What Tool Wouldn’t You Give Up?

In the last issue of the eZine, Rob posed the question of what tool eZine readers would never give up.

 Some had strong reactions to this hypothetical situation. – Editor

“In answer to your question on giving up a tool: Never, ever, will I give up a tool. I moved my shop 1,150 miles with me and made the mover handle my tools separately from the household items. I always figured the fastest way to lose a tool is to lend it to someone. Sorry to say, but you cannot even borrow a pencil from my shop.” – Dan Roper

“You may be familiar with the traveler’s phrase: ‘If it ain’t Boeing, I ain’t going.’ If my saws ain’t going, I ain’t going. 1993 Unisaw and Laguna SUV.” – Fred Dobson

“Well, let’s see, now. Uh, I have an old claw hammer I’d give up, I guess. Oh yes, a worn-out back saw might be a candidate for losing, too. But the short and most correct answer is, NONE. They told me I can’t take it with me when I go, so I’m not going.” – Don Butler

Like Rob, many chose their table saw as their “keeper.” – Editor

“Well, at first I thought it might be my 14″ band saw, then the PM2000 table saw, then the router/router table.  Agonized over a number of the hand tools, but the winner was the table saw. Just couldn’t figure out how to do dadoes with the band saw!” – Dale Smith

“I, too, would not give up the table saw, as pitiful as my contractor-style Craftsman model is. While not the world’s most accurate, it’s mobile and versatile, incorporating a router table and sliding table in addition to its standard fence, and small enough to fit in a 13’x14′ workshop.” – Dan Else

“Interesting question. Table saw for me. Once you can cut wood straight, you can start adding to it. Next purchase: a router, then random orbital sander.” – John Kulluk


“Going by my last project. This is a shed with a cupola I built just to hold the wood pellets (4 ton) for my pellet stove. I could do this whole project (if I had to!!) with a table saw.”- Joe Perron

“Tough question. Easy answer is my table saw. But, in fact, it may be the first tool I sell. Sadly, health issues have curtailed most of my woodworking.  I have a close friend who has lusted for that saw since he helped me bring it home and set it up.  Now that he is rebuilding his shop after the ravages of divorce, he really wants to buy it. I know it will have a good home. Maybe I can negotiate usage privileges for the few times I need it…” – Doug Canfield

“Table Saw! No doubts or hesitation. And, specifically, Sawstop.” – Andrew Bowe

“You asked which tool a person would not give up in their shop and I would have to say my Sawstop table saw!  I could replace the other tools over time but would never want to be without my Sawstop.” – Lori Scott

“Without question it would be my Powermatic model 66 that I would not let go.” – Dave Arnold

“My most important and used tool is my table saw. My shop is so small that I have to use my saw for not only sawing but, as a workbench also.” – Buddy Barker

But some readers did make other choices. – Editor

“Although many might feel that this tool is not worthy of being part of their shop, it would be my Shopsmith. I have had it for 26 years and, like all tools, when tuned up and aligned properly, it will provide quality pieces. It allows me to have many tools in a small footprint of my small shop. I built a 12 by 12 shop last year, the largest I could do on my property, to give my garage back to my wife’s car. My Shopsmith is doing well in its new home and I am in the middle of a few projects. I have the use of my table saw, lathe, drill press, and disk sander all within a 6 foot space.” – Jeff Goldberg

“After reading your blurb, I instantly knew that if I were to start over today, the tool I would buy first is a track saw. I just recently bought one and wonder why I hadn’t bought one sooner. It’s almost the same cost as a table saw but WAY more versatile.” – Eric Martin

“Since I am a woodturner, it is an easy answer: my Nova DVR lathe. There is a workaround for other things. If I don’t have a band saw, I can rough out a bowl blank with chain saw, or cut the corners off with another saw.  But, probably after the lathe the next thing would be the band saw.” – James Yarbrough

“I already have pretty much stopped using my jointer.  I can do just about everything with my router and a good straightedge.” – Tom Peters

“Tough question. The tool I was most tickled to get was my thickness planer. I get new wood from old; boards which lie together like newlyweds; beautiful patterns of grain; a finish which is lovely to touch, look at and admire; a grain which can be made as durable as wood can be, yet has an appearance which is a celebration of beauty.” – Roy Yerex

“The same thing that started me out 40 years ago: my Shopsmith Mark 5.” – Rick Adams

“The table saw is a good choice. However, I am tempted to say circular saw. With a long guide, I can accurately cut down full sheets. It will crosscut accurately and safely. I can make multiple cuts to serve the function of a dado blade. Most important, I can take it anywhere. However, your question may relate to stationary tools. In that case, I think I would keep the band saw. With that and my circular saw I have the ability to make both straight and curved cuts. I also have greater depth of cut.” – Bob Nald

“That is a hard question as I have a nicely equipped shop.  While I can honestly say I would miss my band saw, table saw, jointer, planer, and router table, I think what I would miss most would be my Performax (now JET)16/32 drum sander.  That tool has been indispensible for many of my woodworking projects, whether it be Christmas ornaments or cabinets.  It has also been used to ‘joint and plane’ boards that were too wide for my jointer and planer.  It saves me tons of time of having to sand with 1/4 sheet or R/O sanders.  It was one of the best splurges I made years ago and has never let me down.  It may not be the first tool I would purchase if resetting my shop, but it would be towards the top of the list.” – Mike Grawvunder

