What books or tools would you suggest for a beginners library or
woodworking shop? I have some tools, Dewalt DW621 router, Ryobi RAS,
piece of junk table saw, etc. No really good books though.
Assume that the budget is $400. Thanks.
What kinds of things do you plan to build? Answers for small boxes
will be totally different than those for large furniture...
My main recommendation would be to pick a project, plan it as carefully
as you can, and request tools you think you'll need for that particular
project. Then continue to buy things as you need them, rather than
stocking up and then being forced to pick projects to fit your tools.
For most general woodworking, though, I'd probably recommend:
books about whatever projects and tools you're interested in $60 (look
for used online, look at your local library)
a GOOD quality combination square (costs more than $30, >$60 is
a vernier or dial caliper that reads in fractions $30
a decent set of chisels (some will disagree, but Marples blue-chip are
decent to start) $30
a low-angle block plane from Lee Valley or Lie-Nielsen $120-150
water stones or "scary sharp" materials to sharpen your chisels and
clamps, sandpaper, glue, wood, etc.: whatever $ you have left
If your budget were larger, or if you want power tools instead of hand
tools, I'd say the drill press is one of the most frequently-used power
tools in my shop, up there with the router. Then you'd want some
brad-point bits and some forstner bits to go along with that...
You've got a good router - if you need bits, look for several recent
threads here regarding brands and quality, but plan on spending at
You say you have a "junk" tablesaw - I've seen some pretty nice
projects come off a "junk" tablesaw. Get a decent carbide-tipped
blade, and spend some time tuning it up, and don't blame the saw for
poor work. When you can drop $500 on a new saw, go for it, but I'd
play around with a few small projects first.
As you can see, $400 doesn't go very far towards stocking a woodshop -
keep an eye on your local craigslist, local auctions, eBay, etc. for
used tools and materials.
Harbor Freight (HF) seems really cheap, but don't ever buy
sandpaper/abrasives from them, and whatever you get there, be aware it
might not last through your first use. They're pretty good about
returns with receipt, though, and some things there really are good
deals. Just don't get your hopes up too high.
Welcome to a fun, rewarding, and expensive hobby,
Save your money until you build it up to about $1,000, then start looking.
First thing I would do is get a catalog from Grizzly. If you are not to far
away from one of their 3 warehouses I would take a trip to one of them. It's
a real experience. I traveled over 250 miles to get my stuff and saved a lot
of money on shipping expenses.
I can't see buying cheap stuff and using it for a year or less and then
trying to sell/pawn it of on someone at a loss.
My 2 cents worth.
> What books or tools would you suggest for a beginners library or
> woodworking shop?
For $20, you can get a copy of Fred Bingham's book from Amazon.
Spend some time reading it to get an idea what other books you might
As someone else noted, depends strongly on what you're interested in
and/or intend to do. I'd suggest two for general knowledge--Tage
Frid's Joinery and Hoadley's Understanding Wood, both from Taunton.
Both are of some age now, but are timeless despite that.
I would emphasize that learning hand skills is important even in the
days of power tools and that quality hand tools (while not inexpensive)
are still, for the most part, less expensive than similar quality power
tools. A set of quality chisels is invaluable. I noticed someone else
mentioned sharpening as well as an indispensible art/skill.
As for the Hoadley recommendation, it's amazing how many folks I find
working wood that really have almost no actual understanding of the
material...this isn't casual reading, but is essential knowledge to
understand much of the "why" of long-term developed practices.
Taunton Press, for the most part, publishes quality materials. Other
than, perhaps, some of the summary article compendiums, you probably
can't go too far wrong with a title that intrigues. Another thought is
to look into some of the periodicals--I'm partial to Fine Woodworking,
having been a subscriber since almost the first issue, others have
Along with free videos and DVD's! My local library can also obtain
items from other libraries upon request. A great resource, that library
That said, there are a few books that are beyond handy to have on hand
all the time for quick reference. I can also write notes in them and
highlight text. Here are my suggestions, in no particular order, for
three books that are essential to own:
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The Duginske book is essential for keeping machines in good running
order, and has excellent usage and safety tips. The Frid books look
dated, but don't let black and white photos mask the unbelievable wealth
of simply, no BS information on the pages.
If you have a local Woodcraft or other such organization that offers
classes, a gift certificate for tuition to a "Woodworking 101" type
class would also be GREAT for a beginner. The classes will often pay
for themselves in gadgets not bought and materials not destroyed! <G>
You'd be amazed at how handy a benchtop belt/disc sander is. Helps
with all sorts of things. A Bosch jigsaw comes in handy (avoid other
brands) if you don't have a bandsaw. Drill presses can fit the budget
nicely, and double as a drum sander if needed. Cabinet scrapers and
clamps are a must as well.
