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What should a novice do? Getting started in woodworking...

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Blog entry by Peter posted 03-06-2007 03:28 AM 2335 reads 1 time favorited 34 comments Add to Favorites Watch

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…

-- ~Peter



34 comments so far

View Obi's profile

Obi

2213 posts in 3702 days


#1 posted 03-06-2007 03:33 AM

Out of all the other hobbies you’ve mentioned so far none of them will make you money. But a $500 table saw and the standard fence that comes with it, a $200 chop saw, and a Variable speed router. Hitachi makes one and they sell it at lowes for $114. that gives you $50.00 for the router bit of your choice and $150.00 for wood.

Welcome to Lumberjocks.

View Karson's profile

Karson

35035 posts in 3866 days


#2 posted 03-06-2007 03:36 AM

Welcome to lumberJocks.

Of course you could buy the wood tools and make the canoe. Then you’d have them both. A little tougher to make a bike.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia karsonwm@gmail.com †

View Peter's profile

Peter

21 posts in 3578 days


#3 posted 03-06-2007 03:37 AM

Michael.

That is a really great way to look at the issue! How much can you get for $1,000? Or, if you only had $1,000 to spend starting out, what would you buy?

I would love to hear other people’s thoughts.

-- ~Peter

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 3780 days


#4 posted 03-06-2007 03:49 AM

I guess the question becomes how do we justify our addiction. Price of one fine dinning room table and six chairs…$2500.00. Set of kichen cabinets…$8300.00. The ability to make a handmade wooden valantines day card…Priceless! If they don’t gather dust they can pay for themselves. $1,000.00 will buy alot of used tools.

View Obi's profile

Obi

2213 posts in 3702 days


#5 posted 03-06-2007 03:52 AM

I just told you what I did. Bought the table saw first. There are several makes and models available for under $500.00 Variable speed router and a plunge router is more versatile. I’d buy a flush bit and a roman ogee bit. One for making the edges flush and one for making edges fancy. ANd a chop saw. OR instead of buying a chop saw you can buy a piece of 3/4” finish plywood and make a sled. I made a cheap one here and that leave $100 for a dado blade set. All of a sudden I got a brain storm. I can put my table saw away for now.

View Karson's profile

Karson

35035 posts in 3866 days


#6 posted 03-06-2007 03:56 AM

Peter:

There are some basic tools. You’d need a good table saw one that wouldn’t push around as you try to cut wood. So it need a little weight to it. I good router, Something mid like a 2HP, You can then make a router table so you have the use of the router in the table and freehand. One that takes 1/2” and 1/4” router bits. A plunge router or a solid base router. They each have there usefullness. You can buy a kit from Porter Cable that has both bases. I believe that other companies also make a combo kit.

A band saw is nice but a hand jig saw will allow you to cut curves in wood if necessary. A jig Saw for small fine work but don’t expect to cut 1” thick wood with it though. The marketing people say you can but take it from the user. Not the best tool for cutting wood. 1/4 or 1/2” is getting to the edge of it’s useful range.

Skill saw to cut up wood on sawhorses because it’s hard to manage plywood through a table saw by yourself and sometimes it’s harder with a helper. Because, both people are not necessarly working in sync.

Sanders, Random Orbital PSA or Velcro. The velcro seems to be taking over because you can change grits easier and then reuse them whereas with PSA, once you take it off it’s life is gone. Also preferable variable speed.

Drill press, but you can use hand drills but you don’t have the same accurcy.

A chopsaw is nice to allow you to cut those 45 deg corners easier than with a table saw.

It’s usually easier to move the tool and not move the wood.

Some of my suggestions. I’m sure it will be added to or subtracted from by others. There are a lot of personel choices in Woodworking.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia karsonwm@gmail.com †

View scottb's profile

scottb

3648 posts in 3792 days


#7 posted 03-06-2007 03:59 AM

Find a project that you like (an easy-ish one) not a morris rocking chair, and check out the list of tools req. Probably a tablesaw, router, and maybe a mitersaw. I’ve made do with a hand powered miterbox, for quite a while before the powered version. picked up a (admittedly too cheap) tablesaw at lowes ($70, reg 100 Delta). My father-in-law has a really nice Rigid, for when mine just isn’t up to the task. Heck, I’ve spent more on blades than on the saw.

Still don’t have a router. (but it’s coming) I think you’ll find with a few good tools, you’ll find different ways to doing things, until you decide what you need…. Another way to go is to slowly acquire your tools one project at a time. That way if you decide woodworking isn’t for you after a few projects, you’ll only have a few tools (that you may likely need anyhow) rather than a shop full of stuff you don’t know what to do with.

I was lucky to find a vintage Shopsmith locally on Craigslist. 50 years old, but in great shape, this $500 +/- deal got me a tablesaw, lathe, jointer, jigsaw, discsander, drillpress and anything else I can find 5/8ths attachements for.

