Author Topic: frugal woodworking, furniture building etc...  (Read 1222 times)

Case

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frugal woodworking, furniture building etc...
« on: September 24, 2018, 02:46:52 PM »
My wife and I are just about to close on a house, and rather than filling it with new expensive furniture, we're going to try our hand at a new hobby: furniture building (primarily from wood, but open to other ideas too).

I have limited experience with wood working, but am totally not afraid to go try things about.  What I'm looking for is advice on what tools are critical to purchase, and how to find the best value ones.  A friend recommended the Ana White site, which relies primarily on a random orbital sander, a miter saw, and a power drill.  I have these already, minus the miter saw.  I don't mind investing in decent tools, but am guess I don't need ALL of the tools.  Additionally an area I don't want to skimp on is safety; I know that saw-related injuries are fairly common.

I'm also especially looking for people's advice on where the right place to start is.  Or things like, "when I was getting stared, I wish I knew <this> ".

Our house is modern, but not ultra modern, styled.

I realize this is open ended, but any advice is appreciated.
« Last Edit: September 24, 2018, 02:52:41 PM by Case »

BDWW

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Re: frugal woodworking, furniture building etc...
« Reply #1 on: September 24, 2018, 02:59:06 PM »
I'd venture to say the idea is a bit flawed. Even building as cheap as possible, you'll never match the economies of scale and cheap labor of Chinese/Ikea stuff, not to mention the used market. Add in your time and tools(again economies of scale, less unit production, higher amortized tool cost, wasted products such as unused half cans of finish, etc), and it's a tough sell for frugalness.

/debbiedowner

Now, that's not to say it doesn't have a place if you want to do it as a hobby/entertainment/side hustle. It also allows you to get exactly what you want, rather than settling for something that's not quite what you're looking for.


Disclaimer: I own a custom furniture/woodworking business. Like most small businesses, I have a lot of potential customers who fail to account for all expenses (sandpaper, finish, brushes, etc), it adds up fast.

Case

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Re: frugal woodworking, furniture building etc...
« Reply #2 on: September 24, 2018, 03:20:51 PM »
I'd venture to say the idea is a bit flawed. Even building as cheap as possible, you'll never match the economies of scale and cheap labor of Chinese/Ikea stuff, not to mention the used market. Add in your time and tools(again economies of scale, less unit production, higher amortized tool cost, wasted products such as unused half cans of finish, etc), and it's a tough sell for frugalness.

/debbiedowner

Now, that's not to say it doesn't have a place if you want to do it as a hobby/entertainment/side hustle. It also allows you to get exactly what you want, rather than settling for something that's not quite what you're looking for.


Disclaimer: I own a custom furniture/woodworking business. Like most small businesses, I have a lot of potential customers who fail to account for all expenses (sandpaper, finish, brushes, etc), it adds up fast.

Building solid wood furniture is more expensive than Ikea/etc?  Is it an apples to apples comparison you are making (e.g. same quality of wood)?  If so, and I can find roughly the same style I want, then obviously this would be the way to go.  I had assumed there would be some savings.  I had looked up some tables that looked attractive on West Elm (for example), and then did back-of-the-envelope calculations to estimate the wood cost, and it seemed like there was a lot of money to be saved, but maybe I am wrong.  I certainly don't want an expensive new hobby.

Used market could be a way to go which I am not opposed to.

Anyways, the idea was founded on seeing a friend with no prior experience or inclination in the area (that I know of) build a pretty nice large dining room table.  She built it out of pine, so it was inexpensive wood.
« Last Edit: September 24, 2018, 05:41:12 PM by Case »

J Boogie

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Re: frugal woodworking, furniture building etc...
« Reply #3 on: September 24, 2018, 03:24:56 PM »
I'd second that you should only do it if you really want to build furniture.

If you want the most bang for your buck, search "Room & Board" furniture on craigslist. I've given them a shout out at least 4 times here, but the design and quality is tough to beat and there's always a deal out there if you watch.

J Boogie

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Re: frugal woodworking, furniture building etc...
« Reply #4 on: September 24, 2018, 03:34:19 PM »
I'd venture to say the idea is a bit flawed. Even building as cheap as possible, you'll never match the economies of scale and cheap labor of Chinese/Ikea stuff, not to mention the used market. Add in your time and tools(again economies of scale, less unit production, higher amortized tool cost, wasted products such as unused half cans of finish, etc), and it's a tough sell for frugalness.

