A Visual History
The Building of Aslan
Essential Tools
Updated 07/01/00

Tool reviews and mail order pricing in association with amazon.com.

As always, let me know if you feel a tool should be included, or disagree with my assessment of a particular tool.

The Essential Tools
Building a Weekender requires cutting 1" thick boards, 4 x 4's and plywood.  You also need to apply glue to wood and screw it together (I used over 1400 stainless screws in building the hull.)  Then, you need something to "shape" and sand the wood into final form.  In this section, I put alternate tools in parenthesis, and a plus sign means those two tools may take the place of the essential tool.

Circular saw (tablesaw+jigsaw, handsaw)  I have an old 7 1/4" Skil brand circular saw that I've just about worn out over the past 25 years building decks, patios, and cutting every piece of plywood I've ever cut.  Its on its last legs, and my next circular saw will probably be about the same quality.  You can spend a fortune on one, but for home use, I think a moderate priced saw like the one featured here is fine.  I love Porter Cable tools, and their circular saw is a good one.  The Skilsaw is also a good choice that won't break the bank.  I have listed the tablesaw+jigsaw and handsaw as alternatives, but in reality, doing all the cutting with only a handsaw would take forever.  If you have a tablesaw and a jigsaw, then you can make the majority of the cuts required.  Cutting the 1x lumber for the keel would take a long time with a jigsaw, though, and would be nearly impossible with a tablesaw.

Jig saw (keyhole saw, handsaw)  Many of my first tool purchases were Craftsman tools, and I hate my Craftsman jig saw.  It vibrates like crazy, and is hard to hold and control for very long because of the vibration.  The cheaper Black and Decker and Skill brands of jigsaws are similar to my old Craftsman.  In my opinion, the jig saw makes the "essential" list only because it is the best tool for making the porthole rings and some of the other curved cuts.  But it would be harder to make accurate long straight cuts in plywood with just a jigsaw.  This Porter Cable model gets quite a few good comments for a moderately priced saw, and I have my eye on it.  Perhaps my Craftsman will come to a timely demise soon, heh heh.  One of the builders from Texas, Kay, has used a jig saw for cutting out the keel pieces, and feels safer using it.  Jig saws are safer, but they are slower too.

Surform Plane (belt sander, random orbit sander)  I love my Surform Plane, but I've gotten plenty of comments from people who hate them.  Usually they are working too hard with them.  The Surform Plane is like a very sharp cheese grater that is human powered, and can shave off a blizzard of wood chips with the proper technique.  And the proper technique is to shave the wood off, not try to make giant divets in it.  If you don't have a belt sander, and don't want to buy one, this tool under $15 can save you some money.  But be warned, using a Surform Plane instead of a belt sander is similar to hand sanding verses power sanding.  I find it extremely rewarding, but there is so much shaping to be done on the Weekender, I did end up buying a belt sander.  But the dedicated hand tool user could certainly get by without a belt sander if they had one of these.

2 drills -
electric or cordless  (single drill)  I used over over 1400 stainless steel screws in the hull of my Weekender.  So buy them in bulk, and plan on having two power drills.  The construction in many areas, such as attaching stringers to the bottom and attaching the hull sides, requires that you drill the pilot hole and insert the screw.  This bends the wood in a progressive, gentle manner, and really can't be done by pre-drilling all the holes then going back and putting in the screws.  So I recommend two drills, the first one drilling the hole with a countersink and tapering bit, then driving the screw with the other drill.  You could choose to use one power drill and a screwdriver, but it would take quite a while, and your arm would get sore.  The other alternative is to use the new quick change bits, where you can convert from the tapered pilot hole drill bit to the #2 phillips bit for the screws.  But think about it:  you are putting in 1400 of these things, and so that's 1400 times you are swapping the bits.  For top of the line, I like Porter Cable again, but DeWalt has some economical drills, and you can always find parts, including chargers and batteries for their cordless.  I also like Makita cordless tools.  If you already have one drill and don't normally need another one, and your budget won't allow buying a top of the line second drill, buy another cheap one such as a Black and Decker.  You may wear it out, but at least you won't wear out your arm!

