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Lonely tools

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Quick survey: What’s the loneliest tool in your shop? By that, I mean a tool you use infrequently, maybe even rarely, but still wouldn’t be without.

Lots of tools could fit that description, and I have dozens in drawers and cabinets that see rare use. But these are all minor, specific-use tools not intended for a daily workout. What I’m talking about is a fairly major tool that, in spite of it normally being ignored in your regular work, you simply couldn’t conceive of being without it for those times when you really do need it in your work.

What got me to thinking about this was my office air conditioner. My upstairs office faces southwest, making it the hottest room in the house on summer afternoons. The window unit cools down only my office so I don't have to run the whole-house AC, which would not only be expensive but would make the rest of the house far too cool. I don’t use it nine months out of the year, and only turn it on a few hours at a time in the three months I do use it. I just pulled it out of the window and put it in storage till next summer, and feel no guilt about not using it for months at a time. The room it takes up in storage is also worth it to me.

But for some reason I do feel guilty about my loneliest shop tool – my miter saw. While not a top-of-the-line machine, it wasn’t cheap. It takes up considerable room that could otherwise be better used. It’s usually faster and easier to do simple cutoffs, miters and bevels on the table saw smack in the middle of the shop.

And yet I wouldn’t be without it. If I ever need to make lots of repeatable miters or bevels (which isn’t often), that’s the machine of choice. If I need to do a lot of clean cutoffs outside the shop – like I did when I built my shed last year – it’s worth lugging outside for the task. And as far as I’m concerned, it’s the single most essential tool for installing hardwood flooring, which I plan to eventually do in my home’s entranceway. Ditto for a deck.

So I’ll never get rid of my miter saw, even if it spends more time collecting dust than making it. Like my office air conditioner, it sees use only occasionally, but I consider it just as essential.

Surely you have a tool just like that. So, what is it?

Till next time,


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