I am thinking about getting started in woodworking (white collar guy looking
to produce something tangible). I've been reading this newsgroup, looking
through some of the popular WW magazines, and read the woodworking for
dummies book. For background, the only saw I've ever used is a jigsaw
playing around. So I am the most novice you can think of.
I've read the advice on buying quality tools vs. the "intro" tools. But I
have a bunch of intro tools as gifts or inherited (Craftsman table saw,
router and table, some off brand 8 1/4" compund miter saw, old small drill
press, a ripsaw/circular saw - can't remember the correct term, a small
bandsaw, and a couple of power sanders). Since I've never done any work,
I'm sure I'm going to have a big learning curve - and who knows if I'll want
to even stick with it. So...
Should I stick with these inferior tools for starters to try the hobby out
and hone my skills? Or am I wasting my time with the lower end tools?
Thanks for your opinions.
Since you already have the tools, albeit cheap ones, I'd keep using
them until they eventually break/wear out, or you outgrow them. As each
one needs replacement, buy the best quality you can afford/justify. A
tool that only gets used occasionally doesn't need to be top notch. But
depending on the type of work that you finally feel comfortable with,
I personally like as high quality as possible for the major food groups
like table saws, planers, band saws, etc.
So use the Craftsman stuff and don't fret over making mistakes. I'd
rather make my mistakes with the intro tools that the high $ toys.
That's about what I started with, the cheaper tools to get my feet wet and
decide how serious I wanted to get into woodworking. After about 2 1/2 yrs.
and having a strong desire to build bigger and better quality items
including furniture for the house I starting buying better quality tools.
Last fall I bought the Jet contractor saw with cast iron wings to replace
the small Delta benchtop. (I kept the benchtop since I help my son in-law
with some side carpentry jobs and it's easy to throw in the back of the
pickup and go). SWMBO bought me the Dewalt 734 planer for Christmas and a
small Delta jointer. Just jump in there and get your feet wet and enjoy.
Watch Norm - New Yankee Workshop and David Marks and work safe. When working
with a saw, if it doesn't feel right don't do it.
I agree with Mark. One can make crappy furniture with expensive tools
too. Use what you have for now. Learn to measure and mark out your
work. Start with small, simple projects first, like a shelf, simple
box, or step stool. With pratice you'll learn the capabilities (or
lack thereof) of each machine and know what to upgrade as the need
arises. Buy tools as you need them for a specific project(s). Rather
than buying them on speculation that you'll use them. This goes for
large individual items and small things like drill bits and chisels.
Buy the specific bit or chisel you need to complete the task rather
than a whole set where you'll maybe use only a few items at most.
Two things I noticed you didn't mention having: a jointer and planer.
These are essential to get your wood parallel, flat and straight.
These or a set of hand planes. I have a set of hand planes for this
myself. Partly because I don't have the room, but also they're *much*
quieter, cheaper and produce much less dust. Besides there's something
very meditative about producing tissue thin shavings by hand.
I just discovered this site at about.com. You and any other newbies out
there may find it helpful, I know I do.
I'm a newbie myself (and also the white-collar guy looking to do something
tangible besides drug development). I too started out with entry-level
stuff. My biggest, biggest mistake was buying a really cheap-o TS. My old
B&D jigsaw, my free, very-old DeWalt circular saw were fine for a few
projects. As they broke down and/or started needing more precision, then I
upgraded to a Milwaukee jigsaw, in the interim, I bought a Skil circular
saw. Still not the greatest saw in the world, but when I put in a Freud
blade, it was like somebody gave me this amazing, brand new machine. I have
a Delta ShopMaster chop saw (their entry level stuff). Again, a Freud blade
made a huge difference. I am still using my ultra-sh*tty Crapsman tablesaw.
But I am learning how to cut dados and rabbets with it, and so for that,
it's pretty useful. It's a good learning tool.
My SWMBO has noticed that I actually might be able to do some stuff, and she
has made a list of things to make. Before I tackle even a quilt chest, I am
making a portable bench for my Crapsman TS to sit on, which I will sell the
saw with. A good project that is forgiving. She gave me permission to buy
a new TS, and after I finish my bench and build a sand box for my daughter,
the Crapsman is outta here.
You don't need a Unisaw at this stage, but you can get a decent TS for
around $500 or less. My advice, as a novice, would be to buy as much TS as
your checkbook and common sense will let you. Avoid portable saws (I have
found that you will need the weight), but a lot of people claim that the
Ryobi BT3100 is exceptional saw for a small price tag. I am buying better
stuff as my ability grows, but you can make do for the beginning projects
that we all tackle.
