Help me spend £20k on a small joinery workshop!

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Hippo

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I live in Angola where I am building a fishing lodge on the banks of the Rio Kwanza estuary consisting of 12 cottages and a restaurant.

I have decided that I would like to import the kit I would need to open a small joinery workshop. I want to be able to make the components for future cottages and other wood buildings (mainly dimensioning rough timber, planing and jointing, tongue and groove for floor and wall planks); doors and windows; simple furniture such as beds, bedside cabinets, coffee and dining tables, chairs, wardrobes, cupboards, bookshelves, kitchen cabinets etc.; children’s climbing frames and playparks.

I know sod all about carpentry and joinery but my local crew is very good. The current build is nearly over and I want to open the workshop to keep them in a job and make a business out of it.

We have plenty of good timber here, mainly African Teak and Mahogany, which comes rough cut into planks from the sawmill.

I emailed a blogging pal of mine in UK who is a woodcraftsman and he suggested I asked you all for your opinion on what equipment and tools I should buy. I have around £20,000 to spend and space in a 40 foot container half full of commercial catering equipment to bring the stuff over.

Like I say, I know very little about this (I am a retired Army Bomb Disposal Officer building his dream of a Sport Fishing Lodge so he can spend his time chasing Tarpon and trying to write like Ernest Hemingway) but as I see it I need tools and equipment to dimension the wood, shape it, joint it, mould it and then sand and finish it to make it look nice. In order for me to get a better idea, my friend also suggested I took a look at the Axminster site which I have done and think their ‘Trade’ range of machines looks good. But I will also need hand power tools, hand tools and all the other things that a workshop needs (he says I cannot have too many clamps).

As this stuff is for export, I ideally need to buy all this kit from one supplier and new will be better than second hand, especially as I am not paying VAT, and I will have just the one place to contact for spares and consumables.

I would be very grateful for your opinion.
 

tobytools

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If buying from one supplier (makes things harder for yourself) contact Axminster, they should be able to help with any questions you needs and if you mention your looking to spend 20k I'm sure they will do there best.
Good luck with the dream. I'm currently following my dream and studying furniture craft.

All the best
TT
 

morfa

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I'd second the buy from Axminster line. I suspect they'd be able to put together a workshop for that amount of money.
 

doctor Bob

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If you are doing it for commercial purposes I wouldn't go near Axminister.
Way better machines on the market from other dealers.
I started my business off with £22000, ten years ago, with the following machines.

Panel saw new)
Speed sander (new)
Planer thicknesser (used)
Spindle moulder used
Rip saw used
Mitre saw new
Router table new
Routers new
Jigsaw new
Biscuiter new
sash Clamps used
cordless drills
Handtools and a few other powertools
 

Stuart

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Starting a workshop is such a wonderful thing to do to help the people in Angola. I wish you every success. 20K sounds a lot but it is easy to spend that much on a workshop and still not have what you need so take your time. Most shops buy second hand to begin with and a lot of joinery businesses fail and sell up and there are bargains to be had doing this.
If you have set you heart on new my advice is do not let a supplier like Axminster fill half a container for you, they are sales men!
I have worked in various African countries on short term volunteer projects helping expat workers on building projects mostly for refugees. African carpenters, joiners and boat builder make things with basic tools that we would think impossible, I have seen fishing boats made with hand tools and just a band saw and planer thicknesser that I would have thought impossible. What often lets their work down, in our eyes is the finish, they don't add ovelos to mouldings, sand surfaces or have access to good hardware so what is well made looks crude and half finished.

I have worked with them and they can be heavy handed with machinery and the Axminster trade range is Chinese, you need to do your own quality checks, you can read a lot on this forum about their range of machinery being sent back to them.

