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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm to start acquiring tools for basic woodworking, and would greatly appreciate input from more experienced craftsmen and -women.

My parameters are thus:

1. I have roughly $400(US) to spend on tools to get me started.

2. I have very basic things such as screwdrivers, some squares, levels, power drills, saw horses, etc.

3. I want to spend money buying high-quality tools that will last, so I'd rather get fewer items rather than a lot of cheap stuff.

4. What tools I buy now should be versatile and general use, rather than specialized/rarely used. I want to be able to start some entry level projects that really help me build skills once this $400 is spent.

5. I'm open to hand tool versions of things rather than electrical, especially if the non-power tool version will save me a lot of money. However, if the non-electrical version will be much harder to learn how to use skillfully, I'm less interested at this stage.

6. My sense is that I will mostly pursue skills in fine furniture making and other practical items rather than artistic pieces.

So what say you all? How would you budget a $400 outlay for an aspiring woodworker? If you want to include an essential book or magazine subscription in the recommendations, I'm all ears. Of course, any general suggestions or pointers to free resources would be most welcome too. And thanks in advance for your time and input!
 

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Aside from the things I built when I was growing up and had access to my father's workshop, some of the first projects I built were with a cordless drill, a small cordless circular saw, and a compound miter saw. Those tools even allowed me to build an entertainment center, and one which many people think that I bought instead of built.

The foundation of any shop, especially one that is going to be used to build furniture, is the table saw. It is a very versatile tool. I just bought my first one earlier this year. This is the saw I purchased: http://www.homedepot.com/p/RIDGID-13-Amp-10-in-Professional-Table-Saw-R4512/202500206#.UdWJzZyE5h4 You can subscribe to Harbor Freight's e-mails and every once in a while they will send out a 20% off one item coupon. You can often get Home Depot to price match this coupon. I did and was able to purchase this saw for $400+tax.

You mention drills and sawhorses - was wondering if you had any saws yet? A table saw is very versatile. Other good saws to have would be a circular saw (I have this saw: http://www.homedepot.com/p/Makita-15-Amp-7-1-4-in-Circular-Saw-5007F/202873973#.UdWLYZyE5h4 and I expect it to last me a very long time. It is heavy and well built) and a compound miter saw. Some basic handtools would be good. Even if you intend to be an entirely power tool shop, things like a good set of chisels (I bought a set of Narex chisels from Lee Valley and am very happy with them) are quite valuable, especially when you learn how to sharpen them and keep them sharp. A Random Orbital Sander would also be something you'd need, unless you really feel like hand sanding everything. (There are times where it's best to hand sand, and times where it's a whole lot nicer to have a powered sander.)

You will need clamps - lots of them. There is no such thing as too many clamps. I don't have many and I never seem to have enough. A good, solid workbench is a valuable thing too. A workbench also makes for a good project to begin with as it will help you learn valuable skills that you will use in furniture building. And if you make a few mistakes when building your workbench and have to improvise on fixing them, so what - it's a workbench and you spent time learning some basics on something that you need and will use, but doesn't have to be a piece of fine furniture.

This is about where I'm at with adding tools to my workshop and building furniture is something I enjoy, though I am by no means great at it. I am still very much learning. I am no expert at it, and I probably never will be, but it's a lot of fun learning as I go. Plus, even some of the lesser quality things that come out of my shop are much better than what you could buy in the store for a lot more money.

As money allows I'd like to get the following tools, which would be good additions to the shop of anyone who is building furniture:
More clamps
Router and bits (and build the router table into the table saw top)
Drill press (I have one already, but it's a cheapie and I would like a better one someday)
Planer
Jointer
Bandsaw
Dust collection
etc.

What you should buy right now with $400 is the tough question for me to answer. Earlier this year I answered that question for myself by buying a table saw, but I already had other saws, clamps, some hand tools, etc. If you don't have any clamps, saws, sanders, etc, I'd consider buying a circular saw (with a good blade - I really like the Freud Diablo blade I bought and put in mine), a random orbital sander, a bunch of clamps, some materials to build a workbench, and then save the rest of the money and go from there until you can afford to add more tools.

