I have been around woodworking my entire life. I have always been intrigued by how you can take something like lumber and turn it into a wonderful, beautiful piece of furniture. Once I graduated high school, I kind of got out of woodworking. I wanted to go a different route. I was going to college and just trying to make ends meet on the bills.
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.
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 next hand tool every woodworker should have is a nail set. In fact, you should have several sizes. They look like awls, and you use them to drive nail heads into the wood so they are flush or right below the surface. This allows you to fill the holes and prepare for staining or painting. The nail setter will usually have either a convex or concave surface to grip the nail better and keep it from sliding off and marring the wood.
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.
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!
Many beginners trying to get started in woodworking take one look at their budget and worry how they can afford to buy a whole shop full of power tools to get started. Fortunately, one doesn't have to spend a fortune to get started. There are really only seven woodworking tools that I would recommend any beginning woodworker have on hand from the start, and most are relatively inexpensive. However, with these seven tools, a beginner can tackle quite a number of projects.
Arbortech Turbo Plane – The turbo plane is more than 7 times the cost of the Bad Blade Carver, however The turbo plane is kind of a more refined animal. It probably isn’t fair to compare the two. The Turbo Plane leaves a better finish and can be used in a different way, but for bulk removal and heavy shaping, I think the Bad Blade Carver wins. If you want the scalloped and smooth surface, then the Turbo Plane wins.