Man, do I ever know about the "pre-buyers remorse"! My fiancé is a self proclaimed "cheapskate"(her language is a bit more coarse), but when it comes to my shop, she's all for me spending. I always end up being the one to pump the brakes, as I have a history of being TERRIBLE with money(@ 21, I was making close to 6 figures with no post-secondary education, and at 31, I still have less than $5,000 in the bank), while she pushes me to get "whatever I need". Of course, we all know that the line between want and need is pretty blurry. I agree with some of the other posts; I keep all of my expenses logged, and try to churn out money-makers to chip away at the red, always hoping to reach the black. So far, I'm still seeing red, but as my shop continues to flesh-out and my skill set grows, profit begins to sound more and more feasible all the time. Of course, I'm not really trying to make money. I just want to buy bigger and better equipment and supplies!
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.
This is known as the “Scary Sharp” method and I first learned of it on Usenet back in the day. I’ve had pretty good luck only going up to 2000 grit automotive paper. That stuff is commonly available near the spraypaint at Wally-world. At this grit, I can easily shave the hair on my forearm. For a plate, I use a single 12×12 tile from a Big Box store.
The second big tool you need is a saw. There are many types of saws, and this can be the trickiest part of setting up a shop on a budget. As a beginner, you'll likely be using woodworking books, magazines and websites for instruction and inspiration. Unfortunately, most of these sources consider a table saw a beginner tool. For those of us on a budget, or with little space, a table saw may not be an option. They cost several hundred dollars to start, and take up several square feet of floor space. Instead, look for a good circular saw that allows you to adjust the depth and angle of cut. It's also nice to have a laser to help guide the cuts. You can get a decent circular saw for around $100.
Tung oil is derived from the nuts of trees that are native to Asia but have been cultivated in other parts of the world. This is a durable finish that has a rather quick drying time and is very moisture resistant. Tung oil penetrates the woods surface, soaking deep into the wood grain for a fine finish. Tung oil is great for exterior furniture, tabletops and countertops.

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Your moisture meter should have settings on it that will account for different species of wood. For instance, oak is a hardwood, but ebony is an even harder density wood. If you are planning an inlay job using both types of wood, you will need to know the moisture content levels of each of the two species so that your inlay glue joints will stay intact. These different wood species have different specific gravities, which must be used or programmed into the moisture meter.
The fourth most important basic handheld power tool every beginner should buy is a random orbital sander. While palm sanders are less expensive and can use plain sandpaper (cut into one-fourth sections), the random orbital version uses hook-and-loop fastened sanding disks, and doesn't sand in patterns, using instead a random sanding motion. This will motion will serve to reduce the chance that any sanding marks may appear on the stock due to the sanding. Of course, be certain that your local woodworking supplier has sanding disks readily available in a number of grits to fit the model that you choose, as the key to proper sanding is to use progressively finer grits as you sand to reduce or remove any marks that are left behind from the previous sanding.
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.
My first projects were making things from pallet boards. I cut the boards to size using my jig saw.  It’s not quite as good as using a miter saw, but it got me by for a while with sufficient results.  Even now that I have a miter saw, I still use my jig saw A LOT to make notches (like for my outdoor table), or fun designs (like these deer heads last Christmas).
A layout square, or combination square, comes in 6” and 12” sizes. Most woodworkers use the 6” model, simply because it’s easiest to carry around. Also, most of the stock you’ll use will be no bigger than 6” wide, so 12” is overkill. The layout square is a triangle that you can use to mark square cuts on stock. Once you measure the length of the cut, you line up the layout square with the edge of the board. The short side will give you a straight, square cut across the end grain. You can also measure off angles with the layout square. This helps when you’re trying to measure for a bevel on a table saw, or marking a cut for a miter saw. You can even use your layout square to determine an existing angle. Just be sure to buy one made of metal. The plastic ones are not only fragile, but they also can warp, making them pretty useless.
​Buying rough cut lumber saves a ton of money.  Buying lumber that has had all four sides surfaced (s4s) will cost roughly 4 times as much as buying rough cut lumber.  Let's look at an example: I'm going to build a table that will require 50 board feet of oak.  If I buy finished oak it will cost around $5.5 / bf or $275.  Alternatively, I can buy rough cut oak at $1.25/bf or ~$65.  In this one project I've saved $210.  That's enough for a new power tool.
If you are just getting started in woodworking and want to know what tools you’ll need to set up shop, you’ll want to download this free PDF from Popular Woodworking. We have put together a complete list of basic woodworking tools to kick-start your new hobby. In this free download, you’ll get our recommendations for the best hand and power tools for beginners. Buy these tools and you’ll have everything you need to make great woodworking projects.
Before I give you my list, I am assuming (and yes, I know what assuming does) that you already have a tape measure, screwdriver and a hammer. These are common household items that most people (woodworkers or not) keep around the house.  If you don’t have one, they are a few bucks each and WELL worth the investment.  AND they are my favorite types of stocking stuffers—even if it is just July, it’s already on my mind 🙂