Check your local Craigslist. As long as you can check out the items first and make sure they work, don't be afraid to save some money by buying used. There are good deals to be found, as well as bad deals. If you're unsure if something is a good deal or not, you can ask in the forums here and you're very likely to get help in seeing if the item would be worthwhile to purchase and if the price is what the item is really worth.

Another good piece of advice that has been posted here by many people, and which I agree with, is buy the tools you need for the project you're going to be working on. It doesn't make sense to go out and spend thousands on whatever looks like it'd be good to have in the shop if you're never or hardly going to use it. If the project you're going to work on requires a tool you don't have, then go and purchase it. Though foundational tools will find a use in every project.

While I hope this helps, take my advice for what it's worth - While I grew up in my dad's shop and helped him a lot, I'm still fairly new to doing this on my own. There are lots of good people here with more experience than myself who can give you great advice.
 

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"Another good piece of advice that has been posted here by many people, and which I agree with, is buy the tools you need for the project you're going to be working on. It doesn't make sense to go out and spend thousands on whatever looks like it'd be good to have in the shop if you're never or hardly going to use it. If the project you're going to work on requires a tool you don't have, then go and purchase it. Though foundational tools will find a use in every project."

Totally agree.
 

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master sawdust maker
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+1 to what gene is saying. Decide on what project you want to start with. Then decide what additional tools you need for that project. Then buy the best quality tools you can afford.

If it was me buying the tools. I would look for older tools such as chisels and planes. And only buy the individual pieces you need. With a budget of $400.00 that can easily be spent on one plane or chisel set if you bought brand new top of the line.
 

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$400 will disappear quickly if you're not careful. Start with a circular saw then make a couple of simple guides to save the major investment in a table saw. You'll find you can accomplish most dimensioning tasks with that combination. As mentioned above, buy tools for projects, not because you think you'll need them later.

I made a fairly complex TV stand, a blanket chest, and a half-dozen sliding pan drawers for the kitchen with a circular saw, a clamp-on guide made from some plywood, a pocket-hole jig and a cordless drill/driver, plus finishing materials. Since I'm in part of a one-car garage, I'll probably pass on the table saw altogether. With the circ saw, a router and a bandsaw, I can get by without it just fine, and the bandsaw came along months later. Oh, a crosscut table for the circ saw is easy to make too.

Wema makes a good point about hand tools. A couple of chisels and a decent small plane can make a big difference in the projects you can complete successfully.

Don't forget that you can repurpose tools, too. My edge-banding iron is a little black & decker travel iron I had in the closet. The brush I use for clearing dust off when I'm sanding is a soft-bristle shoe brush I found in the garage when I moved in.
 

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where's my table saw?
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$400.00 ain't much, but.....

It can get you started. Here's what folks here do when tool shopping. They search Craig's List for used tools, and post the link to the tool they are interested in and ask for opinions. You gotta work fast on this because good deals don't last long.
Opinions from us that have owned or still own that specific tool can be real valuable. It works pretty well as far as I can tell..... AFAICT
Since we don't know your general location, here's a link to find stuff on Craig's List all over the country using your zipcode:
http://www.searchtempest.com/

Lot's of folks recommend starting with a circular saw...I wouldn't. :eek: They are fine for cutting long boards to length and for making large sheet s of plywood more manageable. But they can be dangerous if not well versed in their use same as with any power tool.

I'm gonna recommend a used belt drive table saw, Craftsman, Rockwell, Dewalt, almost any brand will do to start. But post the link here first, as there are things to consider. The market is generally around $150 to $250 for those types of saws.

The next tool I'd recommend and I'm talking power tools, is a bandsaw saw. I taught a whole lot of young ladies how to use the bandsaw in a college creative design class years ago. You can do many different types of cuts and it's relatively safe to use. I'd recommend a 14" saw to start. That means there is 14" of horizontal width from the blade to the support column. Post a link for any questions. Delta, Jet, Craftsman in the older cast iron versions are well made and good tools. Prices range from $150.00 and up.

Woodworking involves cutting and surfacing wood. Cutting is done with saws of various types, circular, band and hand. Surfacing is done by jointing, planing and by hand. Sanding is more of a finishing process than a construction method. Finishing is the last step in the process and usually the one given the least thought when starting out. Don't fall into that trap. Think of the finish based on the type of wood and your skills as you go. Practice on scraps and use the various methods. ..wipe on, brush on, and spray on. Air dry, water based, petroleum distillate like mineral spirits and lacquer based, and catalyst based are possibilities. Stains and dyes are ways to enhance the grain.

