Thursday, February 17, 2011

Tools of the Trade

I tend to treat myself to one new major purchase for the store each year. In 2007 it was a system of storage cabinets to hold everything in, 2008 was the bandsaw, 2009 /2010 was a new house with a whole room dedicated to crafting and a laptop, and in 2011 I upgraded our poor 17-year old Dremel tool.

With the excitement of a new toy, I thought it'd be fun to do a post about some of the things I use to make the things you see in the store.

Safety Equipment
 I'm not joking when I say that the safety equipment is THE most important thing.  I use a pair of padded goggles rather than just safety glasses so no bits of crap can fall behind them.  Those I didn't actually buy, they're the ones I got after LASIK and they were much more comfortable than what I had been using and worked better.  And really, that's the key to safety stuff-- it NEEDS to be comfortable.  Don't get the cheapest pair of glasses, they're going to pinch your nose and give you a headache.  Don't get the cheapest pair of ear plugs, you'll "forget" to put them in.  With safety equipment you want something you can wear comfortably and work in for a long period of time.  Don't kid yourself, you're not going to wear it otherwise.  Generally, when working I'll wear (as needed)
  • Safety goggles
  • Hearing protection (I use behind the ear plugs like these)
  • Hair sticks (seriously, hair down around power tools is stupid and dangerous)
  • Leather wrist guard (when using a cutoff wheel on the Dremel)

Dremel 8/200 12V Max Lithium-Ion Cordless

Yeah, it's a bit beastier than I really needed, but I thought to get this one rather than the smaller, lighter 7V cordless because I wanted to be able to use it for other household projects too.  Turns out that weight-wise it's just a hair heavier than my older corded Dremel, and without the stupid cord in the way the balance is a lot nicer too.  On the old Dremel when you'd turn it off the bit would keep spinning until it's inertia wore out and it'd slow to a stop.  With this one, there's an internal brake, so you turn it off and it STOPS.  Very nice.

To go with that I use a keyless chuck  (on the right), which means that I don't have to use a key each time to change out a bit.  It's not expensive, but it's a massive time-saver.

Dremel Workstation
This little guy serves a few purposes.  It works by you locking the Dremel into it and then you can use it as a drill press, which is awesome for getting nice, straight holes.  At the moment the old Dremel is actually in this because then I don't have to go through the whole process of putting the cordless in there each time I want to use it.  Another cool feature is that the entire Dremel pivots in the station and can be locked, effectivly turning it into a mini bench grinder when using an abrasive disk bit.

Hitachi CB67 10 Inch Band Saw
This is what I use for cutting sticks to length and getting them nice and square on the top.  It isn't a huge bandsaw, but it's more than what's needed for what it's being used for.  Before we got the house it was actually on the "dining room table" (read: my work table) of our apartment; now, thankfully, it lives in the workshop in the basement. A side note on safety... you should NEVER NEVER wear gloves when working with either a drill press or a band saw.  Without them you'll just get cut, with gloves on you'll likely get pulled into the machine as the fabric gets grabbed.

Refurbished Dell Latitude Laptop
This might seem like a strange store purchase, especially considering I have a desktop as well, but it has probably been the biggest time-saver.  The problem is that the desktop is not in my workroom, and when I want to check what a stick looked like to recreate it, review what I need to do for a custom order, or look at what things need to go in which boxes I had to literally walk back and forth and back and forth and back and forth.  Now, the laptop sits on the worktable, allowing me to quickly access whatever information I need.  When boxes need to be filled it migrates to my shipping table.  And when I'm making things I can quickly reference previous sticks, custom order requests, as well as listen to music or play a movie in the background.

Thinking about trying this sort of thing?  DO IT! :D  Don't be intimidated by tools, they're not scary.  They are not the sole domain of one gender. They are there to make your job easier.  Besides, girls have the unfair advantage that they'll actually read the directions that come with a new tool.  So you'll be safer AND actually know how to use it properly!


  1. Interesting post Nightshade.

    I hope to some day have a nice shop at home to work from!

  2. Very cool! Thanks very much for sharing. :)

  3. this is fabulous! i am so glad to see that youare safe and SO good with tools :D

  4. Makes me appreciate the beautiful things in your shop all the more!