Cheap woodworking ideas?
March 8, 2011 1:32 PM   Subscribe

What are your best tips and tricks for ramping up your woodworking on a budget?

This year my wife has agreed that the garage can become my shop, although financially this is not he best year to really invest in my hobby. I'll be upgrading the electrical but things like insulation and heating will have to wait.

As such I want to make the most of the summer months, and do so on the cheap. I'm not to concerned about projects this year, but I want to work on organization, storage, jigs and the like.

I already plan on building a router table for my Triton 3.25HP, and a mitre saw cabinet, but what else can I do with scrap MDF, Ply and cheap wood like Red Oak and Pine that will help me in the years to come?
posted by WinnipegDragon to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (15 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I should add, tools I own to work with:

Cheapo Ryobi SCMS
Cheapo Ryobi Drill Press
Ridgid Folding Jobsite Tablesaw w/ good CMT blades
Drill, Driver, etc...
A few planes (5 1/5 Jack, LABP)
Hitachi 2.25HP router w/ Dovetail Jig
posted by WinnipegDragon at 1:34 PM on March 8, 2011

Best answer: watch craigslist for tools and lumber. Lumber, in my area, goes under the "materials" section.

Time wise, it's so @#$%#$ much easier to make something from plywood than real wood. No planing, no jointing, no glue-ups, much less sanding etc. So if time is one of your constraints, think plywood.

Find a cheap clothes iron from the am vets/DAV/thrift store (make sure it works, mine was $1), and learn to put veneer on the plywood to hide the ugly edges. (And how to use a router to flush-trim it)

organization/storage wise, put everything on casters/rollers (if it isn't a benchtop). Find some rubber mats to stand on while working. If you want to work with lumber, built a lumber rack/shelving into the walls. (Though, I'd rather have a permanent station setup, we still put cars in the garage). If you put a permanent setup in place, dust collection becomes a must.

jig wise, I don't use too many - a table leg taper jig is useful. I've seen build-your-own plans, but for the cost of the parts, you can just as easily buy one.
posted by k5.user at 1:44 PM on March 8, 2011

Best answer: Build storage, especially for wood. That's what I'd do.
posted by amtho at 2:06 PM on March 8, 2011

Best answer: Sounds lovely.

One of the favorite parts of my shop is the skylights. The light is gorgeous. Far and away superior to florescent. I also painted the shop bright colors, which also adds to the space being very pleasant to be in. I even painted the floor. It's the kind of thing much easier to do at the very beginning of the project rather than later.

I recommend Sandor Nagalzanzky's book Setting up Shop, and The Workshop Book and Fine Woodworking has a "Shops" issue every year. Shop Savvy is another title to find.

I wish I had spent the time and money to put cabinets all over one wall, and I do mean ALL. Sure I have lots of storage, but who ever has enough.
posted by mearls at 2:06 PM on March 8, 2011

Best answer: Is your table saw in good tune - that is, are the miter slot and fence parallel to the blade? That's practically free to fix (not counting the time) and will do wonders for the quality of your work. A oufeed table and a side extension table are also well worthe the price of admission.

Learn to sharpen, adjust and use hand tools. There are a lot of tools out there (the number 5 plane being chief among these) that are not high dollar collectables, but there is a reason they continuted to be used long after a powered alternative was available. I think that card scrapers trump sand paper almost every time, for example.

A planer allows you to spend less on expensive face finshed wood and buy more cheap rough sawn wood and plane it to your specifications.

A jointer is nice, but you can get a decent priced #7 or #8 plane on E-bay, clean it up and between that, your table saw and a long guide sled (for when the wood has no straight edges) you can get a better edge than a jointer can give you.