Best to Ya :thumbsup:
 

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For the most part I can't say that more expensive tools last that much longer than cheap tools. I have started buying most of the tools I use at Harbor Freight. From time to time I get a bad one but they will take it back without question. I no longer buy any of their cordless tools because their batteries are not any good but the corded tools are alright.
 

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I taught a whole lot of young ladies how to use the bandsaw in a college creative design class years ago.
You wait all this time to tell us that? :eek: My wife reads these posts and commented that when she went to college, shop type classes were few and far between. That hands on machine classes weren't offered to women, and women in general didn't gravitate towards those types of classes. So, I guess you lucked out.:yes:




.
 

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Hi Kate,

One thing to consider is do you have any wood working clubs in your area. Guys and gals in these clubs are a wealth of information from tips, tricks, tools, know how, and leads on used equipment. The local library here has lots of books and magazine subscriptions on wood working. Amazon sometimes has free books for download if you do that sort of thing.

I have always been told buy the tool as you need them for a project. Flea markets and garage sales are a great source for used tools but you need to know market value and it really helps if you have a friend who can guide you. If you find something on craigslist make sure you take a friend or three with you when you go to some strange place with money to buy something.

Are you any good at reconditioning tools as in rust removal, sharpening, repainting, cleaning, etc.? Many treasures can be had for cheap if you can do the clean up to restore working order.

Stay away from the gimmick tools. Good quality furniture has been made for centuries with simple tools.

Good success at wood working is also learning and reading in addition to doing ie. practice.

This is my first post as I joined yesterday. I don't know yet if I am allowed to list other web sites I use and or magazines I read.
 

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Hi Kate - There are many correct approaches to woodworking, and many ways to skin a cat when it comes to a particular task, but I'd focus about 100% of that budget toward a decent full size belt drive table saw with an induction motor if at all possible. My TS is the most utilized tool in my small shop. You can add things like routers, drills, chisels, and hand planes later on with gift money, etc.

In your price range, a good used TS is likely to be the best bang for the buck. If you list your geographic area, someone here may have some local insights for you. The ABC's of Table Saws
 

