That headline struck me as discouraging. As an entry fee, $5,000 seems high enough to exclude a number of potential woodworkers, myself included. Christiana softened the blow by saying that used tools could cut the cost roughly in half. That figure seemed much closer to my experience, which involved buying a mix of new and used tools. Having said that, buying the right used tools is much more difficult than buying from a catalog or dealer who stocks everything needed to build a great shop. It requires a bit of guile and a good plan, but the payoff is worth it. Through careful choices and good fortune, I was able to outfit my shop with a blend of new and used tools for around $2,000.
The tablesaw—This tool is the backbone of nearly every shop, and for good reason. It allows unmatched precision in ripping parallel edges and crosscutting at a variety of angles. Most woodworkers find it crucial for the basic milling of stock. It is also suited to many joinery tasks, easily producing tenons, box joints, and—with a reground blade—the tails for dovetail joints.
The solution to potentially wedged boards on a jointer is to add a planer to the mix. A planer has a flat surface with a cutting edge that is exactly 180 degrees to the surface. This allows you to position the jointed edge flat on the planers surface and make a cut to the opposite side of the board that is perfectly square. As an added bonus, the planer allows you incredible control over the thickness of the boards you're planing.
Steve Ramsey. He's an energetic, fast-talking eccentric whose built his channel based on projects that can be done without investing in fancy tools. He trudges out a banged-up table saw from his garage, chops stuff up on the bed of his truck, and generally produces well-structured projects - even if I can't agree with his design aesthetic and color choices. Lots of good stuff to learn and a great channel for someone starting out.
My contention has always been that you can build a serviceable shop in your home, develop your hand skills, and make fine furniture. In the past year, I had an opportunity to build a shop from the ground up after moving to a new home. I found a house with an unfinished basement, and set to work. In this article, I will discuss everything from layout, to electrical, to equipment selection. I intend to name names with respect to equipment, so that readers will know what I chose. Everyone’s budget will be different, but I think almost everyone will be able to treat this as a starting point, and adjust accordingly, depending on their own budget.
Ok, the leap from $1,000 to $2,500 is a big one. I certainly didn't make it at one time. It took me years. But I know folks that decided they wanted to get into woodworking and dropped at least $2,500 getting themselves outfitted. When you do make the jump, the thought process becomes much less about making sure you can get the job done and becomes more about having quality tools to get the job done.
Raw material is a concept. A concept that we describe as any material that has yet to find its final home. It is a material that is en route to becoming something interesting, creative and more permanent in the world. If it has yet to be worked and transformed to create a unique piece of woodworking or artisan craftsmanship, then it is still raw to us.
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.
Only comment would be to start with manual machines -once you have them mastered, then worry about CNC. I'm only 71 at this point, but I still have a lot of things left to master! Try to find even a HF mini-lathe and mill used, and get started. The sooner you start, the sooner you become experienced, Just a warning though - machining is just as addictive as wood working.
Paul Sellers’ videos cover a wide variety of woodworking topics. He has an active channel on YouTube where his most popular videos are on making a mortise and tenon joint and making a dovetail joint. He is also the presenter at Woodworking Masterclasses where he teaches members to make furniture using a minimum of tools and equipment. The list below is Paul’s latest videos on YouTube. We hope you will find them informative and helpful.
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.
Find a wide selection of edge banding tools and hand tools like chisels and files. Find other woodworking products like protective gear, clamps, and wood finish. Whatever your project, find the quality woodworker's supplies you need to complete the job. Shop over 18,000 products from the top names in the industry today. Shop our hardware online, or order from our catalog, available to you free of charge.
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.
There are some basic things every woodworker needs to get started. Assuming you aren't the kind of person that does everything with hand tools, you'll first need a drill. Power drills come in many different styles and price ranges. The popular trend right now is for companies to make cordless tool systems that all run off of the same battery packs, and a drill is often the first tool a person gets in the set. Cordless drills are popular and handy for doing household tasks , such as hanging picture frames; but for serious woodworking, they can lack power and might die in the middle of a job. Corded drills are a less expensive option and often work better for the tasks you'll be doing in a wood shop; just get a cheap extension cord to go with it. You can easily find a corded drill of good quality for about $100.
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.
Before you bid in an online auction, check the site’s rules of operation. At some sites, a winning bid is a binding contract, which can be a problem if you can’t inspect the tool before you purchase it. Don’t forget shipping costs. In some cases they can exceed the cost of the tool. Also, make sure the tool you’re buying will run on the power you have in your shop. Many former industrial tools run on 240v single-phase power. If your shop doesn’t have 240v service, you’ll need to factor in the cost of upgrading before deciding to buy. You don’t want to saddle yourself with a tool you can’t use, no matter how good the price.
I have a stable income like a said earlier, but when it comes to having extra cash to just blow on a hobby, well I was never always that fortunate. So when I wanted a new tool or even to just purchase lumber, I would have to save up until I could purchase it. I know that sounds like most people, but it has taken me several years to just even get the basic tools of woodworking.
Another staple in the beginner woodworkers tool kit has to be the cordless drill. Used for either drilling holes or driving fasteners, this tool gets used on almost every project. There a tons of options here regarding size of batteries, aka power, but something around the 18-20 volt range is a good all-around size that will not leave you constantly wishing you had something larger or smaller. Here is a large accessory kit at a good price that should give you most of the drivers a bits you will need.
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.
For under $20 I am very impressed with the Bad Blade Carver by Kwik Tool. Mounted in a 4.5″ grinder, it removes a ton of material quickly yet allows a fair amount of control. The disk has only 6 teeth so the carver is mainly a solid disk with very few teeth to bite and create kick-back or dig-in. I found I had the best control when engaging the blade between 12 o’clock (top of the grinder) and 3 o’clock. When in that range it was not overly aggressive and left me in control.
This is the one tool in the shop that provides the greatest opportunity to save money, if you are willing to purchase a well made, light duty machine, and take lighter cuts. In the past I have used General 14" planers that can hog off serious cuts all day long. The problem is that these professional units cost over $5000, and they would crush my buddy as we haul them down the stairs (note: don’t be the guy on the bottom). After doing a fair amount of research, I purchased the Dewalt DW735 13" thickness planer. The unit came with a good manual, and was in a good state of tune. It is light enough for me to carry around the shop without excessive grunting, so that made it very simple to install. The planer has a significant internal fan-assisted chip ejection system. The chips are catapulted out of this planer, so have your dust collector running before you run stock through it. I now have to make more cuts at a lighter cut depth, but I saved about $4500, which makes my budget happy. The planer makes clean cuts, and has two speeds. I don’t see a reason for the two speeds for my type of work, but there is a faster feed rate should you choose to use it. Knife changing is simple and quick.
While the router isn’t exactly necessary to build the most basic projects, it will really allow you to put that extra level of detail on a project so it isn’t quite so bland looking. Routers are also an extremely versatile tool that can be used in lieu of a jointer to get a straight edge on rough lumber, put a nice detail edge on a table top or piece of furniture, cut mortise and tenon joinery, cut dadoes and rabbets, mount in a table, or a countless number of other uses. Router bits can be pricey, so my advice would be to add bits as you need them for specific uses and projects. There are some variety pack kits available if you want a set to get started though. Also, there are smaller (trim) routers and full-size routers available. For the purpose of a beginner woodworking tool set, I recommend starting out with the small router and seeing just how much you can accomplish with that.
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 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 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.
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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.
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.
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!