I blogged before on some shop essentials like safety, workbench, electrical outlets, etc but here I wanted to hone in a bit on what kind of tools I use and how effective they are.
I don't have a massive shop,so having a large table saw or full size drill press is not practical for me, but if you have limited space and a limited budget there are still ways to create quality products. I have a portable Kobalt Table saw, a bench top drill press, bench top bandsaw, benchtop lathe....are you noticing a theme? Although bench top tools limit the size of the work piece they do not limit the quality.
Take my table saw for instance; it's a Kobalt 15-Amp, 10-in saw that cost me just under $200 back in 2014.
It's a floor model but certainly not a large one; it has some flaws (the fence and miter gauge are a bit lame) but it does have wheels for mobility and a sound motor. I've cut sheets of plywood on it (though I recommend having a helper with that) and many pieces of hardwood. The 10" indicates the size of the saw blade which to me is the key that unlocks the door of quality woodwork:
Quality Saw Blades: In my opinion, the key to quality work is not so much the machine as it is the blade. If you look around various websites you will see a variety of tool options from some of the best artisans; but one constant you will find is quality cutting blades.
Quality does not always mean expensive, but sometimes it does. I purchased a Forrest Woodworker II Blade for more than half of the price of my saw ($125) but it was money well spent. The blade (WW10407125-Inch 40 Tooth ATB .125 Kerf) has performed remarkably well in cutting all sorts of hardwoods; from hard maple to Sapele and Bubinga without burning or bogging down.
** Key Tips:1. The blade that comes with your machine is probably not the greatest (but keep it around for rough cuts on things like MDF)
2. Keep your blades clean! Take the time to periodically wipe them down with a quality blade cleaner.
3. When making deep cuts in thick dense wood set your blade at a lower level (say 1") make your cut, then raise the blade an inch at a time until your cut is complete.
Be safe and have fun!