Counting the cost

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Established Member
19 Sep 2011
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Nr. Swansea
When I first started to attend craft fairs I did not have the equipment that I have today. I made things with the limited equipment I had at the time and it was very time consuming to achieve the quality I was after. When I looked at the cost of buying everything I needed it came as a shock, there was no way I could afford these lovely things that would considerably speed up the process and do it professionally.

The money from the craft fairs would have to pay for everything I would need in the workshop so I started off making simple things and these sold very well. I knew exactly what I wanted in the way of equipment and the order in which I would buy it when the funds became available. It was a frustrating period for many a time I was tempted to buy a cheaper item other than the one on my list but I managed to resist the temptation and went for what I had listed.

If I were just doing it as a hobby then the cost would have been a lot less but I was attending two craft fairs every week and the other five days were spent in the workshop often working 14 hours a day so the equipment I needed had to be of good quality and very reliable. If one machine went down I would be up a creek without a paddle.

I spent ages on the computer looking at the various suppliers and reading the reviews of the things I needed. I went and had a look in my nearest branch of machine mart and all the stuff I looked at was awful, very poor quality, badly put together, rough edges etc and for what I had in mind would not last five minutes.

I think it took about a year to get all that I needed thanks to excellent sales at the craft fairs. I had a very good scroll saw but it was 25 years old so I decided to go for a replacement. I looked at the Hegner clone that had not long become available but the reviews I read were not very good and a few members on here were disappointed with theirs. A new scroll saw had just hit the market called the Excalibur. It had been widely available in America for some time and the reviews I read from there were good so I went and bought a 21 and I think I paid about £500 for it. Initially I was very pleased with it but as the weeks went past I started to get problems. I could not believe how bad the blade clamps were and today I think they have been changed. I ended up taking the saw back and got a refund. I then found out that the American Excalibur’s were made to a higher quality than the ones imported to the UK. Hopefully Axminster have addressed the problems. I may at some point later this year consider buying the largest Hegner saw but they would have to do me a very good deal on it if I did so as they are so overpriced.

I was now left with one choice and it had to be a Hegner and bought the 2S with the cast iron table and variable speed. I had a couple of gripes about it. The table was very small and the speed was not fast enough. As it happened it went back to Hegner as the table had to be replaced and while it was there they upped the speed for me to 1650, which made a huge difference when cutting thick hardwood.

The next item on my list was a drill press. I could get one for as little as £50 and would be perfect for drilling entry holes. I considered this an essential purchase because some of the entry holes have to be deadly accurate and some of the drill bits used were as small as 1mm, for which I bought a mini chuck that fits into the main chuck of the drill press. The smaller drill presses would not have been any good as they lacked the torque for drilling holes with a 50mm saw toothed forstner bit that would house the glass containers for T lights on the candle holders I planned on making. I went for a large drill press that set me back £400 and again, it has never let me down. I love this machine. It has a solid cast iron table that winds up and down with a handle and has a very accurate depth stop, which is essential for me.

The next purchase was a router and a router table. There were so many tables available and in the end went for one under the Axminster label. When I looked at the picture of the table I knew it was exactly what I wanted. It had a solid cast iron table that was almost 2 inches thick. If I had known at the time what I know now I would never have bought it and felt it was a real con on Axminsters part. When you buy this router table you just get the framework and an MDF top, everything else is an optional extra and yet the picture shows a complete router table. To get the cast iron table I had to pay an extra £100, this brought it up to £300. I then had to buy a table insert, another £52. I complained to Axminster as they were clearly flouting the trade description act and I must admit they were very good, they sent me a pile of stuff that was showing on the picture of the table, things like feather boards and Mitre fence etc.

I only needed a small ¼ inch router but it had to have some welly behind it and I went for a Makita that was £150. I bought round about 15 router cutters with an average price of £20 each. Because I am disabled I struggle to bend so I needed a router elevator. The one Axminster sold would have cost me over £250, although it was very nice and had excellent reviews I was not prepared to pay that sort of money. In the end I went to Halfords and bought a scissor jack for £15 and it does exactly the same job. It’s that good I can adjust the height with finger and thumb and don’t need the jack handle.

The reason for the router and router table is that scrolled items have a square edge to them and with a lot of items I make they just do not look right. With a rounded over edge the items are so much more presentable, they look more professional and I sell a lot more than if they had a square edge. I have six cutters for rounding over, each one a different size. Many of the things I make have a base or plinth and most of these I round over on both sides and they look really good when the items are on display. On other items I am able to round over the internal cuts as well, especially on things with a heart on.

Next on my list was a belt/disc sander. A belt 4 inches wide and a 6 inch disc would fit the bill. There were loads to choose from but the thing is I found is that it did not have to be a good quality machine as most of them were all about the same anyway. I bought a far eastern import. It went back after a few months as the motor burnt out and I was given a brand new replacement and I still use it today. The only problem with these cheap sanders is that they lack power and I am about to replace it with an industrial type sander that will set me back £500.

