Woodworking/Cabinet making on a budget
May 28, 2010 7:39 AM   Subscribe

I've recently got really into woodworking, but, as I don't know if my first project was just a one off in terms of how fun it was and how well it went, I don't want to splurge on LOADS of equipment before I know I *really* like it.

I've recently got really into woodworking, but, as I don't know if my first project was just a one off in terms of how fun it was and how well it went, I don't want to splurge on LOADS of equipment before I know I *really* like it. Things I have:

A jigsaw
A drill/driver
A handsaw
Misc. small tools

Things I'm considering:

A circular saw (the Dewalt track saw?) The Kreg K3 pocket hole jig Various rasps, chisels, markers etc.

What woodworking hacks/kits/jigs/tools/books would you recommend to a beginner on a budget?

I was, for example, considering a track saw because it seems they can be used as an alternative (some even say a safer, faster alternative) to a table saw. The pocket hole jig was more for slapping together workbenches, bookshelves, making quick repairs and the like. I wouldn't use it on furniture...

I've had recommended Woodworking: The Right Technique as a good book, BlueMagic Invisible Glove for messy activities, Gorilla Glue as a great glue and Mr. Grip Screw Hole Repair Kit for stripped holes. Anything else?? Thanks!
posted by dance to Shopping (7 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I would just buy whatever you need for your next project. If you're not sure what you need for it, ask questions about the best way to do the particular project you're interested in.

"Woodworking" is a very broad category, with more associated tools than you can ever hope to possess.
posted by jon1270 at 8:34 AM on May 28, 2010

Seconding just the tools you need for your next project, although a sturdy, ergonomic workbench with several ways to clamp/secure your work will be your most valuable tool. Also, the Lumberjocks forums are exceptionally friendly and informative.
posted by paulg at 9:14 AM on May 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

"I was, for example, considering a track saw because it seems they can be used as an alternative (some even say a safer, faster alternative) to a table saw. "

Track saws can cut up panels and rip or cross cut solid material. They can't be used to make moulding, tenons, dados, angle cuts, stopped cuts, many of the things you use a cross cut sled for or essentially anything requiring a jig or anything requiring a non standard blade. A table saw is a swiss army knife in shop designed for it but it is a pretty big capital investment.

I'll second jon1270 that "woodworking" is a broad category; the tools you use for furniture are fairly distinct from those used for boxmaking, or cabinet making or turning or construction.

Personally if I was startin from essentially scratch I'd get:

Drills. Start with a 3/8th drive VS hammer drill (these can be switched to regular drill) and later get a battery powered drill in the 12-14V range. Drill bits.

A router. I love to death my 2 1/4hp Milwakee 1/2" router. Easily enough power to do most jobs and compact enough to hand hold. It would be a bit small for 3" panel bits though. Router Bits.

Drill press or Band saw depending on what your project could use. The drill press is pretty well required for making accurate large holes. Set of Forestner bits.

Several hand tools. One should have a decent block plane and #5ish bench plane. A marking gauge if you are doing furniture or dovetails. Two sets of chisels, one 5 for $10 set for all the abusive things you shouldn't do with chisels and one good set kept crazy sharp. A couple squares (8" and 24" to start). A tape and ruler and some kind of marking knife. A couple card scrapers.

Clamps; no woodworker has ever died thinking he had too many clamps. I like Pony 3/4" pipe clamps, spring clamps and leaved sliding bar F-Clamps that Canadian Tire sells. K-body bessies are well thought of but too expensive for me.

Belt sander that can be turned over and laid on it's side for stationary use.

A 12oz finishing hammer used only for driving finishing nails (face kept polished), a 16 oz hammer for everything else like furniture tacks, and a wooden mallet for tapping joints into place and hitting your good chisels with.

Turning is a great deal of fun and if you want to do that you'll need a lathe, chisels and probably a bandsaw.

If you have the space a sturdy work bench should be an early project. Doesn't have to be too fancy; you'll probably replace it with something better customized to your needs eventually.

Gorilla glue should only be used where clamping pressure can be applied; a regular wood glue like pro-bond or Weldbond is usually as good and easier to clean up.
posted by Mitheral at 9:25 AM on May 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'll try to keep this short -- tool shopping tips.

Figure this out first: are you a "Norm Abrams" or a "Roy Underhill"

Norm) likes power tools and he has a lot of them because he likes the end product (he's a pro; he gets paid on completion). If woodworking were a commute, Norm would drive a BMW because it got him where he wanted to go with mechanical perfection.

Roy) likes hand tools because he likes the tactile process of making things. Roy would walk to his destination, and he would take the side streets and trails because the journey is really the point of the whole thing.

Are you Norm? Do you want to make stuff?
Or are you Roy? Do you want to make stuff?

Whichever you are,

1) Stay away from unitaskers. Generic tools build skill and let you tackle more work.
2) Buy the best you can afford. Cheap tools break, are hard to use, and wreck projects.
3) Never underestimate the value of good clamps and a good workbench.
4) Don't buy tools until you need them. Never buy "tool box fillers."

Oh and, don't buy tools at wal-mart. Possibly don't even buy them at Home Depot. Find a good tool store in your city and talk to them about your needs. A good tool store will be staffed by people who know how to use the tools they sell and their prices will almost certainly not be much higher than the box stores (because professionals know how to comparison shop).

I'm sorry I can't give you specific purchase recommendations, because you need to base what tools you buy on what you want to do -- don't just stock a workshop.

Well, good luck and congratulations on beginning a really rewarding skill!
posted by seanmpuckett at 10:10 AM on May 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

Have you considered taking classes? Our local community colleges were a great place for me to become comfortable with tools and learn basic skills. After a semester or two you'll know what kind of woodworker you want to be, and what tools you'll want/need. Bonus: using school tools instead of buying everything yourself. Also, if you have a Woodcraft near you, they offer one-day seminars on lots of different types of projects. Have fun and be safe!
posted by killy willy at 2:53 PM on May 28, 2010

Sorry, I should've checked your locale before I answered. No Woodcraft in Norway. :-( But you might have a local woodworkers' club near you, if local colleges/vocational schools aren't an option either.
posted by killy willy at 2:55 PM on May 28, 2010

I need to emphasize what the others are saying. What do you want to work on? Buy the tools to help with that.

A luthier's shop often won't have a tablesaw (hardly any straight lines!). A cabinetmaker, possibly no bandsaw. If you never do any turning, why would you have a lathe? Etc.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 5:02 PM on May 28, 2010

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