good brands...

I am new to woodworking - I am a fine artist - I am going to be building my own frames as well as doing making some relief wall sculptures, probably...I live in a condo and have a deck where I am going to do my cutting, but I live in an area where it gets cold so I am going to have to be able to drag the equipment inside then drag it out to cut...
I am going to buy some power tools. I don't want the best best best but I also don't want the worst. I have been to Lowe's and HD and I don't trust them very much. I have looked on ebay and it seems to me that Bosch is probably one of the best - Ryobi is not - I have a friend helping me - he used to only use Porter Cable but now he says they are all made in China so it doesn't matter...He doesn't like DeWalt whereas my other friend does...I looked in Consumer Reports and was not able to locate anything on power tools there - is there anywhere I can read up on this?
Thanks,
Joanna
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You've found the place. The archives are well worth delving into. Tom intuitiveart wrote:

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I think you'll find different manufacturers make different things better. Typically companies are known for one or two tools and another company is better at a different tool. The best bet is to search the group for recommendations for whichever tool you are specifically looking for. I've got several brands of tools in my shop and happy with pretty much most of them. So search away and if you can't find what you're looking for, then post a message asking. Cheers, cc

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Not trusting the big-box stores is probably a good start. And consumers reports is great for blenders or cars or even tools if you're not really fanatic about them. Their tool reviews are definitely geared towards the homeowner/occasional tool user, not the woodworker. Just like a real car buff or a real chef wouldn't care what CR said about their insturment of choice, more serious woodworkers look elsewhere for reviews.
As far as specific brands, you'll get a variety of recommendations - but a good rule of thumb of course is that you get what you pay for. Anything by Black & Decker, Skil, Ryobi, cheap Craftsman, etc., is generally not going to be as good as anything by Bosch, Porter Cable, Dewalt, Makita, Milwaukee, etc. The more expensive Craftsman stuff, some Ridgid stuff, etc. may fall somewhere in between. Of course there are exceptions, and some tools sold under brand A are actually made by brand B, but there's a reason you don't see construction workers using B&D "Firestorm" drills... And yes, most are probably made in China or Taiwan, but there are differences in quality control specs, metal vs. plastic parts, etc., that can make a big difference in quality and durability.
I don't think any one brand, even of the better names, makes the best of every type of tool. For instance, Bosch invented the jigsaw and they still are generally regarded as the best, but Milwaukee is well-known for Sawzalls and corded drills that don't die.
Buying used or reconditioned tools is one way to save some dough on the good brands - check eBay, local Craigslist, Amazon reconditioned, toolbarn.com, and just shop around. Even the Borgs may have a deal now and then - i.e. there's a sweet-looking new Makita 18V compact Li-ion drill at HD for $199, while it's $229 at Amazon.
To read more, I'd look in the archives here, search google for reviews of whatever you're looking for, look at Amazon reviews, look in back issues of woodworking magazines for reviews (check your local library), etc.
And finally, before you go on a power-tool-buying spree, decide what you want to do with them - I'd recommend buying tools as you need them, rather than stocking up on tools and then trying to figure out what you can do with them since you used up your budget and can't buy things like decent wood or sandpaper or clamps.
For slightly more specific recommendations if you want to get a very basic start on woodworking, I'd recommend a Bosch jigsaw ($150), a Dewalt 618 or PC 690 series router kit ($200), a starter router bit set from MLCS ($40), a good 14.4v cordless drill ($150-200), some blue chip chisels ($30), and some clamps ($20-200...). If you're patient and creative, there's a lot you could do with these tools. Of course others here will probably recommend a completely different setup, but that's what you get when you ask for advice.
Sorry to talk your ear off. (type your eyes off?) That's all for now, Have fun and stay safe, Andy
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Normally I'd agree with you. I read a copy standing in line at the supermarket tonight. They had a test on cordless drills. The Panasonic 15.6V was rated a Best Buy. I'd have to agree with CR for once.
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intuitiveart wrote:

All of the "good" brands have their devoted followers. And like Andy said, no single company has the "best" of every tool. But the differences in quality between the "good" brands is small and is often a matter of different features. Take jig saws for instance. Several manufacturers make a fine jigsaw. Some make it easier to change blades than others.
You should not be disappointed in anything you get from Bosch, Dewalt, Porter Cable, Milwaukee, Makita or Hitachi. Stay away from Craftsman, Ryobi and Black & Decker.
DonkeyHody "Every man is my superior in that I can learn from him." - Thomas Carlyle
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I wouldn't say to stay away from Craftsman totally. I have a couple of their cordless drills and I've never had any problem with them. If all you're doing is drilling pilot holes and putting in screws, they will be more than adequate for that purpose. Sears usually has them on for 40-50% off as well.
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Think about cruising the Garage Sale ads in the Newspaper. Look for ads with the keyword, Tools, or lots of tools, etc. Go to what looks like the best sale 15 - 30 minutes before they open! Early bird gets the tools!! Here is a few of my finds to wet your appetite:
48" clamp on saw guide - $3 30" bar clamps - $3 each New Jet Exacta fence (no rails) $30 Makita circular saw $8 Dewalt 18 volt drill, 2 good bats, charger - $30 ( needed new housing. $9) The list goes on and on. You get the idea.
And theres the best of all: On the 3rd day of a large sale (4 car garage packed with stuff) It took 3 days to uncover most stuff. On the 3rd day, when you asked a price, they said $1. Well scrounging around, I found 2 complete Biesemeyer commercial fence systems, with long rails sets! Well used from a commercial shop, I guess. $1 for both!! That was when Yahoo had free classified ads. Sold for $175 each plus shipping! That paid for our garage sale gas for a while! 95% of my shop is used equipment.
Check the sales out! Morning routine with coffee, cruise the classifieds in the paper.
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efgh wrote:

