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Goings on at the Because We Cannery

Great (hand) tools we love

We make stuff. And as such, we buy a lot of tools, and do a fair amount of tool research. It's one of the more fun bits of being a Design-Build Studio instead of just a regular old design firm! And while the robot does most of the work, and our trusty Apple laptops never leave our sides, there are a fair amount of smaller hand tools that we couldn't live without.

Fine German Enginnering doesn't just apply to cars..... We make stuff. And as such, we buy a lot of tools, and do a fair amount of tool research. It's one of the more fun bits of being a Design-Build Studio instead of just a regular old design firm! And while the robot does most of the work, and our trusty Apple laptops never leave our sides, there are a fair amount of smaller hand tools that we couldn't live without.

Fine German Enginnering doesn't just apply to cars. Several of the very best power tools all come from Germany it seems, and we certainly love our sanders. Everything that gets cut out by the CNC table in turn has to be sanded. That's miles of sanding. Lots and lots of sanding. So, seeing how much sanding we do, anything that makes it faster and nicer we do. A while back we stepped up to using Festool's line of sanders & papers, and man does it make a difference. It's much faster, better quality, and way less vibration making your hands tired than any other brand of sanders we've worked with. Combine that with a plethera of different paper, pad, and accessory options, and it quickly puts itself into the most useful tool we've got behind the CNC table itself. We've used it for everything from sanding plywood to hardwood to paint to fine finishing to even metal polishing.

Combine that sander with this shop vac and you've got dust free sanding. While Festool has it's own line of vacuums, we've yet to find a better shop vac than the Fein Tool Turbo line, another German tool brand. It's the Mercedes of shop vacs. With a price to match unfortunately, but . It's got an outlet on the front, so that you plug your tool into the vac, and when you turn the tool on the vac comes on automatically as well. When you switch off, the vac counts to five (to get the dust in the line) and then shuts off too. It also is an 'externally-cooled' shop vac, which means that none of the airflow from the vacuum hose is used to cool the motor. This is great, for it means real high-quality dust filtering, endless runtimes, and the ability to run it with no air movement in the hose at all for use with vacuum hold-downs and jigs.

While the fine power tools seem to come from Germany, the fine hand tools are all Japanese. Most folks own some variant on a Ryoba saw. I mean heck they sell the things at Home Depot now, do yourself a favor and go get one if you don't already have one. Heck, buy another, they rock. Way more useful, accurate, and easier to cut with for all kinds of applications than traditional saws. If you're so inclined, you can spend a ton on these saws. We don't honestly, for the CNC does the cutting. However, one little guy we just love is the Azebiki. It's originally made for boat-building, but we've found it perfect for cutting up scraps and weeding parts. It's head shape and flexible blade allows it to cut right into the face of a panel and into weird corners and slots, which is perfect for cutting tabs and waste wood away from our parts on the CNC table (i.e. "weeding").

See, small parts like to move when getting cut out by CNC. A lot of the time we'll add tiny tabs into the cutting job, so that the robot leaves little 1/8" thick bridges at key points of the part. It's best to cut these tabs off prior to pulling the parts off the table, so that you don't wind up pulling off any face veneer too. A close cut also saves sanding time by having a short tab, so it's a win-win.

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Finally, when it comes to tough tools that quickly, efficiently, and eloquently get the job done while looking great too, we turn to our fellow Americans. Our Shopbot is a great example, our Apple laptops another, but we're talking hand-tools, and there ain't a better example we've found recently than the wonderful Stanley Fubar. We got one for some wall demolition we needed to do in the new digs. Wonderfully designed, this little demo hammer lets one tear anything down with frightening speed. It also looks, well, pretty bad ass to boot. Made of a special near-indestructible alloy, the hammer head and prybar end work great for breaking things apart and pulling nails, while the giant claw on the back makes short work of anything that gets close to it's metal grip (2x4's, plywood, drywall...). It comes in two sizes, awesome and super-awesome-two-handed-ork-slayer versions!

Jeffrey McGrew