/debbiedowner

Now, that's not to say it doesn't have a place if you want to do it as a hobby/entertainment/side hustle. It also allows you to get exactly what you want, rather than settling for something that's not quite what you're looking for.


Disclaimer: I own a custom furniture/woodworking business. Like most small businesses, I have a lot of potential customers who fail to account for all expenses (sandpaper, finish, brushes, etc), it adds up fast.

Building solid wood furniture is more expensive than DIY?  Is it an apples to apples comparison you are making (e.g. same quality of wood)?  If so, and I can find roughly the same style I want, then obviously this would be the way to go.  I had assumed there would be some savings.  I had looked up some tables that looked attractive on West Elm (for example), and then did back-of-the-envelope calculations to estimate the wood cost, and it seemed like there was a lot of money to be saved, but maybe I am wrong.  I certainly don't want an expensive new hobby.

Used market could be a way to go which I am not opposed to.

Anyways, the idea was founded on seeing a friend with no prior experience or inclination in the area (that I know of) build a pretty nice large dining room table.  She built it out of pine, so it was inexpensive wood.


Not to be snobby, but construction lumber does not make good furniture. It's good to learn with, but you won't want to keep these pieces long term. Construction lumber is soft and will get dinged up easily over time. Also, glued up joinery (rather than screws/nails) is often required for many pieces of furniture otherwise they will wobble over time and/or just look amateur.

Also, staining pine well is actually pretty difficult (DIY pinterest stained pine is usually very blotchy and uneven)

I get it - to the untrained eye, stained construction lumber looks the part. But it's not built to last like quality furniture is. You might be able to beat West Elm prices and maybe even West Elm looks, but West Elm is a pretty low bar - most of it is trendy looking designs comprised of veneered engineered wood that doesn't stand up to moisture and/or daily use over time.






J Boogie

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Re: frugal woodworking, furniture building etc...
« Reply #5 on: September 24, 2018, 03:43:48 PM »
I figure I owe you an answer to the "I wish I knew" when I started question.

I wish I had read the anarchist's tool chest. This is considered to be the bible of hand tool woodworking. It is a great read and points you in a great direction for truly understanding what it's all about.

I started at a makerspace and now I own way too many tools. I sometimes wish I just had a workbench and a chest full of hand tools.



However, I'm a homeowner. So are you. Hand tools are great for hobby woodworking but you will need some power tools if you plan on doing any remodeling or handyperson work.


Before I recommend anything, how much room do you have to dedicate to this hobby?

Case

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Re: frugal woodworking, furniture building etc...
« Reply #6 on: September 24, 2018, 04:35:41 PM »
I'd venture to say the idea is a bit flawed. Even building as cheap as possible, you'll never match the economies of scale and cheap labor of Chinese/Ikea stuff, not to mention the used market. Add in your time and tools(again economies of scale, less unit production, higher amortized tool cost, wasted products such as unused half cans of finish, etc), and it's a tough sell for frugalness.

/debbiedowner

Now, that's not to say it doesn't have a place if you want to do it as a hobby/entertainment/side hustle. It also allows you to get exactly what you want, rather than settling for something that's not quite what you're looking for.


Disclaimer: I own a custom furniture/woodworking business. Like most small businesses, I have a lot of potential customers who fail to account for all expenses (sandpaper, finish, brushes, etc), it adds up fast.

Building solid wood furniture is more expensive than DIY?  Is it an apples to apples comparison you are making (e.g. same quality of wood)?  If so, and I can find roughly the same style I want, then obviously this would be the way to go.  I had assumed there would be some savings.  I had looked up some tables that looked attractive on West Elm (for example), and then did back-of-the-envelope calculations to estimate the wood cost, and it seemed like there was a lot of money to be saved, but maybe I am wrong.  I certainly don't want an expensive new hobby.

Used market could be a way to go which I am not opposed to.

Anyways, the idea was founded on seeing a friend with no prior experience or inclination in the area (that I know of) build a pretty nice large dining room table.  She built it out of pine, so it was inexpensive wood.


Not to be snobby, but construction lumber does not make good furniture. It's good to learn with, but you won't want to keep these pieces long term. Construction lumber is soft and will get dinged up easily over time. Also, glued up joinery (rather than screws/nails) is often required for many pieces of furniture otherwise they will wobble over time and/or just look amateur.

Also, staining pine well is actually pretty difficult (DIY pinterest stained pine is usually very blotchy and uneven)

I get it - to the untrained eye, stained construction lumber looks the part. But it's not built to last like quality furniture is. You might be able to beat West Elm prices and maybe even West Elm looks, but West Elm is a pretty low bar - most of it is trendy looking designs comprised of veneered engineered wood that doesn't stand up to moisture and/or daily use over time.

