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Thread: DIY project spending - where to stop? (long)

  1. #1
    Founding Member earthtodan's Avatar
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    DIY project spending - where to stop? (long)

    I'm building a pair of mini tower speakers for my workbench in the garage, using two pairs of Peerless 830855 woofers and a pair of 3" midranges I have lying around. The idea is to make narrow towers with a small footprint to preserve bench space. Cost is low. I'm borrowing a circular saw. I'm putting a lot of care into making sure the speakers are properly matched for the enclosure size, and the box shape is well designed for good acoustics. The bulk of the expenditure will be my own labor and craftsmanship, and the payoff will be good garage sound and the satisfaction of a job well done.

    While drawing up the design, I started reading about the effects of baffle edge diffraction, and how it causes jagged response, so I decided I'd need to round over the edges. For the same reason, I'd also need to countersink the 3" driver to flush mount it. And on several different occasions I've read about the importance of chamfering the back surface of the baffle to let the driver breathe into the enclosure. All of this would require that I buy a router.

    A router can be had for about $55. My only requirement was a built in LED to illuminate the work line. At Orchard Supply, I found what I was looking for, basically... but it had the weakest motor available. For a little more money, I could upgrade to a 9.5A motor that would support larger diameter cutting. I believe in buying tools for the long term, so up went my budget. Eventually I bought a Craftsman 12A variable speed fixed base router from Sears for $90.

    Then I started doing research into cutting circles for the speaker frame countersink, and concluded that a fixed base router really wasn't the right tool for the job. If I'm going to buy a versatile tool that will make work easy, fun, and safe, I'll need a plunge router. Craftsman sells a combo kit with a fixed base and a plunge base, where you can just swap the motor from one to the other. Up went my budget again.

    However, it also became clear that most circle jigs don't fit the Craftsman bases. Craftsman makes one, but it's a plastic POS with lots of parts. The good circle jigs like this one and this one are drilled to fit other routers. All the available aftermarket hardware is for other brands. On top of that, Sears staff were totally ignorant and unhelpful. What an obsolete department store. It became clear that the red brand isn't a serious player in this game. After spending hours online trying to figure out how to make a good circle jig work, and with zero expertise from the company, I finally decided to return the Craftsman and get a combo kit from a brand that gets some respect from the aftermarket. Up went my budget, yet again.

    Bosch is a solid brand in the world of routers. All the best circle jigs fit their bases. Nobody doubts their quality. You pay for what you get, but you get what you pay for. So I went to Lowe's and picked up the 1617EVSPK 2.25 HP Combination Plunge & Fixed-Base Router Pack | Bosch combo kit for $219. As an added perk, it comes with a hard case, which I consider to be a big selling point for power tools (orderly storage is important to me). This was it - I was walking away with a real solid purchase that would last me a lifetime of DIY woodworking, and that merited no doubts.

    But as I drove away in victory, I was also struck by a sinking feeling of guilt. What have I done? This was only the beginning. As anyone on the router forums will tell you, the router itself is cheap. Bits will end up costing you a fortune. Then there's the circle jig and the brass plug. The whole thing could easily surpass the $400 mark. And that's when I realized: This started out as a low budget garage speaker project. This router had turned into the most expensive part. And for what? Rounding edges in MDF? MDF is soft - you can form it almost by looking at it. For the baffle roundovers, I can use a file and sandpaper. MDF melts like butter under a coarse file. Same for the behind-the-speaker chamfers. As for the countersinks, this might be harder - but how much is it worth?

    I've never intended to set up a wood shop in my garage. In fact, whenever I make sawdust, I go out to the driveway and close the garage door to keep it clean inside. Finally, I have credit card debt, which I'm on the verge of paying off. Purchases like this are likely to prevent that from happening. The whole thing turned into a slightly startling realization about how spending can get out of hand when you start losing perspective. It's not that a nice router is a bad purchase; if I end up doing a lot of DIY woodwork, it will be a wise purchase. I will eventually forget about the money and be proud of my router. It can easily be rationalized. But, you can rationalize endless purchasing.

    I might go back to Lowe's and return it tomorrow, and build my speakers on the cheap, and without the burden of guilt. Or I might keep this router for a lifetime. I haven't decided yet.
    Last edited by earthtodan; 02-03-2013 at 01:36 AM.

  2. #2
    Tester Extraordinaire ErinH's Avatar
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    Unless you see yourself using the router in the future on other projects, then maybe it's a wise decision to just take it back and find a set of speakers on craigslist. This is garage tunes you're talking here... not a studio reference setup. I picked up some JBL towers for $90 a few years ago and I've since sold two of them and am down to one. I run it off a cheap $25 receiver bought off CL as well. All said, I'm $50 for a huge speaker and receiver for garage tunes... and it's more than adequate.

    I just need background noise. I sometimes just plop my iphone down on the bench and play pandora directly from that. Hell, as I type this, I'm listening to Pandora from the PC playing through an 8" woofer sitting on my bench.
    Your ears: The best tools you have... and they're free, too!

  3. #3
    Senior Member pionkej's Avatar
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    The jasper jigs do work with the craftsman combo (I have them and use them often).

    You could also search Craigslist for just a plunge router (which you can make "fixed" by locking it down).

    Lastly, MDF and HDPE (which many of us use) is a KILLER on a router bits sharpness. Since I use mine mostly for car audio purposes, I only bought a few good "staple" bits and the rest come from harbor freight (toss em when they dull too much).

    For now, it's perfect and it all cost me less than $200 (and I really only need to invest in bits and a table in the future if I wanted to step up my game).

    Just another option to consider.
    Do you know the difference between education and experience? Education is when you read the fine print; experience is what you get when you don't.

  4. #4
    Founding Member earthtodan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pionkej View Post
    The jasper jigs do work with the craftsman combo (I have them and use them often).
    Which one do you have? I think they changed their base pattern with the most recent part # system, because the Jasper jigs fit some and not others.

    No decent routers on CL right now for much less than I already paid. :/


    Erin: I'm not really into background noise (unlike my roommate who watches youtube videos on his laptop while playing movies on the TV in the background). It's decent sound or no sound for me.
    Last edited by earthtodan; 02-06-2013 at 11:01 AM.

  5. #5
    Founding Member n_olympios's Avatar
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    I know the feeling. I have a toolhouse I hadn't used for 3-4 years, and early last year I decided it's time to make it work again.

    I went waaaay out of my calculated budget and still have other things waiting to be fixed/replaced/bought. Let them wait: at one point I thought (as you did) that the projects in my head, for which all the tooling is necessary, will never take place. I love to play carpenter, electrician etc, but with no time, money or health to do it it's not fun at all.
    Nick
    Virtus probata florescit: reversio

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