Low-tech tools are high on value A basic set of handplanes lets you true edges, flatten panels or wide boards, and achieve finish-ready surfaces. Start with a small cluster of handplanes—low-angle and standard block planes, a No. 4 or 4-1/2 bench plane, and a jointer plane. A set of inexpensive chisels is essential for chopping, paring, and trimming.
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).
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.
Some moisture meters have pins that penetrate the surface of the wood. This can leave tiny holes that mar the surface and require filling. Others are pin-less. They have sensing plates that scan the wood beneath. However, not all pinless moisture meters are the same – look for one that uses technology that is not affected by the surface moisture in the wood, such as Wagner Meters IntelliSense™ Technology Moisture Meters.
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.
Matthias Wandel comes out with some amazing modifications for tools and techniques. This one however is incredibly simple and only requires a few scraps of wood and a pair of clamps to turn a simple circular saw into a custom width dado maker. You can spend a lot on special dado blades for table saws or router with a straight bit and some guides, but this method is simpler and the results are very close to the same. Very little is sacrificed by using this frugal dado making method.
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.
I can't really give a great answer to your question - I'm still learning how to deal with woodworking on a limited budget myself, but I'm getting there. It's not always easy, but when I want something I can't afford, I am starting to remind myself more and more that someday my day will come when hopefully there will be more room in the budget for my woodworking hobby. I'm also hoping to start selling the occasional item within the next year to help bring in some extra money for woodworking related expenses.
I wouldn’t give up on Craigslist or garage sales.. For around $1K or less, you can pretty easily find the four big ticket items (TS, BS, Jointer and Planer) and have the extra $2K to spend on accessories, material, DC, other goodies, etc. The key is patience and persistence, and if applied correctly, you can have a fantastic setup for very little compared to purchasing new. If you are setting up a business, you don’t usually have the time to scour for good deals, but for a personal shop, there is no pressing need other than that itch to get something done.