Friday, April 16, 2010

Some Decisions Reached

Here's the third installment in the past couple of weeks in regards to buying a few new tools with a small windfall of money I received. The previous post, "The Search Continues", generated some great comments and helpful advice and I'm grateful.

I have pulled the trigger, so to speak, on a few purchases. The fellow with the Multico PM22 did get back to me, evidently not insulted by my offer of $500 on his machine, and he counter-offered $600. I then asked him to split the difference at $550, which he accepted. I sent him the money yesterday and have arranged trucking at a fairly reasonable $160 from the machine's location in Iowa out here to Massachusetts. I did receive a message back from a company in France which seems to have some knowledge about what became of Multico, and when the right person gets back into their office this coming Monday, I should be able to get a more detailed reply. Hopefully it will be good news.

I've gone ahead with buying the Multico despite the possibility that the company might be defunct and no parts available. This was not any easy decision, especially in light of my past experience with an older Felder combination machine. Why did I do this? Brain damage my friends, pure and simple.

Well, my reasoning (and I use that term loosely) is that there are relatively few working parts to the mortising machine, and the main wearing parts, the tooling (the hollow chisels) are not unique to just Multico but available from many suppliers, so I thought that the odds were good that there wasn't much that could go wrong. Given the straightforwardness and robustness of the machine's design, if something did go wrong it should be relatively easy to fix and adjust. The motor could die, of course, but motors are easily rebuilt.

This particular machine, you see, is just very attractive to me due to it's capacity to flip from vertical to horizontal cutting (and every angle along that 90˚ sweep). I have come across a couple of pictures of the Multico from a French website which show this well. Here's the machine in the upright configuration:


This newer version has a much longer front support plate and the factory stand. I'm hoping I might be able to locate those items. There is also an available drilling conversion set to allow the mortiser to work like a drill press, and I hope to obtain that at some point as well.

Here's the machine flipped down, mortising into the end of a board, using the drilling set up instead of the hollow chisel:


So, we'll see what unfolds, heh-heh, over the next while - hopefully I will be able to locate some of those parts, but in the worst case I will simply need to fabricate them. I can weld and machine stuff, so it wouldn't be too tough to build a copy of that stand.

Another item which I came across just a day or two ago, which hadn't been considering of late but was something I had been wanting for some time, is a granite surface plate. Here's the one I came across in the local classifieds:


It is a 12" x 18" x 4" Starrett Crystal Pink surface plate, grade A, and largely unused. The seller had a machine shop of some kind which he closed down a year or so back. He was asking $150, which is pretty decent considering the retail price on a new one is $260 or thereabouts. I sent him some prices off of Ebay on other surface plates which were of comparable size and quality, and he asked me to make an offer. We agreed on a price of $90 and he will even deliver it. Nice guy! While there are Chinese-made plates of adequate flatness for my needs available for only $30~40, the shipping costs are easily going to take the total price over what I paid. The pink granite is nice because it is a local material (and the Starrett factory is in fact about 30 minute's drive from my house), and apparently outlasts the black granite by 5 times due to its higher quartz content. So I now have a superb reference for flat, more than sufficient for my needs, which will last me the rest of my life. I'll be using it primarily as a surface to attach PSA-backed abrasive paper for dressing my water stones and flattening the bottom of my planes.

And I have decided upon one more item, also not originally in contemplation, but wanted, and that is a set of precision collets for my large Porter Cable router. This router is a 'slug' I use in my router table, and Porter Cable's stock collets aren't the most precisely made units. I had been doing some reading on the topic and came across a link to a US company, Precise Bits, which makes high- and ultra-precision collets and lock rings for PC routers. I ordered the set of the ultra-precision collets, 0.5", 0.25" and 8mm. These have an incredibly small run-out of less than 0.0002" and are suitable for use up to 100,000 rpm (a speed which is far beyond what my router can achieve). I had noticed slight vibration with my router, and hopefully these collets will cure it, and at very least will prolong the life of the bearings and give me the cleanest possibly routs. One more weak link in the chain has been removed.

As far as the other power tools I have been contemplating, I keep looking and have hesitated to make a decision yet.

I have learned a few more things in the past few days. For example, I discovered that there is a small tooling company making better knives for the Dewalt 735 planer, out of HSS but thicker and more durable. That would remove the major objection I had to that product, however I am still leaning towards the Makita 2012NB. I've ruled out the Ridgid as it simply has too much plastic for my liking and has a reputation for sniping as there is no cutterhead lock. The 12.5" Dewalt 734 is the only other candidate I'm thinking about, or maybe a used older 733 model with the re-sharpenable knives if I can find one with light use. I wonder why Bosch doesn't make a portable planer?