A comprehensive range joinery machinery is produced in the UK in Leeds by a company called M. Sedgwick and Co Ltd. email; [email protected] and I can recommend the machinery they make as I have bought and used their machines for years. (and the men I employed).
I serviced the planer of theirs that was 40 years old this morning, in all those years I have only ever cleaned and lubricated the moving parts. (An electrician had to fit a DC brake). The Sedgwick tenoning and mortise machines in the workshop are nearly as old and also work as well now as when first bought.
The only machines you might need that they don't manufacture is 1. a bandsaw, if you have heavy thick timber you need to cut you might need a buy saw like a Stener, Wadkin or other well known make, you could buy a reconditioned one from a firm such as Scott and Sargent, new I think they would break the budget. If the timber is smaller, bandsaws by Startrite are well regarded. 2. Cross cut/radial arm/chop saw

You can buy second hand spindle tooling for making windows, doors, t&g etc and good tooling does not wear out if it is the disposable cutter type, (solid cutters get sharpened away) so solid type might not be such a good buy, or you can blow away a few grand on new.
You will need a range of saw blades, a grinder, pillar drill

In the UK we have to used efficient dust extraction, will the shop be open or inside a building?

African boat builders and joiners will love having loads of clamps but are skilled at working without them, they will draw bore, use wedges, props, ropes and other devises to pull timber together. (Even in UK workshops clamps/cramps grow legs.)
You can make your own benches but you need to budget for vices for the benches.

Before you buy you need to know you have sufficient electrical power, three phase power is the preferred option but I have run single and three phase Sedgwick machines in the past.

I have no contact with Segwick and nothing against Axminster, I am retired, my two sons run a cabinet/ joinery shop and employ 7 men,
I teach woodwork to unemployed teenagers one day a week and have a workshop in my garden.
 

Hippo

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Well, that has certainly given me something to think about!

If the Axminster Trade Series is Chinese then they are out. I should have realised they were too cheap. Not that the Chinese aren't capable of producing some good stuff but I have read too much on this forum today about Axminster machines not working on arrival, needing more than just loving fettling and a boxfull of spare washers to set them up, poor casting and flimsy fittings to risk importing these machines all the way here. It would be a disaster if they did not work accurately more or less straight out of the box.

Buying second hand long distance is fraught with potential problems, not only regarding condition but also customs export documentation. These problems are not insurmountable if you know what you are looking for. All your advice is helping me put together a list of Must Haves, Should Haves and Nice to Haves.

I had a look at the Sedgwick Machines. I can see why they cost more and why they are probably worth every penny. They do not do the full range of machines I think I might need but, if I bought just what they had, that is my budget blown. So, do I buy cheap so I can stay within a budget that was, given my no doubt obvious ignorance, a shot in the dark or do I raise my budget? Given that I want to set up a workshop in an area where there is absolutely no employment or future for the kids here other than subsistence fishing and alcoholism for the boys and teenage pregnancy and servitude for the girls, I want these machines to last. I want my carpenters to be the core of the team and I want to offer apprenticeships to the local youngsters. There is a demand for the product here and as has been pointed put, they do construct to a very high standard but let the product down with its artisan finish. In desperation for decent restaurant furniture I am buying, in Holland, 64 chairs and 16 tables for fifteen thousand Euros. Sadly this whole idea only occurred to me too late. That 15 thousand Euros would have gone a long way towards buying the machines and I could have made my own tables and chairs.

So, if I upped my budget to £30,000 and bought from Sedgwick's the items I list below, what else do you think I would need?

PT255 Planer Thicknesser
SM255T Spindle Moulder with all the extras
TESH 3 Tenoner
TA450 Table saw and options
571-3 Hollow Chisel Morticer plus extras.

That lot comes to a little bit shy of £19K tax free leaving me 11 grand to spend. Once it is up and running, I can reinvest profits and buy more kit so what I really need now are the essentials and I would rather buy fewer quality items than a container load of trash.

I'd like to thank you all for your help and comments.
 