I know I’ve been a little MIA but we’ve had a big project in the backyard, an overwhelming workload (which we planned on being MUCH less), and then decided to hire out for some help to haul away a huge amount of dirt.  Unfortunately, that ended up with the guy we hired stealing from us…..uggggh.  When will we ever learn to not be so trusting?!  Steve and I both have a problem with that……but when did being “too trusting” become such an extreme character flaw?!!  Sad.  Anyway, the whole situation is under investigation and there are some definite twists to the story that the crime-show-watcher in me would love to share with any other crime-show-watching enthusiasts out there. ;) Hopefully soon.
Second, it is easier to learn to use hand tools on a solid bench than on a Workmate or some other modern clamping sawhorse.  The bench doesn't have to be expensive or large.  A 20" by 5' top will get you started.  Look at Chris Schwarz's second book on Workbenches "The Workbench Design Book" for ideas.  If you are a good scrounger you can recycle framing lumber from building teardowns to build a good bench for next to nothing.  A vise screw to make a leg vise is less than $60.
The thickness planer can joint a board's face. On this simple jig, the stock is supported by twin rows of wood screws driven into a platform and adjusted to meet the varying clearances on the underside of the board. The stock rides the sled cup side up. Slide the board slightly sideways to adjust the screws, then seat it firmly on the screw heads for planing. 

I set an initial budget of $10,000 to build the shop – everything from studs and drywall to hand tools and machinery. The final number was over by $1,000, but I’m still very happy with the result. The shop is now my haven, with a good sound sys­tem and good lighting. Every time I go back into the shop, it is exactly the way I left it, because it is my shop!
Before I give you my list, I am assuming (and yes, I know what assuming does) that you already have a tape measure, screwdriver and a hammer. These are common household items that most people (woodworkers or not) keep around the house.  If you don’t have one, they are a few bucks each and WELL worth the investment.  AND they are my favorite types of stocking stuffers—even if it is just July, it’s already on my mind 🙂 

The best advise I can give you is to get and read the book "Hand Tool Essentials" by the staff of Popular Woodworking before buying any tools.  It is sort of an inexpensive crash course in hand tools.  Chris Schwarz's book "The Anachrist's Toolchest" is another good source of information on handtools that I found to be a fun read.  Use the internet to learn all you can about a tool before buying.  The tools you need are dictated by what you want to build.
The next thing to look at was how to order the list. Probably the most obvious was subscriber count (which is how it is ordered), video count was also a possibility. One thing I was looking at, was the subscribers to video ratio. For example the Channel Inspire To Make has 101,000 subscribers, but when you realize that they only have 20 videos, the subscriber to video ratio is very impressive. I really do recommend you check it out as the videos really are very well made.
These YouTube videos provide great woodworking information that contains both traditional and modern methods. Each instructional video contains woodworking how to techniques to improve a woodworkers’ skills and also methods for how to work safe in the shop. If you want entertainment, then watch the video once. If you want learn, watch the again. If you want to master techniques and improve your woodworking skills, watch and study the videos repeatedly.