I compared the Bosch portable table saw to the Ridgid model, and while it has some nice features, like soft start and and an aluminum shroud around the blade, the fence on the Bosch is not as nice as the Ridgid, and neither is its miter gage. I'm therefore still leaning towards the Ridgid, but I haven't decided yet.

I've been considering getting a decent 1/2" (13mm) electric drill. Makita has one for the US market, but it is only 6amp and doesn't have the oomph, in my experience, for driving longer timber screws. And it is hardly their top of the line. A much better Makita 13mm drill is this one:


All metal body, totally old school standard and 9 amp motor. The price isn't so bad at ¥16,000~17,000, but the shipping tacks another ¥8000 or so onto that.

The sliding chopsaw has come down to a decision between the Makita 10" or 12" newer type DXT model, with 4-rail system (like Festool's Kapex), or the Ridgid 12". The Makita has a nice motor and direct drive, but some of the little adjustment features seem cheesy, and I haven't been able to figure out in the store how to get the saw head to tilt to the right (!) - and neither could the sales 'associate' in the store (!!). The Ridgid has poor dust collection and a 2-rail design, but the work table is nice and large, it rotates to 60˚ or more each way, and the protractor on the back for tilting the head is large and easy to read.

And about Ridgid and that lifetime warranty I mentioned in the previous posting: as it turns out, when you look at the fine print it's not actually a lifetime warranty, it's a lifetime service agreement. If, within the first month of purchase, you send in your receipt and the bar code off the machine's cardboard box to register, you get a deal where the machine will be serviced for free (including parts) for the lifetime of the tool. This work is not carried out, or assessed by, the local HD store, but rather has to be sent to the nearest approved tool repair center where they look at the tool and decide if the repairs needed are warranty-covered or not. Moreover, in the fine print I learned that 'commercial use' is not covered by this warranty.

I guess some people out there, who upon hearing from the store's 'associate' that there is a 'lifetime (something)' take that to mean there is a lifetime warranty, kind of like Sears Department store or Snap-On tools has - these sorts of warranties let the owner return the tool at any point if it gets damaged and they will just give you a new one. I've read accounts of people who have bought something from Home Depot, and didn't bother with sending in the receipt and registering their item, who are showing up to the store with their broken or worn-out tool expecting that Home depot will just give them a free replacement on the spot. And when they find out that such is not the case these people apparently fly into a rage storm out vowing to never return, and often write some inflammatory comments on line afterwards. Caveat emptor - buyer beware, however in this case I mean to beware of these sorts of buyers.

Now, Home Depot also allows people to return the tool within the first 90 days for a full refund, no questions asked. Believe it or not, what some people do as a result of this policy is to buy a tool, use it for some project for 90 days, and then return it for their refund. Kind of a 'free-rental' program I guess. And some people apparently will buy a new tool, then come back to Home Depot later with an old beat-up tool in the same package as the new one came in, using the receipt from the new one to claim a return. Scamming the company is an objective for some folks, almost a full-time job even.

Of course Home Depot is well aware of these practices. One Home Depot former employee related an account on an online forum of some guy who came in the store in the Spring to buy the most expensive ride-on lawn mower they carried. And then precisely 90 days later, he would bring it back for a full refund, having used it continuously in the meantime. After the third year, Home Depot, which keeps track of these sorts of things (associated to the purchaser's credit card or similar I imagine), told the guy not to come back and that they wouldn't be selling him any more mowers. He apparently stormed out angrily as a result. It is interesting to read such tales of people and their overblown sense of entitlement. I would say that sense of entitlement is one of the leading social diseases in the western world, particularly in the White male western world. That, of course is another topic.

So, you've got a store with a 'warranty' that isn't quite what it appears to be, and people who take advantage of that sort of policy to screw the store over. It's a nice dance, but just thinking about it leaves me feeling a bit dismal. What happened to simple square trading? No BS return policy? People treating each other with respect? Is it all about who can dupe who the quickest? Dog eat dog? Jeez.

Anyway, my search continues yet further, and I'll be posting more as I find out more. For those readers out there who live in financially straightened conditions at present, I hope you do not take offense at my account and the relative luxury of choice I am faced with at present, and can be content to vicariously enjoy the tool shopping. These are the first significant tools I've been able to buy in more than 2 years and I want to honor my mother's gift by choosing wisely. I hope that makes sense to readers.

Thanks for dropping by today. Your comments are most welcome.

