This is the third and final part of my Gifts For Woodworkers series and this time we are going to look at a few workshop machines that can add another dimension to a woodworking enthusiasts creativity.
When you think of machinery the natural reaction is to think the cost will be astronomical but this is not always the case. If you want to go for full-on professional quality equipment then yes, these machines are not cheap, but there are also plenty of great quality affordable machines out there, designed with the hobby woodworker in mind, so you don’t have to break the bank.
In the following list, we will look at machines I believe will be of enormous help to your woodworking enthusiast. These machines will not only save them time, but they will also allow then to develop their woodworking skills, adding to their enjoyment of their craft.
Once again, I have composed my list of Gifts For Woodworkers to cover both beginners and experienced woodworkers so you should find something to delight your woodworking enthusiast.
Portable Table Saw
When it comes to woodworking machinery, the table saw is the top dog in any woodworking shop. It will be used more than any other machine due to its convenience, practicality and flexibility.
Its main advantage is it can be used to cut sheet materials down to size with perfect precision. But the blade is also adjustable, both in depth and angle, so it can perform a multitude of other tasks including grooves, bevels, mitres and box joints to name but a few. Add some custom made jigs to the equation and you will have a machine that is worth its weight in gold!
Try to find out what features your woodworking enthusiast needs in a table saw. Some of the things to look for are the safety features, like SawStop® technology (it’s amazing! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SawStop), power of the motor, ease of blade adjustment, weight & portability, dust collection and size of the blade. Once you have a good idea of their requirements you can check some reviews to find the table saw that will suit them best.
A band saw is a single, continuous loop, toothed blade (the ‘band’) fed around two or more pulleys (or wheels) and powered by an electric motor. The blade passes through a table and the material being sawn is fed across the table into the blade. It is yet another of those machines that a woodworker can quite easily do without, but once they have one, it quickly becomes an essential part of their workshop.
Like many of the workshop machines, it comes in both benchtop and free standing. It can also be fitted with different blades depending on the material being cut and what it is being used for. With a range of blade thicknesses, tooth configurations and widths the band saw can be adapted to perform several tasks.
Whether they want to rip, crosscut, resaw into thinner boards or veneers, cut a complex curved shape or cut some tenon joints, with the right blade a band saw will accomplish it all with ease.
For someone starting out woodworking, I would recommend a benchtop model, as it will be more than adequate and has the added bonus of being portable. Also, look for one with the largest capacity (throat), the distance between the table and the top blade guide bearings, as it will allow your woodworking enthusiast to cut thicker pieces of material.
Strictly speaking, a router table in itself is not actually a machine, it’s a table or bench. However, with the addition of the router, which is mounted upside down on the underside of the top with the router bit protruding through a hole in the top, it can then be considered a workshop machine.
The top is a smooth, flat, low friction surface which supports the material being routed and a fence helps guide it past the router bit. This combination provides a stable, adjustable and versatile means of shaping and trimming the work piece.
There are two main types of router table, benchtop and free standing. The benchtop is basically a mini table which is used on top of an existing workbench. A freestanding, as the name suggests, is a full-size table or bench.
However, you can also buy the table top separately which allows it to be stored flat against a wall when not in use if space is at a premium. In fact, in a subsequent article, I’ll show you how to make a router table top from some leftover 32mm/1¼” Formica® kitchen worktop.
With an enormous variety of router bits available a router table provides so many options for shaping, profiling and trimming wood that it will add a whole new dimension to a woodworkers skills.
There is a large selection of router tables available and some are better than others. As always, try to find out which one your woodworking enthusiast is longing for or just do a little research to see which models are getting the best reviews.
Pedestal or Bench Drill Press
You are probably wondering why someone needs a drill press when they are likely to already own a handheld power drill? Quite simply, there is a fundamental difference between the two and it’s this difference that makes the drill press such an asset.
Unlike a handheld drill, a drill press is a fixed drill on a pedestal with an adjustable ‘table’ which means it drills precise straight holes. The table can be adjusted up and down and to any angle between 0° and 90° to the drill bit. This means holes can be accurately and consistently drilled to a set depth and at any angle required.
