Back in the start of the 20th century, a school of modern art and design was established in Germany. It had, as one of its underlying principles, form follows function.
In other words, design an item where it is ideally made for the job it has to perform, not for its aesthetic form first. This doesn’t mean the resulting item does not have aesthetic merit, but it has to be designed to work first, before its form is considered.
Many of the concepts that were developed are still seen today, such as this modern kettle, which is based on a Bauhaus design.
The primary function of the kettle is to boil water on a stove. So maximising the surface area in contact with the element is first giving consideration to the function, before being concerned with the implication of that on the form. (And so on).
It is a very appealing principle for engineers.
Although we are 100 years on, many of the designers out there have seemingly forgotten that function is important, and so we have power tools that look like Cylons, tools designed to appeal to a particular demographic, tools designed for every reason, other than the specific function they are meant to perform.
Tools built as cheaply as possible, because who in their right mind would actually want to pay good money for quality?
This box warehouse concept, these Chinese-made tools, this concept of power tools for $10 and $20 have really destroyed many expectations of tools in a throw-away society. Buy a tool, use it for a few jobs, replace it when it dies. The service charges for repair of appliances is insane. As is the hourly rate that is proposed. More than many people earn as an hourly rate, so why would they spend 2 hours working to pay for 1 hour of a repairman, when for the same (or cheaper amount) you can buy a new, replacement (cheap) tool?
So now we have over priced labour, over priced manufacturing, offset against ludicrously low priced imports.
Never mind the imports are built, not for a function, but a price. Let’s not use real bearings, use nylon bushes. The tool is made to last 10 hours of operation for its life (and no, that is not an exaggeration, some GMC drills were specifically designed for 10 hours use. If one lasted longer, it was considered ‘over engineered’, and was rebranded platinum). 10 hours operation of a drill may last some households a lifetime, so sure, for some people, that is a reasonable purchase.
But what I see when I look at those tools is a waste of resources. A waste of the raw materials that made them, as with the same raw product, refined better of course, and with a much better design, a real tool could have been made. In fact, the minerals would have been better just left in the ground, rather than mined, drilled, crushed, refined, shipped, refined more, shipped again, machined, assembled, shipped, distributed, and shipped again to be sold, in a product that cost $10, and is designed to last 10 hours.
I tried to review a clamping workbench a few years ago. I won’t mention its name, but it was sold through Bunnings for a while. I had a couple of models to cover. The concept seemed reasonable, the sales video looked impressive. I got one model assembled, but the second broke before I even got it fully together. (I had videoed the whole process, and by the end, it was obvious that even if I did use the video, I’d have to over-dub the whole soundtrack).
By the time I had the two assembled, the flimsiness of the material (too thin struts, too weak, too compromised to save a few dollars in raw materials), the overall quality of construction, both models were picked up taken back to the supplier and unceremoniously given back. I wanted nothing to do with them. (The company (importer) hasn’t spoken to me since either). All I could think was “what a waste of resources”. Not there was enough steel used to even make a good boat anchor from it. Perhaps if there had been, it wouldn’t have been such a crap product. About 6 months (or even less) later, Bunnings dumped the range as well. Guess that says something.
So let me introduce a different concept. The Bauhaus of the 21st century.
Instead of “Form Following Function”, I propose that the new Bauhaus is “Finance Following Function”. And one of the big proponents of this (not that I am suggesting they are considering themselves the new Bauhaus, that is just my take on things), comes from the country of the original Bauhaus, Germany.
German engineering. It has long been regarded as the créme de la créme of design and manufacturing excellence, and when building something where Finance Follows Function, means building a tool to the absolute best it can be, to do the job it was intended to do, and then worry about the price.
And there sits Festool. Tools made to be the best, not the cheapest. Other brands also appear: Tormek, SawStop, Woodpeckers, Incra, Teknatool. Tools overengineered, over-speced, over made, to achieve the optimum quality, not price.
The tools last, and really work.
Justified use of materials √
A pleasure to use √
I read this on the packet of some premium pizza bases, but it was so fitting:
“The bitterness of poor quality remains, long after the sweetness of a low price is forgotten” How true that is.
I know expensive tools are, well, expensive. I know we can’t all afford the very best tools all the time. (Yes, I still have some GMC tools too). But little by little, I am replacing them with the quality equivalent.
The first was my ROS (random orbital sander): when the previous one died, I bought my first Festool – the ETS 150/5. Sure, it was 3x the price of a reasonable ROS, but not once have I regretted that purchase. It is a pleasure each and every time I pick it up and use it. And my hands are not in real physical pain at the end of a sanding session either (from vibrations). I could repeat that same story for a number of other tools as well.
So just something to keep in mind the next time you are shopping for a tool (or anything really). You may well be heavily influenced by price (who isn’t), but give some consideration to what I have said here too, and see if you can choose to allow “Finance to Follow Function”. You won’t regret the decision each and every single time you subsequently use the item purchased.
It is a Bauhaus thing.
On one hand, the shed is regarded as a dangerous place for the unwary, and the inexperienced. Not so much inexperience in woodworking, but inexperience in life.
On the other hand, being able to enjoy woodworking with you child (or grandchild) can be an immensely rewarding experience, for both of you.
I would normally be very reluctant to have an inexperienced hand using a tablesaw, yet while making some shelving for some kitchen cupboards, Jess (my 7 year old) wanted to help, and not just help by standing around watching. Having a SawStop meant the answer to that question was not “No” or even a reluctant “Maybe”. It was a definite “Yes, of course”.
Now she didn’t get to cut the board unsupervised or unattended – I’m not that confident! Tablesaws can do damage in plenty of other ways, particularly hurling things at you at 250km/hr!