I won't argue with that. I had a couple of Craftsman power tools, including a cordless drill, that gave good service. But I also had a bunch of other Craftsman tools that were disappointing from day one. If she's looking for a a brand name she can count on being happy with, without researching each and every purchase, I'd steer clear of Craftsman.
DonkeyHody "Never wrestle with a pig. You'll both get muddy, but the pig likes it."
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intuitiveart wrote:

The first tool you need to purchase is a Black & Decker Workmate portable stand (don't buy their electrical tools). The most frustrating aspect of working on a balcony or deck is trying to clamp things down for sawing, routing, whatever. With a workmate and a few other clamps you can usually figure out to hold your work in a safe and productive manner. Folds up for easy storage and will still be useful if you ever get a larger shop/studio area.
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intuitiveart wrote:

You have received good advice. It is not necessary or desirable to have all your tools be the same brand. Different companies do well with certain tools.
I own a lot of tools of many brands. My chop saw is a Makita. My cordless drills are Panasonic. My corded drills are Milwaukee. My circular saws are Skil and Porter Cable. Jigsaw is Bosch. Bostich and Hitachi nailers. If I were restricted to one brand only I would go with Makita. Makita makes a decent version of all these.
My Makita tools have never failed me and I have never heard anyone complain about Makita. They have a full line of power tools. My local Ace hardware carries Makita and they are also a full line service center. I like to buy tools from someplace that can also repair them.
I love my Makita tools. Makita is a Japanese company. Few tools are made in the states anymore but Milwaukee and DeWalt are respected brands that are American companies anyway.
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On Mon, 04 Dec 2006 21:07:01 -0800, intuitiveart wrote:

What tools do you need? That matters. Also what kind of budget do you have and what is the largest size you're going to be working? When you say "building my own frames" do you mean from purchased molding or do you want to make the molding? Do you have an example of the sort of relief wall sculptures you want to make, with some reference to give scale, that we can look at?

First thing to do--find a Woodcraft store near you. They have just about anything you might want and generally have a shop set up where you can take classes or try out the tool you're looking at. Prices aren't always the best but watch the sales--sometimes they can be _very_ inexpensive. Incidentally, they've currently got a special on the Logan Frame Shop in a Box <http://www.woodcraft.com/family.aspx?FamilyIDY06 if you don't already have a decent set of framing tools.
Sears is decent if you either (a) know what you want or (b) stay within the "Craftsman professional" line, but their prices aren't usually the best. One nice thing about Sears is that for Sears brand products they maintain a parts inventory practically forever, with online ordering. Go by a Sears and ask in the tool department about the "Craftsman Club"--there's an 800 number you can call, join for free and you get a ten percent discount on top of any sale prices.
HD has a few very decent products at reasonable prices--one example is the Ridgid belt/spindle sander--but most of their stuff is either overpriced or so-so. Watch out for the accessories too--as an example they have a band saw that seems cheap until you start accessorizing it at which point you'll find that they charge two or three times what the competition does for commonplace accessories. They do stock pretty much the full Dremel line.
Lowes, if you know what you want already it's worth checking them for price and watch the sales as well--I got my Delta midi lathe there as a discontinued product for way below list.
Online two sources to look at, Coastal Tool <http://www.coastaltool.com/ and Grizzly Industrial <http://www.grizzly.com/>.
Also, not related to tools, but look in the phone book under "lumber" and find the yards that stock hardwoods--visit each one and introduce yourself and see what they seem to be like to deal with. You'll find a much, much wider selection of wood at much, much lower prices than Home Depot or Lowes (example, paid ten bucks for a small piece of red oak at Home Depot the other day--could have gotten it for less than half that at the lumberyard but that would that day have had me go 20 miles out of my way and I was in a hurry), and you'll likely meet at least one "colorful character".

Depends on the tool. Forget Consumer Reports, they're OK for telling you that a toaster does indeed make toast but not so good for anything complicated. Different companies do different things well. Bosch is the jigsaw king (still made in Switzerland too), Jet's mini lathe is highly regarded, Ridgid's oscillating belt/spindle sander is very nice, deWalt has the best reasonably priced scroll saw, etc. Proxxon has a very nice line of very small tools intended for model makers--if you're in a small space and they have enough capacity for your needs they're well worth consideration. For some tools there's no clear leader--Bosch, DeWalt, Porter Cable, and Hitachi routers all have their followings for example.
You'll find a _lot_ of discussion of the relative merits of different brands of tool here, however be aware that there is a certain amount of blind advocacy.
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Thanks to everyone who responded to my question - great and helpful advice -
Joanna
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