Let's talk about a few strategies for building out your shop below retail price. There are the obvious ones like yard sales, craigslist, estate sales, and thrift stores, however, these can be hit or miss. First of all, not everyone lives in an area where these avenues exist. Second, when your brand new to woodworking, it can be hard to evaluate a tool that your buying second hand. Because of this, I'm not going to focus on these channels in this post, but I will say, if your willing to do some hunting for second hand tools, you can easily save 50% to 75% on some perfectly fine equipment.
Ron Paulk is an extremely likeable mystery and I think he deserves 10x more subscribers than he has. I'm convinced he's a secret millionaire - he has a workshop in what seems to be the 20-car garage of a multi-million dollar mansion - which he claims belongs to a friend and he's only using it temporarily while they sell the house. I think it's been five years now that he's been there. But anyway, Ron is mainly a finish carpentry contractor - that's things like baseboard, fireplaces, kitchen cabinets etc. He is a master craftsman. What makes him unique is his approach to working - he is all about being portable, mobile and lightweight. Every year he seems to fit out a new van or trailer as a mobile woodshop. I've built Ultimate Workbench, Chop Saw station and fitted out a van following his designs. He introduced me to Festool, which was a costly mistake for me! I've built a lot of his projects, and I learned a whole lot along the way.
First, let's dump that hand powered saw/miter box. It gets the job done, but it takes forever. We're still on a lean budget, but shelling out ~$110 for a 10 inch electric miter saw makes a lot of sense. This won't be your forever saw, but it should do fine for most projects. It can handle up to a 4x6 stock which will cover 99% of what a beginning wood worker will throw at it.
The next important hand tool for the woodworker is an accurate tape measure. Get a retractable one that is at least 25 feet long. Any longer than that, and you start having problems getting it to roll back up. Since measurements on large scale projects can be very susceptible to even the most minute measurement variations, you’ll want to make sure the “hook” or tab at the end of the is firmly attached, with no give. When they get loose, you’ll have as much as 1/8” variation in your measurements. This can add up to some severe accuracy problems in the long run.
One purchase that did work out in my favor this year was a bandsaw. I found an old, built in 1946, 14" Delta bandsaw w/ riser block in good condition for a steal at $150. I had a couple months of free spend saved up, and my wife threw in the rest of the money and considered it my birthday gift. Attached to the saw's base was an old Stanley 77 dowel maker the seller gave me with the saw since it was attached to the base when he got the saw. I was able to sell it on ebay for just shy of $300. I actually made money on that deal, and the money from the sale has allowed me to buy blades and upgrades for the bandsaw, as well as the parts and materials I need to build the router table I'm in the process of building. Was nice to get that - otherwise it would be months before I'd be able to purchase some of those things!
Birch comes in two varieties: yellow and white. Yellow birch is a pale yellow-to-white wood with reddish-brown heartwood, whereas white birch has a whiter color that resembles maple. Birch is readily available and less expensive than many other hardwoods. Birch is stable and easy to work with. However, it’s hard to stain because it can get blotchy, so it is generally preferred to paint Birch.
The most commonly purchased claw hammer is the 20 oz. size. It’s heavy enough to easily drive nails but easily manipulated when pulling nails. While wooden handles are picturesque, they may not stand up to the strain if you have to pull a lot of nails. Hammers with a steel handle, or even fiberglass, will be stronger. However, these won’t absorb the vibrations from driving nails the way a hickory handle will. You’ll also need to make sure the fiberglass and metal handles have a rubberized grip for control and comfort. If you’re going to be driving a lot of nails, the wooden handled hammer will be better for reducing stress on your hand, and wrist, too.
This style of saw will provide more power than a contractor-type saw and have the high-quality rip fence you need to do good work. However, because they are favored by professionals and serious amateurs, cabinet saws are harder to find on the used market. Scour the classifieds and online sales (be sure to check industrial auction sites as well), and do some networking. Check the bulletin board at your hardwood supplier and ask the proprietors if they know of anyone selling a saw. Also call local cabinet shops. They sometimes have a surplus tool sitting idle that they’d be willing to sell. Take your time in this step. A careful investment will pay dividends in the long run, but a well-intentioned compromise can cause long-term frustration.
If you’ve been reading my regular blog, unbrokenfurniture.com, then you already know that I’m a novice furniture upcycler. Up until now I’ve been repairing and refinishing existing furniture. Lately I’ve been picking up more and more reclaimed wood and other raw materials, so I’ve decided to learn to build some furniture from scratch. Because building furniture from scratch doesn’t really fit with the theme of unbrokenfurniture.com, I’ve decided to keep these projects on a separate space, hence woodworkingwednesdays.com was born. I’m planning to post one new project each week (hopefully Wednesday).
Add a little rustic décor to your walls by building a wooden mail sorter. Not only does this give you beautiful rustic décor, it also serves a very handy function by keeping mail neatly organized. You just need a few pieces of wood and some small coat hooks at the bottom to hang your keys. Stain it in any color you want and you have a very functional and very beautiful sorter.
We've written about routers on the site before and my favorite is the Bosch 1617. It is light enough that you can control it when using it handheld, yet powerful enough that it won't have any problems when you mount it under a table. On top of that, it comes with a plunge base which makes it significantly easier to use handheld. The package clocks in at ~$190.
On the 100/300 grit combo stone: absolutely, positively NO – and I’m a woodworker by training who sees sharpening of tools as a means to an end and not as a religion. DMT bench stones are soooo cheap in the US (they cost as much as 3 times as much in ROW) that you should not waste (expensive) time with Chinese carborundum stones or EZ-Lap …err … junk.
You really don’t have to do anything to get a great set of coffee tables. Well, you do have to gather a few tree trunks or stumps. Just sand them down a bit, and cut them off to make them flat. You can have a collection of different sizes sitting around the room and in different shapes. Stain them if you want but you can leave them natural for a really rustic look.
The circular saw is pretty much the first tool I grab for any project. You can use it for both rough cutting your lumber to get started on a project or making finish cuts before final assembly of your project. You can use it to make half lap joints and a variety of other joinery methods. While a table saw or stationary miter saw might make a certain task easier, it is hard to beat the cost, portability, and versatility of a circular saw. While most of these come with a blade, here is a good all-around blade that I use.