Every woodworker needs a couple of levels. You probably won’t need one of the 6-foot levels used in construction, but 48” is a good length for many of the woodworking projects you’ll do. Usually, you’ll also need an 8” level too, usually known as a torpedo level. You’ll check the level and plum of your construction. Level means horizontal, and plumb is vertical.
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.
I place the band saw first in my order of purchases, because I consider it the heart of the shop. Band saws are very safe tools for ripping, re-sawing, cutting curves and more because all of the force is downward, virtually eliminating any chance of unexpected kickbacks. I wanted a saw that had a strong back, dynamically balanced cast iron wheels for smooth operation and flywheel effect, 12" depth of cut, good dust extraction design, a large table and a solid fence. After shopping around, I settled on the General International Model 90-170 14" saw. It is very smooth, comes with an Excalibur fence, and it is light enough (133kg) to move into your basement without crushing someone.
Then there are the “practical” woodworkers that enjoy weekend projects and things that don’t require a ton of expensive tools, time, and expertise (HELLO, THAT’S ME). I will be in the latter category. Sure, you can invest in hand tools, but in the words of one of my favorite internet sensations, “ain’t nobody got time fo that.” Let’s be practical here.
Poplar is one of the less expensive hardwoods. It’s also fairly soft, considering it is a hardwood, which makes it easy to work with. Poplar is very light in color (almost “white”) with some green or brown streaks in the heartwood (the wood that comes from the center of the tree). Because poplar is not the most beautifully grained wood, it’s almost always painted as it does take to paint very nicely for a uniform finish. Poplar makes for great table bases (often painted, with a stained tabletop of a different wood), drawers, cabinets, hutches and more. Poplar is a very common wood that is versatile and cost efficient.
But until then, I’ve been thinking of other ways to use my hands and create things. (Even though many of our saws and tools have been stolen.) But I’m feeling a little antsy to make some quick projects, because creating makes me extremely happy…..so we’re calling this surge in me to create something simple, THERAPY. In fact, I need to call up a few friends and have them make some with me because friends and creating is a favorite combo of mine! (Any out of town-ers want to fly in?! ;) )
I went out and bought a dovetail pull saw for some of the finer cuts that I needed to make. I’m sure I’ve used this a few times on previous blog posts. It is great for the smaller cuts, and I’ve even used it to cut some larger pieces when my bigger saw didn’t fit. The combination of the dovetail pull saw and the push saw works fine, and isn’t too terribly expensive, but I’ve found something even cheaper that works just as well.
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.
Softwoods are often softer and more delicate woods in general, as the name would suggest, but aren’t necessarily always weaker than hardwoods. Although, they are generally less dense and not as durable as Hardwoods, which grow at a much slower rate than softwoods creating a denser and stronger grain in the wood. Softwoods come from coniferous (or gymnosperm) trees such as Cedar, Hemlock and Pine and lean towards a yellow to reddish tone by nature. Hardwoods come from angiosperm (seed producing) trees such as Oak, Cherry, Maple and Walnut and are generally darker toned woods. Softwoods tend to be less expensive than hardwoods, as they grow much more quickly and can be milled at a faster rate. While hardwoods are generally more expensive, the durability, strength and overall look is often worth the additional cost depending on your project needs.
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.