The Online Magazine For Amateur Boat Builders














John's Tool Crib
by John Cupp

If I Only Had One Power Tool To Build A Boat

People who know that I build boats often come up to me and ask what power tool they should buy to get started building a boat. My first answer is all of them because it would be very hard to build a boat without a few tools but they did say power tool. Now some would answer back right off, a band saw. Others would think for a moment and say a circular saw. While still others would say a table saw or radial arm saw but each of these has drawbacks that preclude them from an entire boat building project. They are all great tools but by themselves not the best choice.

The band saw while being able to cut straight lines and curves could cut all the material for a long narrow boat like a canoe or kayak. If the boat has an big plywood sheets the band saw is limited by the distance in its throat. So a 14” band saw could only cut material 14” wide. If your building a lap-strake boat or a multi chine boat it could be possible but not practical. It s a fine tool but still not my choice for a whole boat.

A circular saw is a great invention and with a cutting jig can cut as straight as a table saw. With saw horses and a chalk line you can cut a lot of lumber very fast. The truth be told most stick built homes are almost entirely built with circular saws today. The only draw back is cutting compound curves with one. I have cut curves with a circular saw and it comes real close but I always leave a little room for planning or sanding to be right on. It just isn’t a great circle cutter and round patterns befuddle the circular saw operator mostly. You can cut curves with one but to do a nice job you must have a very steady hand and maybe make more than one cut if the wood is of any thickness This is not the perfect power tool to build a boat at least if it is the only one.

The table saw is the king of the shop when you need straight bevel cuts. It makes the most accurate cuts and I feel it is my right hand when boat building but curves in plywood or heavy boards are not what a table saw is made to cut. I suppose I could cold mold build a whole boat using just a table saw but even that would be a very hard thing to do. No, not even a table saw could build a boat alone with me at the controls if I could only use one power tool.

You must be wondering why I am going on and on about building a boat with only one power tool. I am doing this because there is a solution and for the fellow that has not ever built a boat the decision on what tool to buy can be just as important as the next 18 inch Band Saw I might buy (don’t tell the wife). Be it a Woman or a Man the new tool to build a boat is going to have to cut curves and nice straight lines alike and there is a tool that can handle the job with ease. It was invented by a German workman who figured that if he used a sewing machine mechanism into a hand held mount with a blade attached he could cut circles and straight lines.

Now decades later that machine that was invented now is one of the most technologically advanced tools in my tool crib and comes in a corded and cordless version. I am referring to the new Bosch Jig Saws. The new model Model 1590EVSK corded version or the barrel grip 1591EVSK and the king of the cordless tools the Model 52324 cordless 24 volt Jigsaw. The barrel handle model came out after my testing but it gives a third option for those who prefer that style. The cordless model cuts steel up to 5/16th thick and wood up to 2 ¾ of an inch. They can cut compound curves and now they come with special blade inserts like the 0 clearance inserts in a table saw so there is no chipping of the wood. But I am getting ahead of myself.

I am writing a book now for the novice boat builder who needs to know what to buy. I have been approached as to what tool to buy for those on a budget that can only afford one power tool. Most of these people do have drills so that usually is not a problem but power tools that cut and are very high quality are what I think most people need. Some builders tell people to buy just any old on sale tool and build the boat then if you like it you can buy something better. A jig saw can be used for many projects besides boatbuilding so I think a good tool is an investment that your children may build their boats with also.

I do not agree with that logic. In fact I don’t think it is logical at all to buy cheap tools that will end up frustrating the builder. They will give up thinking that the tool isn’t the problem and they are not cut out to build a boat. My father always told me to buy the best possible tool at the best price so it will last years and not just a few jobs. With that motto I bring the only saws I know of that can actually do most of the work in building a boat this year and ten years from now.

The new Bosch corded Jig Saw is the most powerful saw of its type out today. The feature list goes on and on because the saw is very good to make your work look as professional as possible. I had an early model Skil Jig Saw for years and It never could cut straight lines not because I was unsteady ( Yah I’ll blame the saw) but because the design didn’t hold the blade from wandering like the new Bosch saws have. These new saws can cut a straighter line than I am capable of free hand so they make an edge guide for people like me to follow the straight edge that is already there.