This is indeed my goal; to get away from engineered wood.  I'm not aiming for highly finished fancy wood that you have to treat with care.  Rather, I'd be aiming for the reclaimed wood look.  I want a rough finish so that I'm not afraid to use the furniture, have a heart attack when I forget to use a coaster, etc...

On the other hand, I don't know exactly what I want, and one thought was that if I got my hands wet, I could then develop my tastes.

I definitely appreciate the beauty of wood, but I'm looking for practical furniture rather than antiques.  I would be going after simple modern styles most likely.  In doing this though, I want to 'engineer' the process.  Learn to build solidly but efficiently.  Efficiently use expensive wood, but less expensive wood where it doesn't matter.  But again, if there isn't much money to be saved on DIY, then this hobby is not a good match.  I have way too many interests as is; this one is only a match if it stands to save me some cash.

Case

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Re: frugal woodworking, furniture building etc...
« Reply #7 on: September 24, 2018, 04:37:47 PM »
I figure I owe you an answer to the "I wish I knew" when I started question.

I wish I had read the anarchist's tool chest. This is considered to be the bible of hand tool woodworking. It is a great read and points you in a great direction for truly understanding what it's all about.

I started at a makerspace and now I own way too many tools. I sometimes wish I just had a workbench and a chest full of hand tools.



However, I'm a homeowner. So are you. Hand tools are great for hobby woodworking but you will need some power tools if you plan on doing any remodeling or handyperson work.


Before I recommend anything, how much room do you have to dedicate to this hobby?

I'd say there is a space in the garage which is approximately 1/2 a car space.  E.g. some space, but I don't want to acquire a ton of tools.  If some lady out in Alaska can build more of her furniture with just a miter saw, sander, and drill, then that sounds like a great match for my goals!

BDWW

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Re: frugal woodworking, furniture building etc...
« Reply #8 on: September 24, 2018, 05:04:13 PM »
Building solid wood furniture is more expensive than DIY?  Is it an apples to apples comparison you are making (e.g. same quality of wood)? 
...
  I had looked up some tables that looked attractive on West Elm (for example), and then did back-of-the-envelope calculations to estimate the wood cost, and it seemed like there was a lot of money to be saved, but maybe I am wrong.

I've built a variety of different styles in a variety of materials. One thing that surprises clients is the fact that I quote virtually the same price for quality wood as reclaimed/rustic/construction pine.

Cheap SPF (Spruce,pine,fir) lumber is low quality wood meant for construction. You can make use of it course, but it requires a fair amount of extra work to get good results with. Probably the biggest issue is the poor drying regiment of current mills. The moisture content is WAY too high. Buy a bunch of 2x4s, and stick them in your garage for a month, and half of them turn into pretzels. They of course have very rough surfaces, and require significant milling (far more than quality lumber) to get a good surface to work with.

Knotty Alder is probably my most used wood. People like the look, but the knots are hell on tools, and make joinery a pain.

With reclaimed lumber, you can get lucky, or you can have nails, screws, dirt and grime to deal with. Customers also usually want the "reclaimed" look, which means you can't just mill it down to good wood, you have to somehow prepare and join what needs joined while leaving the exposed surfaces intact.

Quote
Anyways, the idea was founded on seeing a friend with no prior experience or inclination in the area (that I know of) build a pretty nice large dining room table.  She built it out of pine, so it was inexpensive wood.

Yes, like anything, my statements aren't meant to be absolutes. Lots of people DIY furniture, I've seen a fair amount. The Ana White stuff that people have mentioned can work. But, often the results are not as good a reasonable priced commercial option, and I'd estimate that a fair amount of them look like crap or fall apart in 5ish years.


Finally, I'm really not trying to discourage you if it's something you wanted to do. I love building furniture, and I have a ton of friends and acquaintances that do all levels from DIY to pro. Some do completely DIY* and cycle through stuff(unmustachian) often enough that quality issues really never manifest.

I'm only trying to convey that it's really tough to justify on the basis of saving money.

*It's somewhat amazing what one friend can do with glue and a brad nailer.
« Last Edit: September 24, 2018, 05:07:25 PM by BDWW »

Case

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Re: frugal woodworking, furniture building etc...
« Reply #9 on: September 24, 2018, 06:06:09 PM »
Building solid wood furniture is more expensive than DIY?  Is it an apples to apples comparison you are making (e.g. same quality of wood)? 
...
  I had looked up some tables that looked attractive on West Elm (for example), and then did back-of-the-envelope calculations to estimate the wood cost, and it seemed like there was a lot of money to be saved, but maybe I am wrong.

