I'm looking for some advice on tools and some simple beginner
projects. I just moved out of an apartment and into a house, so I now
have room to start building a modest workshop. I have your standard
portable power tools (circular saw, jig saw, drill, belt and orbital
sanders) which served me well while living in an apartment. But, they
were really for minor repair work. I never really built anything from
Now that I have the space, I'd like to start woodworking. I love
watching woodworking shows on TV but they make it seem way to easy.
But, having just bought the house, I'm rather strapped for cash. And
honestly I'm not really sure if this is just a passing fad or not. I
don't want to spend a great deal of money on tools which may just wind
up sitting my basement rarely used. So as a beginner who may quickly
loose interest, what are the essential starter tools that I should be
And I would appreciate recommendations for simple beginner projects,
especially ones where I could get by with what I already have. (A
birdhouse, a very basic bookshelf, etc.) I'd almost prefer to build
up a love of the craft first which would drive me towards purchasing
better tools over time.
I would suggest that you get a book entitled "Box by Box". It starts
out very simple but if you can work all the way through it you'll have a
pretty good set of skills. Caution--the lists of tools and materials
need some editing--you'll find tools listed for some projects that you
don't need--don't buy one until you can't figure out how to do a step
without it. "Tage Frid Teaches Woodworking" is a very good "how to"
book--they ways he teaches aren't the only way but he generally has
several ways of going after any task--it's not a project book though and
the way to learn IMO is to decide what you want to make and then make
it, and if you need to practice a skill you'll know by the time you're
done what skill you need to practice.
There are a ton of good books out there that will lead you through basic
techniques with simple projects.
I got the woodworking bug a couple years ago when I bought a
cheap ($100) table saw on a whim. When I started playing around and
realized how many things you can do with that one simple tool that you
can't do with the standard array of portable power tools, I was hooked.
So I would start there, followed by a router/table combination. I
wouldn't skimp too much on this, but for under $500 you can put together
a pretty good setup, including an assortment of frequently used bits.
You can do a hell of a lot with a table say and a router. From there,
the sky is the limit if you find yourself really enjoying the hobby.
Go to the public library and read the various woodworking books. They
will have several on getting started. Also go to Borders, Barnes
Noble and read their woodworking books too. The getting started
ones. I saw one by Taunton/Fine Woodworking about getting started and
it seemed pretty good. Simple projects using modest tools most people
already have. All of these have various tol lists. Most are not
extravagant lists and after reading the various books you can figure
out which of the tools suggested are really necessary.
As for tools, you do need certain tools to do the work. I think the
table saw is essential. Without one you are trying to concoct some
other way to do what the table saw does quickly and easily. If you
have to make up work arounds that are inconvenient every time you want
to cut something, your interest can quickly drop off. And you'll
never really give yourself a chance to like woodworking.
I'm not saying having the nicest tools will make everything easy and
get you to be a lifelong woodworker, but without the right basic tools
at the start, the interest will never be kindled because it will be so
tedious to do the simplest things. Imagine being a car mechanic, if
that was your passion, and not having a covered garage or shed or
anything to work on the tools. Laying on your back under a car on a
gravel/dirt patch in the middle of winter, in a northern state. At
night, no trouble light even. And your only tools are a Vise-Grip,
screwdriver, and hammer. Kind of hard to even get interested in car
mechanics if you don't even have the very basics.
Just start by building projects you need around the house or shop.
You will need cabinets and some sort of workbench even if it is just
plywood on sawhorses.
The tools you have are enough to get you going but you will probably
need a tablesaw rather quickly. I started out with a cheap benchtop
from Sears then upgraded to an all cast iron contractor saw, both
new. If I were to do it again I would buy a used contractor saw, you
can find them on craigslist for $100-200. They are practically
indestructable and can be had for the price of a new benchtop. Search
around for tips on buying used power tools.
Go for projects that are simple to build confidence then move on to
something like this:
Yes, of course. He'll need a set like that to build one of these:
Hey OP ... Start simple.
You might want to start with a simple workbench and use it as a base to
extend the usefulness of the tools you already own with various jigs.
Use the internet to search for plans like you mentioned. There are tons
of free plans and even the purchased ones are usually only about $10.00.
Try your hand at birdhouses & feeders, planter boxes to spiff up that
new house and so on. If you run out of ideas, but had the foresight to
get married, you might brainstorm with yer missus.
Play. Sometimes you make really neat decorative or useful things, other
times you make memories.
Just be careful ... otherwise those memories can be of how you watched
your fingers go flying past you.
