When I sit back and dream of all things woodworking this image is what I see.
Credit to Nick Offerman’s Woodshop (If you haven’t checked it out you should. Very cool dude!!!):
I’m sure you can see a couple differences.
Back to the title, you have probably been brought to lumberjocks looking for a forum or how to on where to start woodworking as I did about 2 years ago. Really if you are reading this I assume you have a couple prerequisites otherwise you would have rolled right past this website.
First prereq, you have some level of interest in making something. If the inspiration is your wife/girlfriend, you dream to build your own stuff or are just plain old tired of the Ikea world we live in. Everyone has different inspirations that are far from limited by this list.
As for the second prereq, some call it the bug. You have the motivation to get started. You are probably thinking about acquiring some tools and getting started. My problem was, where do I start now?
I think its important to mention that I am currently active duty Navy and have deployed just under 50% of the last 3 years. I got the bug and motivation about two years ago after one of my longer deployments. I am also married with dogs, cats and currently no kids. All this being said, I understand what it means to struggle having enough time and money. I also only recently tried to sell something and got lucky to sell it. Making my rough estimate hourly woodworking rate about $2~ per hour but that’s probably appropriate for the quality. You can see that table in my recent projects.
Where did I start? I started with an under powered Ryobi 12V blue drill, a hand me down craftsman jig saw (acquired for free), a 16oz hammer and a smattering of tools in a hand me down tool box (acquired for free). My first space was a two car garage and I didn’t understand how good I had it. If you can tell, it hardly looked like my present set up today but probably very similar to where many of us have our roots.
So the part you have been waiting (reading) for. Where to start and what to buy first in the daunting world of woodworking? Are you a successful Wall Street day trader or a Hollywood movie star? I would suggest writing Nick Offerman a check he can’t resist. Honestly that shop is so legit not to mention his acquired skills are AWESOME!!! If you are like me and have access to some hand me downs. DON’T PASS THEM UP!!! Those might be all you have for a little while and can get you by till you know more about what you want.
Next I have rummaged through thrift stores, flea markets, open box, BORG clearance sections and the Holy Grail (well sometimes) Craigslist. There are hugely discounted used things in those venues ALL THE TIME!!! You might have to be patient but there are deals to be had.
As far a bare essentials I will break it down as you need a idea/plan, cutting/milling, jointing and finishing.
Idea/Plan: I usually think these up in my head, find them online or in stores or the biggest motivation is the Honey Do list. Then I jot them down. I really LOVE Google Sketchup!!! I repeat. I really LOVE Google Sketchup!!! Its Free and as mentioned in one of my reviews if you can navigate to Lumberjocks, with at little patience you can learn Sketchup Make and Cutlist. Youtube Jay Bates. He will give you an excellent foundation.
Cutting/Milling: I started with a hand me down Jigsaw and a hand saw. Looking today at the Orange BORG I saw a hand saw for about $13. That can get you through a couple projects and give you a workout at the same time. If you can afford it, get a corded circular saw. Corded tools are AWESOME!!! I would never recommend buying a battery powered tool until you know what you really want out of the tool. By that point you might just stick with the corded tool. Today I saw the green budget model going for about $40ish. I have that model and still use it in my flow today two years later with only an upgraded red blade. Circular saws l suggest looking for in flea markets, thrift stores and Craigslist. I have seen the older metal casing models for as low as $20. Those models will take an accidental drop (lets face it, we are all newbs at some point) and give you many years of service if/until you upgrade it.
Jointing: For the most basic joints I would use a hammer and nails. Cheap, easy, basic and everyone’s home is built using this method. So, try telling my that method isn’t strong. A box of nails can be had for less than $5 and a budget friendly hammer was $12 at the BORG. If you need a little more power, the green budget corded drill can be had for $30 and will serve you well for a long long time. My old hand me down craftsman is great!!! No need to upgrade. Again, corded drills l suggest looking for in flea markets, thrift stores and Craigslist. Don’t trust the battery powered tools at those places as a personal opinion. Again, a good one can be had for as low as $20. A box of screws should be less than $5 depended on what you need. Of course half lapse can be made using a circular saw or handsaw. So dependent on what you are making, the saw might be all you need. Of course then you need clamping pressure and glue. Harbor freight blue clamps are champs. I highly recommend most of their clamps that are blue or red. The small bottle of glue can be had for about $4. Lastly, a square can be bough at Harbor Freight or the BORG today for $5. I prefer the metal one that gives you a solid 90 degree and size dependent ability to measure projects out.
Finishing: Sandpaper ALL DAY!!! If you have to buy only one to use by hand, a 4 pack of 100 or 150 grit should serve you well for $3. Maybe not the most smooth but it won’t take you the rest of your life to finish. Sometimes there are variety packs for $5ish. If you are looking for more power, the budget palm sander at the BORG was $30 or I recommend the Budget Random Orbital for $40. I have used the HECK out of that Green Orbital and its still going strong. Also the most basic and easiest finish would probably be boiled linseed oil. Rub it on a couple times and let it dry. Then you are done. Otherwise you can check out my coffee table a slightly more expensive finish method. Works great from me and doesn’t break the bank. The small can of Boiled Linseed Oil was $7 today.
So totaling that all up.
Bare Essentials: Idea/Plan (FREE) + Handsaw ($13) + Hammer ($12) + Nails ($5) + Sand Paper ($3) + Square ($5) + Linseed Oil ($7) = $45. Leaving room for about about 2 2×4s to get started on assuming a $50 budget. My first build included basically this when I was in college.
Some Power: Idea/Plan (FREE) + Patience (Free) + Circular Saw ($20-40) + Corded Drill ($20-$30) + Glue ($4) + Square ($5) + Corded Sander ($30-$40) + Clamps HF ($12~) + Linseed Oil ($7) = $86-$138 to get started on an assumption of about $100 not including wood.
If I forgot something critical, please let me know but I have built things with the Bare Essentials. Far from fine woodworking but its a foot in the door. A great way to start down the road to woodworking.
Please let me know what you think and check out my facebook page if you are interested in more and Budget Woodworking.