I have a problem: getting in to woodworking is expensive!
Recently my friends and I were commenting that most hobbies seem to cost a grand. Want to get into mountain biking? $1,000 will get you a good full-suspension bike, an ergonomic car rack, and the accessories to get you started. Whitewater kayaking? One-G will get you a sweet used boat, paddle, spray skirt, etc and off you go. Downhill skiing? Well, you get the idea.
In woodworking, one thousand clams will get you a quality table saw and accurate fence. That’s it. Sure, you will be able to put in a dado blade and start pretending you are Norm “Power Tool’ Freedman, but there is a lot more gear still to get. And I won’t deny that much like having a kayak for kayaking or a mountain bike for mountain biking, a table saw is probably the core of most shops, but no matter how you look at it, woodworking isn’t cheap. A recent article in Fine Woodworking (I think) explained how to put together a comprehensive introductory shop for only $5,000. (I am very proud of myself for not ending that sentence with an exclamation point.)
So what is a novice like me, who is sitting on the fence trying to decide if I should/want to make the investment, do?
Step one is to rationalize.
I try to look at woodworking as the equivalent of other “grown up” hobbies such as owning a Harley Davidson motorcycle or being a private pilot. By the time you own the bike or learn to fly the plane you have probably made an investment similar to buying some key, quality shop tools. And when that “youg adult” voice in my head says, “yeah, but you could buy a mountain bike AND a kayak AND new skis AND an X-Box 360 for the same amount” I know that it is time to see if there is another pod-cast on The Woodwhisperer.com…
Then there is the dilemma of WHAT to buy? There seems to be a trade off between dollars and convenience. I put the question in terms of convenience rather than in terms of quality, even though they are often closely related. Sure I can flatten a table top with a hand-plane, but I think almost all of us would rather have a DeWalt 13” planer handy instead. That doesn’t eliminate quality from the equation. A higher quality router table with a router lift makes setting up the router easier, quicker and, overall, more enjoyable. If I am more productive in my shop will I use it more because I have more successes and positive reinforcement? If I am not frustrated by inaccurate miter cuts, even after I have measured twice, will I be more likely to do more? Believe me, I am not a member of instant-gratification-generation but I do have limited resources & time and get pulled in many directions. If I am going to spend thousands of dollars and many hours of my time on something, I need to know that I am going to get a lot out of it.
Lastly, I am not in denial about my personality (my fabulous wife won’t let me be). When I get home at the end of the day and I am tired, I have to consider if I am more likely veg-out in front of the TV or go build something? Especially once the novelty of the tools has worn off? And let’s not kid ourselves, we all know that it happens. But hey, you never know for sure until you own the shop…