Every so often the magazines will feature their top ten list of tools you need (and in the order they’d get em) Tablesaw is always first. can probably do the most with that. cuts, rips, rabbets, dadoes, etc….

-- I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it. - Van Gogh -- http://blanchardcreative.etsy.com -- http://snbcreative.wordpress.com/

View Obi's profile

Obi

2213 posts in 3702 days


#8 posted 03-06-2007 04:10 AM

SCOTT “That way if you decide woodworking isn’t for you ” BLASPHEMY!!! YOU TALK LIKE THAT AGAIN SCOTTIE, AND WE’LL CUT YOUR TONGUE OUT. HAHAHAHAHA !!!

View Karson's profile

Karson

35035 posts in 3866 days


#9 posted 03-06-2007 04:16 AM

Should we tell Peter about Sawstop?

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia karsonwm@gmail.com †

View Peter's profile

Peter

21 posts in 3578 days


#10 posted 03-06-2007 04:30 AM

Wow! Thanks for all of the comments. I can’t believe how quickly the posts followed my original message.

For the record, my budget will be more than $1,000. I am waiting until we move in to our new house at the end of the month before I get started, but I can’t help dreaming of how I want to fill up our unfinished basement.

I have a friend who works for DeWalt and will pick up a 2-1/4 HP router with three bases for me at the employee discount. He is very honorable and doesn’t really do that, but he owes me a favor. I have a DeWalt random orbital sander, Porter Cable compressor & nail guns, a jig saw, and a few hand tools.

The jump to buy a quality table saw is really what I am struggling with at this time. Once I buy one, in my mind, I have made a commitment to this hobby.

Now if I could just decide which one to get…

And I would still like to hear what folks would buy if they only had $1,000 to spend. I am using those suggestions to prioritize my purchases after the table saw…

-- ~Peter

View Obi's profile

Obi

2213 posts in 3702 days


#11 posted 03-06-2007 04:57 AM

Karson mentioned Sawstop. It’s over $2,000 but if you stick a hotdog into the blade it stops in miliseconds and only scratches the hotdog. If you are experienced on a table saw and still have all of your didgets, you might want to consider it. I think it’s a great saw, but I want a powermatic and they sell for about $2000.00

View Bill Cowan's profile

Bill Cowan

110 posts in 3571 days


#12 posted 03-06-2007 05:09 AM

Hello Peter,

As the proud Papa of…

I can only say that I hope to never, never , never test the safety device. I was in the same circumstance a few years ago about tools. I started slow, but over the course of a few years, gathered quite a bit. Like everyone has said, you can get some really good tools at low costs to start with….gain experience and find the joy of making much sawdust like us all. I wish though that I would have gotten the SawStop first, and saved the grand I spent on the General and put towards the SawStop.

-- ICN, Bill, (http://www.coachbillcowan.com)

View darryl's profile

darryl

1795 posts in 3792 days


#13 posted 03-06-2007 05:21 AM

I’ve got to admit Obi, my first project was done with a borrowed mitersaw and a cheap cordless drill. I wasn’t sure if it was a hobby that was going to stick, so I didn’t want to invest money that would collect dust in the basement from lack of use.

the first tool I purchased was an inexpensive Riobi tablesaw (the $99 version from Home Depot), a router (again the inexpensive Riobi) followed that. My first major purchase was the 6” Ridgid jointer (justified by the need to make kitchen cabinets). A lathe was just for fun, but that required a drill press and bench grinder as well. And to cut down on the cost of buying S4S lumber, the planer was the latest addition.

what to buy first really does depend on what you want to make. I’ve got three daughters and I now want to be able to make as much of their furniture myself as possible.

What drives you to consider woodworking??

View scottb's profile

scottb

3648 posts in 3792 days


#14 posted 03-06-2007 05:34 AM

Oh Obi… just offering up a way to ease into it – so his wife could see he wasn’t just offering up the credit card, and blindly diving-in whole hog, without taking the time to think things through.

I’m with Peter on the setting up a shop for “only” $5000. We’re not all rich folk, and some of my better tool purchases have come from much convincing of my wife – and of course the well planned out “requirement” for the next project. I have to admit, the wants don’t get the same use as the needs.

Peter you’re already a Lumberjock, whether you know it or not, you’re hooked!

Welcome aboard.

-- I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it. - Van Gogh -- http://blanchardcreative.etsy.com -- http://snbcreative.wordpress.com/

View scottb's profile

scottb

3648 posts in 3792 days


#15 posted 03-06-2007 05:35 AM

Oh, and buying a new house…. That will help dictate what you need for sure.

-- I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it. - Van Gogh -- http://blanchardcreative.etsy.com -- http://snbcreative.wordpress.com/

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