Countersink and tapering drill bits  Each of those 1400 screws needs to have a pilot hole drilled through the plywood, and be countersunk just below the surface.  These combination bits do a good job of doing it all in one operation.  You can find these almost everywhere, but make sure you buy the ones with the adjustable counter sink so you can control the depth of the pilot hole.. They have a sliding collar on the bit that allows you to set the depth of the drill.   I used mainly 1" x #6 (6 guage stainless steel screws 1" long) instead of the 1" x #8 specified in the plans, and like the Sharx stainless screws from Stainless Fasteners (they have an even taper all the way, without the slight "hourglass" shape beneath the head.  And they don't charge for shipping when you buy over 1000.)  When choosing screws, remember that for counter-sinking, flat head phillips are the best bet.  The link is to the ones I used.  Some people swear by square drive screws, but in the smaller sizes, I prefer phillips drive.  You can either buy the #6 Countersink or #8 Countersink bits if you are using the #8 screws, or the combo pack which gives you the #6, #8 and #10.

Random Orbital Sander (finishing sander, hand sanding block)  An ROS sander makes the essential list because of the amount of sanding you have to do.  I really like my Porter Cable 5" round ROS sander with the "hook and loop" surface for the sandpaper discs.  It is very easy to change paper, and using 60 grit almost duplicates a belt sander, although removing a lot of stock is much slower.  With finer grit, such as 100 grit, it works quickly to sand epoxy or Bondo.

Belt Sander (Surform Shaper, random orbital sander)  This is the belt sander I bought.  I love this guy.  With a 60 grit belt, it reduces expensive wood to dust in very short order.  With a finer belt its a bit less aggressive, but belt sanders are rough work tools.  And there's plenty of rough work on the Weekender!  As with all power tools, I have found other uses for my belt sander.

Some Useful Tools
Router  I love my Porter Cable router, and used it quite a bit to trim off excess plywood.  But a jig saw and/or Surform shaper could work for that purpose also.  If you have always wanted a router, you will use it when making the boat.  But don't buy it unless you want it for other tasks.  Also, if you do decide to buy a router just for this boat, a cheaper router would probably do.  The Porter Cable is a great router.

Finishing Sander.  Also a Porter Cable tool, this sander does a great job between the rubrails where the ROS sander won't fit.  It won't work as well with coarse, 60 grit paper to really hog off a lot of wood, so you probably can't use it to even out the keel pieces or sand off excess plywood like you can with a belt sander.  It does give a smoother surface with the finer grits than either a belt or ROS, and with aluminum oxide sandpaper in the 100 grit range, it puts a nice smooth finish on the epoxy prior to painting.  A nice addition to your tool arsenal, but not a necessity for building a Weekender.

Power planer.  This Hatachi power planer is very economical, and I've used it quite a bit since getting it (especially on my bird's mouth mast.)  You could use one of these for planing down excess plywood if you didn't have a belt sander.  At under $90, its an economical alternative for that task, and a good tool to have.

Nice to Have
Table saw  I used to say that a table saw was the first stationary power tool a shop should have, but now I think a band saw is a very good first choice too.  I like the Jet Contractor's saw in this link, and have been very happy with mine.  My first blade was a Freud thin kerf carbide combination blade, and that served me well.  I upgraded to the Forrest Woodworker II blade ($100+) in the thin kerf version, but to be honest, for most work the less expensive Freud blade worked nearly as well.  You don't need this to build a Weekender, unless you really, really want it and have to convince someone ...
If you are into woodworking as a hobby, this level of table saw is a giant step up from the Craftsman at Sears, or the Ridgid brand at Home Depot.  A lot of people also like the Delta Contractor's saw, which is a few hundred more.  But for my money, the Jet has been a great addition to my shop.

Band saw  As you can probably see, I like Jet's mid-priced stationary power tools.  The 14" band saw is a new addition to my shop, and I love it.  I have used it for many tasks, and will continue to use it for any curved piece of wood that I can cut on it.  The band saw may be the best first stationary power tool for home shops, as it is safer to use than a table saw (no kickback, and people almost never disable the guards on a band saw.)  Like the table saw, this isn't a necessity.  But it sure is nice to have!