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i disagree

chisels are nice tools to have, but i use them rarely unless wood carving. to me a table saw is the most useful tool to own and that means you want to spend most of your $ on it. used is fine if you take some knowledgeable person along with you to test it out. furniture requires precision cutting IMO and that means a quality tool that is properly adjusted. most beginners don't even realize that a good table saw can be adjusted or how to do it.
a mitre saw, whether hand or electric is the next most important tool IMO, but you can make jigs for the table saw that help you out there and save most of the money. adjusting them perfectly is a bit difficult, so have someone help you.
take a class or two or get a mentor.
safety is very important when using power tools or hand tools like a chisel or table saw. find out the proper way of using them before you turn it on.
i am used to supervising a shop full of beginners that take turns using expensive tools. so now that i am retired, i have almost no tools and am in the same situation as you are...poor and wanting to hobby! my first purchase will be a good table saw and since they are expensive, I will buy used. craigslist.com is a good way to find them.
harbor freight's tools are generally low quality --avoid them for your table saw, but if you need a particular tool that doesn't require precision, then they are an alternative to spending the big bucks for a quality tool.
to me, learning how to use and maintain a tool is usually more important than buying an expensive tool. the exception is the table saw and router table IMO. you can find both cheap. but a cheap router table is worse than building one yourself. they are easy to build...but make them big enough to handle long pieces of wood.
a cordless drill is a good tool, but don't buy Ryobi and get an extra battery and charger. nicad batteries have "memory". that is they need to be fully charged and used until they are dead. then fully charged again. don't use them for a couple of minutes and then stick them back in the charger! lithium ion batteries are more expensive and still i haven't found details on their pluses/minuses from users. just bought one myself over a nicad battery because i want to try one out and hate nicads.
keyless chucks are built very sturdy IMO. i've had two of them go out on me so far. the old style keyed chucks work and you can replace them. just watch your fingers so they don't get pinched and don't lose the key.
clamps have been mentioned, but no one told you what kinds of clamps to buy. I think they are the next most important tool to buy and used is the only way to go IMO. bar clamps - get 3. c clamps - get 2 fairly large ones. spring clamps - get 2. band clamps - get one really good one and get advice before buying it -- you may have to buy a new one because i've never seen a used one for sale. miter clamps for picture frames - these should only be bought when you need one and it has to be accurate/precision. otherwise they are useless IMO. there are several styles made and some work better than others. some will not work well with routed edges. again, get advice before buying and buy for the project. when it comes to actually using a pipe clamp, remember that glue and metal will stain your wood - so protect the wood. pipe clamps are useful and relatively cheap, but sometimes a pain to use.
sanders are essential tools as well, but again get advice before buying.
palm sanders tend not to last long if sanding for long periods or putting pressure on them - let the sander do the job with the right sand paper. don't put force on the sander or generally you will destroy bearings or plastic parts inside. mounted belt / disc sanders work so much better than hand held sanders that i suggest you buy one eventually and avoid most hand held belt sanders. sometimes you just can't avoid them though. a spindle sander seemed to be an esoteric tool that i didn't think our shop needed and i put off buying one for about ten years...then after buying one it turned out to be one of the most used tools we had. we actually wore it out within 2 years from use. a drum sander is an expensive tool to buy and only useful when you are using un-planed wood. i presume that you will start out with wood that is planed on both sides and that means you won't need one for several years. they are useful for making small items such as jewelry boxes that need to use thin pieces of wood to make them light. they cost about $700 for a smaller, cheap version. i probably wouldn't buy a used one because you will probably spend an extra $200 on a new drive belt and a series of abrasive belts.
for fine furniture you will eventually need a joiner...some come with a table saw. i bought a used one for $100 and you can probably get a small, used one for less. to me they aren't a precision tool, but one that you have to use, sharpen and adjust correctly. a hand plane is a little bit difficult to learn to use and sometimes takes a little muscle. IMO they are difficult to sharpen correctly and that means you need to pay to have them sharpened. If you hit a nail or staple with either tool, it can get expensive to sharpen them. same with table saw blades.
i will never buy a non-carbide table saw blade again.
against all advice and common sense, i keep carbide table saw blades that have lost their teeth for cutting pallet wood and wood with nails in it. the carbide teeth will cut through the nails / staples and you don't ruin a good blade. they are more dangerous to use, but the wood is usually free and sometimes it is great wood...mahoghany, teak, etc.

now as to wood; for over 20 years i'd go to auctions, yard sales, cabinet shops, and lumber yards looking for hard woods. so i have quite a variety at home that didn't usually cost me much. however, i usually couldn't find cheap, large pieces. i did find a business failing once that was selling off it's tools and supplies fairly cheap and got some that was 4' long. that doesn't happen often. i suggest you start out with soft woods and learn to use the tools and only buy hardwoods when you can find them cheap and for special projects. eventually you will see the beauty of hard woods out weighs the expense. put those thoughts away until you gain skill and experience.
good luck with your projects.
 

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You are. See, for example, the Reference Material List "sticky" under General Woodworking.
In that case hobbyer gave some good advice.

I use Fine Woodworking starting with the first issue. Now I get it from the library. Wood Smith puts out an excellent publication.

www.owwm.org (old wood working machines) is an excellent place to learn about machines. www.owwm.com is a library of antique machines. They define old as at least twenty years old or no longer made.

http://www.vintagesaws.com/ lots of info here

The belt driven table saw is what I would start with. At least 1hp; 3hp is better. Many motors can be run on 110v or 220v by changing a couple of wires in the motor. If you do not have a dust collector build a 1/4" plywood box underneath it to collect a majority of saw dust.

I have a book The Accurate Table Saw. He lists many jigs you can make for accuracy and safety. The Accurate Table Saw: Simple Jigs and Safe Setups (Cambium Handbook): Ian Kirby: 9780964399952: Amazon.com: Books

I bought mine at the local used bookstore. There are many other excellent books.

The absolute first thing you need and it is free is your attitude. You can do this. While woodworking can be dangerous it is not really any more dangerous than many other every day activities we all do. Do not let any one tell you can not do it.:thumbsup: Alway think a process though before you start and ask your self what can go wrong.
 