There are some companies in India and China that have caught on that the cheap crap market is saturated and there are people out there that will pay more for tools that actually work. I've not followed this market carefully so I can't name the companies but they're discussed a lot on the woodworking forums and worth looking into.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 2:10 PM on March 8, 2011

Best answer: Back when I was in the hobby, I made sure that all of my bench-top tools--router table, table saw, band saw, jointer/planer--could mount on my trusty old Work Mate. Really, just a couple of short lengths of 2x4s mounted on the bottom of the tools is all you need, though I customized mine somewhat for dust collection.
posted by MrMoonPie at 2:29 PM on March 8, 2011

Best answer: Harbor Freight is dirt cheap. The quality isn't great, but if your budget is pretty tight, they'll do for a lot of things.
posted by electroboy at 2:41 PM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I also have a garage shop that I am trying to organize. Most usefull things I have done:
- Built a vertical wood rack (basically just a couple 8' 2x4s attached to the wall with 1" holes drilled for 1' long dowels) This way all my offcuts can be picked through fairly quickly.
- Built a rack for all my clamps. (just a 1x2 supported on both ends hanging off the side of my drill press stand).
- Put tools on wheels, so far I just have the planer and bandsaw on wheels, but I want to do the same to the drill press and miter saw. It really lets me customize the space for the job at hand.

My big project right now is building a router table, and really nice fence for it that lets me quickly bolt feather boards as vertical and horizontal hold downs. (featherboards are just 1/2" ply, with mdf edges that have been slotted). I make a lot of my own dowels so I need to be able to round all 4 sides, without creating an inadvertent javelin.
Next up is going to be a shelf for all my drill and router bits.

Oh, and see about getting all your tools to a similar height, if I have to rip something awkward on the bandsaw I can use the top of my thickness planer as a 100lb unmoveable support.
posted by Pink Fuzzy Bunny at 2:43 PM on March 8, 2011

Best answer: Seconding the outfeed table and side extension(s) for your table saw (and miter saw).

A proper workbench is a real time saver, you can make that yourself, use a couple of layers of MDF for the top.

Chisels, at least 4, from 1/4" to 1" I love my chisels.

An air compressor can come in handy too if it's within budget.
posted by Max Power at 3:09 PM on March 8, 2011

Best answer: I was going to suggest an air compressor, too. Even a small one can run basic air tools like a finish nailer or a brad gun. With a couple of hoses you can run tools in the house or back yard without needing to move the compressor.
posted by Forktine at 3:15 PM on March 8, 2011

Best answer: Paint the walls and ceiling bright white before you get started on any projects. This will help reflect light. Paint the floor too. I like Benjamin Moore's epoxy reinforced porch and floor paint. It's applied like regular latex paint. I painted my basement floor with it and have dragged a Powermatic planer across it without scratching. You can't drive a car on it though.

Then get started on your shelving and storage.
posted by qsysopr at 3:16 PM on March 8, 2011

Best answer: Since no one else has suggested it, take it the social route. Get a buddy who doesn't have a shop and agree to help store his tools if you can share. I did this for three years with another guy. He had space, I had tools. We met once a week for three hours and made sawdust. He bought the table saw. I bought a router and planer and (small, used) jointer. The first thing we made was a rolling stand for the table saw so we could roll it out and lock it down. During that time, I made a dresser, a night table, a coffee table and a mantle clock. I probably made more things, but I don't remember.

This does a couple things - it gets you access to tools for free and when you're on a schedule, it's harder to pass it up.
posted by plinth at 4:47 PM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Subscribe to Shopnotes. Get the book Setting up shop (when it gets back in stock. It used to be free with a subscription) They are all about the shop instead of how to make X. I made my assembly table: on casters, same height as my table saw, and put my compressor inside it to keep it quiet. It sits next to my saw for crosscutting and assmbly, I can wheel it around behind the saw for outfeed rips, and the 2 drawers next to the compressor compartment hold my air staplers/nailers, and my circular and jig saws. There is an excellent plan for making a breakdown assembly table I use before thye saw for an infeed table, and when I am done without cut out, I just break it down for the floorspace. My shop is 11' X 25'. but I am (almost) making my living from it. Memail me if you want more tips because it's what my life is all about right now
posted by Redhush at 5:18 PM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: What Max Power said about a bench. I built mine out of construction grade oak 4x4's. Cutting the mortises was an exercise program, but I have a workbench that will stop a truck.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 7:03 PM on March 8, 2011

Response by poster: Okay this is stupidly good advice, a lot of stuff I hadn't thought of. Best answers for all!
posted by WinnipegDragon at 7:43 PM on March 8, 2011

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