And then my last bit of newbie advice, buy the best blades you can get your
mits on. Maybe you and I don't need a Woodworker II, but at least buy
Dave in Dallas
On 4/18/04 20:11, in article 3HFgc.19933$G email@example.com,
Find an adult education class and/or community college program in your
area, and take some classes. The best part is that, in addition to safely
learning to use the toys, you get to play in their shop with the other
adult kids. (And some of these boys and girls qualify for retirement
In our area, one of the stated goals is to help people understand what
tools they might want for their own use and shops, without spending huge
dollars. You can experience the difference between an old Stanley plane,
well-tuned, and a Lie Nielsen. You come to understand what a shoulder
plane, or a rabbet plane, or a scrub plane or a jointer plane or a filister
plane might be used for, without having to buy one of each. You learn that
there are sometimes many correct ways to solve a woodworking problem, all
of which involve trade-offs of one kind or another.
I've never spent more than $65 on any one class. I've ALWAYS gotten my
money's and time's worth. And met some really nice people, too.
The guy who taught my most recent class was a marketing guru in the oil
industry for his whole career. Another fellow was a program manager for
high tech systems for the government. One teacher demonstrated power tools
for Sears for over a decade. They all had a lot to teach.
Welcome to the hobby. Enjoy using what you have. Keep your credit card in
the drawer at home for a while, until you have a small success or two with
the tools at hand.
I can't agree more with this advice. I made the mistake of loading up
my shop with tools I didn't fully understand how to use properly and
If you take classes, you'll learn the basic stuff like sharpening and
marking. It doesn't show much but it makes a tremendous difference on
the end results. Also, you may have access to the school's shop for
your own projects for a minimal fee. It's a way to get access to
professional grade tools.
The tools you have at the moment are most probably enough until your
skill level improves. Until then, you'll learn quickly their drawbacks
and you'll eventually know what you want.
All of the tools you mention will do their basic jobs just fine but may
require a bit more attention during operation to be sure they are doing it
Despite what many would have you believe, woodworking has nothing to do with
how much you spend on tools and only slightly more on the tools themselves.
There are thousands of woodworkers out there doing some outstanding work
with far less in the way of tools then what you have, better work then a lot
of people with far more then what you have.
Big expensive tools are not magic carpet rides to the promised land, just a
What woodworking does have to do with is knowledge and skill developed
through study and practice, attention to details, and, learning to work with
the tools you do have, not the ones you'd like to have.
Learn how to work with what you have.
The difference in the higher quality (and price) tools is that they're
more likely to be accurately aligned out of the box, they're more
likely to stay aligned in use, and they're more likely to be accurate
in their adjustments (e.g. when you set it to 45 degrees it will be
45 degrees each time, not 44.5 once and 46 the next).
So, for your tablesaw, drill press, and mitersaw, plan on investing
time getting them aligned, and plan on double checking the alignment
every time you use them. Same thing for the bandsaw, and be aware
that small bandsaws tend to break blades alot, and there's not much
you can do about it. There's not much can go wrong with a circ saw
or a power sander, so you're OK there.
Eventually you'll figure out which tools you use most, and get
annoyed with always checking the alignment, and then you can buy
a better quality one.
Your Sears router is a special case, tho. The Craftsman routers have
a particular bad reputation for changing the bit height setting while
running. If you find yourself needing a router for your projects
you may want to go ahead & get a better one.
Books (brain tools) for the shop! Check your local library first,
although they are handy to have handy as references. I'm listing them
in a suggested order of purchase:
-- These two first ---
Tage Frid Teaches Woodworking:
<(Amazon.com product link shortened)82454139/sr=8-1/ref=pd_ka_1/104-0021163-3615145?v=glance&s=books&nP7846>
Mastering Woodworking Machines:
<(Amazon.com product link shortened)82454237/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_1/104-0021163-3615145?v=glance&s=books>
-- Next you'll need this to properly use hand tools ---
Lee's sharpening book:
<(Amazon.com product link shortened)82454139/sr=8-2/ref=pd_ka_2/104-0021163-3615145?v=glance&s=books&nP7846>
--- Pick up one or both of these next ---------
Flexner's excellent finishing book:
<(Amazon.com product link shortened)>
Jewitt's brand new, up to date, and overall excellent finishing book:
<(Amazon.com product link shortened)82454266/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_1/104-0021163-3615145?v=glance&s=books>
These books have techniques in them that could save you hundreds,
maybe thousands of dollars over the years.
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