“Radial arm saw.  With it, I can rip, crosscut (same as table saw), plane (with an attachment), joint (with a molding head or planer head), rout or drill (with the appropriate chuck).  I didn’t say it was easy to do all these things.  Some require a lot more effort than the right tool.  For example, I can use it as a drill press by flipping the motor 90 degrees, attaching a chuck with drill bit.  To go up and down, I have to use the motor height adjustment to raise and lower the motor.  It’s not easy, but it works.  The only tool I can think of that it just won’t copy, would be the lathe.  Although I might could come up with a jig that would use the saw as the headstock.  Speed just wouldn’t be as fast.” – Michael H. Davis

Some focused on the basics. – Editor

“My pencil.” – Bruce Peterson

And some attempted to stretch the question in order to keep more items. – Editor

“It’s kind of a silly question, since it would be difficult to build with only a single tool. I’ve gotten rid of most big power tools.  Mostly hand work these days. I suppose the first tool would be an 8 point hand saw, followed closely by a decent file to keep it sharp.  #3 would be a 3/4 chisel.  Now I could make lap and bridle joints.” – Tom Fink

“Band saw, joiner, drum sander, table saw and dust collector.  Tools that without you are not able to do woodworking.  All are equal in that sense.  Oh yes, forgot pencil.” – Phil Zoeller

“From what you indicated, you did not include hand tools in an English style toolbox, but only power tools. If that is the case, the one power tool I don’t want to be without is my band saw. I can do most major cuts on the band saw, and use one of my many planes to smooth and make pretty. What I can’t do easily is resaw, rip, and crosscut. Now understand I have collected tools since my father set me up a workbench when I was 7 years old, and I still have and use the hammer he gave me at that time. I have at least 20 different saws, most vintage, but some modern like the Knew Concepts 5-inch Woodworker Fret Saw. They are sharp, but I am in my 70s and just can’t saw any more as it is too much work. So, with my English tool chest of hand tools, give me a band saw every time.” – Wilson Stevens

“The answer is easy: None of my Festool tools.  All the rest of the shop tools, and I have many, can be replaced, but not one of them is as reliable as the ones I have purchased from Festool.” – Bob Hoyle

“Before I answer, we should have some basic assumptions. Your question sounds like ‘What power tool would you never give up?’  At least that’s how I interpret it. So let’s assume that we have a toolbox full of basic hand tools: saws, chisels, hammers, planes, etc.  So I’m looking for a power tool that would complement my hand tools. That makes your choice of a table saw a good one; cutting a sheet of plywood with a hand saw would be tedious.

“However, I would be looking for a little more flexibility, yet something that would save labor. So my choice would be a sabre saw. I can cut a sheet of plywood pretty accurately with a guide. I could cut curves as well as straight lines. So that would be my first power tool.  Second might be a good worm drive SKILSAW.  I have done a pretty good job of ripping a board with mine. Then I would start looking at the stationary power tools, like a table saw. Of course, hidden in the bottom of the box of hand tools would be my electric drill.” – Don Gwinn

Some did put their focus onto hand tools. – Editor

“I would not give up my good hand saw. With a good hand saw, you can make any cut. There is not a joint that can’t be cut. I think a good hand saw is one of, if not the, most important tool in my shop.” – Steve Kindle

“I have a vice made by Zyliss that I would not give up.  It is amazingly versatile as a clamp/holding device.  I have used it to hold anything and everything from doors to a house to pens I had turned.” – Doug Mosier

“For power tools, it’s definitely my table saw, and if I were to have to replace all my tools, I’d definitely up gun to the nicest Delta Unisaw with a Biesemeyer fence that I could afford. For hand tools, it would be my 6-inch steel ruler. I depend on it for so much, to include setting up my table saw!” – E.J. Eiteljorge

And a couple of readers shared their own moving experiences, and how that put their tool choices into focus. – Editor

“Sorry in advance for a slightly obtuse response to your question: ‘What tool would you never give up? Or, perhaps another way to think of it is — if you had to start your shop all over again, which is the first tool you would buy?’ In the context which the question was framed, it may appear to be a little daunting as you stated, with the entire litany of tools whirling through your head. However, it doesn’t have to be approached that way. Instead, you could start with ‘If you had to give up one tool, which one would it be?’ Then do this repeatedly until you end up with the one(s) you couldn’t live without.

“Another approach I took when almost moving to Australia a couple of years ago is to rent a storage space and move everything in there except what you initially think you can’t live without. Then, as time passes, you can stagger the migration of your tools as needs dictate. This eliminates the need to give up anything. Of course, if you’re looking for a reason to replace your workshop with shiny new stuff, then keep the hammer and give up everything else.

“Finally, if I had to answer your question straight, then my answer would be the table saw, given its versatility.” – Ravin Asar

“I’m hoping to move about 700 miles away (‘up north,’ to North Carolina) in the not-to0-distant future, so the question actually is germane.  The tool I would not give up is my 36-year-old radial arm saw (which has already moved with me from Ohio to Virginia to Florida) that has been updated with the safety feature recommended a number of years ago. I know, I know…. people are weird about radial arm saws. Some would never have one in their shops (but have chop saws — go figure); others wouldn’t have a shop without one.  They have their own quirks, just like table saws. They do some things exceptionally well and some things not so well.  But once you learn the saw’s strengths and weaknesses, it is a really ingenious machine. (And, just like table saws, fences, hold-downs and jigs, and dust collection are important.)

“The machine that will not go with me is my table saw.  It’s not a particularly good one; in fact, it’s a relatively poor one in my opinion.  My plans are to purchase a new one after I move.  Right now I’m thinking of splurging and buying the most expensive workshop tool I’ve ever purchased and I’ve been saving for over a year! I’m hoping it will be a REAXX GTS1041A (without the stand) and build it into a combined table saw/router table workstation. (I was a semi-pro musician for over 50 years and have messed around with wood for over 40 years.  I value my fingers [I still have all of them] and live alone [safety is an issue].)” – Dan Clark

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