Just my humble 2 pennies worth, but you'll probably want to go with a
contractor saw to start and then a router. You can do just about
anything with them.
Craigslist is great for hunting them down in your area, or the
classifieds will have folks selling them relatively cheap. You can
even find folks who are selling their entire shops for a great price.
Go with simple home fix up projects and when you want to move on to
some other ones do a couple searches on the web for simple projects.
There are plenty of free plans available. There are great resources
mentioned above too.
Hey, congrats on the new house, and welcome to the club!
I started with fewer tools than that a few years ago, and now I'm
totally hooked. My recommendation would be to pick out some basic
projects, and to buy tools you absolutely need for each project. I
always recommend the book that got me started:
"The Complete Book of Woodworking: Detailed Plans for More Than 40
(Amazon.com product link shortened)75528486&sr=8-2
This book has a good background of wood, tools, and techniques, and
then gives basic plans for some fairly straightforward projects. I
started with a step stool, which I made with just a circular saw,
jigsaw, and drill. I borrowed a friend's router, but that isn't even
necessary if you follow the plan as written. I still use the stool
frequently as a "shoe-putting-on seat", and my wife likes it to reach
stuff on top of the fridge.
In contrast to most opinions here, I don't think a tablesaw is
absolutely necessary. If you have space and cash, by all means go for
it, but I'd suggest a router and router table might be a better "first
major tool" purchase. (Totally depends on what you want to make,
though - again, I'd recommend starting with a project and picking out
tools accordingly, rather than starting with a bunch of tools, as fun
as that sounds.) Anyway, shop space is very tight for me, so I went
with a bandsaw, router table, and circ saw guides instead of a TS for
now. I've also enjoyed discovering hand tools - you can do an awful
lot with a Japanese Ryoba (2-sided) saw, a well-tuned block plane, and
a few chisels.
Keep in mind when thinking about your tool budget that lumber can be
expensive, and don't forget consumables like glue, sandpaper, finish,
screws, hardware, drill bits, router bits, saw blades, etc. etc. etc.
Most of all, have fun woodworking! See what you can build with the
tools you have, look at your local library or used bookstores for
woodworking books, search the archives here, see if there are any
local clubs or classes, and learn whatever you can!
Start by building a sturdy and heavy workbench. It can be made from
standard available stock. Buy the tools you need to build the bench,
but buy the highest quality tools you can find. If I had to choose
between a $45 chisel and a cheap $45 electric drill, I'd pick the
chisel. Your workbench will prove to valuable for all future
projects. When you have the money add a hefty vice. Tools made in
USA, Canada, England, Germany are generally better than those made in
China or Taiwan.
I'd recommend getting good used power tools, especially if you don't mind
tinkering a bit. And if you want something you can get your money back out
of, buy old tools. For example, an old DeWalt Radial Arm Saw from the 50's
may set you back several hundred, but unless you take a sledge to it,
you're going to be able to get your money back out of it. And there's a
lot of knowledge and newsgroups out there, too. (Not trying to start a RAS
vs. table saw - just posting what I know.)
Cheap tools generally aren't worth it unless you don't care about accuracy.
For example, I use my cheap (< $100 new) Craftsman table saw to cut
shingles, brick, or anything else that I hope will kill that crappy saw.
Don't be fooled by a simple bookcase. Build a prototype out of cheap pine,
and you'll have to figure how to mount the shelves, how to construct and
attach the back, and support for long shelves.
Michael White "To protect people from the effects of folly is to
fill the world with fools." -Herbert Spencer
The simplest project to start with that can be accomplished with an
apartment dweller's tools would be a tool tote (if you haven't already
made one). Either plywood or pine, as you prefer. You'll get a lifetime
of use out of it. Other easy household projects: a rack for housekeys, a
display shelf for some nice bit of glassware or something, cat
scratching posts or a dog house (as appropriate), simple picture frames
and all manner of benches, hooks and cabinets for your would-be
workshop. You can learn skill building on those "out of sight" workshop
projects without pressure from the rest of the family, too. In addition
to your current tool inventory you'll need a decent block plane, a fine
tooth backsaw, and a couple of chisels. Something more advanced might be
a picnic table and bench, outdoor planter boxes, an outdoor worktable to
put next to the BBQ -- all of which may also be accomplished with your
current tool inventory and the hand tools just mentioned. When you
decide to kick it up a notch you can invest in a table saw, router and
drill press. They just make some things go faster, that's all. And if
you get that far you won't need a great deal of advice after that. Good
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