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One thing for sure - we woodworkers all have our own approach and we all do things differently - yet... we may all be correct. We all come from different backgrounds and we will all stick to our methods and preferences based on our experiences and knowledge.

Table saw - circular saw - band saw - miter saw - more clamps - expensive chisels... head spinning yet? How about a router; how about a jig saw; belt sander... So many tools and only $400... You're in a delima...

I agree that a table saw is the center of my and most workshops... but the back bone is a workbench! Although I have a whole lot of respect for Woodnthings and Cabinetman - I will respectfully disagree with them on this thread and side with SebringDon (1st time I've bumped into him I think...). With a good circular saw, you can build yourself a very decent workbench and lots of other workshop fixtures. Yes a circular saw can be dangerous... but a table saw (ts) can be more so. A good circular saw and a straight edge can be the most valuable asset to a start-up workshop.

Now to the workbench... 2 basic ingredients to a good workbench are flat and stable! A solid base and a flat surface ( solid core door - two 3/4" plywood on a heavy base or a 2X4 frame screwed into a wall or floor).
 
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Turning Wood Into Art
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you can make a table saw from a circular saw but to make a drop saw is hard. I would want a combination mitre saw but end of the day it comes down to what you are making. I would do is look at second hand. You can get alot more bang for your bucks if you shop around.
 

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where's my table saw?
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I agree that a table saw is the center of my and most workshops... but the back bone is a workbench! Although I have a whole lot of respect for Woodnthings and Cabinetman - I will respectfully disagree with them on this thread and side with SebringDon (1st time I've bumped into him I think...). With a good circular saw, you can build yourself a very decent workbench and lots of other workshop fixtures. Yes a circular saw can be dangerous... but a table saw (ts) can be more so. A good circular saw and a straight edge can be the most valuable asset to a start-up workshop.


Here's why I suggested that a circular saw is not a good idea for a beginner
.... even though that's exactly how I started out over 50 years ago, with a 8 1/4", 13lb, Skil saw.

First, there are plenty of very experienced framing carpenters that have experienced an injury using a circ saw, .... sometimes they wedge the blade guard up to allow for some cuts. :blink:
Second, it can be used safely IF you support the work properly in the case of large panels like plywood on a sheet of styrofoam or other means. You have to know what to expect when the saw breaks through and the cut off falls away.
A circ saw can be had in either a left or right version to allow you to see your cutting line. If you are a right handed user and the saw blade is on the right side, it requires leaning over and around the saw to see the mark...not an issue if you use a guide. If you are a right handed user and the saw blade is on the left, you can easily see the mark, BUT the saw base is now resting on the cut off which may cause an unexpected change in the workpiece resulting in a kickback.
Small pieces are difficult or impossible to hold on to, having to raise the blade guard simultaneously, and support the work. Sawing a small amount off a short piece is very dangerous.
I own about 10 circ saws in various configurations and sizes including Dewalt 18 V battery powered, my "go to" saws for construction projects. I've had all of them jam or kickback at some point, but I know what to expect after years of use.
I'm not saying that a table saw is any less dangerous than a circ saw, just that it's safer for cutting smaller pieces which can be guided with the miter gauge or a sled, and in the case of ripping narrow pieces which would prove very difficult/unsafe using a circ saw. There's a reason there are usually both types of saws on the jobsite.
That's just my opinion based on my experience.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Thanks for all the fantastic, opinionated replies. This is exactly what I was hoping for - not consensus necessarily, but a range of opinions.

I'm in eastern PA, not too close to Philly. We have a Harbor Freight nearby, as well as Home Despot, some regular "antique" markets where really anything can turn up, and, my personal favorite, a Mennonite hardware store. I will definitely be keeping an eye on Craigslist. I've just started a subscription to Fine Woodworking and am cogitating on my first project. I often receive gift cards to HD for birthday/xmas, so that will surely be a help for some purchases. Clamps are at the top of the list.

I should say I have a few Makita cordless drills with spare batteries, a circular saw, jigsaw (though my husband insists it's called a sabersaw), a dremel, and a basic sander. I'm not sure the quality of all of these will be up to scratch for fine work, but I'm at least familiar with basic functionality.

More replies/opinions are welcome!
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
And thanks for the vote of confidence, cabinetman. I was up early, started my reply, and got distracted by garden maintenance.
 
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