What should I focus my spending on?

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Forum topic by tburkhart posted 12-22-2015 04:39 PM 1065 views 0 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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8 posts in 852 days

12-22-2015 04:39 PM

Hi there! I am brand new to this forum, so greetings everyone!

A little background info – I am essentially brand new to woodworking. I grew up with a father who built great things in the garage every day and unfortunately i took no interest in woodworking until i hit my thirties, 10 years after his death. I did learn a lot from him about knives and tool edges at least! He was a butcher and meat cutter professionally, and a day to day perfectionist, and taught me how to properly hone edges in my early teens. So at least i have a bit of an…edge… (oh yes pun intended). my chisels and plane are crappy, but i tuned them the best i could and i can not only shave with them, but they can clean-cut unsupported paper towel. So there is that.

So I went out and got myself a set of cheap-o chisels and a plane from Harbor Freight, totaling less than $15 for 6 chisels and the plane with a coupon. I flattened the sole of the plane, flattened the cap iron, dialed in the adjustments, and it is doing great shavings. I flattened the chisels, got the coating off the metal, got them scary sharp, and hand carved 6 new handles for them topped off with a few coats of BLO. My wife is getting me a few vintage tools for xmas, planes, a draw knife, maybe a spokeshave. I restore and rehang axe heads as a hobby, so restoring vintage tools is not only up my alley, but one of my favorite hobbys.

The question – where should i put my $ as far as new purchases? Should i just see what i need per project? I can pretty much tell you my next few projects, they will be a new tv stand, a small nightstand, and a slim table to fit behind the couch. I really want to stick to vintage (or vintage-ish) tools for now, save some cash for decent quality stuff, maybe look into some higher end stuff when i know what i would REALLY WANT to upgrade.

14 replies so far

View XquietflyX's profile


339 posts in 926 days

#1 posted 12-22-2015 04:49 PM

Welcome Aboard!!!
We are in a similar boat. I’m just here to see what paddle ends up getting recommended. IMO i’d say focus on tools to help make yourself a bench.

-- You can tell a lot about your wife by her hands, for example if they are around your throat she's prolly pissed off at you...

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Don W

18685 posts in 2533 days

#2 posted 12-22-2015 04:51 PM

Welcome to LJ’s. I would look at what you need for your projects. If you don’t mind tuning, then vinyage is the way to go most of the time.

You can mnake a lot of stuff with a couple good saws, a few hand planes, and a couple of sharp chisels.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View Richard H's profile

Richard H

489 posts in 1646 days

#3 posted 12-22-2015 05:22 PM

It depends on where you want to go from here. If you are not in a hurry to add powered tools to your woodworking than a few saws for rough stock and joinery, a few more planes to fill the rolls of course,medium,fine as described by Chris Schwarz, some accurate measurement and marking tools and a good stable work surface are pretty much all you need to get started. The basic hand tool tool kit is pretty small at it’s core, there are no end of specialized tools to make things faster/easier such as a plow plane but with a good back saw and chisel you can accomplish the same thing.

Think about the tools you need to make a board surfaced and square on 6 sides to exact dimensions than add on top of that the tools needed to cut whatever joinery you want to use and do finish prep of the piece and you have a basic tool kit.

Hope this helps

View oldretiredjim's profile


206 posts in 2351 days

#4 posted 12-22-2015 05:28 PM

Agree with Don – let your projects dictate your needs. That is how most of us make our tool decisions. And you will be surprised with what you can get done with very limited tools. You get pretty good with what you have.

View Tim's profile


3781 posts in 1927 days

#5 posted 12-22-2015 05:35 PM

Welcome to LJ s. I would look at what you need for your projects. If you don t mind tuning, then vinyage is the way to go most of the time.

You can mnake a lot of stuff with a couple good saws, a few hand planes, and a couple of sharp chisels.

- Don W

I would add a marking gauge to that as probably the next most critical tool. And you really can make a lot with the tools above but there are certain things like a dado and a rabbet that are harder than they need to be without a somewhat more specialized tool, but you can even make some of them pretty easily. Check out Paul Sellers poor man’s router or the not so poor man’s router with an allen key for the blade.

In fact his whole bog series on buying tools cheap is pretty decent:
His minimal tool list is another good thing to consider:
You can also look for the list of tools from Chris Schwarz’s anarchist tool chest.

What I actually did is buy things as I found them cheap. I now have all the things on Paul Seller’s list, and some of the things from the anarchist tool chest, and many specialized tools that aren’t. Among what I have I can make an awful lot of things.

View jdmaher's profile


427 posts in 2545 days

#6 posted 12-22-2015 05:35 PM

Saws. I like power (table or band), but it sounds like you might want hand tools? In hand tools, you could read Schwarz's article for background, but I’d recommend that all you need to start is a rip panel saw and a cross-cut tenon saw. There are people on LJs that restore vintage, and they can provide more specific guidance.

Drills. Again, I prefer power (drill press and battery), but there are wonderful braces (hog out mortises) and egg-beaters (pilot holes for screws and nails) if you want to go the vintage route. Bought used and restored, it shouldn’t be expensive.