I've built a variety of different styles in a variety of materials. One thing that surprises clients is the fact that I quote virtually the same price for quality wood as reclaimed/rustic/construction pine.

Cheap SPF (Spruce,pine,fir) lumber is low quality wood meant for construction. You can make use of it course, but it requires a fair amount of extra work to get good results with. Probably the biggest issue is the poor drying regiment of current mills. The moisture content is WAY too high. Buy a bunch of 2x4s, and stick them in your garage for a month, and half of them turn into pretzels. They of course have very rough surfaces, and require significant milling (far more than quality lumber) to get a good surface to work with.

Knotty Alder is probably my most used wood. People like the look, but the knots are hell on tools, and make joinery a pain.

With reclaimed lumber, you can get lucky, or you can have nails, screws, dirt and grime to deal with. Customers also usually want the "reclaimed" look, which means you can't just mill it down to good wood, you have to somehow prepare and join what needs joined while leaving the exposed surfaces intact.

Quote
Anyways, the idea was founded on seeing a friend with no prior experience or inclination in the area (that I know of) build a pretty nice large dining room table.  She built it out of pine, so it was inexpensive wood.

Yes, like anything, my statements aren't meant to be absolutes. Lots of people DIY furniture, I've seen a fair amount. The Ana White stuff that people have mentioned can work. But, often the results are not as good a reasonable priced commercial option, and I'd estimate that a fair amount of them look like crap or fall apart in 5ish years.


Finally, I'm really not trying to discourage you if it's something you wanted to do. I love building furniture, and I have a ton of friends and acquaintances that do all levels from DIY to pro. Some do completely DIY* and cycle through stuff(unmustachian) often enough that quality issues really never manifest.

I'm only trying to convey that it's really tough to justify on the basis of saving money.

*It's somewhat amazing what one friend can do with glue and a brad nailer.

This is not a hobby i would be doing just because it is fun.  It would have to save significant money too.  I have a busy career and already have other hobbies im serious about, so this only makes sense if its a good value hobby (e.g. i learn something new and save money).

I would think the ultimate question is how much the raw materials savings is with DIY.   My assumption was ‘large’ but i really haven’t quantified that very well.

Some hobbies are good values, others are not.  Brewing beer used to be a good value, but nowadays you can get good beer for not-crazy prices anywhere.  Add the insane time requirement of all grain process and its a no go unless you absolutely are passionate about it.  Since i have multiple hobbies, brewing beer is dropped until retirement.  Also, beer is mostly unhealthy.

Cooking is a great hobby.  Saves ton of money, and you can control what you eat.  Not too hard to get results similar to good restaurants.  Win win high value hobby.

I exercise and play some sports; some i am passionate about.  Saves no money directly, but indirectly it does.  Win win.

I play an instrument.  Costs money, saves none.  But it is relaxing and not too expensive.  A win definitely.

I appreciate wood quality, but i dont aspire to love it.  I would not be doing this because i long to be a wood craftsman.  If woodworking isnt a good value (e.g. mustachian) hobby, then this is a no go.  Ill put time into it, but i wont sacrifice all of my hobbies to it. Id rather buy used and or touch up used furniture, or order from good value places (e.g. ikea).
I’d respectively ask the responders to check their egos at the door.  Im going for nice furniture, not exquisite craftsman Amish quality.  If i build a table and part of it comes loose a couple years later, cant i just repair it?  Does this hobby not give you flexibility in that regards?  This was something i assumed, perhaps i am wrong.  Your standards might be higher than the average moustachians.  Again, no disrespect intended... just trying to understand if woodworking is really such an uneconomical hobby.

Papa bear

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Re: frugal woodworking, furniture building etc...
« Reply #10 on: September 24, 2018, 07:25:25 PM »
You will save a lot more money if you buy used off Craigslist or Facebook marketplace, etc.

I’ve built some custom pieces for myself, but they were because one of the following: 1) because I enjoy it 2) I had a specific need and use that I couldn’t find to buy 3) free reclaimed cool wood.

If I had to start from 0 for tools and skill, I would get a good circular saw, a straight edge, drill/driver, Kreg jig (pocket screws are easy), clamps, saw horses, and a good ruler. Then I would go look for free wood.




