I've always wanted to do some wood working (bookshelves, tables, cabinets,
home repair/re-build, Etc) but with two kids in college, four car payments
and a mortgage, money is not a readily available item.
I've done a tremendous amount of research (Taunton Press has me on their X-
Mass card list)and I've followed this newsgroup for years. I've pretty
much figurd out what I need to buy to truly get into this hobby, but the
cost differential between the manufacturers astounds me. My initial
shopping list includes:
1) Table Saw (cabinet saw - sheet goods capable)
2) Band Saw (would like to re-saw and try veneering)
3) 8" Jointer
4) 13"+ Planar
5) Drill Press
6) Multiple routers for router table and free standing use
7) Miter Saw
So (and here comes the religious war), if you were starting out (serious
hobby type work) and funds were not unlimited (I can afford my list with a
little left over using the low end), where would you put your money as far
as tool quality? In my readings, it seems that from a quality viewpoint
you have (subjective for me based on reading and using like cost as a
1) Low end = Grizzly, Jet, Rikon
2) Middle = Delta, General
3) High = Powermatic, Laguna
Would you splurge on any one tool or could I get by buying it all from the
low end dealers (e.g Grizzly)?
All things considered I would get a unisaw, a router, a router table, a
really nice corded 3/8 drill and start there. Think Milwaukee when
looking for a drill. A nice jig (sabre) saw is essential. Again think
A miter saw is nice if your are a trim carpenter but never saw the point if
you have a good table saw.
Planer? I would wait. Dimensioned lumber is just too easy to buy.
Drill press? That is the single most used machine in my shop. I am
thinking about buying a second drill press.
Jointer? I don't have one. The table saw does a pretty good job all by
itself. If I want something dead accurate, I use a known good straight
edge and a flush trimming bit on the router.
See where you hobby leads you. You might get a little crazy and decide
that wood turning is your thing and you need a lathe.
One thing you forgot was a small compressor and some nailers. It is really
nice to be able to drive a brad or finishing nail with the squeeze of a
I am not sure what I am doing with the band saw. I hardly use it but it
comes in handy for those oddball cuts one needs every now and then.
Don't forget to save some money for accessories like fences, mitre gauges,
mobile bases, dust collection etc.
You can find great stuff used.
If you can lower your sights a bit, you can really do it cheaply.
I have two old iron Craftsman TS and they both work fine. With big tables,
they will do anything you need.
Their real shortcoming is their fences. I use one for ripping and I measure
the fence location every time and push it against the table to make sure it
squares up. That done, it's fine.
The other TS I use for crosscutting and never put the fence on it, so it's
fine. I should build a sled, but the miter gauge with a wood extension has
been fine for building a whole kitchen and lots of cabinets.
I have a C'man RAS. It works well. I have an eight foot table, so it's
much better than a TS for ripping.
I use an eight foot by 0ne foot piece of ply as a sled to carry my rough
boards for straightening...safer and easier than doing it on the TS. You
can buy all these tools for under $200 each, one TS was $75. All are far
superior to any of the really cheap new tools. A $700 contractor saw would
be as good, maybe a little better but not necessarily. If you really want
to stay cheap, why bother with the cabinet saw?
You can also find older C'man and Delta drill presses and bandsaws. They
are as good or better than the new ones and cost much less.
With all the money you save on big buck iron, you can get a nice PC router
and maybe a small shaper. You'll love the shaper for raised panels! Rails
and stiles are OK with a router, but there's nothing like the whine of a
5.5" panel raiser going through oak in one easy pass! And, you'll have
plenty left for some nice chisels, clamps, and other odds and ends.
I have a PC router kit, but also several garage sale routers. I like having
several cheap ones, so I can leave the bits I use the most set up and ready
to go when needed. I never plan a work sequence, so I'm frequently going
from one operaton to another and then back.
The 12" miter saws are really large. You may want to stay smaller if you
don't expect to do framing. My Bosch is so heavy it's hard for my 65 yr old
body to carry very far. Of course with a RAS and CMS, you hardly need the
I have a C'man jointer that is perfectly fine, but pretty short. If you
expect to straighten anything over about three feet, you'll want a long bed,
as long as you can afford. As far as I'm concerned, the RAS is much better
for straightening long stock. Once it's straight, the jointer can smooth
the edge, but a good sawblade really is all you usually need.
The 13" planers are great if you don't work them too hard, but there's
nothing like the 15" heavy ones for really getting after rough lumber! They
make a hell of a noise, but really work...lots of power.
There's a company in Charlotte, NC, that sells their own brand of Chiwan
tools for quite a bit less than the big names. I have their 15" planer and
it's fine. They tell me their tablesaws are comparable to any of the
contractor or cabinet saws and I expect it's true. Their planer obviously
comes from one of the big factories...looks just like a Delta! They say
they have their own specs and quality control at the plants and I believe
them. Look up Leneave Machinery and ask for Greg Leneave. I think he is a
straight shooter. He claims to have good freight rates too.