The new builder that chooses one of these saws even though they cost slightly more is assured of a very accurate cut. I took my own miter gauge and used the miter feature on the saw to cut a few settings that are marked on the base to see how accurate the saw is. All of the marks were right on the money so if you make a compound curve you can be sure if you measured right the part should fit with the marks from the shoe. Both Bosch saws were on the mark but there are differences between the two that make them both appealing to different building styles. By that I mean some people will measure what they need and go to the saw to make a cut. That is where the corded saw would be very nice. It does have slightly more power and if you want a rough fast cut I will cut slightly faster than the cordless version. The corded versions weight is a pound and one half lighter than the cordless but it can tackle 3/8th inch mild steel or 1/8th inch Stainless! The possibility of cutting 3/8th inch steel plate was very interesting .

Now I don’t know about anybody else but when I place a big cleat on the deck for tying off my anchor or anything else I want to back it up with a substantial block or a steel plate. Now I would not want to cut through four feet of 3/8th plate but for smaller projects it works better than dragging out my plasma cutter that’s stuck under 200 packed boxes. Yes my new shop is still not built but it is getting closer. I am spending all of my time testing tools? Somehow that doesn’t seem right in the grand scheme of things. With these Bosch Jig Saws I wanted to replicate all of the tasks that needed to be done to build a boat with just this one power tool.

With building a boat in mind I started making all of the cuts that you would make to build a boat. Not a big boat but the kind a first time builder would pick to start out. I know at least two people who never built a shoe box and started out building over forty foot cruisers and they both finished with better than average results. They did have a steep learning curve though. I would want a beginner to pick some boat like a Payson/Bolger instant boat. So with that in mind I cut out everything for a brick. Then I cut out parts in smaller scale for a Zephyr. I made sure that these saws could do the cutting that I believe they would do and now know they can do and with ease. In fact I want to do some work on my Bow Roof Shed/Shop with the cordless 24 volt Jig Saw. Some of the work that must be done will be high up and I will have someone lift me on the forklift and I can do the cutting in the air.

The cordless model is also great for working out on the corner of my property where I don’t even want to think about the size wire I would have to use for the voltage drop. There is another reason for wanting the cordless model. It is the new Bosch CD player, radio, ground fault interrupter equipped battery and cell phone charger all in one unit I will soon be reviewing. It is worth having the cordless unit just for that but there is a really neat reason. The unit can fit in my boat with its great stereo CD and run right from the 24 volt batteries the Jig Saw uses. Now what could be more inspiring that crashing through big sea waves listening to Wagner’s “Ride Of The Valkyrie’s”. The player can actually be thrown across the floor and it won’t skip the CD, so waves should be no problem.

My wife considers the cordless model heavy at 7.5 pounds but I consider it great power storage. While cutting you don’t have to hold the weight up anyway. Both saws have a circle cutting feature that is four way adjustable. It advance the blade forward in increments within the four stages to make ever smaller circles. They even make thinner blades to make very small radius cuts in both wood and metal like a Band saw. They can rip long boards like a table saw and are more portable than some circular saws. They can cut compound bevels like a table saw and are much less expensive than a normal table saw.

I do have a small complaint about these saws they have a special blade holder that hold only the Bosch T shank blades. Not just any hardware store carries these blades either. So with that in mind I stocked up for testing and made sure I even picked out the “special blades” that Bosch has. I have not looked for after market blades for these Bosch cutting machines but the blade life is very good on the blades from Bosch. The metal cutting blades do have a shorter life span but so do all metal cutting blades. If you are going to tackle a big job like making diamond plate steps from Aluminum or Stainless Steel you better stock up with a big supply.

These Bosch saw are made with extremely high tolerances to fit and finish. They are some of the finest tools made on this whole planet. They will last more than a lifetime if given the proper care and used in conditions fitting their expense.. I mean by that I would never work out on a beach and set them in the sand. These tools are made to be used by professionals. They can take the punishment of being used for long days with almost constant use. Like other tools that are inexpensive and are meant for amateur use these saws sit on the opposite end of the scale with quality and refinements found only where material costs come second to longevity. Yes you can build a whole boat with one of these saws plus some hand tools and do a remarkable job without destroying the tool in the process. Bosch can truly claim that these are the best jig saws made. I am very happy I was able to test these saws. All of you reading this could buy one of these saws and be very satisfied with your results. So go build a boat from start to finish with just one of these saws, I know I am doing it. Well almost until I got injured but I will pick up where I left off.

From my tool crib to yours,