As far as books go, if you're just starting, a one-year subscription
to Woodsmith is a good way to go. They have two or three detailed
projects in each issue, and not too many tool ads to make you feel
like you're too poor to do quality work. One year is probably enough,
maybe two- after that, they start to repeat themselves fairly
shamelessly. Don't know about books- I have a couple, but kind of
regret the money I spent on them. Read the suckers once, and they've
revealed everything they're going to tell me- could have done that at
Before I get started there's an older thread on this topic
that you might find of interest--doesn't precisely address your
situation--he had a bigger budget--but close enough to be helpful I think.
I have some comments there that I won't waste space by repeating here,
except to say that if you don't have good eye and respiratory protection,
get them first--a chip or splinter in the eye will ruin your day even if it
doesn't do lasting damage and blowing MDF dust out of your nose for three
days is not my idea of a good time.
Someone suggested using your library for books--if you have a _good_ one
nearby that is very sound advice, if you _don't_ have a good one then that's
another story--certainly look for any suggested titles there--no point in
spending money you don't have to.
Next, you have two very flexible tools--a radial arm saw (I'm assuming that
"RAS" means Radial Arm Saw and is not a typo for "ROS"--Random Orbital
Sander) and a very good router.
I'm going to start off with the RAS.
The "must haves" for that are the Mr. Sawdust radial arm saw book,
<http://www.mrsawdust.com/ , and the Jon Eakes e-book
Mr. Sawdust is stronger on _using_ the saw, Jon Eakes is almost entirely
You should have both them--a Radial Arm Saw properly set up is a wonderfully
versatile tool, but if it's not properly set up then it's much like the
recalcitrant Land Rover in "The Gods Must Be Crazy" (good movie to rent if
you like offbeat comedy--not wood related though except to the extent that
you see a good deal of African forest) which was nicknamed "The Antichrist".
Trust me on this--they make the difference between swearing by it and
swearing at it. The two of them and a good blade will take a good chunk out
of your budget but I think you'll find it money well spent.
Sears used to sell a book entitled "Power Tool Know How"--you can often find
it used for around 5 bucks--at that price it's a real bargain. Lots of good
information on setting up and using power tools including some good jigs and
fixtures. The section on the radial arm saw in that is excellent.
Next, the router. You need a router table to get the most benefit out of
it. Don't buy one--you should be able to make a good one with the tools you
have, assuming that you have a decent blade in one of the saws and the right
bits for the router. "Woodworking With The Router" if I recall correctly
has plans for a nice one. Once it's in the table you'll be wanting the fine
depth adjuster DW6956 (I think that's the right number for your router but
check) and a precision positioner--the original Incra that Rockler has on
sale right now for 60 bucks (normally 100, item number 22221) with the
template library lets you make an amazing range of joints and gives you
other capabilities as well. The Incra is also useful with a table saw, a
radial arm saw, and a drill press--that 60 bucks would be well spent IMO.
You don't say anything about having a drill. If you don't have one that
would be the obvious next power tool to get. Coastal Tool right now has an
18v Dewalt combo package (DC988CA) with a very good 1/2" drill and a
reciprocating saw for less than the price of the drill alone, still it's
more than half your budget. I'd go with the cordless over corded though if
I could, not so much for the convenience of cordless operation but because a
good cordless is a more versatile drill than the corded models--it has a
gearshift that gives you three speed ranges with high torque on the lower
range, a hammer mechanism that zips right through concrete, and a variable
clutch that is very handy when driving screws. Still, a 3/8" corded Bosch
for 65 bucks beats the heck out of drilling by hand.
Hoadley's "Understanding Wood" is excellent, however before you spend money
for it take a look at
<http://www.fpl.fs.fed.us/documnts/fplgtr/fplgtr113/fplgtr113.htm , which is
an excellent resource and has the advantage of being free (if you want a
paper copy, it's available from several sources which they list, but be
aware that the online copy is revised more frequently). That site has a
tremendous lot of other information including a wood information database.
I second the recommendation for Tage Frid. Also google "Bow Saw" and you'll
find a number of sites explaining how to make one--it's a good early project
and you'll be wanting one once you get started reading Tage. Woodcraft
carries them but you can make better.