These YouTube videos provide great woodworking information that contains both traditional and modern methods. Each instructional video contains woodworking how to techniques to improve a woodworkers’ skills and also methods for how to work safe in the shop. If you want entertainment, then watch the video once. If you want learn, watch the again. If you want to master techniques and improve your woodworking skills, watch and study the videos repeatedly.


Check with Habitat for Humanity.  If they have a store you may find several good items such as a bench, bandsaw or etc.  When I retired and moved I donated  a complete shop full of woodworking power tools and hand tools to Habitat.  They sold them, I deducted them from my income tax.  Unfortunately I could not retire my desire to woodwork and at age 78 I built a shop and use only hand tools and a bandsaw.  Good exercise pushing  a LN #7.   Build yourself a solid bench with some southern pine with a moxon vise that can be built by hand.  Get some holddowns!
After you have chosen the perfect table saw for your wood shop, the next major purchase one should consider would be a compound miter saw. While not as expensive as a quality table saw, a compound miter saw is invaluable for cutting compound angles (beveled, mitered and combination cuts) on the ends of a piece of stock. Once you develop your ability to make precise cuts with a compound miter saw, you'll find that your circular saw spends a little more time in the drawer than it used to.
A layout square, or combination square, comes in 6” and 12” sizes. Most woodworkers use the 6” model, simply because it’s easiest to carry around. Also, most of the stock you’ll use will be no bigger than 6” wide, so 12” is overkill. The layout square is a triangle that you can use to mark square cuts on stock. Once you measure the length of the cut, you line up the layout square with the edge of the board. The short side will give you a straight, square cut across the end grain. You can also measure off angles with the layout square. This helps when you’re trying to measure for a bevel on a table saw, or marking a cut for a miter saw. You can even use your layout square to determine an existing angle. Just be sure to buy one made of metal. The plastic ones are not only fragile, but they also can warp, making them pretty useless.
On the money issue one`thing I did is find something that is fairly easy to make and easy to sell. I made kaleidoscopes to begin with and still whip up a batch if I need to buy wood or a new tool. A neighbor WW makes wooden condiment holders for restaurants. A good friends son worked his way thru college by making a certain bearing that they needed on his tiny lathe. Spend a month or so on $$$ stuff before doing the better stuff.

These how to videos and articles of information are dedicated to my woodworking instructor who trained me during my apprenticeship. This body of work is also in honor of the journeyman who were generous in sharing their woodworking knowledge and skills with me throughout my long career. All of you have helped me to make a wonderful living  in a great craft. My hat is off to all of you.


The best advise I can give you is to get and read the book "Hand Tool Essentials" by the staff of Popular Woodworking before buying any tools.  It is sort of an inexpensive crash course in hand tools.  Chris Schwarz's book "The Anachrist's Toolchest" is another good source of information on handtools that I found to be a fun read.  Use the internet to learn all you can about a tool before buying.  The tools you need are dictated by what you want to build.

One subject that a woodworker must always consider when building a project is how seasonal moisture and temperature fluctuations will cause expansion and contraction of the wood stock in the assembled project. For instance, if you've ever experienced a drawer that sticks only in the winter time, you've experienced seasonal movement of wood. Since each wood species is affected by these temperature and moisture fluctuations, you'll need to know a bit about the climate where the project will be used, and how your chosen wood stock is affected by the climate changes. Again, your local woodworking supplier can be a great resource for answering these types of questions in your area.
About Youtuber Steve Johnson is a full time life-long hobbyist woodworker committed to helping new and experienced woodworkers achieve the "shop of their dreams" - even if (especially if?) they don't have a dream budget to work withHis videos can be seen at "DownToEarthWoodworks" on YouTube and his articles appear monthly in Highland Woodworking's on line newsletter "Wood News Online.". 