Next item was a cross cut saw, again there was a very wide selection available, probably over 100 different models, all with brush motors rather than induction motors. In the end I went for a big Dewalt model and that set me back nearly £700. It’s a lovely machine, will cross cut over 13 inches, bevels to any angle and cross cuts to any angle. Has a depth stop for housings. I mainly use it for cutting wood to the size of the patterns I am using but also use it for many other applications, like all the machines in the workshop it is an invaluable piece of kit that saves a lot of time doing things by hand.

I thought very carefully about the dust problem, especially as my workshop is my spare bedroom. I needed extraction from the scroll saw, which makes a huge amount of dust, especially airborne dust. I also needed extraction from the cross cut saw, the belt sander and the router table. I ended up buying an air filter, a large Numatic drum extractor and two Henry’s. One Henry is permanently fixed to the scroll saw bench while the other is used for general workshop cleaning after a hard days work on the saw. The Numatic is used on the other three machines for which there are hose adaptors. In the end it cost me well over £1000 to get the extraction side of things sorted out.

I must have spent another £2000 or so on other items like the Dremel and all the various attachments and tools. I have a cordless drill that has lots of uses. A power planer, another router for hand held use. 4 different power sanders and a mains powered drill. On top of all of this you have the cost of drill bits. Some of the saw toothed forstner bits I have cost a small fortune. Then there is a wide range of abrasives, wood finishing items and then I have a very wide range of hand tools that would add another £1000 or so to the overall cost.

So when you add it all up it comes to a lot of money but I feel it is money well spent on equipment that is of good quality and it has not let me down. If one of my machines were to let me down I would be stuck, I could not progress with the work in hand. I would have to buy a replacement immediately, but that has not happened yet. Do I need all the items I have listed, absolutely. In my game speed is of the essence and at the end of the day the machines I use have paid for themselves many times over.

Not only do I attend craft fairs but I also supply craft centres. I also make bulk items for schools and businesses. I used to have a web site but closed it down as I got to busy and was afraid of letting people down. I do have a Facebook page and I get many orders through it. I also get customers ringing me at home with orders so all in all I am kept very busy. I am not complaining as I simply love it when I am at the saw but I don’;t like working under a lot of pressure.

I may get an order for 25 of the same item and when you are making repetitive items you want to make them as quickly as possible as the boredom factor can be horrendous. As many of you know I made 1000 hearts from 6mm ply last year. They were about 6 inches across. I had it down to a fine art and could make 4 in a minute. Another item I get to make a lot of should, in theory, have a housing or half lap joint in it but I was fortunate in being able to get some blades that resembled a hacksaw blade and again I was churning one out every 15 seconds instead of the half hour I was paid for to make each one. The idea of the large blades was to get very accurate straight lines. As the items were painted afterwards it did not matter how I made them as long as they looked right.

Another side to my small business is the computer side of things, without this I would not have a business. I do all my designs on the computer. I would also add that without my son I would not have a business at all. Since leaving school he has worked with computers and he is now manager of a government department responsible for the IT work and computer programming. He is also about to have his second book published so I am very proud of him. If he buys a computer programme it may well be licensed for 20 users but maybe only seven people use it so I am able to get a copy and I have programs like photoshop, firefox and a few others. If I were to buy all the software that I have I would be looking at a few grand. They are brilliant tools for doing design work but difficult to master properly. They are like smart phones; you never get to use everything that’s on them.

When I first got into doing my own designs I had an ordinary PC that was always letting me down so my son got me an apple I Mac, brilliant machine. Today I still use the same computer but in addition I have an apple laptop my son gave me for my birthday. I take it to the craft fairs and show a slideshow of the things I make and it has got me several orders by doing so.
Printing cost can be quite high so I use a laser printer and I can get through a ream of paper in a month without any problems at all. The main issue is that, as we all know, it only prints in black and for me there is nothing worse than cutting a pattern with solid black lines. I can greatly reduce the blackness to a light gray and have very thin lines on the patterns. I find it hard to follow the line accurately when the line is a solid black as the blades are black as well and even 1mm out can ruin an item.
A couple of months back my printer died so the same day I went out and bought another as I could not be a single day without the printer. I was fortunate that in PC world they had some printers on clearance and I managed to get one for £50 instead of the £200 it should have been. Later on I looked up the cost of a replacement drum and toner and it was clear that should this current printer pack up it will be cheaper to buy a new printer so I may go for a colour laser and print patterns with thin red lines.

A very interesting post, and would fully agree with your ethos of quality tools/equipment, the only thing I would question is why you did not go with dust extraction powered by induction motors.

Regarding motors, I suppose the reason I favour induction, is that I spent all of my working live as an industrial electrical engineer, this involved working with motors of 50/60 hp, being the smallest, going up to multi 100’s hp, building, installing and maintaining auto control gear for same.

The other part of your post, regarding the computer side of your work, leaves me cold as it’s something I am unable to master #-o , I hold you and anyone else that can/have mastered the black art of computing in high regard. I can understand how proud you are of your son.

Take care.