By setting up a featherboard, having the guard in place, and standing beside her, she was able to feed boards through the blade, and not give me absolute conniptions. Even on a regular saw, she would have been safe, but knowing that there is also the SawStop technology between her and a disaster really enhances the experience of woodworking with your offspring.
And it is another activity for her to add to the crazy quilt that is life’s experiences.
SawStop really makes a huge difference in relieving some of the stress that can surround the workshop.
Originally only available in New Zealand (at least easily), The Shed magazine has gone Australasian.
The first Australasian issue has got me wanting to practice my welding more, and I have an old 1/2″ mild steel plate that would be perfect for the job.
It also has my article on the making of the truck recently (if you were wondering why there was very little detail about that build, this is why!
On “The Shed”‘s website is an excerpt from the article, but better than that is seeing all 5 or so pages of it in print.
SawStop in the foreground, the new Fair Dinkum workshop in the background. Sweet!
The first project out of the workshop is proving to be fun (aren’t they all?) being a tip truck that I am making (and designing as I go). It is meant to be for a magazine article, but with the combination of trying to get the shed functional, demands of work, and family, I might have missed the deadline. Never-the-less, it was good to be ‘forced’ to get back to what the workshop is really about. Murdering electrons while making sawdust.
It has been a great little project to commission the SawStop on, and that has been fun in itself (as my previous post eluded to).
Making something out of your head is always an interesting evolution – lots of contemplation working out what is needed next, some false starts, but all in all, successful
Given (from the title), it is a tip truck, I needed wheels, and although you can make a round wheel on a tablesaw, I don’t see it being a good practice. SawStop or no, I’m not sticking my hand that close to any spinning blade. Instead, I went to my old trusted solution – wheel cutting bits from Carb-i-tool. I initially made them all the same size, but the front just looked wrong, so they were made with a larger diameter cutter. The rear wheels were made thick (about 30mm thick), so after the drill press, I headed over to the bandsaw to roughly cut the wheels free, then to the Comet lathe and the pen mandrel as it happens, to finish the job. As a system it worked well, and the tip of a skew chisel was used to cut grooves around the circumference as tread.
The truck is still “rough and ready” – it’d take about the same amount of time to finish it (which is normal for a project, I find).
I stuck with my standard principle (that I try to apply as often as is practicable) that it is only wood and glue (axles and all).
It will be pretty durable too, but as the weakest component are the axles (both on the wheels and also the tray), and they are simply dowel, easily repaired. I think it is always good to consider damage and repairability when making kids toys – you want something that will last the distance, even if there are a few repairs required along the way.
The first cuts on the SawStop
The first item made on the SawStop
The first item made in the new shed
I’m sure there a heap more I could come up with, but I think you get the point! The drought is broken, there is sawdust in the air. Actually, quite literally seeing as I have still to sort out the dust extraction. Oh well, that will come soon enough.
More on what I was making later, but first, the SawStop.
I definitely have to do some checks to ensure it is set up correctly, but was in a bit of a rush, so had to assume it was right. It seemed close enough, but in the long term I want to be positive rather than rely on assumption. That actually goes for every other machine in the workshop. Every one needs to be set up again, recalibrated, and in a number of cases, cleaned, lubricated, rust removed etc. They have lasted reasonably, but storage is unkind to all tools. If I had known how long it was going to be, I would (presumably) have been more diligent with oiling and wrapping.
Back to the saw. It is pretty awesome to be honest. Setting blade height and blade angle – you get a real feel for how solid the mechanism is.
So to “THE” mechanism. Does it make a difference? Yes – it really does. I have absolutely no intention of ever accidentally setting off the SawStop. I have no intention of wrecking a blade, replacing a brake, or finding out how much it’d hurt, even if the brake does save me from serious damage. But that piece of mind is so much more significant than I ever considered. I have always been particularly careful around the tablesaw, and that won’t change. The stress levels have dropped to more reasonable levels, and as such, it is so much more enjoyable.
I don’t recall ever having used the TS10L at any blade angle other than 90 degrees, despite being a left-tilt blade (I’m sure I did on occasion, just very rarely). In the current project, I happily flicked from 90 to 80, 70 and back again for different cuts. Was I doing something risky? Not at all – using the saw as it was designed. Just now I’ve discovered an extra layer of confidence, and used the saw as it was intended, rather than finding another way.
Each time I buy a good tool (such as some Stihl gardening tools a couple of years ago, or Festool hand power tools), I am reminded (in a good way) of the decision to choose the quality brand, even if it does hurt the pocket a lot more at the time. The SawStop adds a whole new dimension to that. Not only the quality aspect, but the sense of real relief that I have chosen a safer option. I may never use the SawStop brake (in a real save that is – not talking about a few sausages being sacrificed!), and I better not – I would be extremely disappointed in myself if that happens. But if it happens, that sense of absolute relief and confirmation of the decision to buy it would be incredible.
In hindsight, is the extra cost of the SawStop worth it? Abso-frikin’-lutely.
It has been a while coming (sure I could say that about a number of things at the moment!), but I finally had an opportunity to put the SawStop together.
Shot some video of that at the same time, so hopefully that will go into the details more.
First impressions are good, very similar to the TS10L in a lot of ways.
Once it was up, I tweaked the layout a little more. Still plenty of room for the few machines yet to be moved in (bandsaw, drill press, DVR lathe). Some things are still not quite in their right place, but as has been observed, lots of room around each machine.
Starting to feel like a workshop out there, especially now with the tablesaw set up. After I get the current video of the assembly done, there will be more to follow, including finetuning the setup. One little surprise – despite being a 15A machine (technically 13A), I was surprised it came with a 10A plug Not that it will make a difference – I still have a 15A circuit available for it.