Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Power Tools vs. The Right Tool

Past my bedtime so this will be quick. Tonight, I installed a vent on the hallway door that keeps the two cat-families apart. The vent should help a lot with the air-conditioning here at Roseholme Cottage.

Last week, I picked up one of these "rotary cutter" attachments for my Dremel, thinking that would simplify the whole thing. It's an old, two-panel door, so all I had to do was mark it and drrrrrr, the Dremel + attachement would let me cut a nice, neat opening for the vent.

Only not. Old 3/8" plywood and single-speed Dremel: the bit hit the wood, I cut slowly, and smoke began to trickle. H'mm. Applied even less pressure, still smokes. Changed spiral downcutter bits to a coarser one, same result. Y'know, maybe I should have ponied up the extra bux for a variable-speed version, way back when. Or just bought a purpose-built rotary cutter. But I didn't and Ted's All-Nite Drivethru Tool Outlet* is closed anyhow.

What to do? Easy: head down to the basement, grab the proper Japanese handsaw, and have at it, using the annoying rotary thingie only to make a starting cut. Why didn't I start out with this plan? The ryoba cuts about three times as fast with a quarter of the noise, the kerf is a nice thin straight line, and the traditional long handle means I can lay hold of it with both hands.

If you work with wood and have never used a Japanese-style handsaw, you are missing a treat. The tooth pattern is very aggressive but leaves remarkable smooth edges; they cut on the pull stroke and once you adjust to it, buckling saw blades will never bother you again. Best of all, they require remarkably little effort.

Having learned my lesson, I drilled the holes for the bolts that hold the vent grille with an old and very nice Craftsman (made by Stanley near as I can tell) handcranked drill. A good sharp awl and a decent level made the project pretty easy.

And air circulation is markedly improved!
* Motto: "We don't actually exist." A pity.


Anonymous said...

and if you use a razor knife to mark your cut line you will splinter the wood a lot less.

Turk Turon said...

There's a lot of satisfaction from a job well done.

Carteach said...

Ayup. Sometimes we need to let the fascination with power tools drift to the side, fall back to tried and true methods, and just get the job done.

NOTHING beats quality hand tools. Yes, there are jobs that simply can't be done realistically without power tools, but they are few and far between.

You have good taste in tools Roberta, and that is a sign of true class...... nice!

Comrade Misfit said...

Have you tried switching the locations of the two cat-families from time to time, so they get accustomed to each other's scents?

Anonymous said...

"You have good taste in tools Roberta."

Now Jeff must write on the blackboard 100 times.

I must remove my mind from the gutter.
I must remove my mind from the gutter...

Must have the wrong level of mountain dew in me this morning. :)

Tam said...

"Have you tried switching the locations of the two cat-families from time to time, so they get accustomed to each other's scents?"

We're mostly worried about the elderly cat gentleman leaving scent around for the others to get used to, as he's inclined to do when cranky.

Roberta X said...

Sadly, E-B, my old tomcat tends to be something of a tagger, especially if he suspect Other Cats have been in his space. Since the bookshelves in the part of the house he's not in run floor-to-ceiling and pretty much have to, it's not a safe combination.

Carteach, don't get me started; I collect the old "Spintite" socket drivers beacise they steel's usually better (and therefor thinner) than modern ones, and my collection of "Yankee" push-driven scredrivers is probably well beyond practical justification.

Joe: Scoring the cut line forst is a good trick and one I needed to be reminded about. But I should take a picture: the ikeda-pattern teeth don't produce any tear-out when the pitch of the saw is proper for the job. They are leaps and bounds ahead of most Western handsaws.

Unh, Jeff? Jeff? It's a cute metaphor but bear in mind the tools I keep are mostly old or of old-type design, or Japanese. If we follow your logic, I'd be dating Fumio Demura!

Anonymous said...

Roberta, gotta source for the bits for those Push drills? I've got my dads vintage craftsman, but over the years, most of the bits have either worn, broken or lost, and I'd like to replace them.

Roberta X said...

Yes and no, HTRN. Highland Hardware has replacements for their Shroeder Yankee-type drivers but you may have to file a new notch in them, as it varies from brand to brand. (The normal retention system is a D-shaped end on the bit and a half-round or V notch a little bit closer to the tip, in three different diameters to fit the three sizes of drivers)

However... Lee Valley and McFeeley's Square Drive Screws both sell adaptors that snap into a standard Yankee driver and accept modern 1/4" hex driver bits! This a huge improvement.

(Shroeder also makes Yankee drivers that natively accept hex bits -- I have one in my for-work toolbag and use it often).

Carteach said...

***(Shroeder also makes Yankee drivers that natively accept hex bits -- I have one in my for-work toolbag and use it often).***

REALLY? Neat! I use Snap On ratcheting screwdrivers with a 1/4" drive hex head, but a Yankee drill that takes 1/4" would be way cool.
Now I need to hunt one down....

Roberta X said...

Carteach: I find my Yankee driver very useful. Look at Lee Valley's hex adaptor, hex-shank Yankee drivers at Highland and Garrett Wade, the latter with the traditional "teardrop" wooden handle, which I prefer.

Meant to add these links last night, didn't have time.

staghounds said...

I love the Japanese saws! As you say much of it is the pull cutting stroke and I just install my Gai- Jin hacksaw blades backwards.

Pulling on files doesn't seem to work as well though.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Roberta!

I did find BA manufacturing makes push drill bits, but they're specialty items - straigt flutes with carbide bits. Interestingly enough, they also sell an chuck adaptor so you can use regular drill bits.

Garrett Wade sells an 8 piece set that should fit also.

Roberta X said...

HTRN, what's the price on those straight drills ("bits")? I'm got a couple of Stanley hand drills that originally shipped with a set in the handle (lacking the Dee-and-notch of push-drill drills) and I'd like to bring that back up to having a full set. What I'm finding in the States of th eproper patten is high-grade stuff for the machine-tool trade, impossibly costly in small lots.

Roberta X said...

(PS: I have had good luck ordering items Across The Great Water, though my majorly 'Murrican accent makes telephone ordering an interesting process for both sides of the conversation).

Anonymous said...

I have no idea - they don't list a price. Here's the webpage

Garrett Wade also sells sets for under $20

Interestingly enough, MSC, McMaster Carr, and even Grainger(although Grainger vaguely references them) don't carry them.