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Re: frugal woodworking, furniture building etc...
« Reply #11 on: September 24, 2018, 08:55:25 PM »
+1 to craigslist instead of building furniture yourself. I'm a homeowner, I own all the equipment you're talking about buying, and it still doesn't make financial sense for me to build my own furniture. I've still done it occasionally, but it was either with materials left over from another project or to custom fit a specific space. And I'm talking about a garage workbench and a cart to put next to my grill - functional items that don't have to look great to get the job done. After doing those and some other projects around the house, I know I don't have the skills to make good quality furniture yet. I might try to work up to it, because I really enjoy the process of designing and building things, but I know it's not saving me time or money.

Ana White's furniture is mostly made using 2x4 studs, or other soft framing lumber. If you like the rustic look, it's fine, and it's probably about as expensive as craigslist. But it will dent easily, and you will not have flat smooth surfaces unless you spend a lot of time with the sander (framing lumber tends to have rounded edges that would be great for trapping crumbs and dust if used as table tops - look closely at her pics). If you were to price DIY furniture with s4s hardwood instead of framing lumber, you wouldn't be so happy about the price tag.

If you're still not deterred, try making an end table or something small first. Ask to have the boards cut to size at the store so you don't have to buy a miter saw or circular saw (try to do this on a weekday when they're not too busy). Do the rest of the work with tools you already have, and see if you enjoy the process and the results.

J Boogie

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Re: frugal woodworking, furniture building etc...
« Reply #12 on: September 25, 2018, 08:38:02 AM »
Case,

Maybe we've been a little bearish on this idea.

We focused on using construction lumber, which is just one way to DIY furniture. A far better way to DIY furniture is to buy baltic birch/appleply (Don't buy the Menard's or Home Depot version, because they come with a thin top veneer (1/42") which is liable to get scratched. The beauty of baltic birch is that all layers are hardwood and the same thickness. Dings don't show through. Edge banding isn't needed to hide anything.

If you use rabbets and dados (buy a palm router and a square that lends itself well to clamping- maybe even a cordless one like a Makita) and execute a glue up properly, the joinery will be both strong and elegant. Even if you glue & screw you can hide the screws with wood plugs. You can also join edges with a biscuit joiner, but this won't offer too much strength - use your engineering mind to determine what's needed and when.

Baltic birch is already flat, requires minimal sanding, is easy to make cabinets with, and while it's not super cheap it'll give you way better quality than most options on the market which use inferior sheet goods and cam bolt hardware.

Also, repairing craigslist finds can be pretty smart - A lot of my craigslist finds have required a little bit of love. I don't like to refinish, but I have replaced low quality drawer runners with ball bearing drawer slides (soft/auto close are usually 5x more expensive than a good smooth ball bearing slide, which are only marginally more than their nylon counterparts). Drawers and doors have occasionally required a bit of fine tuning with a block plane, to get rid of them sticking. That's fun and easy for the most part.


If you only have half a car space, I wouldn't get a miter saw. It'll either dominate your workbench, or take up too much space for how little use it'll get. They're big and heavy and unless you're making a lot of cuts, a circ saw and a good clampable square will cut material just fine. As a homeowner, you'll want a quality cordless drill and a circ saw anyways. Makita, Milwaukee, Bosch - you probably know what brands are good.

If you get really into it, get a makita track saw. It'll make your sheet good slicing much smoother.

lthenderson

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Re: frugal woodworking, furniture building etc...
« Reply #13 on: September 25, 2018, 08:50:50 AM »
I've built much of my own furniture over the years along with for other people. I can't think of a single item I have made that was a cost savings to what one could find at a discount furniture store. There are several reasons for this.

1) Because I use solid wood or quality plywoods versus pressboard, the raw materials just simply cost more. The advantage however is that the wood I use holds up a lot better, is easier to work with so you can get more complex designs and finishes better.
2) When working with "real" wood, I have yet to find a place that will sell me a eight inch long chunk of wood that is finished on all four sides. For me, the cheapest option is to go to the local sawmill where I have to buy an entire eight foot long rough sawn board, come home and plane it down and cut off that eight inch long piece I need and then store the rest of the board until I have another project. So with every project I do, I end up with lots of leftover material but by making projects out of the same woods, I eventually can recycle most of it.
3) If you are buying prefinished hardwood boards that are shrink wrapped in plastic and sold in the big box stores, be prepared for sticker shock.