So there you go. I'll be blasted by the big spenders, but it's fun to get
good tools used and learn to make the best of them. Yes, great tools make
things easier, but they do not come with talent or insight, which make up at
least 80% of your results. Just look at some 200 year old furniture and
you'll see what I mean! I think it's best to actually start something with
your basic tools and get the small stuff as needs arise.
Let us know what you do,
Putting some of your message together in my own particular
way, I'm going to zero in on "some wood working" and "hobby"
and then "cheap."
I think your list is reasonable -- not necessarily the list I would
come up with -- but exceeds "some" and "hobby" by quite a
bit. Narrow your list down, is my advice. I think you'll find that
you'll need things NOT on your list (sanders, battery powered
drill, Bessey K-clamps, for some examples) that are NECESSARY
well before you get to "planer" (note the spelling) and "jointer"
(and you'll find that 6" fits "hobby" and "some" and "cheap"
much better than 8").
And you can spend a ton on those things I mentioned, too.
Then, think BORG. Seriously. Go to Home Depot (Ridgid
brand) and Sears (Craftsman brand) when their stuff is on
sale. You'll find that "inexpensive" and "cheap" aren't necessarily
the same word AND that the Big Box Stores have sales that
can save a significant amount of money.
You might get burnt out on this "hobby," too. So start off
with a more limited list of "what I need to buy." You might
not "truly get into this hobby."
Oh...and that list you generated takes some space to house.
Jim Stuyck -- been adding new tools for over 45 years now
and I still have some REALLY CHEAP stuff I bought when I
started out (I also have discarded some crap along the way)
John Doe (in Xns97F5990D557BNoonenowherecom@22.214.171.124) said:
| I've always wanted to do some wood working (bookshelves, tables,
| cabinets, home repair/re-build, Etc) but with two kids in college,
| four car payments and a mortgage, money is not a readily available
Consider buying really good used equipment for what you consider your
"core" operations - and buy tools only as you need them.
I'd suggest a good solid workbench for your first project - and plan
to someday replace it with an improved version. I'd guess that in that
first project you'll learn enough to make good/better decisions about
subsequent tool purchases.
Accumulate "help" resources: your dad, an uncle, brother-in-law, work
associate - anyone you know who enjoys woodworking and who might be
willing to share experience with you. These people can help you avoid
mistakes in nearly everything you tackle - including tool selection.
Plan to use some part of what you spend for some good wood. It sounds
painfully obvious; but without it, you won't get much satisfaction
from even the best of tools. :-)
DeSoto, Iowa USA
Start with a project, buy the best you can afford to get it done as you need
it, and add/upgrade from there as your budget allows.
The trim carpenters who work for me, and who build everything from shelves,
the built-in's, to the stairs in a new home, unload just the following items
from the van every morning:
Contractor's table saw
Brad/finish nailer/compressor combo
With the above, and a modicum of skill, they do an entire house worth of the
items mentioned in your first sentence.
I think you will find the line between most of the above has been blurred
considerably since the introduction of price point engineering and "made in
Although I don't own any of their tools, I don't consider Grizzly as
necessarily "low end" in this day and age, and, from what I've seen on the
show room floors, certainly think Jet is equal to Delta in most offerings
And, almost without exception, there are a few brand specific items that are
considered "best bang for buck" by the folks who use them on a daily basis,
and they are very often not the most expensive item, or fall within the
perceived numerical scale on your list (the $14.95 on sale Harbor Freight 18
ga brad nailer, or the Ridgid 13" planer, come to mind).
The key to finding these 'best values' is simply to ask the right questions
to the right folks ... and you've made a good start on that.
When you've paid off your obligations:
Take your estimated active life expectancy and subtract your present age. If
you have at least 5 years or more left buy the most expensive and best tools
you can buy.
1. They will last you the rest of your life to enjoy them.
2. Your kids (if interested) would last those tools the rest of their lives.
3. When they pass the stuff on to you they will be forever grateful that
they didn't buy you junk!
Rather than "starting a shop", start a _project_. Get what you need for
that project. With any power tool purchases think ahead though, don't get
just what you need for the one project if you know that you're going to be
needing a more capable tool later.
Firstly, I'd look hard for quality second-hand items. They are often a
great deal. I have bought about 1/2 my tools that way. The preferred
sellers are older gentlemen who's age, or maybe illness, means they
are giving up WW. It's a genuine reason for the sale, and they pleased
to see their tools going to a good home. And I hope all mine do the
same one day.