Hippo

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I forgot to mention, there is no town power here, we are too isolated so power comes from my three phase generator. I will buy another one for the workshop, probably 50 or 60 Kva. I could construct an open workshop but we are only a kilometre from the sea and there is usually quite a heavy dew at night (no rain, sadly) so the machines would rust like hell. I can build it with very large openings but I would have to shut it up at night. I will probably need some form of dust and shaving collection but it does not have to be to the clean air standard expected in a built up area in Europe, we're in the bush here.

Water, both for me and the village comes from the two wells I dug which provide as much drinking water as we need (although I have advised the villagers to boil it first, I drink it fresh from the well with no problems). I am also importing from UK a reverse osmosis plant capable of producing 12 tonnes of potable water per day which should provide enough guaranteed pure water. When I got here a couple of years ago, there was no clean water, they were fetching it out of the river and at least a dozen under fives were dying each year of water borne illnesses. Since I dug the wells, not one. I know this has nothing to do with my question or the subject of this forum, I mention it only to demonstrate my commitment to help the village that has allowed me to make the place my home. I am serious about starting this workshop and annoyed with myself on so many levels I did not think of it earlier.
 

morfa

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I'd say a bandsaw would be essential. As big and as powerful as you can afford.

While it won't be much out of your final total don't neglect to budget for consumables such as blades, glue, sand paper and the like.
 

Stuart

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Hi Hippo
I have been having a sleepless night thinking about your project and wondering how best to advise you and I keep thinking of the African workshops I have been in. For some reason my wife thinks it is sad when on holiday I hear a woodworking machine running and wander in to see what they are making.
20 or so years ago UK health and safety regulations changed and breaks had to be fitted to new and retro fitted to used machines to stop them within a number of seconds. Men like Ashley Amos Woodworking Machinery in Northampton bought up hundreds of quality woodworking machines, Wadkin, Robinson, Cooksley and others as it was not cost effective to fit brakes to them. Ashley and others shipped these to Africa by the container load, they are in every part of Africa now and are still running well.

I made all the restaurant and room furniture, bath panels, vanity units, mini bars and other furniture, the windows and doors windows, stairs etc. for Minster Lovell Conference Center, you can goggle it, I had,
Dewalt radial arm saw
Sedgwick planer thicknesser
Sedwick mortiser
Startright table saw
Kity band saw
2 mobile dust extractors
2 large Elu routers
Electric drills and sanders
2 benches and vices
SASH CRAMPS


At the end of the contract I had enough money to expand and buy a spindle and tooling, a tenoning machine and other plant.

I think if you buy the basics such as the above and maybe some good hand tools for your workforce you will be amazed at what they will do, a spindle is a piece of kit that looks simple but is complex to work properly, it takes years of practice to move beyond the basic rebating stage to dropping on, ring work and jig holding methods. It is also a machine it is easy to get wrong and it will really bite back hard

A tenoner is a wonderful piece of kit if you are making batches of windows and doors, I mean one man producing 20 or so windows or doors a week, if you are only making a few windows or doors it will be wasted. You can cut the shoulders of tenons on a radial arm or chop saw and the cheeks with the band saw.

What I am trying to say is I think you only need the basics to start with.

When is your container being loaded?
 

NickWelford

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do you have a contact here in the UK? I for one could send some old but usable chisels to be included in the container. I'm sure others would help also.
 

Hippo

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This is all brilliant stuff. My blogging pal, realising just how dense I was with things woodworking, has sent me extracts from his college text books which have really cleared things up for me. I now know how a machine with a spinning tool can cut square holes, something I have to confess that had me really bewildered! All I know about woodwork is what I have learnt from helping my carpenters on site and the most complicated machine they had (until it gave up the ghost) was a small table top Dewalt planer thicknesser.

I am going to write to Scott & Sargeant and see how they can help. Last night I chased up Axminster, purely out of idle curiosity. I had written to them sometime before joining this forum and was wondering where they had got to with my request for assistance. This morning I received their reply: 'I am currently awaiting an update for our ordering system, in order for me to enter 'Angola' as part of the invoicing address. Please accept my apologies for this delay.'