Chris R.
Your use of Photoshop on a 'borrowed' licence is likely to be against the terms of your son's organisations licence agreement with Adobe. Hence your use could be considered illegal by Adobe and may get your son into hot water with his employer.
Chris. As far as I was aware I did get induction motors. When the air filter is going you have to get up right close to hear it working. The Numatic and the Henry's are also very quiet and I had assumed they had induction motors. They are all very well made and still performing as well now as when I bought them.
Mseries. The software that I have was bought by my son and not his employer so it's all perfectly legal. I even have updates from the makers from time to time.
Brian. I have a coffee maker that sits in the kitchen but she is out right now. I have thought about a bobbin sander many times but feel I can do just the same job on the disc sander. I can understand how it is very useful for intarsia but most of my projects are square or oval. I mainly use the disc for rounding over one corner as I start the cut on a corner and obviously finish in the same place so sometimes there is a little stub that needs sanding off.
Chippygeoff":ccmgyion said:
As far as I was aware I did get induction motors. When the air filter is going you have to get up right close to hear it working. The Numatic and the Henry's are also very quiet and I had assumed they had induction motors.

Geoff, as far as I know every vacuum cleaner sold in at least the last 80 years has been fitted with a universal motor, that is one with carbon brushes and an armature, there are several reasons for this one being the weight, an induction motor needed for a vac would be large and heavy compared to a universal motor, also speed, most standard induction motors run at around 1400rpm, the speed being governed by the frequency of the mains supply (generally 50Hz) some induction motors will do double that for example the one on my Coronet Major machine runs at around 2800rpm, whereas in a basic universal motor the max speed is governed by the resistance of the windings, for example the old hooverette cleaner used a universal motor running at 20,000rpm!

Numatic make the Henry cleaners and they all have universal motors, many bigger dust extractors do use induction motor but they work in a different way to a normal vac type cleaner or device.
Hi Geoff
Like you I am funding my workshop equipment through craft fair sales. I started with a generic Chinese saw I bought second hand for €60 and a orbital sander. So far I have bought a Hegner multicut 1 ( from my friend Eugene aka Boysie) who also gave me a large amount of blades and a few other goodies that were invaluable.
This year( 2014) I bought a drill press, dust extractor, belt and disc sander, router and router table. One of the best things I got is an air compressor. I recon I have spent about € 400 on sundries such as wood oils and stains, varnishes, sand paper, table and the hundred and one other things that I use.
There is nothing as good as the feeling you get when you sell enough at a fair to be able to afford the piece of equipment you need.
By the way, a good coffee maker is as important as a good saw !!
Scrimper, please don’t take this as a hijack of your post, that is not intended.

But just a little more info regarding induction motor speed, which may be of interest to any one obtaining a motor.

The poles of the motor being 120deg apart.

f=supply frequency. (50Hz being the frequency of our UK mains supply).

p=number of poles.


Ns= 120xf/p

Which makes a four pole motor running on 50Hz, have 1500 rpm, but as an induction runs with slip, to obtain torque we get the nominal 1450rpm induction motor which is the one fitted to most workshop/home equipment.

The more poles a motor has the slower it runs, but has greater torque.

Example a six pole motor would run at 1000rpm.

Hope this is of interest and not to heavy for a Monday morning. #-o

Plus I appreciate this is a little off Geoff’s original topic, sorry.

Chris R.
OT again, but I'm interested. What does Dyson use to generate very high rpm? He talks of 10's of thousands.

Edit : brushless DC at over 100,000 rpm.
Great post, Geoff, and as always I'm left wondering what kind of stock you carry at the fairs? I've slowly realised that I need to change from making things I want people to want, to things they actually do, the awkward pippers :) My quirkier stuff does sell, but not in great numbers. This year I'm going to try more mainstream stuff, but I'm still at a slight loss as to what to try first. I believe signage is a seller, especially the slightly humorous sort. Does that sound on the right track?

I'm hoping to get a small router next payday, for exactly the reason you mentioned, but won't be able to buy a table for some time. Do smaller routers fir into tables or will I have I buy a larger one in the future?
A Bobbin sander is one tool I have been planning to buy over the last 10 years but never get around to it.
So I would be interested in a review.

I did make one of my own using a drill press but it does not have the up and down oscillating movement which means I have to keep adjusting it t avoid wearing out the abrasive in one place.
nadnerb":1s9cj3g3 said:
One of the best things I got is an air compressor.

I inherited one of these and almost chucked it as I could not think of much to do with it apart from pumping up tyres and blowing dust off things!
I would be interested in your reasons as to why it's one of the best items you have bought? :)
scrimper":3nhdfl6i said:
nadnerb":3nhdfl6i said:
One of the best things I got is an air compressor.

I inherited one of these and almost chucked it as I could not think of much to do with it apart from pumping up tyres and blowing dust off things!
I would be interested in your reasons as to why it's one of the best items you have bought? :)

I use my compressor every day, and yes, I do use it for pumping up tyres and blowing dust off things. :mrgreen: I do have a lot of air tools that aren't used as much since I stopped repairing cars, but I would hate to be without the compressor.