If you have started collecting your tools as the funds become available, you might find yourself looking like this more and more. At least I hope you will. It’s really a great experience.
Credit to Nick Offerman Woodshop “The Dusty Proprietor” (Photo by Emily Shur)
As for continuing down the road of cutting and milling. You will probably inevitably find yourself looking for your work horse. Most likely 1 to 3 horses of raw electrical power to be more accurate.
Disclaimer: for a low budget beginner woodworker, this is probably going to be your biggest expense initially. Also, I have only been pursuing the hobby for about two years and easily hundreds of YouTube videos later.
Second Disclaimer: this is not a hard and fast path to tool collection building. Only my recommendation. I am on a pretty low budget but have slowly acquired several tools using these suggested methods over the last couple years. Different budgets mean different tools but I am trying to keep my eye on the Bare Essentials to get a Day 1 Beginner into the woodworking world.
So moving forward. I have tried a couple things before making my choice. I have used the heck out of a hand saw, my yellow miter box and saw, my first low budget circular saw (RIP), my second circular saw of the same low budget model, an old metal body circular saw and my pride and Joy. My craftsman table saw model 113. Its easily 30 years old by the time I got it.
To lay out the rough road map thus far, use your handsaw till you can afford something better. If you skip the hand saw, proceed to the next step. Upgrade to the circular saw and you can probably be good with that for a pretty long time. Then the table saw.
The lowest and easily the least safe route would be to take your circular saw and bolt it to a piece of plywood. Then cut the blade through and flip it over. Place on a couple supporting surfaces. Vuala!!! Primitive table saw. Now to just screw or clamp down another 2X material and you have a fence. Sounds a lot like my story I wanted to save for later. Hence, my first low budget circular saw (RIP) but I sure did make a lot of saw dust with it.
If this sounds like something you could accomplish safely, here is a video by Izzy Swan on Youtube:
DISCLAIMER: THIS IS VERY VERY DANGEROUS!!! Even the lowest budget circular saw can cut fingers and other limbs off without bogging down. Doing the homemade rig can possibly induce more of the dangers of table saws than if you bough a ready built one.
Moving forward quickly, what I recommend is flea markets and craigslist. There are plenty of older used table saws that come across the wire. You should easily be able to do a quick search and find…
Type in table saw in your local craigslist area and you might find a couple tools worth buying for about $50 to $200. For the lowest entry level saw, I along with many other folks on Lumberjock will tell you to buy a contractor saw. I personally think mine was about $150 when I got it about 2 years ago and have not looked back since.
Things to look for:
1. Do you have the space? Very important to make sure the darn tool fits in your work space before hand. Otherwise you might have to look for something smaller.
2. Does the tool still have its motor? If yes, can you check to see if it runs before you buy it. I 100% recommend seeing the saw on before you spend your hard earned money.
3. Does it have any of its original/after market accessories? If yes, continue. Jigs, fences and miter gauge are a few things to look for.
4. Does it show any hard abuse? I’m not saying scratches, saw dust, chipping paint. I’m saying bends in the sheet metal, pits in the cast iron, overly rusty, does the bearings still turn. Just a few considerations before you buy and definitely should check before handing over the cash.
5. Does it have any blades with it? This should be a no brainier but worth mentioning. Even if they are cheap, they will probably cut and help you continue down the woodworking road. Consider looking at the 40T or 50T red blades and I have heard good things about the Dewalt blades.
The contractor saw is something that I highly recommend and think you should save up for. Well worth the money. Will it be accurate to the thousandths of an inch? No, not likely. Can you make very accurate cuts and start making more serious projects? Yes. I have made plenty of saw dust with mine and still love it.
If you are looking toward the lower end of the market and really must save some money and space. There are a few portable table saws on the used market. I don’t have much experience with them and I am sure someone more experienced will chime in if needed. Otherwise, searching on Lumberjocks would be well worth the read. My only experience is that they are a majority plastic and vibration is probably pretty uncontrollable. The accuracy is probably pretty rough as well.
One the brighter side, the portable saws sometimes have some dust collection which is nice if you have a vacuum in a small place. One more plus, is the prices on the used market. I would estimate you could find one for $25 to $100. For the budget minded woodworker when saving the $75 dollars is a must, the portable saws are probably a good answer.
If you look at Steve Ramseys’ earlier videos on Yoututbe, he had one of the cheap-o skill style portable saws and used it for years till he was gifted a nice hybrid saw. (If you are interested, I would consider checking out Steve Ramsey @ https://www.youtube.com/user/stevinmarin)
A note for the weight of the heavier saws, if Newton still holds true with Force=Mass*Acceleration. Mass is a huge factor in cutting down vibration in table saws. Cutting down vibration can make your work more accurate. The heavier the saw the more force required to accelerate the saw. This acceleration is what causes vibration. Theis vibrations can be caused by hardware being unbalanced, the actual cutting action of the saw, the lose bolts and many many other things.
For a comparison of the saw weights:
Portable Saw: 50 lbs and up. (Mostly plastic)
Contractor Saw: 200 lbs to 250 lbs and up. (Mostly sheet metal and some cast iron)
Cabinet Saw: 300 lbs and way way way up. (Mostly heavy gauge steel and cast iron, sometimes granite)
So, If I could do it all again. I would still work my way up through the hand saw, the circular saw and contractor saw. Just the experience gained and building of confidence is worth it. If you continue to have the motivation in woodworking, making slow upgrades to your tools is worth the time. Most of all, enjoy the process and be safe.
If you are interested in checking out my shop, my website is. Please like if you are interested in my misadventures posted there.
Thanks for reading.