Standing center stage in any woodworker's shop is the trusty table saw. There's a good reason.
No other tool gets as much use or is as versatile — save maybe a bench brush.
With a table saw, you no longer need to run to the lumberyard for a few feet of 2-by-6. You simply rip down that leftover hunk of 2-by-8 stowed in the garage.
All manner of scrap can be turned into something useful when you have a table saw.
On the downside, it means you'll never be able to throw away lumber. Personally, I can't part with anything more than two feet long.
I have a lot of it stored on racks and in boxes in the shop, and the walls of my garage are nearly all four inches thick, thanks to the wood jammed between the studs. The less said about the dead weight on the rafters overhead the better.
My neighbor came over last fall after discovering his saw suddenly was blowing fuses. We fear the motor may be going bad; certainly something is making it short out.
Happily, my own saw was in fine fettle, and we were able to turn a couple of lengths of 1-by-2 into the skinny filler strips he needed to mount a screen door.
Screen door molding, lattice and the thinnest lath are easily milled from anything thicker or wider.
In fact, I have a little adjustable jig that enables me to safely rip strips of wood that are less than 1/16-inch thick. It was very useful when I was milling tiny window and door casings for birdhouses.
(They were very upscale birdhouses, meant for only the hoity-toitiest of our avian neighbors.)
And tucked away somewhere I have directions for a gadget that allows you to cut large cove molding on a table saw — the size you might need to crown a room with 10-foot ceilings. Because I don't have such ceilings, I've never needed such molding, but I think I could handle the job if I had to.
I have done quite a bit of milling on my table saw, but it all involved fairly simple woodwork profiles. Partly that's because my taste runs to simple designs, but it's also because complex profiles are a heck of a lot of work.
The one time I needed some fancy woodwork, I went to one of the city's oldest millwork shops. I needed only eight feet, and I got really lucky because the shop already had cutters that were an almost perfect match.
The price for any custom milling job begins with setting up the machinery, so the more you buy, the cheaper it gets per foot. But to have had new cutters ground for such a small job would have put the cost far, far beyond all logic and good sense.
It's worth noting it often pays to deal with companies that have been in business for more than 100 years.
It's possible that's where my house's original woodwork was milled, because it was about 100 years old, too.
(Send your questions to HouseWorks, P.O. Box 81609, Lincoln, Neb. 68501 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.)