Author Topic: wood shop equipment?  (Read 4912 times)


  • Bristles
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wood shop equipment?
« on: October 24, 2014, 04:54:56 AM »
Hi all, I'm thinking of getting my own wood working equipment, and if you are a wood worker, I'd appreciate your advice on what equipment to get, in what order, what's a reasonable price to expect to pay, what I should look to find used and what new.  I'm mostly making furniture for my own house, and while I enjoy this immensely, this is hobby level, not for work.  Thanks in advance for any help you can offer. 


  • Handlebar Stache
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Re: wood shop equipment?
« Reply #1 on: October 24, 2014, 06:55:40 AM »
i'm in the same boat as you...about to buy a house in the next 6 months or so and looking to build most of my furniture....and ive been kind of obsessed with woodworking videos on youtube

a circular saw, jig saw, drill, and some true contractor squares will let you do almost anything. a table saw may be the most versatile tool you can have with a sturdy square fence...which you could really build yourself. i would expect to spend a few hundred on a table saw (less if you find a decent used one) and well under 100 on the other items listed above.

some youtube channels that i frequent:
-steve ramsey (a very diy, no experience necessary guy)
-izzy swan (the king of jigs, can do stuff with a table saw that will blow your freakin mind)
-John heisz (just a talented fabricator all around)
-jay bates (another diy, budget friendly builder...lots of 2x4 projects that could probably be scaled with pallet wood)
-Matthias Wandel (this has to be one of the most genuis dudes you will come across. a true engineer...the stuff he does is just crazy)
-woodworking with the wood whisperer (marc spagnuolo..this is fine woodworking. high level of precision and detail...very long and detailed videos)


  • Stubble
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Re: wood shop equipment?
« Reply #2 on: October 24, 2014, 07:07:13 AM »

Let me throw a little wrench in this for you.  15 years ago I started collecting woodworking tools at garage sales, estate sale, now Craig's List, etc.  My theory was that I was not going to go crazy and buy the expensive equipment until I could justify it.  I think that while this is not a bad method, I could have taken a better one.  Especially if its a hobby.

Hand tools.

- Not really as much harder than power tools as you might think.
- While you can buy really expensive tools here also, I think it's easier to get started less expensively.
- Way less room and hassle
- There is something very rewarding to working a little slower and hands on.
- huge benefit for me - kids can participate

Anyway, I am just starting down this road, so maybe someone with experience can chime in, just telling you where I am going.  If you really think about it, how many 'cuts' do you really make when you make furniture as a hobby.  You would be amazed how fast you can cut something with a good hand saw.

If this sounds interesting, start at your library, I have some great books that have helped me get started.


  • Magnum Stache
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Re: wood shop equipment?
« Reply #3 on: October 24, 2014, 08:00:19 AM »
I've done a bit of woodworking, though I'm by no means an expert craftsman.  I've owned a few kinds of tools, and here are my thoughts:

1)  Table saw.  I've owned 3 in the last 10 years, and the best one is the one I own now.  It was built in the 60's or 70's.  Milled cast iron table, belt-driven with an induction motor.  I paid $125 for it, plus another $40 to get some table extensions.  For that kind of money, you can't get anything better new.  The cheap kinds you find in hardware stores today are brushed motors, stamped aluminum, and gear-driven.  They're junk (I had a craftsman like that, and it self-destructed within a couple years). 
2)  Miter saw.  I've had a cheap modern, brushed/plastic gear one (again, a craftsman) for a few years now, and it's been good enough.  It gets frequent use, but when I'm doing woodworking, it's mostly used for cutting down lumber to the right length.
3)  Router.  Yes, yes, a thousand times yes.  I have one mounted in the underside of my workbench, and I've used it a ton.  I don't have any recommendations on what kind to get, though.
4)  Pipe/bar clamps.  You can never have too many.
5)  Orbital sander.  My wife got me a Dewalt for Christmas a few years ago, and it's been good to me.

I have plenty of other tools, but almost everything gets done on those 5.  I'd suggest you start with some simple furniture built from 2x4's, get the feel for how to work with the wood, etc before you make any large investments.  Since this is going to be a hobby, learn to take your time and get things right.  I was building a pair of nightstands last year for my wife and myself, and found the process much more enjoyable and relaxing when I worked just a little on it each day, taking my time to make sure everything was perfect.  And the result was much better than my usual efforts.


