Even from early shed days, there was an interesting trend in the colour schemes in the shed, that paralleled where I was at in terms of equipment, and woodworking in general.
From slow beginnings, almost a precursor stage where there was an influence of GMC Blue. This expanded somewhat, but then Triton orange appeared, and surged. The amount of large machines grew significantly, as did my capabilities to produce a decent product.
Jet beige tried to make an appearance, but for a number of reasons, never really establised a foothold – it may have been just too early, too pricey (at the time) or for whatever reason it just didn’t catch on. Don’t get me wrong – good product, but only one machine remains in current use.
The real surge (colour-wise) was from Carbatec blue (and some Tormek blue), and as you can see from the (very rough) diagram, it firmly pushed Triton out of the workshop, each orange machine getting replaced with something blue (and silver).
The workshop has been expanding a little since, with a combination of Torque green, and Festool green (yeah, I know the tools are mostly blue casings, but I still think of Festool based on the colour of the logo, and the colour of the latches on the systainers.)
I’m not sure what point there is to these observations. If I drew a line through the current point and had started there, I would have saved a lot of buying, then selling of items. But that just would not have happened – at the start there would have been no way I’d invest that much into a hobby that was not certain.
My introduction into woodworking is easily credited to that spike of orange. It was a dominant force, and really set the hobby in motion. That it has faded now only reflects some opportunities I had, and that my requirements outgrew it to some extent. There is little I make these days that couldn’t have been made back then either (excluding the lathe that Triton prototyped but never released, and the unique capabilities of the Torque). My ears are probably a lot happier – induction motors are so much quieter!
There is still some GMC in the shop (very little – a drill, a 3 mill. candle lamp, a router) and some Triton (circular saw and routers) but that is pretty much the extent of it. The lack of Jet is a bit of a surprise – not a reflection on the brand, but some opportunities that were missed that others grabbed.
Are there any lessons in this for someone either starting out in woodworking, or considering doing so?
Woodworking is a very personal pursuit. Every single person will have a different story, different requirements, different resources (space, time, money), and a different degree to which they want to become involved, so it is very difficult to even make generalisations.
I know a number of years ago (when Triton was still very popular, and readily available), as the influence of Chinese manufacturing was starting to be felt, there were a lot of comments out there about why buy Triton – you could get a reasonable tablesaw for the price. Perhaps true, perhaps not (at the time). It is certainly the case currently (but again, that will change).
Triton was very much a feeder brand – it bought people into woodworking that may never have gotten involved otherwise. And because you could build up your collection of tools, accessories and additions over time, your budget didn’t take the same hit than if you spent it all at once on a dedicated tablesaw. It could be folded away, (and transported) which was another important consideration for those space poor, and not necessarily looking at setting up a full workshop (not at least until the addiction takes hold and spreads). Many woodworkers to this day are still happy using their Triton workbenches, and may not have invested much, if any more than that.
If asked today, Triton probably would not be the answer I’d first think of, given the price has risen, and even more so compared to the price other brands have come down. Get a shed, or workspace that is dedicated (if at all possible), some basic tools, and take your time to build from there. A jigsaw (the puzzle, not the tool!) is completed one piece at a time, each is contemplated, assessed and placed before moving onto the next. Treat your tool acquisition in the same way.
These days, now I’ve had a sentence or two to think about it, I’d probably say, start 2nd hand. Acquire, contemplate, assess, place, use, then as your workshop grows you can then look at moving items on and scaling up the collection to bigger, better, perhaps newer. At least when you do decide to, you will have a much better idea of what the replacement should be, and you should be able to recoup a large portion of your investment to reinvest.
In my case I outgrew the Triton range. However in saying that, the money invested was not a complete loss. When I on-sold the tools, I still got around a 75% return on my investment. The money that I didn’t get back could easily be put down as being paid for the use I got from the machines, the education I received in using them, the lessons I learned. That 25% is not a bad investment! On top of that, some of the work I did on the Triton saved me a great deal compared to the alternative – buying the furniture items from Ikea and the like.
Without even counting the magazine articles I wrote, the demonstrations I was doing, the courses I ran, once the last item was sold, I could easily say that the Triton made me money. A hobby that paid for itself! That is not a bad hobby to get into.
What you need to do is determine what sort of woodworking you want to pursue, at least initially – no matter your choice, you are not locked in. The way to work that out is quite simple. When you imagine yourself in 5 years time, a veteran woodworker, what sort of things do you imagine you have made?
Fine boxes, dovetailed joints, fancy lids?
What you visualise will determine what path to pursue initially. You can then find books and magazines on the topic (libraries are a great initial resource, and the price is right). You could enrol in a course. You could join a club or get into the woodworking forums (but be aware that everyone has a bias (even me), and they may guide you to what would be best for them and their version of this pursuit, and not necessarily yours).
Whatever direction you choose, if it is something that really excites you, then that is an excellent place to start. Start small, build up your collection, and challenge yourself. But most of all, enjoy it – life is too short not to really enjoy what you do.