7 comments:

  1. You certainly are the sophisticated tool buyer, Chris!

    Your details of the background research on the tools combined with the actual tools bought plus the reasons for the decisions behind each purchase certainly makes for a story! Much different than my own experiences searching the arid Danish fleamarkets for that..one...last...chisel to make up the set.

    More please and cheers from Copenhagen!

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  2. The Multico seems really impressive.

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  3. I had forgot to mention in a previous comment about tablesaws is that most contractor type saws do not accept dado blades. The arbors are not long enough. Dunno if one out there has addressed the issue or not. The Dewalt I have doesn't fit them. Makita's 2711 didn't fit the bill either.
    Also funny about the Rigid and it's proffesional use warranty policy. Real curious is that Crapsman ( Craftsman from Sears) "Proffesional" series is not warrantied for pro use either.... duh
    c on da BIG

    So which Multico did you get? The first pic yesturday?

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  4. Jerome,

    hello my friend, nice to hear from you out there in Denmark. glad to hear you're enjoying the read and more posts will be coming along.

    Damien, yes, I agree completely.

    C, the Ridgid portable can accept a dado head, and I seem to think the Bosch does as well.

    The Multico I got is the same model as pictured in the previous post, which is identical to the one in the above post except for the extra deep front mounting plate and the factory stand. I'm hoping I can obtain that front plate and the stand eventually, or I will see if I can fabricate the stand at least. The mounting plate is something a machine shop could make up pretty easily if I had the measurements for it.

    ~Chris

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  5. Hi Chris,

    I've been enjoying the vicarious tool shopping, especially since my tool budget has been spent on far less glamorous things lately (pipe staging, which is still a little fun, in its way). I don't know if I have much to add to the conversation other than confirming that you're on the right track.

    I can't speak to the quality of Rigid tools, though most people I know that own them seem to like them, and are otherwise reasonably sane. I own a Delta 22-580 thickness planer, purchased used, which has held up ok... the blades seem to hold up well... But I'd probably go with the Makita if I were buying new. For a miter saw I have a Makita LS1013, also purchased used, which has a million miles on it and still runs like a champ. I see them in the service shop all the time, looking like they've survived bomb blasts, awaiting a few repairs before going back into the field. I don't know much about the new four rail model... For drills I know a guy in heavy construction who loves his Bosch 'Bulldogs' and Hilti products, and won't shut up about them.

    I also struggle with the question of where to make tool purchases. For larger/more expensive tools I always look on craigslist first, and I've had tremendous luck. There is a glut of decent stuff out there, especially in this part of the country. Your monster jointer is lurking somewhere nearby, waiting for the right time to surface (...pun not intended). It gives me some satisfaction when I can put money into the hands of another tool user, rather than a faceless website or box store.

    For hand held power tools I know that there still are tool shops around that cater to professionals, that carry a decent but maybe limited selection of tools that they stand behind with good service. I don't know about western Mass, but closer to Boston I know of a few stores like this. They carry tools that I can't find at HD, and would otherwise need to order online. And talking to the guy behind the counter (usually the owner) is always educational.

    Anyway, it looks like the mortiser is perfect for your work, and I look forward to reading about your experience with it. The info on Precision Bits and Infinity tools is great to know, thanks for sharing all your research.

    -Matt

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  6. Hi Chris,
    I am a regular follower of your blog. You are constantly challenging me.

    I recently read a book of nursery rhymes by Rudyard Kipling to my daughters (ages 2 and 3) that reminded me of this blog post and the reference to western male entitlement. Here is the poem as best as I can remember.

    When I am grown to man's estate
    I shall be very tall and great
    And the other girls and boys
    Not to mettle with my toys!

    That probably explains a lot about English/American history if not western civilization.

    Peace,
    Harlan Barnhart

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  7. Hi, Chris-

    Came across your Multico PM22 comments via a Google search. I have one which I am going to be selling, in excellent condition and with the stand. I have purchased a large industrial General morticer (about $11,000 new) and don't have room for 2 machines.
    I was interested to read your comments re: difficulty contacting the manufacturer. I lost the manual to my machine during a move, and contacted Multico in France. They are indeed still in business, and parts, if needed, appear to be readily available. They promptly mailed a new manual to me at no charge. It is indeed a fine and versatile machine, unmatched to my knowledge. And by the way: you absolutely stole that one. I paid over $2000. for mine from Garret Wade, and will likely be asking about $1200. for it (including stand, chisels, etc.) FOB Asheville, NC. Anyone interested can email me: rjharper1 (at) bellsouth (dot) net. Piece that address together. Congrats on your great deal, Chris!

    Bob Harper

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