Tools and Shop  
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Tools are a necessary enabler of the boat building process. While it is possible to build the boat entirely with hand tools, I do not have that much time available. 

I have what many would consider a well equipped shop which has been established over the years as part of my furniture making and household project work.

Remember what I refer to as the prime directive of home ownership: "Every project requires a tool." In the early days that was very true as a new tool was required to complete the task at hand. Later on, it was what my wife refers to as the project tool - the reward for getting the project done.

Hand Tools
Many of my hand tools are purchases at flea markets antique dealers, and rummage sales. Fine used edge tools can be had for ~1/2 the cost of new. In addition, many are hard to find as new. One of my most used chisels is a 2" wide slick, which was $20 at an antique store in northern Minnesota, and would be prohibitive to purchase new. Remarkably such slicks were once commonly used in timber frame construction and ship building.  This is used as a "plane without a body" for many cleanup and shaping tasks.

Chisels are mismatched close outs as well as used. The common theme is that they are all high quality. Note, the cheap import chisels from India can also be used, but you will spend a lot of time truing them up.

Sharpening is done with cheap bench grinder, 1200 grit water stone and sewn cotton buffing wheel charged with emery or white rouge. This 3 step process yields a mirror finish in <3 minutes per edge once the tool has received the initial true-up. The fine finish is low friction, withstands rust better and is sharp enough to shave with. For more details on sharpening, refer to Fine Woodworking Magazine articles and books.

Power Tools
Power tool purchases have been almost all new. The majority of commonly available used stationary tools I have seen are the cheap junk that come from the "home improvement center". It is very important to buy quality - not top of the line, but quality none the less. Additionally time will be spent in properly setting up and aligning the tools.

For stationary tools I mostly have a mixture of Delta and Sears. The Delta tools are Taiwanese, but of good quality requiring little work to be useable.

Table saw is Sears 10" 1.5HP belt drive with cast iron top. This took an amazing 8 hours to assemble and align originally. Overall, it has been good. The fence has warped over time and now has a wood face on it which is straight. Blades are Freud Thin Kerf Carbide which are an excellent buy. The blade that came with the saw as well as a Vermont American carbide are junk that are only suitable for rough cutting if at all. The Freud blades have been consistently good, and with the limited horsepower of the saw the thin kerf speeds things up.

The table saw is not used much in the early frame construction of the boat, but I could not imagine cutting out all of the chine, shear, and batten pieces without it.

For frame cut out, I used the band saw with a 1/2" 4tpi skip tooth blade. The pieces were traced and then cut 2 at a time, by sticking them together with double sided fiberglass carpet tape. This is 2-3X faster as well as more accurate than using a sabre saw. There is also much less tear out than the sabre saw (even with plywood blade and orbital action). Frames were sanded on a stationary belt / disk sander (9"disk + 6x48 belt). 80 grit on each. Keep the pieces stuck together while doing the edges as this will greatly help in keeping them square. DO NOT sand the outsides which will contact the hull. Save that for later in the fairing process. Cut out the gussets the same way and gang sand them by clamping together.

 Portable Power Tools
For portable power tools I am partial to Porter Cable, Milwaukee and Freud. These have served me well with substantial amounts of used and abuse. Here I have had mediocre experience with Sears and Black & Decker. Absolutely stay away from the no names and cheap imports!

New tools for this project are:
Freud power plane - which is amazing to use. In beveling the chines and keel , this goes through the ash like butter and after a while, it looks like there was a sawdust snowstorm in the room! This would have been MUCH slower by hand plane or with the belt sander.  While very useful, this would be a good one to borrow, due to limited overall use.
Milwaukee orbital action saber saw which was disappointing as I still get a lot of tear out on plywood unless the plastic foot is used, but then I can't see the line to cut closely.

Chicago Pneumatic Air File. This is the long sander used in auto body shops. This gets a lot of use in fairing the planking. Without a big compressor it is useless. It consumes 13-14 cfm during use. The package rating of 3-4 cfm is for some sort of intermittent average use with no stated duty cycle.

Other tools used extensively so far:
Porter Cable 5" random orbit sander - this is the one that looks like a right angle grinder. This is used for most of the sanding and with a fresh disk of paper smoothes out fillets remarkably. Buy the paper by the box / roll of 50-100 sheets at a time as you will go through a LOT of it. 80 grit is the most used so far and the scratches ARE NOT visible through the epoxy coats (at least for the frames and plywood pre-coats).

Cordless drill (Porter Cable 12V) with Master Mechanic (True Value hardware house brand) drill / screwdriver bit set. This widget is wonderful. One end has drill and countersink, the other is driver bit. Saves a huge amount of time in fastening the initial framework and then applying the sheers, etc. My dad brought this over to try and it is amazing to use. No splits, easy fast and nicely countersunk holes.

Drill press (Delta 14" bench top). This was used for the frame mounting bracket (aluminum angle). The holes were drilled with a simple fence assembly to set centering and then marks were made to indicate the length-wise position of the holes.

Power Miter box (Delta 10" compound). This is handy but not necessary. I used a full size Delta Carbide combination blade in it with good results. It is also capable of cutting the aluminum angle pieces quickly. Remember to cut slowly and wear protection. The aluminum shavings / shrapnel are hot and fly all over.


Wear eye protection! Metal pieces in the eye pose immediate and long term risk. Long term includes you will never be able to get an MRI exam if needed due to heating of the metal particles! I have several pairs of safety glasses in the shop. They keep hiding themselves. In addition, as they get scratched up, they go to the kids and helper (yes I keep the new ones for myself).

Clean up the wood shavings! When routing I had a hot embers come flying out after hitting a staple - no need to have too much tinder / kindling around. If you are working on metal in the same shop (especially iron) remember to dispose of the shavings outside. Iron powder and sawdust can react with moisture and cause spontaneous combustion 0 this is the same effect used in the hand warmer pouches.

Dispose of oily rags properly! I have a friend whose house was gutted by fire after she left the rags from staining the newly sanded refinished hardwood floors resting in a pile overnight. Spontaneous combustion is real, not merely a textbook safety issue.

Next: Tool care tips


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This page last updated 04/27/01                        2000, 2001 Mark Bronkalla