Currently I am building a custom bookcase unit. I probably have about $400 in it already and I could go get one at Walmart for probably less than $60 that would be every bit as functional. Yes in a few years the shelves will be sagging, it will have scars through the thin veneer finish and it will still look as cheap as the day it was bought but it will still be functional. Really the only reason to make your own furniture is to have something that looks much more expensive and will last generations.

But if you want to get into furniture making and have access to prefinished lumber, I would recommend these tools that I use most often:

Crosscut saw
Table saw
Circular saw (for breaking down large sheets of plywood into panels)
Jig saw
Hand saws
Drill (can get by with hand drills much of the time)
Chisels
Lot of clamps (the more the better)
Various sanders (I have a random orbital, oscillating belt and spindle, and hand held belt sander)
Routers and bits for making your own trim, pattern making, joinery, etc.

If you want cheaper lumber, i.e. rough sawn, add these to your list:

Planar
Joiner

Case

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Re: frugal woodworking, furniture building etc...
« Reply #14 on: September 25, 2018, 09:23:32 AM »
My wife and I are just about to close on a house, and rather than filling it with new expensive furniture, we're going to try our hand at a new hobby: furniture building (primarily from wood, but open to other ideas too).

I have limited experience with wood working, but am totally not afraid to go try things about.  What I'm looking for is advice on what tools are critical to purchase, and how to find the best value ones.  A friend recommended the Ana White site, which relies primarily on a random orbital sander, a miter saw, and a power drill.  I have these already, minus the miter saw.  I don't mind investing in decent tools, but am guess I don't need ALL of the tools.  Additionally an area I don't want to skimp on is safety; I know that saw-related injuries are fairly common.

I'm also especially looking for people's advice on where the right place to start is.  Or things like, "when I was getting stared, I wish I knew <this> ".

Our house is modern, but not ultra modern, styled.

I realize this is open ended, but any advice is appreciated.

Thanks everyone for your comments!

I asked for answers, and you gave them (mostly; see below).
It looks like most people feel that building your own furniture is not really worth it unless you love woodworking.  Additionally, people have pointed out the drawbacks of the 'easy' softwood projects: finished pieces that will ding easily or not last as long.  High end plywoods can be considered as alternatives to expensive less-finished hardwoods.  Finally, people have pointed out that the best value overall is to simply use craigslist/etc...

Based on your advice, I will definitely consider getting used furniture much more seriously.  My own drawback there is that I don't have a large car, or friends in the area yet (new house in a new place) so moving heavy furniture is hard.

The final question I have that is not clear to me yet is, how much does DIY save you in this area in an apples-to-apples comparison.  It seems like most people are saying that the hobby leads them to purchase nicer (more expensive) woods, and build things in higher and higher quality.  But anything can be bought; a problem can always be solved by throwing money at it. 

If my target is reasonably nice-but-not-ultra-high-end, fully hardwood furniture, generally speaking is there much money to be saved versus purchasing new?

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Re: frugal woodworking, furniture building etc...
« Reply #15 on: September 25, 2018, 09:58:08 AM »

If my target is reasonably nice-but-not-ultra-high-end, fully hardwood furniture, generally speaking is there much money to be saved versus purchasing new?

Great question - I don't think an "in general" answer exists, but I'll try to keep it succinct. And I'll keep in mind you don't have room for a jointer, planer, tablesaw and the dust collection infrastructure those require.

For small to medium, simple pieces - Yes!

Hardwood offcuts can often be found super cheap at local cabinetmaker shops. You won't find anything longer than 30" or so, but for small pieces of furniture this is a great option. However, there's often good reason they're in the offcut pile - be selective, avoid warped/twisted/cupped pieces and you can build side tables, stools, benches, etc.

For joinery, a simple and high quality method you can use is staking.

https://blog.lostartpress.com/2015/03/11/the-staked-furniture-toolkit/

This guy has studied throughout history what everyday people have done to build their own simple furniture - and he has found they often made staked furniture (drill a hole in a board, insert a leg into the hole).

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Re: frugal woodworking, furniture building etc...
« Reply #16 on: September 25, 2018, 10:29:24 AM »
Do not get into woodworking if you are looking for frugal furniture.  The math just doesn't work out.  However, if you like woodworking and are looking for a way to fill off work hours that does not involve a couch, it is a great hobby.  When getting into woodworking, you will find zealots that say power tools only and zealots that say hand tools only.  As someone who used to use all power tools, I will say don't just discount hand tools because they are old and slow.  Power tools excel at making repeatable cuts.  In a hobbyist shop, most of your stuff will be a one-off, so why limit yourself to tools that are designed to repeat? 

