Originally Posted by Camden
Pick up broken furniture from the free section on Craigslist and fix it. Why? Because you can. Leave the press board garbage for the waste management company, but anything that is made of real wood should come home with you. If you can't fix it, break it down into it's component parts and repurpose them. Salvage all hardware(even ****ty hardware) for a rainy day. Why?
The other thing about repairing/restoring broken furniture is that if it is quality work, you start to understand how things are put together, and style details that are hard to learn from books.
When I was starting out and truly poor, counting pennies poor, I used to go buy furniture from the Salvation Army that was high quality stuff, but needed refinished/repaired. I learned a lot about furniture construction by disassembling well built things, and making replacement parts.
I started woodworking with a drill, some bits, a skillsaw, a speed square, and a straight cut jig I made out of scrap plywood left over from a bunk bed I made, and a run of aluminum channel.
The early stuff was purely utilitarian. But solidly done and jointed. I still have the bunk bed. That was thirty years ago.
I bought the best tools I could afford, as I needed them.
The secret is read books on laying out your work. Learn to true up the lay out tools, and then measure, measure twice and be careful about your layout before you cut.
I'm always amazed when I see things like router table fences with mechanisms designed to keep the fence parallel to the table edge. The only thing that matters is the cut, which is controlled by the offset from the center of bit, and the bit height. There is no need for it to be parallel to anything.
And, miter slots in a router table top are also a pet peeve. Build a sled that guides off the fence. All the miter slot is doing is creating a place for things to catch. It is more of a safety hazard than a help.