes and so but not my woodworking tools. I also use the grinder as a buffer for polishing metal. Otherwise it is a bad investment.
|My sharpening system: Various grades of sandpaper stuck on a thick slab of glass. Gives perfect edges every time!|
I do most of my sharpening with sandpaper of different grits – 80, 120, 220, 400, 600 and 1200 – stuck on a piece of half inch glass for most of my sharpening works. I go from a lowest grit to the highest progressively and clean up the sandpapers with a brush as I go along. With this system, which I picked up from a video on sharpening, my hand tools get a mirror polish on their edges.
I also have a set of cheap but effective diamond stones I got from abroad and a small diamond stone file for sharpening my tungsten carbide router bits.
Metal files are also useful for sharpening saw teeth, scrapers and so on.
19 February 2012