Fishindude

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Re: frugal woodworking, furniture building etc...
« Reply #17 on: September 25, 2018, 10:51:11 AM »
You are not going to save money doing this if you truly look at your cost to build something of equal quality that you could pick up on the used market, in some cases, maybe even new.
But, you sound determined.  Jump in there and start making furniture and let us know how it goes.   Woodworking is fun and you will enjoy the process, but eventually you will figure out that the same thing you are making yourself for $100 could easily be bought somewhere for $50.   Ask me how I know?

Case

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Re: frugal woodworking, furniture building etc...
« Reply #18 on: September 25, 2018, 01:10:43 PM »
You are not going to save money doing this if you truly look at your cost to build something of equal quality that you could pick up on the used market, in some cases, maybe even new.
But, you sound determined.  Jump in there and start making furniture and let us know how it goes.   Woodworking is fun and you will enjoy the process, but eventually you will figure out that the same thing you are making yourself for $100 could easily be bought somewhere for $50.   Ask me how I know?

To be honest, I'm starting to get turned off to it now!

Part of the driver on this was that my wife and I were thinking of doing this as a hobby together... if she is really gung-ho on it than that could change things.  But her initial idea was that we should look at estate sales / etc for used furniture.  I think pushed towards building our own, thinking it was the more rationale choice from a financial/quality perspective.  Looks like she was probably right all along! (sorry for doubting you, babe!)

lthenderson

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Re: frugal woodworking, furniture building etc...
« Reply #19 on: September 26, 2018, 06:36:55 AM »
Part of the driver on this was that my wife and I were thinking of doing this as a hobby together... if she is really gung-ho on it than that could change things.  But her initial idea was that we should look at estate sales / etc for used furniture.  I think pushed towards building our own, thinking it was the more rationale choice from a financial/quality perspective.  Looks like she was probably right all along! (sorry for doubting you, babe!)

I got started by buying pieces at estate auctions and refinishing them.  That gradually led me down the path of rebuilding new versions of my favorite pieces using modern construction techniques and materials. I thoroughly enjoy doing so and after I get done here, I'm headed out to the shop to continue making my bookcase.

Uturn

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Re: frugal woodworking, furniture building etc...
« Reply #20 on: September 26, 2018, 09:42:40 AM »
I got started by buying pieces at estate auctions and refinishing them. 

Wow, people are truly different!  If I started my woodworking journey with a refinish project, I would have exactly one project worth of experience.  I will scratch build almost for free, but to refinish, I would need CEO level salary. 

Mississippi Mudstache

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Re: frugal woodworking, furniture building etc...
« Reply #21 on: September 26, 2018, 10:40:28 AM »
I figure I owe you an answer to the "I wish I knew" when I started question.

I wish I had read the anarchist's tool chest. This is considered to be the bible of hand tool woodworking. It is a great read and points you in a great direction for truly understanding what it's all about.

+1 for the book recommendation. The author, Chris Schwarz, also maintains a well-curated and frequently updated blog, and he's got some mustachian traits himself. Not an ER-type mustachian, but definitely and FI-type. He quit a job as a woodworking magazine editor in his early 40s to publish independent books, and he's been quite successful at it.

J Boogie

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Re: frugal woodworking, furniture building etc...
« Reply #22 on: September 26, 2018, 11:31:04 AM »
Mudstache, are you the one who recommended I get a bandsaw a couple years back?

I forget how it came up, but you seemed to push for a bandsaw over a tablesaw.

I considered it carefully. For me (and many other urban woodworkers in the north), the old garage is uninsulated and unheated and the third strike is that the ground is an awful mix of spalled concrete and uneven 100yr old decking - extremely unfriendly to mobile bases, which are so necessary.

Anyways, I re-pointed my crumbly basement walls and got a bandsaw. No table saw. I have a track saw as well, and a router table, so I can do pretty much anything normally done on a tablesaw.

Thanks for planting the seed!

wawot1

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Re: frugal woodworking, furniture building etc...
« Reply #23 on: September 26, 2018, 11:14:44 PM »
I've built
1) a trundle bed for each of my two sons out of poplar starting from S3S boards (painted them both),
2) a maple end table starting from S3S boards - that I finished and then had to strip and refinish because it looked terrible the first time around,
3) a combination sewing table / drafting table out of cheapo pine 2 x 4's and some beautiful leftover oak veneer plywood from my mother's kitchen remodel, and
4) most recently a mission-style white oak coffee table starting from S3S boards that I then finished in a Stickley style finish.

