This is sort of in keeping with an earlier post about if you could only spend $1000 on tools what would you do. I fell in the camp of basic hand tools. But I have been heard saying on many occasions, "If I could have only one power tool it would be a really good bandsaw." I firmly believe that and it works for me. I had hinted last week that something happened at the Florida show that I would relate in more detail when I had the chance. Well there I was, minding my own business, late Sunday, only a few stragglers left with under an hour to go. I was talking to one gentleman and at some point the above quote exited my mouth, and as is usually the case, he gave me a quizzical look, as if to say, "Yeh, right." I was about to get into the Euro way when another gentleman stepped in. He apparently overheard our conversation and said, in no uncertain terms, "No way. The table saw would be it."
Well I started to go into why I felt the way I felt, but he was having none of it. This wasn't a dialogue so much as it was me stating a point and him crushing it under his foot, to the point of accusing me of being nothing but a salesperson who didn't know my ash from an oak in the ground. I'll just leave it that he was adamant about his table saw. Well I like a challenge just like the next guy so I says, "Sir, for a beer, if I can not prove to you in the 40 minutes we have left why a bandsaw is much more versatile than a table saw, then I will buy you your next beer." He didn't so much accept my bet, but rather harrumphed audibly because by now there were now 10 or so other guys there waiting to see this.
I took a piece of maple, rough sawn, straight from the mill - twisted, cupped and fuzzy, 5/4, 10" x 16", and went to work. I let them know that this could have been part of a log and still the bandsaw could have gotten it to rough sawn lumber stage, then allowed to dry properly, but if that had been the case I would need more than forty minutes.
I first rough cut it to approximate dimensions, a 12" section for the top and a 4" section for the legs. I was going to make a table.
Then you need to face joint one side without a jointer or jigs. I quickly made some wedges/shims from scraps on the floor and used them between the piece of wood and the fence since I had no straight starting point, eyeballing how deep to push them down to get that first cut, a bit more than 10" tall. Slice, cut one, a resawn and beautiful face. I put that face down on the cast iron and showed everyone- no rocking. And if you have ever seen a good carbide blade on one of these saws cut, you now how clean that face was. "Can your table saw do that?" I ask. His arms are now crossed hard against his body and he stays silent.
Next, get a square and straight edge. That was easy, using a relatively straight piece of scrap as consistent reference to the fence. Table saw could do that equally well.
Now we need to plane to thickness, but in the absence of a planer, resaw. I choose 1" and set the fence. Resaw. He claims it won't be as good as a planer, and I say it only needs to be better than a table saw, but... I ask Mike from Grip Tite if I can borrow his calipers and I ask another gentleman to measure the table top. Son of a gun, if it ain't 1" on both sides, sides that could easily be made sweet with nothing more than 120 grit paper.
It was about at this point that I started to feel like a circus performer or evangelical preacher. "Now I want a curve to my top!" Even with a resaw blade you can get a gentle curve, which I do. "Can your table saw do that?" This time he emits a guttural sound.
Leg blanks next -- I rip them up. Table saw could do that. But how am I going to attach the legs to the table with no other tools? I choose a dovetail through the top of the top. I proceed to tilt the table to approximately 7* and cut one half of the tail sides, then tilt the table opposite and do the other sides. To remove the shoulder material I eyeball and free cut the first leg, then use the off cut 7* wedges to run the other legs. "Could you imagine attempting any of that on a table saw? Possibly, but not free hand, and how long would it take to make the jig?"
I flatten the table back out and decide I want tapered legs. So I draw some lines using scrap for a straight edge and proceed to taper my legs, asymmetrically in both planes. Again, possible on the TS, but only with a jig, but even with a jig and the parts being so small... quite a dangerous task.
Now it is time to cut the recesses in the table's edge to receive the tails, and I proceed to chew those out after marking each one with the leg that will go there, and marking them 1, 2, 3, 4. Since the top's edge is curved this would be nearly, but not necessarily completely, impossible with even a nice jig on a table saw. I cut them out, test fit the legs, #3 is a little tight so I trim a hair. Sweet, and I'm only at the 30 minute mark. I know, "How about a decorative edge?"
I proceed to use the bandsaw blade like a grinder and create a handcarved edge look, and then on the edges of the legs, too.
I finally put the completed table on the bandsaw table and the, now crowd of 15, folks clap. One guy says, "Bravo," and asks to see the table and I pass it around. The gentleman who started the whole thing doesn't even want to touch it. I ask him what he thinks. He just turns redder, says, "Harrumph," one more time under his breath as he walks off, either not convinced or angry that he had nothing to say or he just underestimated the saw or me. I don't know, but I sure had some fun.
One man did come up to me after it was all said and done and told me, "I'll buy you that beer since he ain't going to make good on that bet. And I'll take one of those saws."
This is the table I produced, first by itself, then along with some other notable trade show goof offs that I took home, some to be used as ideas for later pieces, some that I finished up later. All of them were done on the bandsaw, with the exception of the turnings, which were done by stealing some time on a Jet Mini in someone else's booth, but the blanks were cut on the bandsaw.
And so I ask you. "If you could have only one power tool what would it be?"