Buying Woodworking Machinery? Factors I Considered

By Jared Patchin | Posted: 02/05/2013 9:43AM


J Alexander Fine Woodworking Jared Patchin In the past I have written about the machinery we were purchasing as a way to increase efficiency and quality as the cabinetry side of our business grew. (Read about the first wave of machinery purchases.)

Within a few months of purchasing the machine, a Grizzly sliding table saw, chronicled in a previous blog entry, I was back at it again. The reason we seem to have gone on a machine purchasing spree is directly related to our small company’s story: consistent growth over the past 2.5 years. This was never an issue of machine envy or unwarranted desire. All “new” machinery must either either increase the efficiency or the quality of the process being performed, preferably both.

A third factor must also be considered, and that is the cost of the machine in question. Just because a new machine can do the job better and faster, does not mean one should immediately go out and buy it. The value of the machine must be taken into consideration. Notice that I said value and not price.

If you purchase an inexpensive machine, simply because you are unwilling to spend much money, you may be causing yourself more headaches and stress by using a machine that is past it prime. On the flip side, if you decide to only purchase the newest and the “best” machinery, you may tax your cash flow so much that it threatens the livelihood of your business. Each machine purchased is an investment in the business, not a personal toy. When you treat each machine as such, the sticker price becomes less of a factor, and the utilitarian value of the machine takes center stage.

Yet another factor that must be considered by any business owner when purchasing machinery is the question of “who will be using this machine?” When I was a one-man operation, I was able to use older machinery that took more finessing to achieve good results, and I was able to use shop-made jigs with pretty good results.

Fast forward to when I had one, then two, and now three employees fabricating products for my company. The story has changed significantly. Just because I could overcome the obstacles and limitations of a machine to achieve good results, does not mean my employees could or should have to. One of your jobs as a boss is to make the process of completing the task assigned as simple and repeatable as possible. We are always analyzing whether or not a certain process is being completed as simply and as efficiently as possible, and when necessary, we look into purchasing a machine that will solve some of our limitations.

Next week I will discuss the machines purchased for the shop.


About the Author

Jared Patchin J Alexander Fine Woodworking Network

Jared Patchin

Jared Patchin started woodworking professionally in 2008 when he set-up J.Alexander Fine Woodworking in Boise, ID, where he builds custom crafted furniture and cabinetry. He started building furniture at the age of seven when his father bought Shutter Crafts. He has developed his craft since then, moving from making wooden swords for himself and his friends to building some of the finest furniture and cabinetry available. He lives in Boise, Idaho with his wife and two young sons, who have taken over the sword making side of things.

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Canada  |  February, 06, 2013 at 08:47 AM

I agree with the principal of buying new to be sure of getting a machine capable of doing the job. However a couple of years ago I purchased a new shaper, it has to started by de-tensioning the drive belt because the magnetic starter isn't heavy enough to take the load. It was inspected by ESA but it seems having a CSA sticker is enough, having electrical components that are capable of handling the load doesn't seem to be an issue. Last summer I purchased a new 26" band saw, the second time I tensioned the blade the threads stripped, seems they used a fine thread screw instead of an acme thread profile. I fixed the problem myself at the time and have still only received one of the 3 parts needed to effect a repair to put the machine back to original condition 6 months later, and this from a long term trusted Canadian company.

Colorado  |  February, 06, 2013 at 05:22 PM

I'd have to say that I've had just as many problems with new machinery as I have after purchasing used machinery. With used machines some of the "bugs" have already been worked out. Having previous knowledge and experience with certain brands and certain types of machinery is invaluable, I've found. The last two paragraphs of Jared's blog are spot on. When I was the only one in the shop, I could make things happen with the machines and tools that I would not (and could not) ask my employees to now. Sometimes equipment needs to be "idiot proof" (for lack of a better term). I enjoy your articles Jared. Keep up the good work.

Georgia  |  August, 04, 2013 at 09:07 AM

Although this article doesn't get deep into the debate of buying new versus used, a shop owner should consider used machinery as a viable option. Today, there is such a large inventory of high-quality per-owned woodworking equipment in the market. Therefore, there are great deals out there. I'm not saying you don't have to do your due diligence, but at least take a look at the many machines available that are still in good condition and at a good discount. These sites are the best: Contacts Machinery Ex-Factory RT Machinery Machine King


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