Friday, January 04, 2013

Finding your (woodworking) home in Las Vegas

They say that no one is really from Las Vegas, that we're all transplants. 

That's not really true - I know a lot of people who were born and raised here. Most have very interesting stories about growing up here. 

I love hearing their casino stories,

crime stories,

celebrity stories,


One of the toughest things about settling in to a new city is finding the companies that you can trust, the ones you turn to for your repairs, maintenance, shopping, whatever. Running a business is even harder - trying to find people who service the basics (propane refills, fire extinguisher servicing, security alarms, blade sharpening) is really difficult.  

The two most-asked questions in my shop are these - where do you buy wood, and who sharpens your blades? If you're doing woodworking here, you need to know these things!

I'm not going to tackle the wood supplier question right now - the answer is  long and complicated. And it all depends on your wallet tolerance. But I am going to talk about sharpening right now, since I just dropped some things off to be sharpened. 

But here's a bit of background - for years, I was one of those woodworkers who would just buy new blades, rather than get the old ones sharpened. If I wasn't in love with the old blade in the first place, why sharpen it? 

Then I met my dream blade - the Forest Woodworker II. 

At the time I purchased it (which was a LONG time ago!), I thought it was crazy to spend $100 on a blade - but let me say that this blade changed everything. At the time, I was build a buttload of furniture, maybe 2-3 pieces a month, and this blade stayed sharp for three years. Seriously, three years. I'd clean the pitch off it, and get pristine cuts that almost looked like they'd been run over the jointer.

The funny thing is - that Forrest blade came with a cardboard shipping mailer for returning it to the company for sharpening. When I finally broke down and sent it in to be sharpened, it was never as good as it was when it was new. I'm not sure why. 

Every tablesaw I own is outfitted with one of these, so you know I'm a believer. But none of them has ever cut as well as that very first one did. WTF?

I finally broke down and asked a few buddies about their local sharpeners. What's that line about - ask ten woodworkers and you'll get twelve answers? I tried a couple here in town, and finally decided my favorite company is Nevada Carbide.

They're a little tough to find, located off the beaten path, behind a popular strip club here. Don't get lost, or you might end up with a $20 lap dance. Maybe that's a good thing, I don't know. 

Look for the Cheetah's sign; Nevada Carbide is located right behind their building. Their shop isn't glamorous, but walk in the door and you'll meet some really nice folks, who do a really good job sharpening just about anything - router bits, blades, planer and jointer knives, scissors, mortising bits - whatever. 

Here's something even better - last year, they started doing on-site tool repairs. There aren't too many places here in town that will come out and fix your stationary equipment. It's nice to know they're there, remember them the next time your bearings need replaced in your jointer, if you're afraid to tackle it.

And you gotta love someone willing to put their sense of humor on their card. I love the last line!

So - that's my tip for the start of the new year - get your gear sharpened and hop back into the woodshop. Make some cool stuff. 

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