I think I might be rushing things by trying to get the kit consolidated with the catering equipment. Besides, the forty foot container is loading in Hamburg so I would have all the hassle of getting the kit to Germany. It is clear that everything I could possibly need would fit into a twenty foot container so I might as well treat the workshop equipment as a separate shipment and do things slowly and carefully. In addition, if the goods all have the same classification, woodworking tools and machinery, Customs clearance in Angola will be far easier than with a mixed container load. Another advantage to taking this steady would be that I can already start building the workshop here so that when the container arrives, the machines can be positioned immediately rather than sit quietly rusting away inside a container.

Dr Bob's comments were very encouraging. If he can get from £22k ten years ago to what he has now (I visited your website), I think that is mazing, especially as UK must be a very competitive market. Here I will have people falling over themselves to get quality windows and doors, for example, as this place since the end of the long running civil war is one big building site. As decent wood windows and doors are hard to get, people tend to use cheap Chinese aluminium doors and windows. I refused to spoil the cottages with them so we made our own using a hand held router and I am importing sliding door hardware from UK to hang all the doors. I hear what you say, Stuart, about the need to keep a tenoner busy to justify its purchase but I think that once word gets around, I might need more than one!

Nick, your offer of chisels is as kind as it is welcome. As it seems likely that I will treat the workshop as a separate shipment, in due course I will have the address of a shipper in UK so your gift could be sent there to be consolidated with the load.
(A good friend will come and bail you out of jail, but a true friend will be sitting next to you saying, "Damn ... That was fun!" ...Brilliant!)
 

Guggs

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Lucky lucky you !
Quite simply buy refurbished Wadkin , Dalton machinery or even Sedgwick . Look for auctions from colleges or hospitals . These machines are bomb proof and require very little in the way of trouble shooting if anything should go wrong and being at your location the last thing you need is unreliable machinery . If they do go wrong a spanner , grease gun and some slide oil will get them working again !

Have fun buying !
 

charvercarver

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What a fantastic project. I understand you haven't even set up the workshop yet, but something to consider for the future is exporting under the fair trade banner. It could be a very sustainable business model that employs a lot of people.
 

RobinBHM

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If may be worth considering a mix of new and used machinery.

For example a wadkin RZ planer thicknesser, a wadkin BCC spindle moulder and possibly a wadkin bandsaw. These are simple machines with no complex electrics or controls but extremely well engineered and heavily built. New machines always seem to come with loads of electrical control gear making long term maintenance more difficult.

If you want to do both joinery and cabinetwork, a 3.2m panel saw will offer the option to cut sheets as well as cut joinery sections to length and straighten waney edged or bowed boards. The sliding bed, running right next to the saws offers the opportunity to make a wealth of jigs for batch production. Ive had a Robland saw for 15 years, a basic cheap machine but heavily built and accurate.

I would think about joinery and cabinet manufacture as being in 3 main sections: basic material preparation (sawing and planing), jointing and moulding, and then sanding and finishing. Think about the products you want to make and see how your proposed machinery can deal with these 3 main elements.

Dont forget your budget will need to include: extraction, tooling, cramping and assembly power tools. If you think electric tools may be stolen, perhaps equip with air tools.

I hope the project goes ahead, and if it does, we will be expecting a long running thread with lots of pics -a thread to rival Steves workshop build!
 

shed9

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Consider Felder and / or the Felder Hammer range. Austrian built and they have a branch in South Africa (I believe) so you have an opportunity to see the kit in action.

This would be more conducive to access to the manufacturer in terms of initial purchase and moving forward with advice and spares, etc.
 

Noggsy

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A fantastic project and I would also be happy to donate some chisels/saws etc when the time comes. Good luck with it and stay in touch. Also, when it comes to bandsaw blades, Ian at Tuffsaws is extremely helpful and his kit well-regarded and priced, so drop him an email once you have settled on a model and he will advise you which blades will suit your purposes best.
 
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