The drive system is also different as the motor does not drive the bit directly. It utilises a pulley system and the speed of the drill is adjusted by moving the drive belts from one pulley to another, similar to the gears on a bicycle. Being able to change the speed is a great advantage when using large diameter bits like Forstner or hole saws, which require slower speeds, to small diameter drill bits which require faster speeds.
The motor in a pedestal drill press is usually more powerful than what you would find in a handheld power drill. For us woodworkers, a basic drill press with a reliable motor is usually sufficient as we don’t tend to work them too hard like a metalworker would for instance.
At the risk of sounding repetitive, they also come in benchtop and freestanding (or static) models. For most woodworkers a benchtop model will be all that is required but, as always, try to ascertain what your prospective gift recipients brand and model preference is.
Portable or Benchtop Thicknesser Planer
A thicknesser planer is a flatbed power tool used to plane down timber to the desired thickness while removing any warps or bumps in the surface. It is one of those machines that can save a woodworker a whole lot of time and money.
While the easiest thing is to buy your wood already planed to the required size and finish, this is also the most expensive option. With a thicknesser planer, a woodworker can buy rough sawn stock and efficiently finish the boards themselves. The depth of cut can be adjusted with a simple crank handle which moves the blade assembly (or block) up or down which allows the material to be planed to size accurately and consistently. The block itself is most commonly a two or three blades (or cutters) design and rotates at high speed while an auto-feed roller moves the board through the machine.
I currently use a Jet JWP-12 1800W Portable Thicknesser Planer with an open stand which I have mounted on castors for convenience. It is a great planer, although it can be a little noisy, and I can’t begin to calculate how much time and money it has saved me to date. I suspect this model has been superseded now but just do a little research online and you’ll find plenty other options recommended by those using them.
The jointer, also known as a surface planer, is usually the first machine used when starting any project. Running your wood through the jointer flattens one side of the board by removing any twists, warps, dips or bumps.
This straightens the face before commencing any other work, like running it through the thicknesser planer, for example. The jointer is also used to create a straight edge on the wood especially useful when joining two boards together or creating panels with butt joints.
A jointer has a twin table design with a rotating blade assembly (similar to the thicknesser planer) in between the two tables. It also has a guide fence at 90° to the table to guide the wood across the blades. Unlike the thicknesser planer where the material is run under the blade assembly, with the jointer it is run over blades.
Once again there are two main types, benchtop and free-standing (or static) so whether your woodworking enthusiast is a keen hobbyist or a seasoned pro you will find a jointer to suit them. And even if space is limited, with the addition of some castors a free-standing model can easily be moved around the workshop if necessary.
Benchtop Disc and/or Belt Sander
A disc sander, belt sander or combination sander (two tools in one) is a worthwhile addition to any woodworker’s arsenal. You see, sanders are like potato chips; you can’t just have one. But seriously, a benchtop combination sander is a tool that can cover tasks that just can’t be done efficiently by any other means.
And given that there is often very little difference in price between all three options it makes sense to go for the combination model if at all possible. Having said that, I own a Martlet WS12 900W Disc Sander so I’m not exactly practising what I preach on this occasion!
Whichever version you consider, they are not finishing sanders but more a quick and efficient means of removing excess material in preparation for finishing.
The disc sander has a table at 90° to the sanding disc so it is perfect for squaring outside curves, right angles and straight edges.
The belt sander can come in different configurations from a basic horizontal or vertical belt design to a fully adjustable belt angle with supporting work piece table. Depending on what configuration it has, it can do all the tasks the disc sander can do as well as flattening out bumps & dips, rounding edges and shaping contours & outside curves.
When deciding which model to buy, other than the obvious things like budget and how often it will be used, I would also consider the power of the motor, whether the sanding belt angle is adjustable and whether or not it comes with fitted shrouds for dust collection.
Reciprocating Spindle Sander
A spindle sander comprises of a steel shaft (the spindle), a rubber-coated steel cylinder (the drum or bobbin), and the sleeve (the sandpaper) that rotates at speed while moving up and down (reciprocating). The interchangeable drums come in a variety of diameters and can be fitted with different grit sandpaper sleeves which allows sanding of a wide range of curve radiuses.
