Monday, January 19, 2009

My new toy

Don't you just love new toys?

Because of my affiliation with All-Experts, a site where I volunteer, I tend to frequently get asked about tool recommendations. And I know this will be hard to believe, but I'm pretty opinionated about the tools that I purchase.

Owning tools is sort of like owning a car; if you've ever owned a bad one, why would you consider buying another one made by that same manufacturer? So you can bet that you won't even find me driving a Chevy, after owning one on which every single thing fell apart after the warranty expired. I'm not joking - my damn car needed brakes, shocks, a muffler, a transmission, cables, belts, even a new door, as the passenger door simply fell off. The rust holes were so big after just three years, you could break off large sections of the body with your bare hands. Never again!

So for the last few weeks, I've been limping along with my old random orbit sanders. I own a couple of them, and they, too, were falling apart.

First, it started with irritating things, like the knobs breaking off, then the pads quit holding paper. Then the speed controllers started acting jiggy. The dust bags fell off and had to be duct taped in place. Dust control? Ha! Turning on one of these just for a minute or so would send a plume of fine sawdust all over my studio.

You get the picture. Time to start thinking about moving on.

But I have codependency issue with my tools, I hate to admit when they're @#$%ed up. So I'll keep using them, ignoring the hassles until I'm ready to throw them against the wall in hopes that they'll suddenly work properly.

I finally broke down and decided to end the madness. My research started with Wood Magazine's article on choosing a 5" RO sander in their October, 2008 issue. Although I don't generally love this magazine, it's a little too cutesy for my taste, and their plans look like high school projects. But their tool tests are a good starting point when shopping for new tools. They have the luxury of testing a dozen models at once, side by side, and their results allow me to weed out the worst of the batch. I usually narrow my search down to their top two or three choices, and then start my own research.

But this time, their top two choices were a no brainer for me. See, their beef against one of the top sanders was that it was a large unit, and the general complaint was that small hands (like mine) would have difficulty holding it for long periods.

And I hate sanding already, without having to suffer with another poorly designed tool. And better yet - their other choice for the best sander was almost half the cost of their top one. Score! I'm all about saving some cash when buying tools.

That brings up a whole other topic - about saving money when buying tools, but I'll save that for another blog post some day.

I'm a big fan of, in fact, here's my disclaimer - I've owned this stock for years. (I'm supposed to say that, right?) In Peter Lynch's investing books, he recommends buying what you know. And in this case, I've been buying from Amazon for so long, I feel like we're old friends. They store the addresses of everyone I send things to, as well as all my old purchases, my wish lists, and more. So when I need something, after doing my research, the first place I turn to is Amazon; you can't beat their free shipping, nor their prices.

But another reason I turn to Amazon is when I need opinions from other woodworkers about an upcoming purchase. So I spent a little time reading up on the sander I was considering purchasing, and after just a few comments, I bought it.

What's even better, it arrived at my studio door 1.5 days later. That might break the all time record for quick delivery!

For the record, I have to say that if I didn't have a ton of 5" sanding discs already in my studio, I might have considered buying a 6" model. But I buy my sanding supplies in bulk (I have drawers full of more discs) and I didn't feel like it was wise to make the switch. Here's a simple shelf for storing all the various discs I use, each shelf holds a different grit.

I'll close for now, as I have a ton of sanding to do. At least today, it won't be such a hassle. My recipe for sanding? Crank up some Linkin Park or Blink 182 and get started!

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