Indispensable Tools. Part One

TS-55 Track Saw

I was raised on power tools and at the center of that universe was always the table saw. Big heavy cast iron monsters that make no distinction between timbers and fingers. A machine that can hurl a piece of wood back at the operator at speeds up to 120 mph! My poor Father finally acquiesced to my incessant whining and taught me to use the saw when I was thirteen.

TS-55 Track Saw

He taught me the “arc of safety (where to keep your limbs in relation to the blade)” and how to stand at the side of the blade and to have a healthy respect for the damage the tool could inflict on the fragile human body. I have never made a cut on a table saw without a degree of trepidation. I have nicked the tips of a few fingers over fifty years but they remain intact.

TS-55 Track Saw

When we bought the boat one of the first tools I acquired was a Festool TS-55 track saw. It’s basically a highly refined “skill saw” that has plunge cut capability (with a riving knife) and runs on a simple aluminum track. This tool utterly transformed my relationship with woodworking. It introduced me to a whole new method of work. Measure, mark two points at the ends of the cut lay down the fence on the two points and make the cut. Quiet, dust free and elegant and most importantly, safe.

TS-55 Track Saw

Cut up sheet goods without hefting them on to the table saw and then finding someone or something to support the end of the cut. Make a five foot cut 12” at one end and 11-7/8’’ at the other, no problem, just measure, lay down the track and make the cut. Cutouts? Again, make the marks lay down the track make the cuts and finish the corners with a sabre saw or handsaw.

Woodworking along with it’s associated cutting tasks is a much more peaceful and relaxing experience now.

I recently purchased a small table saw for repetitive rips and such but my go-to tool for any cutting operation is always my Festool track saw.

The Festool patient on the track saw recently expired and De Walt, Makita, and even Grizzly all make there own versions of the track saw. Me, I’m still in love with my TS-55 and will just keep and repair it till one of us can go on no longer.

Indispensable Tools. Part Two.

While I love my Ryobi cordless tools for marine and land based carpentry there are a couple of tools that I have found irreplaceable by inexpensive tools. The first is the Festool Rotex 125 FEQ sander. I bought this sander several years ago when I was a bit flush (It is expensive). You can go from rough material to finish polish in minutes. Connected to a vacuum it is virtually dust free. This is an investment that will save you untold hours of labor and produce stunning results. Take the plunge and smile discreetly as you observe your neighbors toiling away with their vibrating sanders.Festool Rotex Sander



coatingsBefore I became a boat owner my experience with coatings was limited to the ones I used in my woodworking trade. Varnish, satin or gloss, stains, and the occasional latex painting of some crown molding or mantel piece. The addition of a boat into in my life quickly expanded my palette of coating options exponentially.

Polyurethane paints, oil based paint, two part epoxies of various viscosities (fillers, colloidal silica, microfibers), bottom paints, topside paints (one part, two parts), gel coats, fiberglass resins, hardeners, caulks that stick to wood, caulks that don’t stick to acrylic. I could go on. All of this was somewhat manageable in the relatively benign environment of the San Francisco Bay.

Fast forward to moving the boat to a harbor on the Pacific Ocean and the whole game changes from a fairly leisurely task to battle. Here is the realization I have come to after two years on the coast.

The salt air will etch window glass, it will, left unattended destroy any coating you put up against it. I realized this one day when I saw the two tools that have the misfortune of living outdoors, my compressor and my dock wagon, with their lovely factory baked on enamel finishes, had their coated surfaces literally explode.

So, lighten up. Learn as much as you can about coatings and applications but be prepared, the battle is on going. It will never end.

Did I mention seagulls?

Boat Tools

Boat tools, Ryobi cordless tools

So what are the ideal qualities for a boat tool? Well, they should be compact for stowing, ideally they should be cordless (running extension cords around a boat is not particularly healthy) and they should not cost a lot of money! You don’t want to set yourself up for heartbreak when your 500.00 Festool drill falls in the water. You just want to spend enough so when it splashes you’re just mildly pissed off. These Ryobi cordless tools totally fit the bill. I have been using them extensively for a good six months now and they are lovely, holding up well and replaceable without breaking the bank. Excellent boat tools.