The spindle protrudes from the centre of a steel or aluminium table allowing the work piece to be supported while contacting the sandpaper. Some models come with a fully adjustable table for sanding different angled bevels while others are fixed at 90° to the spindle. These tables also have interchangeable inserts, called throat plates, which marry with the appropriately sized drums and minimise the space between the table and the drum.
Mainly used for sanding detailed pieces, inside holes and curves a reciprocating sander is yet another labour and time-saving addition to any workshop. Available in free-standing and benchtop models I would recommend the latter as it is more than adequate for any woodworking hobbyist.
The two things I would look for when choosing a spindle sander are a large adjustable table, to allow sanding of larger pieces, and a dust collection port to connect to a shop vacuum cleaner.
A drum sander is, what I would consider, a major purchase for a woodworkers tool inventory. They are a serious piece of kit and, as such, also one of the more expensive purchases. Given the cost, I would only recommend one if your woodworking enthusiast is very serious about their hobby.
As the name suggests, a drum sander consists of a drum, or cylinder, wrapped in sandpaper which spins at high speed and produces a smooth finish on the wood. Parallel to the drum is a conveyer belt, sometimes with variable speed control, which feeds the work piece through the machine at a controlled rate, known as feed rate.
The drum can be either open or closed design which dictates the width capacity of the sander. An open drum sander is unobstructed at one end (supported at one end only) allowing you to sand double the width of material by turning it around for the second pass. For example, a 460mm/18″ open drum sander can sand a 920mm/36″ wide piece of material.
A closed drum sander, on the other hand, is limited to the width of the opening because the drum is supported at both ends (closed) so the maximum material it can sand is dictated by the actual width of the opening.
They are both great for a wide range of sanding operations but are particularly useful for sanding large boards, creating thin veneers and sanding figured woods.
Like many of the machines in this article, they come in benchtop and free-standing designs so there is a wide variety of models to choose from.
A wood lathe opens the door to a whole new world of woodworking. With it, you can take an ordinary block of wood and ‘turn’ it into something amazing. It can craft different shapes or objects and form anything from decorative to practical pieces including table & chair legs, balustrade spindles, bowls, chess pieces, baseball bats, pool cues, cylindrical boxes, Christmas baubles, the list is endless.
The easiest way to describe a wood lathe is that it is a motor-powered shaft that rotates the material at medium to high speed while the shaping tool, or chisel, contacts the wood and is manipulated by the user to create the design. They come in different sizes which dictate the length (DBC – Distance Between Centers) and diameter (SOB – Swing Over Bed) of the things that can be created.
The wood is either secured between the headstock and the tailpiece, for creating spindles for example or is secured to the headstock only, utilising a wood lathe faceplate, for turning bowls. There are also a wide variety of woodturning chisels available including bowl, spindle roughing and spindle gouges, skew chisel, parting tool, hollowing tool and chatter tool.
If you plan to purchase a wood lathe for your woodworking enthusiast I would recommend getting good advice from your local supplier. They can explain everything you need to know including different features like variable speed, tool rests and accessories before making your decision.
Some Final Thoughts
It is only fairly recently that I have been able to add a few workshop machines to my woodworking tool inventory. And due to limited space, all mine are mounted on casters so I can move them around and take them outside to my ‘open-air’ workshop.
Many of these machines are often a ‘once in a lifetime’ purchase and as such, can involve a lot of research and consideration. With that in mind, I can only reiterate my previous advice. Try to find out what machines, brand and type your prospective gift recipient is keen to acquire. If you a going to spend a considerable amount of money on a gift it’s kinda important it is something they are really hankering after and are going to put to good use.
Whatever their needs or wants, be sure to get some professional advice before you buy, it will help greatly in the decision process.
I hope you enjoyed this 3 part Gifts For Woodworkers series and I’ve given you some ideas for the woodworker in your life. If you would like any more details on a particular item or have any questions or comments about anything woodworking please comment in the box below, I would love to hear from you.
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