Almost had myself convinced

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Well, I do save money. But I build mostly tables and like size furniture. I am currently building a entertainment center. I got maybe $300 to $400 in materials in it, and a good bit of time, but while researching the hardware, I found a very very similar one listed on Etsy for $1600 (it's funny too how similar the designs were while I never saw a similar design when I was doing my research to get a good idea of what my wife wanted). What I really get out of it is the customization of the piece and not being limited to the dimensions of the big box store wood and species limitations.
When buying lumber from a store that can provide milling and surfacing, I generally expect a $1 to $1.50 premium . I have learned to buy lumber through experience and through advice given here. When you have a project the uses 50 bf that's $50 savings. When you been through as much lumber as I have over the years, my savings have almost paid for my Dewalt 735 I bought used on craiglist, my Woodtek 3hp DC bought on craiglist, my Jet JTAS 10XL bought on craigslist and my 6" Grizzly Joiner bought new. I have probably $1300 to $1400 in these tools. I shopped well. I have processed (probably more) over 1000bf (most of it was on a large project for outdoor fencing) and glad I have and have sold or had a few commission projects that paid for the equipment. Where I have came into the negative on things is buying gizmos or unneeded tools. I have found the 4 things I have listed I have used on every project, even building benches and shop jigs, used all 4.
I think, honestly, you just need to develop the skills to use the tools. Even power tools require a defined method and process. Even then, you must read the board, read how the board behaves through the process, develop the skills for things like a joiner where you control the speed and pressure (which affects outcome), read the grain of the board for processing, recognized and understand factors like moisture content and wood movement and understand tool setup so you can recognize unintended tool behavior so you can correct and/or compensate. The hardest lesson I have learned is wood is alive, it moves and does things that will baffle you until you understand it's nature. There are tons of lessons learned and 1000's of years worth of experience and knowledge on here to get you past the initial frustrations and on to a level of mediocrity that I currently reside. Past that, ask the guys here that are the real experts... but I assure you, it does save money when you start getting to the higher amounts of boards processed and what really matters to me, flexibility in any species on the spot. I have never used a plan that was 100% correct or I didn't modify for whatever reason regardless whether I wrote the plans up or used others. I don't think less of people who choose not to do it, but I can attest to the fact it does have great benefits.


Senior User
Robert, this source of your frustration is your machines. I didn't start out with good machines or tools and it only led to frustration and a feeling on incompetence. So I feel your pain. I struggle for several years with a crummy 70's model Craftsman table saw and almost lost a thumb because of it. I went through 2 lunchbox planers, one of which the first time I ran a board through I returned it. I picked up a Parks 12" planer which was a decent machine. I also had a little Walker Turner 6" jointer which sufficed for a little while.

A lunchbox planer is not really the best machines to surface rough lumber. I can be done, but it can really tax the machine. I think you discovered that. You can't run lumber through a planer without face jointing it first, in which case 8" is a minimum and 12" is better. A 4" jointer is basically useless for milling lumber.

So fast forward: 3HP Jet cabinet saw, 8" helical head jointer, 20" planer. And prepping rough lumber can still have its surprises!!

Bottom line as I think you're aware, you are looking at several thousand dollars of investment in a table saw, planer and jointer if you want to have a better experience.

Yes you are correct about not being able to see what the wood looks like, but this goes both ways. For every disappointment there can a "Wow!".

I avoid surfaced lumber at all costs because its hard to acquire straight boards but mainly surfaced to 13/16 doesn't leave any room for error.

Other than pine, poplar is good to work with so is walnut. White or red oak (face or 1/2 sawn) you have tear out issues if you're not constantly checking grain direction.


New User
I noticed that you live in Pikeville. I live off Hwy 13 about 3/4 mile North of the new bypass. I have a garage full of woodworking tools and I've even been known to make a few things. I'd be glad to help you mill lumber, build a piece of furniture, etc. PM me if you're interested. :thumbs_up

That is a really nice offer to the OP.
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