I, too, would pass on the Jawhorse, and agree with the suggestion of a solid bench. (Remember, it can double as a desk if space is limited.)  A used solid-core door can be a starting point, but there are better options, such as laminating your own from scrounged 2x4s. Spending time at flea markets looking for old tools that can be reconditioned is a good suggestion, too.
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Once you have the four aforementioned handheld power tools in your arsenal and you've had time to get comfortable with using them, its time to make your first (and likely most important) major tool purchase. The table saw is the heart and soul of every woodworking shop, the centerpiece around which all of the other tools are used and organized, so you'll want to buy the best table saw that your budget can comfortably afford. Take the time to learn which features you really want and the table saw that best fits your budget and your needs. This article will show you the most common features, and how to determine what features you need and how to know if those features are really well built, or simply added on to the saw because they are selling features.

Not many YouTube woodworking channels are run by guys who also happen to have PhD’s in medicinal chemistry, but this one is. Brian Grella’s channel offers a mix between more atmospheric videos that aren’t heavy on explanations (as the one shown above), and ones that are firmly in how-to territory, like this one for making a beautiful wooden bowl using nothing but a router and a drill press (no lathe required):
I know I’ve been a little MIA but we’ve had a big project in the backyard, an overwhelming workload (which we planned on being MUCH less), and then decided to hire out for some help to haul away a huge amount of dirt.  Unfortunately, that ended up with the guy we hired stealing from us…..uggggh.  When will we ever learn to not be so trusting?!  Steve and I both have a problem with that……but when did being “too trusting” become such an extreme character flaw?!!  Sad.  Anyway, the whole situation is under investigation and there are some definite twists to the story that the crime-show-watcher in me would love to share with any other crime-show-watching enthusiasts out there. ;) Hopefully soon.
One tool that I’ve used over and over when my clamps were too small,  is ratchet straps. They come in handy when trying to glue several pieces together, like when making a table top out of 4 x 4’s. One problem though, is that when using ratchet straps on smaller pieces of wood, or longer boards, it’s possible to warp the piece you’re trying to make. However, if you’re careful, a ratchet strap can stand in for a clamp or two.

Non-Standard Miter Slots - This one is a downer.  One of the primary advantages of having a table saw is access to jigs that expand the saws functionality.  This is a major issue if you plan on buying after market jigs.  Given that we are limiting the cost of this buildout to $500, I am guessing that after market jigs are probably low on the priority list.  Your going to want jigs once you start researching what they enable you to do, my advice is to build your own - there are plenty of plans online.  

John Heisz is a Canadian woodworker who makes many of his own tools to help him with his projects. His YouTube channel shows you how to also make your own tools. He has a video series on how to make homemade clamps, whether you're making hand screw clamps, wooden bar clamps or a deep c clamp. Another one of his video series takes you through the making of your own homemade vise.
All you need to get an edge on your hand tools and pocket knives is a 100/300 grit combo stone from your local hardware, even horrible fright. This shouldn't cost more than $10. Then go to the natural slate section of the home center or flooring store & find 3-4" natural slate tile that you can barely see the grains in. This should cost another $1 or so. This tile is roughly 800 grit. If you can't find natural tile in your area, you should be able to find an 'Arkansas' stone for <$5. If you can scare up some Chrome Oxide and a piece of leather (piece of cardboard or block of MDF also work) all the better. These three things will cost you $15 and get your edged tools sharp enough to take hair off your arm and chips of your lumber.
The second big tool you need is a saw. There are many types of saws, and this can be the trickiest part of setting up a shop on a budget. As a beginner, you'll likely be using woodworking books, magazines and websites for instruction and inspiration. Unfortunately, most of these sources consider a table saw a beginner tool. For those of us on a budget, or with little space, a table saw may not be an option. They cost several hundred dollars to start, and take up several square feet of floor space. Instead, look for a good circular saw that allows you to adjust the depth and angle of cut. It's also nice to have a laser to help guide the cuts. You can get a decent circular saw for around $100. 

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.
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