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: wood shop equipment?
« Reply #4 on: October 24, 2014, 10:00:37 AM »

         Where in PA. I am up by the port jervis ny/montague, nj/matamoras pa corner. Are you close?

      You can never go wrong with a table saw, cordless drill, jig saw, circ saw, and router. For me in that order. I also believe that you should buy the best you can afford. When I was buying these tools some as far back and the early nineties I said I would by "professional" ie. Bosch, porta, Milwaukee, for two reasons. If they last the pros who beat on them day in and day out then they will last me the weekend warrior. So far so good.  The second reason is they just work better for the most part. I have seen this best in my jig saw. Many of times someone has used my jig saw and commented on how well it tracks. How good it feels. That is a direct result of it be a high grade tool.  Quality counts and will last a lifetime.

I have been dabbling in woodworking for many many years.  Though it isn't absolutely necessary a good table saw will make life very easy.  You can resaw lumber, cut to width and length, cut angles both normal and complex, dados and rabbits become very easy. I have been using a 10" table saw by skil for 15 or 20 years you can pick one up new for about 150. I have cut oak, walnut, maple, pine, poplar and cedar on mine. The fence is dead on accurate but it will take you a few minutes to set each cut up. I even found an article online that explained how to make a zero clearance insert for it (though that will void the warranty). If  I had to do it again I think I would get a "contractors" table saw. I have used the dewalt on a few occasions and would give that a look.

After the table saw I would go with a hand drill. I have both an 18 and a 12 ryobi and Mikita both lithium and I haven't had a problem at all. I have had them for 6 and 1 yrs respectively. I spent $80 on the ryobi as a kit with two batteries and a saws al. $100 for the maki ya as a kit with an impact drill. I have used them from rehabbing a house to woodworking and hanging picture frames. Drills are perfect Black Friday items.

A good jig saw will just track better than a lesser quality one. The blades can be pricey sometimes. I have used my jig saw for flooring light scroll work, cutting lumber to size and even cutting tiles for math bath project. I have a Bosch, Milwaukee and porta cable are also good brands.

I have a porta cable circ. saw.  Mostly used to cut down plywood to manageable sizes so I can get on the table saw and thicker (1-1/2"+) stock. I personally don't use mine much.

Router mine is a Freud. Again I don't use it much but when I do it makes life very easy.  I think I would wait until I had a specific project in mind before I purchased it.  You will end up wanting a router table also. You can build one if you like. When looking at a router go with a larger 1.75 or so horse power plunge router. Whiteside bits are the best around. Made in the USA and I get mine from a guy down by Harrisburg so they arrive very quickly.

Clamps, clamps, and more clamps, mostly bar in various lengths and 2" Spring clamps.  Clamps are relatively expensive. But great deals can be found on craigslist if you have the time to wait. You will always need one more. I have a couple of 6" & 12" 3 18" 2 24" 2 36" and 3 72"

If you are interested in hand tools check out hyper kitten he is based in CT and sells hand tools. All used in great condition. I have purchased numerous planes, hand saw, calipers, brace and bit etc.

For hand tools you can't beat the renaissance woodworker.com

You don't have to buy everything at once.  As a project calls for it you can then buy the tool.  That's how I got my drill press, making a $5 wine rack. But I have used it countless times since then on toys for the kids.

Any other help I can be please shout it out. 


  • Bristles
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Re: wood shop equipment?
« Reply #5 on: October 24, 2014, 10:42:03 AM »
A good starter project could be to build your own workbench and sawhorses. My spouse is a hobby furniture-maker about to turn pro, and having a solid workbench was a primary goal in the beginning, and a good warm up project. He recently redid the top of his using planed 2x4s (I think). If you're interested in plans, I can try and get the ones that he used.

He's also a big proponent of hand tools. He made some beginner faux-pas and bought hand tools from home depot that were a 100% waste of money. If you want to get into using hand tools or doing a lot of the work by hand, research how to restore tools, and what to look for when you're buying. My husband buys a lot on ebay, and flea/antique markets. Much better value, and you learn a lot by being able to restore and maintain a hand tool. (Could be a great side hustle, too!)