I pretty much taught myself how to do this stuff from Youtube.   I was constantly on the prowl on Craigslist for used tools...
 
My observations -
1)  If your primary motivation is to save money - don't do it.   Nice hardwood boards are expensive.  Even if you buy used tools on Craigslist - it adds up.  There are lots of other "minor" tools that you'll need - clamps, chisels, sharpening tools, router bits, sandpaper of various grits, stains, polyurethane, etc, etc.   
2)  If you don't really know what you're doing, it's going to take you a long time to ascend the learning curve.  And you're going to make mistakes - and if looking at an ugly joint that's not square and has a huge gap is going to bother you, then you'll want to redo parts of your projects.   Estimate how long it will take you to do something - then multiply by 4 or 5.  Really. Don't discount the value of your time.
3)  Dust will get everywhere if you use power tools.  Choices are to use only hand tools,  decide you don't care if everything gets really dusty, invest some time and $ in a dust collection system, or do it somewhere else.
4) Unlike rough carpentry, like building a fence or a deck or something, you're going to notice when there are gaps and when joints aren't exactly perpendicular, etc.  And it's really hard not to have gaps or angles that are off if you're using bottom of the line tools.

So my bottom line advice - if you're not interested in the craftsmanship / hobby aspect of woodworking - go find a consignment store in a nice part of town and spend your time and money doing other stuff you love.   You don't have a big car and don't know anybody with a truck?  Rent a U-haul for an afternoon.

I've really enjoyed the projects I've done, but certainly not the cheapest or fastest way to get nice furniture in my house.

Good luck


zolotiyeruki

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Re: frugal woodworking, furniture building etc...
« Reply #24 on: September 27, 2018, 02:45:48 PM »
I'll toss my thoughts in here as well.  Many of the other thoughts are spot-on.

If you're looking to get brand new, high-quality wood furniture, then yes, it'll be cheaper to build it yourself.  However, the dollars-saved-per-hour-invested is abysmal.  If you're looking to save money by DIY, car repairs and home repairs are FAR better.

If you enjoy it as a hobby, and it's consistent with your financial goals, go for it.

If you want to get furniture that's custom-made for your needs (i.e. you need a bench to fill a nook and need it to be a specific size), AND you're going to have similar needs multiple times, then you can think about making it yourself.

My shop is about half of one garage bay, and although it's cozy, it's enough.  In terms of larger tools, I have a rather large table saw (cast iron, >50 years old), a small band saw, miter saw, drill press, and air compressor.  I have most of the smaller hand tools as well--sanders, routers, circular saw, drills, etc.  In my recollection, we only purchased the compressor and miter saw new.  The rest were purchased used or gifted from someone else.

TinyDC

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Re: frugal woodworking, furniture building etc...
« Reply #25 on: October 03, 2018, 01:33:57 PM »
I'm really into DIY furniture these days and find it so satisfying and cheap.  I started a blog (theunprofessional.com) documenting exactly what you are talking about for pretty much the same reasons.  I have an article on the top 5 tools you'll need to get started, you may find it interesting: https://theunprofessional.com/up-your-diy-game-with-these-5-tools/.  Craigslist and garage sales are great places to pick up tools.

« Last Edit: October 03, 2018, 01:35:50 PM by TinyDC »

affordablehousing

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Re: frugal woodworking, furniture building etc...
« Reply #26 on: October 05, 2018, 11:06:10 AM »
I think the premise is flawed that you're buying wood at all. All you need is a miter saw, screw gun, and a big hammer. Your materials should be free. Drive around looking for stuff people threw out, take it apart, put it in your car, and put it together. That's how you save money! Matthias Wandel does this all the time on Youtube and shows how easy it is. I think all the folks building with construction wood, Ana White, Home Made Modern, will look dated, like, yesterday.

Our daughter's crib came from awesome materials I found scrounging- old growth redwood book shelves I planed down and oiled and solid oak flooring that I ripped the T&G off of and planed off the ribs and sandwiched together. The material cost was $30 (new planer blades and some tung oil and sand paper and screws) and the hours it took only 20. With a solid wood crib costing $200 at Ikea, I could have paid myself......$8.50 an hour!

Sorry, it's true that even with free materials, store bought is cheaper. But our crib looks kickass, and perhaps it will teach our daughter to value trash more than treasure. Home Made Modern is the best youtube channel I think for minimal tool, timely style construction, but, I mean, it would seem a little stultifying to live in an environment like that to me.

Good luck and I hope you do pick up the hobby, just don't expect it to be solely for the cents.