Good Tools

tablesaw1We’ve had a real cold spell up here for the past several weeks. It was such that I didn’t even consider going out to the garage to work on any projects. It was so cold out there that it would have taken me days to warm up the building.

The other day, though, I told a friend of mine I’d tackle a small wood working project for him, and so I went out and started a fire in the big garage wood stove. It did take about 2 days to get it warm, and about 2 hours to do the project. As I was cleaning up from the project, I thought to myself that it was a shame to waste all this heat on such a small project. What about the table saw, I wondered?

My table saw is the centerpiece of the power tools in my workshop. It is big, has a 5 hp motor, and I keep it tuned up such that I can depend on it to do anything within reason. This tool and I have bonded. It is going on 25 years old, and I still remember when it was delivered. The shipping weight was over 900# as I recall, and I moved it from the road where the freight trucker dropped it off to my shop with the bulldozer. I wrapped heavy chains around the crate, lifted it up with the bucket, and carefully drove it over to my tiny shop (in those days, I hadn’t built my nice big workshop/garage yet.)

tablesaw2A good table saw has to be mobile, unless it lives in a space that is bigger than my shop. Ripping long boards requires a different space configuration than cutting plywood, for example. So I bought a set of casters at the same time I bought the saw. And they worked pretty well for about 20 years. Then the solid rubber on one of the wheels split and came off. I repaired it with some special rubber cement I happened to have. I fixed it several more times after that. For the past couple of years, all 4 casters were noticeably deteriorating, so I bought 4 new heavy duty casters from Menards in anticipation of swapping the old ones out. Well, those casters sat on my workbench for several years.

Several things made me hesitate to tackle this project. The major one was, the table saw is a precision instrument, and it is heavy. The casters are underneath the whole thing, and finding a safe yet gentle way to lay the saw on its side had me pretty stumped. One smart thing I did when designing my workshop was to commission a heavy duty 20′ jib crane to be installed before I poured the floor. The plan I had for lying the saw on its side involved the crane, but that was about as far as I took it, until the other day.

Like so many projects, once I’d gotten into it, it wasn’t that bad. I just used my good tools, my brain (notice the lack of the modifier “good” when talking about my brain), and my strength. I levered one side of the saw up with a pry bar, placed blocks of wood under it as I went up, and wrapped a heavy chain around the table. Once it got to its tipping point, I had to trust that everything would hold, and push it over. It held! All that was left was to use the chainfall to gently lower it to the floor, add some props, and voila, all four feet were sticking out.

tablesaw3 Then it was just a matter of removing the old casters and installing the new improved ones. I had to drill a bunch of 7/16″ holes in some pretty thick steel, but having a good Milwaukee drill motor, bit, and a good grinder saved the day for me. I’m grateful I took the time in my life to learn how to sharpen a drill bit, because this was tough drilling. I had to sharpen the bit every two holes, but finally the newly greased casters were bolted on, the saw back upright on its new feet, and we were once again mobile. I pushed the saw around the shop a couple of times just for the sheer joy of feeling it work the way it was supposed to.

The moral to this story is, if you find yourself settled into a living situation with some room, invest in some good tools, and invest some time in learning how to use them. And every 25 years or so, replace the casters.

3 Responses to “Good Tools”

  1. Hi Ted and Alice,

    I’m sorry that I haven’t been in touch lately. I was ill for 8 months (jan 2014 through aug 2014). My position at work had to be filled, so I lost my job. I was going to work until I was 68, but illness changed my plans. I am retired now. My husband Joe still works.
    I really enjoy the Christmas letter that you have sent out over the years. I gave up sending cards a few years ago. Now that I have time, I might start sending out cards again.
    I hope that your dad has settled into assisted living Ted. I also hope that you have recooperated from pneumonia. I had pneumonia once and it took a while to get better.
    I read that it was 55 degrees in the UP. Wow, your having a heat wave!

    I had some questions to for Alice about our relatives. Do you have an e-mail address that I can write you at Alice?

    Hope to hear from you.

    Best Wishes,


  2. Patty says:

    Ted, I always love your stories and this one falls right in that same spot for me!! I could actually envision you doing all of it and isn’t that the biggest compliment for a writer!☺️ I must admit I was a little nervous until you actually got those new casters in place!!! Enjoy the Spring!!! Love, SIS

  3. mary ritola friedberg says:

    Ted, When I wrote a note on your website the other day , I wasn’t thinking. I forgot that your website was not a personal e-mail address until after I sent my note. My only excuse is that I’m not computer savvy. I apologize for posting personal information on your website. Mary

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