I had one, but did not use it that often, so sold it. I now use a
Hitachi circular saw (Bought second hand from my neighbour who was
moving overseas) and a 8x4 cutting grid. For cutting sheet panels it's
a LOT safer than a table saw. A google search will show how simple it
Prob my most used tool, I have a JET 18", but the 14" Delta might be
as good if starting. There's been many reviews in magazines and some
of the cheaper models (Grizzly, etc) seem pretty good.
I have an old, very solid, second-hand 6" one. It was cheap and does
very good work. The manufacturer went out of business 20 yrs ago, but
after-market blades are readily available.
The Ryobi AP1300 is low-cost and actually pretty good, at least mine
does all that I ask of it, and it's had a lot of recovered timber
through it. (Be VERY careful of nails though) They get reasonably
good reviews, and their planers are some of their best tools. IIRC it
was Ryobi that first made the "table-top" 12-13" planers.
Again an old second-hand one does great. Or buy a cheap one to get
some practice, then buy a good one when you work out what you really
I bought a VERY cheap Chinese one, and it worked well, and let me get
a lot of practice. Then I bought the large Triton (new), and it's
pretty awesome, then a second-hand Makita that was too good a bargain
to pass up. I use all three.
The DeWalt range is hard to beat and I really like my DW705, but if
money was tight, the smaller Ryobis don't look too bad.
One item that is not on your list, but I use a lot is a big, powerful
jigsaw. IMO, it's worth spending the money for a good Bosch. I have
the GST135, but I think it's called the 1590 in the USA. It never
stops cutting and the difference between it and the cheap ones is
You have been given good and bad advice as far as I'm concerned.
Morris: "Consider buying really good used equipment for what you consider
"core" operations - and buy tools only as you need them."
Swingman: "Start with a project, buy the best you can afford to get it done
as you need
it, and add/upgrade from there as your budget allows." and "certainly think
Jet is equal to Delta in most offerings today."
Jim Stuyck: "I think you'll find that you'll need things NOT on your list
(sanders, battery powered
drill, Bessey K-clamps, for some examples) that are NECESSARY"
Bad: "Get rid of at least two car payments and you will have more money for
your shop. Jeez I am ashamed to have two car payments."
This is terrible advise. As a car dealer I believe everyone should have
three or four car/truck payments.
My advise, along with the good above is too avoid the cheap junk. If you
can't afford quality tools, wait and save (After making your car payments of
A bandsaw, jointer and planer will save you money in the long run. You will
be able to buy lumber cheaper and be able to create more unique pieces while
not being trapped in the 3/4" for everything mind set.
Depends on how much money you want to spend on brand names. I would lump
Grizzly, Jet, Delta and perhaps General into the Middle Range. Some price
difference, not much else. Tools from any of these should meet your needs.
Powermatic is still High Range but is showing signs of slipping.
You need to look and feel the individual machines and not base you decisions
on others perceptions. IMHO Grizzly makes as good a tool as any in my mid
range above. Apparently a lot of industrial shops agree. However, don't
base decisions on paint color. I have a fully integrated shop (Grey, Beige,
Green, and Baby-Poop Yellow).
I'll just agree with several other responders - pick a project or 2 to
start, and buy good-quality tools as you need them. You'll get a
better idea what you need as you go, and if you have a certain budget
to start with, you'll find a bunch of little things you need that
aren't on your list like clamps, hand tools, measuring tools, dust
collection + accessories, glue, finish, wood, more books, etc.
Also, like many others have said, keep an eye out for used stuff at
auctions, garage sales, craigslist, ebay (bid with caution and
One of my first priorities would be to look for a real hardwood dealer
(not a borg or local hardware store). Unless you're starting with
really large projects, you can get your lumber S2S or S4S at moderate
additional cost - even at $.50/bd ft, it would take a lot of wood to
pay for a brand new high-end jointer+planer.
Given all that, I'll toss in my list of handy and multi-purpose tools I
probably use most: Dewalt Router (1/2 shank, vari speed, plunge + fixed
base) and homemade router table, cheap 10" bandsaw, really old but nice
Atlas drill press, Bosch jigsaw, old Skil handheld circ saw, Steve
Knight hand planes, and Dewalt handheld drill. I think the jigsaw and
bandsaw are the only things I paid list price for - the other stuff was
inherited from relatives or bought cheap through Amazon
reconditioned/ebay, etc. I don't have room for a TS right now, but a
handheld circ saw can be used quite accurately for cutting sheet goods
and crosscutting, if you get/make appropriate jigs.
Other less-major tools that have been unexpectedly handy are a
"Preppin' Weapon" sanding block, 4" graduated engineer's square, a
Duluth Trading shop apron, a 10' tape measure, and of course a
selection of clamps.
Good luck and have fun - try not to jump too far down the slippery
slope all at once,
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