Sounds like your “good enough” with chisels. For planes, you need both something to flatten and something to smooth, so whichever you have just get the other.

Then there is wood . . .

-- Jim Maher, Illinois

View mpo414's profile


19 posts in 887 days

#7 posted 12-22-2015 06:50 PM

I agree with Jim, wood!

It seems I am always running out of the wood I need that is dry and ready to use. I am trying to build up a stockpile of fresh sawn wood and letting it air dry, but that takes time. Whenever I have a few bucks to spend and don’t really need any new tools (need, not want!) I try to buy wood and get the drying process started. Just food for thought, good luck!

-- Matt, Wyoming

View tburkhart's profile


8 posts in 852 days

#8 posted 12-22-2015 08:55 PM

Thanks everyone for the great input!

View BurlyBob's profile


5408 posts in 2231 days

#9 posted 12-23-2015 03:49 AM

Everybody here has given you great advice. I’ll add my two cents. Your going to find that a table saw is the central tool in any shop. Virtually all work revolves around it and it’s so dog gone versatile. You can find all sort of small contractor saws out there. Eventually in a few years your going to want to up grade. So like everything nowadays do your research, save your money and buy the best you can afford. It will last you the longest and you will be happier with it. As everyone here at Lumberjocks can attest, your finished product will improve as you upgrade to better quality tools. However don’t overlook many of the old hand tools from generations past. Point of fact, a Stanley 60 1/2 block plane. How on earth did I ever get along without it? Sounds like your on the right track.

View rwe2156's profile


2881 posts in 1447 days

#10 posted 12-23-2015 01:05 PM

So I went out and got myself a set of cheap-o chisels and a plane from Harbor Freight, totaling less than $15 for 6 chisels and the plane with a coupon.
- tburkhart
At risk of starting an uproar IMO this is a big mistake newbies make, myself included. That HF plane you have is simply not a good ww’ing tool. Just because you can get a shaving doesn’t mean much. You will find out what I am saying is true as you use those tools. Same with chisels. Cheap chisels usually have inferior steel and very high side bevels, making them very difficult for jointer work, especially dovetails.

So my advice is always buy the best tools you can afford. If HF is all you can afford, then obviously you have to start there, but keep an eye toward acquiring better tools. An old model Stanley plane will serve you much better. Starting out with inferior tools just makes the learning curve that much steeper. This is my opinion I started out with cheap tools because I figured I didn’t know what I was doing and looking back, it stymied my skill development.

To me its like learning to drive a car. No, you don’t need to start with a Ferrari, but you don’t want a rent-a-wreck, either.

As far as next tools, basic tools for any project include measuring and marking, a couple good hand saws, a better hand plane, a better set of chisels. You will accumulate tools as you need them. I can be more specific if you want.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View dhazelton's profile


2756 posts in 2262 days

#11 posted 12-23-2015 03:04 PM

I was gonna say a bit and brace set, look to yard sales and antique shops. Many times you can get a huge box of augur bits for just a couple of bucks. Some clamps would be nice, at the very least the adjustable wooden ones with the acme screws in them. Gluing up panels could be done with wooden wedges so you don’t really need pipe clamps just yet. I don’t know where you live but when yard sale and flea market season comes around again I’d start looking.

View sikrap's profile


1121 posts in 3325 days

#12 posted 12-24-2015 03:08 AM

I’ll go a bit against the grain here and suggest that your next investment/project should be a good bench if you don’t already have one. If you already have a rock-solid bench with a good vise or two, I’d look at a good set of joinery saws. I’d go after a dovetail saw, rip tenon saw and a crosscut carcass saw. If you want vintage saws, there are some sellers that refurbish old saws and do a fantastic job, but they ain’t cheap. Those 3 will prove to be excellent for joinery work. If you want to go totally neander, I’d also suggest a nice Disston D-8 rip saw. Check the medallion to see if it readds “Phila” or “Philada”. The latter is more desirable, but either indicate a pre-WWII nintage.

-- Dave, Colonie, NY

View DylanC's profile


204 posts in 2640 days

#13 posted 01-05-2016 06:52 AM

I am a similar situation and have found Paul Sellers’ tool list to be a huge help. The tools he lists are the absolute essentials, but can be stretched to handle some pretty complex projects. The largest omission is a sharpening system.

Tool List Link

-- Dylan C ...Seems like all ever I make is sawdust...

View Waldo88's profile


188 posts in 1262 days

#14 posted 01-05-2016 04:44 PM

Your going to find that a table saw is the central tool in any shop. Virtually all work revolves around it and it s so dog gone versatile.

Eh, depends on what you make. A big enough (14”+) bandsaw can be every bit as much the central tool, and is typically less of a space hog. Table saws lend themselves to square blocky work. Plus you can resaw with a bandsaw, no can do with a table saw.

I got a bandsaw before a table saw, and now I really have no interest in getting a table saw any longer; I am not limited in the least bit, I’d rather plane every edge smooth anyway.

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