When buying power tools, he's been happy with dewalt and the 'pro' brand stuff, esp for home reno projects. Those tools can take a beating. Definitely a pro brand for corded and cordless drills. The 'homeowner' Black and Decker type drills don't last and don't have a lot of power. He has a Grizzly table saw with a cast iron base, but that might be more tool/investment than you want in the beginning, or if you're short on space. He put up with a portable dewalt table saw for a few years before upgrading. I guess it depends on your time frame, and how long you see yourself doing this. For power tools, I'd suggest looking on craigslist before buying new. That way you can test the power tool before buying a used version.

(Source: not a woodworker, but married one that's very passionate about the subject.)


  • Stubble
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Re: wood shop equipment?
« Reply #6 on: October 26, 2014, 09:41:39 AM »
For power tools, I'd say the most important to start with are:

Tablesaw (and spend some time making jigs for it! definitely a crosscut jig, miter jigs are nice too)
Drill Press (In addition to drilling holes, you can use to cut mortises if you don't have a mortiser)
router (so versatile, I'm sure routers do far more things than I am even aware of)
joiner and planer (these might seem excessive for a start, but being able to buy rough cut boards can save lots of money, and sold planed lumber is usually not square - you will make your projects easier by starting with square boards)

And, even if you use a lot of powertools, you do still need good hand tools for details:
chisels in appropriate sizes to clean mortises and tenons (And don't buy cheap chisels! If a chisel costs less than $25 new, it probably isn't worth it)
stones/grinder to sharpen your chisels
handsaws (I really like Japanese style pull saws, but that's personal preference)
Clamps (as well as classic pipe clamps, I like the new quick clamp trigger style)


  • Bristles
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Re: wood shop equipment?
« Reply #7 on: October 26, 2014, 05:57:27 PM »
Thanks for all of your helpful responses.  I've considered going completely with handtools, but having used some power tools that belong to others -- table saws, band saws, planers, joiners, routers, etc. etc. -- I don't know that I'm willing to give up that much speed, accuracy and power.  The only power tools I currently own are circular saws (usual size plus a sweet 3.5 inch blade), a power sander, a corded and a cordless drill.  So far I've built a cedar shed, a small table, a foot stool, and I'm able to do various repairs using wood.  That limited experience has whet my appetite for more. I agree that being able to work with raw lumber is very useful.  DYK, have you done that, using only hand tools?

zolotiyeruki:  What model is your circular saw and where did you get it?

Cigar2011:  I'm not too far from you, couple hours south, in the Lehigh Valley area.  Can you resaw with a table saw?  I've only done that on a band saw so far and I can't imagine using a table saw for that task.

starbuck: Yes, I've been thinking of building my own work table, once I figure out where in my basement, and what I have to make room for.  But I'd love to have a peek at his plans.  Others have highly recommended the Grizzly table saw; I'm keeping my eyes open.  Thanks for your suggestions.

While I keep my eyes open for used power tools on craigslist, etc., I'll take any suggestions anyone may have on on-line sources for handtools, too.  I'm a little less willing to buy these used, as I really don't have the experience to know what the hell I'm looking for, so given the lower price range of most handtools, I think it's probably safer for me to buy quality, a little bit at a time.  Again, if you have any suggestions for me, I'm all ears.  Thanks very much. 


  • Magnum Stache
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Re: wood shop equipment?
« Reply #8 on: October 27, 2014, 06:48:19 PM »
My table saw is a model 113.27520. It is by no means a pro-level our high-end tool, but it uses commodity parts and is built to last forever.

Mr. Frugalwoods

  • Bristles
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Re: wood shop equipment?
« Reply #9 on: October 27, 2014, 07:08:40 PM »
It's not sexy, but dust collection is really important if you are going to be doing any woodworking indoors.  I know, I know, it's only sawdust.  But small particulate matter in the lungs is no joking matter.  It's fine every once in a while, but if you spend your saturdays in the garage using the belt sander... you need dust collection.

The CDC says it's serious, FWIW (

I'm cheap and I'm no pro woodworker, so I just hook up my shop vac to whatever I'm working on if I'm going to produce tons of dust.  If I'm just running the chop saw for a few minutes... I don't bother.

