Steve McConnell Text Banner

 

Home Theater Tools 

Modern power tools are an invaluable aid to weekend home do it yourselfers like me. Here are some of the tools I used.

DeWalt DW706 compound miter saw. This saw is awesome! It got a lot of use cutting panel molding, as well as base cap molding and crown molding. I replaced the factory blade with a finer tooth blade for cutting millwork. This project would have been impossible without a good compound miter saw. I have no idea how this saw compares to other similar saws since this is the only one I've used, but it seems to work great. For a lot of my project, I was sawing molding in the media room, which had the potential to spew a lot of sawdust. I hooked up my small shop vac to the hose connector at the back of the saw. Having the shop vac on is noisy, but it does reduce the amount of dust that gets thrown around. I also found that if I cut slowly, the vacuum sucked up a higher percentage of the sawdust. 
DeWalt DW368 circular saw. This is not a particularly high-end circular saw, but it has worked very well for my needs. It is powerful enough to do long rips on 3/4" plywood, and the sights are very easy to use. It never binds up. Prior to this saw, I was using a Skilsaw that my Dad had had at least since the mid 1970s that got handed down to me after college. On cuts where the Skilsaw binds up or labors, the DeWalt cuts through effortlessly. Of course, that might have something to do with the fact that I had never changed the blade. Hmmm ... 
Craftsman 10" Table Saw. This is a low- to mid-range table saw, and it also worked well for my needs. I had to rip lots and lots of plywood for the project, including the runners for the paneling, the vertical pieces for the columns, the base boards, etc. The black dust collection bag that you see in the picture doesn't really do a whole lot. After doing my whole project, it has collected about 1/4 bag's worth of dust. Meanwhile, I've had to vacuum up 1/4" layers of dust from my garage several times. I don't suppose the bag is hurting anything, but it doesn't seem to help much either. I really like the quick-release fence on this saw. 
Black and Decker JS700K Jig Saw. This is the top-end jig saw from a relatively low-end manufacturer. I had a lot of trouble with jig saws on this project, probably because I didn't really know what I was doing! I burnt out the motor on my old SkilSaw jig saw, then I tried to use another really old jig saw, and was scared by the lack of safety features. (One of the goals for the project was that I would still have all my fingers at the end of the project, and the old saw started to put that goal at risk.) This saw works fine. It's powerful, it takes pretty much any blades you might have on hand, and I like the dust blower feature and the light.
Porter Cable Plate Joiner. The plate joiner is a pretty specialized tool. I debated about whether I really needed this tool (which cost $169 at Home Depot, with rebate), but it really helps when joining pieces of wood side by side, i.e., joining paneling that I didn't want to come apart.
Ear protection. A couple years ago, I bought a 200 pack of ear plugs from Duluth Trading Company. 200 pairs of ear plugs might seem excessive, but I found that when I had only a few pairs on hand, I'd always be wondering whether it was really worth using the ear plugs, and I often wouldn't use them. With 200 pairs on hand (at a cost of $0.15 a pair), now I always use ear plugs and don't worry about using them up.


Dust Mask and Respirator. I hadn't realized how sensitive I was to breathing sawdust until I started wearing a dust mask consistently. I stopped coughing almost entirely.

I don't like the kind of plain papery dust mask that covers my mouth and nose. It gets clammy inside the mask pretty quickly. It also seems to force the exhaled air up under the safety glasses, which makes the glasses fog up. If I'm working in my garage on a cold day, that makes me choose between the mask or the safety goggles. Hmmm. Would I rather lose my eye or cough a little? I'd rather cough a little, but I don't really like those as the only two options.

3M makes a variation on the plain papery mask that has a little flapper valve in the front that opens when you exhale. It's a dollar or two more than the plain version, but I found that it didn't get anywhere near as clammy, and after trying it, I doubt that I'll ever use the clammy kind again.

For the final stage of my project, I was applying stain and polyurethane in an enclosed space. I had all the windows in my basement wide open, and two 20" fans blowing the air into the media room and around inside the media room, but there were still some pretty strong fumes in the media room. The AO Safety respirator, which cost about $25, worked incredibly well. With the respirator on, I couldn't smell the fumes at all. It was actually kind of spooky to be breathing clean-smelling air with the respirator on, loosen it a little bit, and get an overwhelming hit of fumes. There's no clammy feeling whatsoever with the respirator, and I found the fitting over my mouth and nose to be comfortable. It is a little heavy (certainly heavier than the paper masks), but I wore it for 2-3 hours at a time and the weight really wasn't much of an issue. .

Email me at stevemcc@construx.com.