Newbie here with limited space, looking for versatile beginner setup

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Forum topic by Broooklyn posted 01-21-2010 08:09 AM 1124 views 0 times favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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51 posts in 2472 days

01-21-2010 08:09 AM

Hi Everyone – this is a great forum you have here!

Preface: I have very little experience and no tools. I’m looking to buy some tools that don’t take up too much space.

I live in New York City where square footage is limited and outdoor space is rare. I finally moved into a place with a large patio which will finally allow me to pursue some woodworking projects. The patio gives me a place to use my tools but I can’t store them there (rain, etc) so my setup needs to be compact and fold down to fit into a small shed or closet. I’m looking to start off with shelves, benches, flower boxes; real basic stuff.

A circular saw, t-square, clamps, and a couple saw horses seems to be a logical first step. But I’m also enticed by portable table saws. However, the table saw seems to lose it’s appeal (and ease of use) when not actually used with a large table top. Are there fold-up benches that you can mount table saws in to give you more workspace?

Anyway, that’s what’s on my mind but I’m open to any and all suggestions. I look forward to learning a lot around here!


-- Matt - Brooklyn, NY

15 replies so far

View a1Jim's profile


115177 posts in 3001 days

#1 posted 01-21-2010 08:26 AM

Hi Matt Welcome to Ljs
They do make table saws with fold up stands I own a Bosch and it wheels around easily. If that’s not in you budget you can clamp or screw a portable table saw to some saw horses. A chop saw ,clamps are always a good idea. and squares and the list goes on and one depending on the kind of projects you want to make.

-- Custom furniture

View Eagle1's profile


2066 posts in 2488 days

#2 posted 01-21-2010 12:50 PM

Hi Matt welcome to LJ’s. There are a lot of ways to do it. I like a series of videos or podcasts I should say from the www// . I watch him all the time, and also there might be some ideas for you at

-- Tim, Missouri ....Inside every older person is a younger person wondering what the heck happened

View BarbS's profile


2434 posts in 3509 days

#3 posted 01-21-2010 01:15 PM

Welcome to LumberJocks, Matt. if you are working on an outdoor patio, you might consider this fold-up, roll away bench from Wood Magazine (check their website for the plans).
This one was made by LJ’s Bunkie, also from New York City:

A portable bench like this would be a great learning experience, and could be made with basic hand tools, a circular saw and a drill. A good space to work is the first step to many other projects. Good luck with your new endeavors!


View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

1509 posts in 3549 days

#4 posted 01-21-2010 05:43 PM

Look into the circular saw on a rail as an alternative to the table saw. There are trade-offs, in a perfect world I’d have both (mostly because the table saw does rips easier), but I don’t have room for the table saw.

I’ve got the Festool system (including their table), Makita and DeWalt both make saw-on-rail systems, and there’s a retrofit system called “EZ Smart”. The new Festool table has a better fence for doing cross-cuts, I strongly recommend you get a demo from your local dealer (Festool pricing is fixed, so the dealers have to compete on service. If they don’t let you do a few cuts and play with it, find another dealer).

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California,

View Dchip's profile


270 posts in 2676 days

#5 posted 01-21-2010 07:13 PM

Hi Matt,
I too have been trying to deal with woodworking space in NYC. I’m lucky to have a second room in my apt. (and an understanding ladyfriend) above a vacant commercial space in which to use as my workshop. I mostly filled it with compact tools such as a bare-bones ryobi table saw and router table. Some people will bash on these tools, but they are far better than nothing, and with some devoted tuning and certain upgrades they can be completely usable while still remaining compact and (relatively) inexpensive.
Another option is to join a woodworking club (I know of one called 3rd Ward out in Brooklyn, I’m sure you could google it) for use of the large machines while stocking up on some portable power and hand tools, as well as clamps (quite essential for woodworking, and you could probably find a basic kit from Bessey or such to get you started). This would allow for fine tuning and construction at your place, which would cut down on noise and space obligations. There’s my 2 cents.

-- Dan Chiappetta, NYC,

View Broooklyn's profile


51 posts in 2472 days

#6 posted 01-21-2010 08:04 PM

Wow – all great feedback here!
It sounds like I should go with a circular saw with a rail and build my own fold up workbench.
Looks like I have some fun learning ahead.


-- Matt - Brooklyn, NY

View 8iowa's profile


1540 posts in 3185 days

#7 posted 01-21-2010 08:29 PM

While the Shopsmith is the quintessential small shop woodworking tool (11% of Shopsmith users operate in 100 sq ft or less), using power tools in a high density urban environment is a good way to develop conflicts with neighbors and landloards.