Speaking of saws, one inexpensive tool that you might want to think about is
a "jeweler's saw" or "fret saw" (the fret saw has a deeper throat). You can
do with one just about anything that you can do with a scroll saw (and some
things you can't--the blades are amazingly thin), they cut surprisingly
fast, and you can get one with a good set of blades for under 20 bucks--you
might want to take a look at an art supply house or hobby shop for such a
thing. Downside is that if you aren't careful with it you can use up a lot
of blades--being so thin they break easily. If you google "Jeweler's Saw"
you'll find a large number of sources.
Learn to sharpen--for a cheap setup that works google "scary sharp". Add a
razor strop to that and practice and you'll be able to produce a really good
edge pretty quickly--a cheap tool with a good edge works better than an
expensive one that is dull. Takes a good deal of practice to learn how to
do it though.
I second the recommendation for the Marples Blue Chip chisels--with a good
edge they do fine. With most hand-powered cutting tools for woodworking,
the edge is what counts more than anything else and the edge is something
that _you_ produce, not the factory. No matter how many power tools you
have there's still going to be something that you need to clean up with a
A block plane, as someone else suggested, is also quite useful. Again you
need to sharpen it properly before it works well.
Another handy tool to master is the cabinet scraper--Rockler has a nice
starter set (60733) with not only the scraper but everything you need to
keep it sharp for $23. In the right hands it can produce a better finish
than a power sander. Takes practice to learn to use it well though.
A workshop essential--the thinking chair. You can get a recliner at a tag
sale or pick up an Eames knockoff on ebay or make a Morris chair (good
project--do it after the bow saw and the router table though--it's likely a
bit ambitious for a first project)--the only essential quality is that it's
comfortable, but remember that leather or vinyl upholstery is a lot easier
to clean the sawdust and chips off of than cloth.
Something to _not_ do. Do _not_ get a cheap jigsaw. There is no other tool
for which the difference between "cheap" and "good" is so radical. If
you're considering a jigsaw go with Bosch--the other good ones (and some of
the cheap ones)are based on expired Bosch patents and Bosch hasn't stood
Some things to do that don't cost you anything but your time and maybe a
Get paper catalogs from Rockler, Lee Valley, Jamestown Distributors, and
McFeelys. Web sites are fine for ordering but browsing those paper catalogs
you'll see things that you wouldn't notice on the Web site.
If there is a Woodcraft near you, go by and look around. They also
generally offer classes and have a well-equipped shop--talk to the guy
behind the counter about this. If by any chance you're within reasonable
driving distance of Hartford, CT, take a wander through Coastal Tool as
Get out your phone book and look in the Yellow Pages under "lumber" and find
the hardwood yards in your area (they'll generally advertise that they have
oak and maple and some quantity of other species) and check out each as you
get a chance. Hardwood yards are different both in terms of the kinds of
lumber they stock and culturally from home centers and hardware stores and
the like and range from standoffish to very helpful. But all of them will
have some very nice lumber for better prices than the home centers.
Last but not least, get some nice lumber--get a walnut board and a maple
board and a white oak board and a cherry board and maybe an exotic as well
and sit and stare at them for a while and think of what you want to make out
Can you sell your piece of junk TS now and build up your funds a little
Really, I think a decent table saw is a must if you want to do this
hobby on a semi-regular basis. Look in the used ads, craig's list, etc.
Even if you have to save up a couple more months to get the money.
If you really want to spend the money now, you could get a portable
planer. I think that is more helpful than a drill press. (Unless you
don't have a quality handheld drill).
The problem is, if you buy anything other than a decent tablesaw, that
makes you have to wait longer to get the decent tablesaw.
Thu, Oct 19, 2006, 4:39am (EDT-3) email@example.com (jk) doth plaintevly
What books or tools would you suggest for a beginners library or
woodworking shop? <snip> No really good books though. Assume that the
budget is $400.
I have absolutely no idea in the world what you're interested in,
so no way I could recommend any books for you. I'd say frequent your
local library. It'll save you money, and if you find a book you really
want to own, you can go shopping for one. I've got a pretty extensive
library, certainly a better collection of books on wood and woodworking
books than the local library. A sizeable portion of them I've got from
used bookstores, some in as new condition, most around $5, some more,
some less. New bookstores are only for finding a book you like, then
you go on line, or a used bookstore, and get a used copy. However, most
of t he books in new bookstores I'd only own if someone gave them to me
- the only real reason I visit them is to check the magane section.
There's absolutely nothing like thumbing thru a book before you buy it,
to decide if you actually want to buy it. I only buy books on-line
unless I actually know what their content is, or have a good idea. I do
NOT buy a book simply because someone else recommends the book.
It's not hard, if you get your mind right.
- Granny Weatherwax
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