OK, no lies. That gift card was burning a hole in my pocket. Tools were calling out to me at night. Walking through the shop, I could hear the whispers. Brand names played in my head like a bad cable TV commercial for Bob’s Discount World of Tools, or some other fairy tale dreamland. I had been good thus far. Sure, I had taken advantage of a youtuber discount code or two during the pandemic, but no big splurges. Then came my birthday, and the gift card. Not just permission to splurge, but encouragement. Now you have the backstory on the hole in my pocket, but how did I quench it you are wondering….
There were many tools passing through my mind. First was a new bandsaw. That would be nice to have. Oooh, maybe an HVLP sprayer. Youtubers make finishing seem like a 3 minute task with one of them. Drill press? Track saw? Small jointer? A fancy dust collector? A SawStop? OK, back to reality. There’s no end to what tools you can consider and that’s before you get to which one, or what brand, or size etc. Good to have choices, but still, they are choices to be made. To second guess. To ponder.
Eventually, I came all the way around to where I started. A bandsaw. Now, I already have a bandsaw. It is a 10″ Craftsman that is many years old. It’s a cast off from my Dad’s shop where he has replaced it with, well, let’s just say more than one and leave it at that. I have used it a handful of times to cut something oddly shaped that didn’t feel safe on a different saw, or to try and attempt a bit of a curve on something. In each case, it did cut, but I was always disappointed. Just seemed as though I could not get it dialed in. Like about 1.2 million others, I watched Alex Snodgrass show how to tune a bandsaw (https://youtu.be/wGbZqWac0jU) but it just wasn’t getting me any closer. Maybe it was time to move on.
So now I had settled on the tool — but which one? Do I get something of similar size? Go bigger? More power? What am I going to use it for? I am not a woodturner and don’t plan to resaw any logs at this time. I’d like to be able to cut curves and rough out templates. Maybe make a bandsaw box or three. Given how frustrating this old bandsaw was to use, I really only used it in a pinch. Not a lot of expertise with bandsaws, so I decided to start with something small. Another 10″ saw. Then I can build my skills, learn what I like to do with it and where it might be lacking — maybe do those cuts in my Dad’s shop. Mostly though, I wanted one that worked like it should, so I would have the opportunity to improve and not always be wondering if it was my lack of skills, or a tool that doesn’t work properly.
So after all of that, what did I end up with? Rikon be thy name. It’s a good name for a tool company. I have never owned one of their tools before but they have been around for a while. You don’t see them at Home Depot or Lowes. Thankfully, my gift card was not orange or blue in this case. It was green. Woodcraft green. Once you get past the big box stores, there is another world of tools waiting to be discovered. Instead of Milwaukee, DeWalt, Makita, Ryobi or the others you see when you pick up grass seed and ant spray. Lurking in the sawdusty corners of the world will find you names like Jet, Laguna, Powermatic, Grex, Mirka and Festool. You will also find Rikon.
It was also about this time that I discovered I was not the only one lusting after tools. All kinds of shop tools were on backorder. They were shipping weeks or months later. The same was true for Rikon though usually only a few weeks’ delay. I decided to hold off, hoping for a Dads and Grads sale to stretch my gift card. Then on Friday of Memorial Day weekend, I noticed one of the local(ish) Woodcraft stores had them in stock. My day job had let us out early that day (thanks day job). That meant I could save the costs for shipping, not to mention the wait time. The stars were in alignment and I hopped in the car for the 140 mile roundtrip drive to Woodcraft. I didn’t say it was actually close. My first journey outside of my home state in more than a year.
Now I was on a schedule so with the drive out, and the drive back, I had 45 minutes left to browse the store. I used each and every one of them. I have been in Woodcraft before, but probably not for a decade or more, and at the last, I was there to pick something up for my father (pretty sure it was a low speed grinding wheel for his lathe tools….might even have been a Rikon). In any case, it was great fun to wander the aisles of a proper woodworking store. Not a DIY big box, or a hardware store (I like wandering in them too), but a real woodworking store. One that carries all the kinds of Titebond that only youtubers use. Where you can actually look at a Grex pin nailer, or hold a Mirka sander. For most of the 45 minutes I was the only person in the store that wasn’t working there. I am pretty sure they all recognized the “kid in a candy store” look in my eyes as I slowly and methodically went down every aisle and carefully examined all the stuff along the way. Wow this Festool is kinda heavy, this Laguna planer looks really nice, yikes, this is a big drill press. You get the idea. In the end, the folks at Woodcraft could not have been friendlier, but all I purchased was the bandsaw, which they helped put in my car. Apparently restraint is my middle name.
On my way out, I asked them, “so what am I forgetting, that when I get home, I am going to regret not getting because I need it to use the saw”. He says “well, it comes with a blade” to which I responded, “yes, like that, be pretty silly to get all the way home and not have a blade”. The other guy asks if I have wood at home. Check. “All good, you’ll love the saw” and with that, I headed home. It took me another week or so before setting it up and squaring the various things, but it is operational now and I have used it on a project. I really like it so far.
So there you have it. It runs smoothly, the dust collection works well. I was able to make a curvy cut in a 2×3 and then turned a scrap 2×3 on the edge and made some resaw passes. I managed one 1/8″ thick from front to back and top to bottom. I was quite pleased with that. It is reasonably quiet and a world of difference from the old one. Thanks to all who contributed to my gift card. You know who you are. I appreciate it, and I am looking forward to making nifty things with my Rikon.
The next posting might be on craigslist in case anyone is looking for a used Craftsman bandsaw.