Keep in mind the fact that tools powered with universal type electrical motors, which includes circular saws and routers, are among the noisest of all power tools. They also generate a lot of dust.

My advice; get a small bench with a good vice and equip yourself with some good hand tools. Traditional woodworking is gaining more and more interest, and this will give you a solid background when you move on to bigger and better things.

-- "Heaven is North of the Bridge"

View pommy's profile


1697 posts in 3115 days

#8 posted 01-21-2010 08:36 PM

Welcome to LJs firstly …...
I dont know how well you can get timber but when i first started out i had to buy my timber sized and jointed as i has NO space for tools like you i only had hand tools i would take a cutting list to my local timber yard and ask very nicely if they could do this for me at a reasonable rate then it was acase of cutting my joints by hand and going for there thats how i started anyway


-- cut it saw it scrap it SKPE: ANDREW.CARTER69

View WayneC's profile


12642 posts in 3521 days

#9 posted 01-21-2010 08:40 PM

Some of this would depend on what your building. Also, if cash is less of a constraint than space this is an interesting table saw option….'s+New/Jointmaker+Pro+v2

Watch the video at the bottom of the page…..

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View dbhost's profile


5590 posts in 2656 days

#10 posted 01-21-2010 08:46 PM

For your situation, I would look primarily to the hand tool route… Urban environments offer huge challenges with space, and noise concerns, and like 8iowa mentions, the noise and dust created will likely cause conflicts with neighbors and landlords.

If you are in a situation where you can use power tools without conflict, but are cramped on space, you will want to look into…

To get going with your basic tasks, I would start off with…

#1. A good circular saw and guide system. If you’ve got the $$ the Festool is the standard by which other guided saws are measured…

#2. A good router, and a portable router table. The Hitachi M12VC and KM12VC (fixed base, and fixed base / plunge kit otherwise identical) routers are some of the quietest routers on the market. You will still make a bunch of noise when the bit hits wood… You can do the majority of your joinery with the router. With the right jig, mortises are within reach there…

Then as you progress add on…

#3. Benchtop drill press. It’ll take a bit of muscle to drag it out and put it back all the time, but something like a Ryobi 12” benchtop drill press will go a LONG way to making sure your holes are straight and true, and can be used for hogging out the majority of material for doing mortises to be cleaned up afterwards by hand with a chisel.

#4. A good jig saw, and blades. I have a Skil jig saw and have regretted it ever since I bought it… I have my eyes on a nice Hitachi as well. There are a bunch of good brands and models out there though… Make sure you get good blades with it too!

-- My workshop blog can be found at

View BarbS's profile


2434 posts in 3509 days

#11 posted 01-21-2010 08:47 PM

Wayne- That is Incredible! and horribly expensive. Surely one could jury-rig a homemade version of using a Japanese saw blade held in a built-up jig to do that. But wow, thanks for posting that. Never seen anything like it. Hurrah for ingenuity! You’ve got my mind spinning. That is just Cool.


View Dennisgrosen's profile


10850 posts in 2539 days

#12 posted 01-21-2010 09:44 PM

I´m with dbhost go for handtools they make no noise so you can work in evening´s and weekend´s withaut
angry nighbours and they use only a little space for storring and can easely bee moved around
a sawbench and a cople of sawhorses will be a great start but a real workbench is one of the most importen
tools you can have you can see abunch of them here on L J

that was my 2 cent


View Broooklyn's profile


51 posts in 2472 days

#13 posted 01-22-2010 04:19 AM

I’m liking the sound of (or lack there of :) getting some nice hand tools and starting from there. This should be more budget friendly, compact, and safer! And conducive to learning the basics. That JointMaker is amazing but definitely not in budget.

I forgot that I have a nice Dremel. How useful is getting the router attachment/mount be for that? I guessing it could only handle small projects.

Now I’m just contemplating buying a foldup workbench or taking the time to build one.

-- Matt - Brooklyn, NY

View WayneC's profile


12642 posts in 3521 days

#14 posted 01-22-2010 05:35 AM

Dennis’s suggestion of a sawbench is one to remember. I think this would be very useful in your work environment.

Info about one here

Plans here

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View iamwelty's profile


254 posts in 2539 days

#15 posted 01-23-2010 02:29 AM

A lot of high schools and Jr. Colleges have adult education classes in woodworking. The one I go to is incredibly informal… you bring your designs and work on your project using their tools. The instructor is there if you have questions or a problem. There are people in the class that have literally been taking the same class over and over for over ten years!! They just keep making different projects. The cost is minimal and it’s a great way to learn different techniques. If you see a tool you like, you can learn how to use it first and know what features you’d like before you buy one. Just a thought…

-- There is a fine line between eroticism and nausea...

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