But in any case, at the very least get a shop vac and use it when you are producing dust.  Your future lungs thank you! :-)


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: wood shop equipment?
« Reply #10 on: October 27, 2014, 10:29:39 PM »
I'm a huge advocate for hand tools over power tools and have been building various wooden things for years.  The biggest reasons are:
1. They're much safer.  The chance of accidentally cutting an appendage off is pretty much nil.
2. There's no need for hearing protection or expensive dust collection systems.
3. You can buy quality hand tools on eBay or Craigslist for cheap.
4. They don't take up much room in your garage/workshop compared to power tools.
5. When working with hand tools you're actually working the wood with your hands.  Not machines. 
6. It's so much more fun and the tools you'll acquire may be over 100 years old. 
7. You'll learn so much more about woodworking and have an immense amount of pride in anything you create because you actually did it with your hands.
8. All the tools you would ever need would fit in a large suitcase.  You could still build anything that you could with power tools.

All of that being said I do own a few power tools that I use regularly.  I have an old Craftsman band saw that I used for ripping long boards to width.  Many hand tools only shops will incorporate a band saw since it does a great job at just that.  I also have a power drill that gets used for many additional tasks around the house. 

You can do almost any project with a couple handsaws, some old chisels, a few old hand planes, some measuring and marking equipment, clamps, and some joinery know how.  All of the tools can be acquired on eBay or Craigslist for dirt cheap.  The know how comes from online or a book. I bought a book called "The Complete Manual of Woodworking" when I started off and it covered everything I needed to know.  It's the only book I've needed and it encompasses working with hand tools and power tools.  There's tons of articles online about buying used hand tools, restoring them, and tuning them up.  Basically, the older the better.  They don't make them like they used to!  As mentioned previously, the big box stores have virtually nothing that's worth buying except clamps and measuring equipment.

Even if you go the power tool route you'll still need some hand tools.  Dovetailing and mortising will require chisels. You can get a box of old chisels on eBay for 20-40 bucks.  If you learn how to sharpen them properly (not with a grinder) you'll have some excellent tools with great old steel that work just as well as the fancy new shiny stuff.  A properly tuned and sharpened smoothing plane can get your wood extremely smooth with a few passes.  You'll never need sandpaper again.  The one I use is an old Stanley built in 1903 or 04.  I got it on eBay for $40.  The same quality nowadays will easily cost you upwards of $200.  There's tons of jigs out there for table saws and routers that cost a lot of money and may only do one thing.  Or you can just use the hand tools and save a butt load of dough.

I could write a small book on all this stuff.  But if you're starting from nothing and want to build quality furniture that you can be proud of you'll need to take time to research whatever methods you decide to use.  The wood you'll use, the tools you'll buy, what joinery methods you'll use, finishes, tool sharpening, etc. all require a little prior planning.  It's a lot to take in but there are tons of people that are willing to help in the online forums dedicated to woodworking.  There's also plenty of youtube channels with content that will tell you anything you want to know.  I'll include some helpful links in the bottom.

The biggest piece of advice I could give anyone buying tools is this.  Buy the tool and buy it once.  If you by cheap tools they won't work well and you'll end up buying them again.  So get good quality tools.  You'll only need to once.


  • Stubble
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Re: wood shop equipment?
« Reply #11 on: October 28, 2014, 11:09:20 AM »
Been at it for a good 20 years at our place, made all the stuff for the house, some toys. The tools can be very useful for more than making furniture, I used them for siding the house, addition to the house, making a shed etc. I seem to always be collecting one tool or another but I do everything myself. Just installed a new furnace so I treated myself to some tin tools!

If all are going to be mostly doing flat work you may want:

A decent table saw (I would get one with a full cast top).
12" miter box, (I added a laser to the one I have now, would not go without one now).
A Pile  of clamps.
A good orbital sander.
Corded and Cordless drill (every house should have of these, don't go cheap)
Cordless nut driver (this is my new goto tool, wish I would have bought one years ago).
Jig Saw

The above will get you rolling but you find very quickly you may want/need the following:

Pocket hole screw jig.
Air braid nailer (I use this all the time)
Air compressor for the air tool above (every house should have a air compressor)
Drill press is nice
Band saw if you get into a lot of curvy stuff. 
Dust collection.
Biscuit cutter (I use this a lot, but I do a lot of solid work).

I just picked up a spindle sander, that's been a great addition.

Just start with some simple stuff and buy what you think can get away with and make work, its one of those life time hobbies really, its not all going to come a one time. Did you know you can cut a circle on a table saw:) it as to be a good size circle 12"+ or so but it works great. Sometimes you have to think out of the box a little to make do with what you have.