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Forum topic by clafollett posted 02-19-2011 06:42 AM 1359 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View clafollett's profile


114 posts in 2855 days

02-19-2011 06:42 AM

I happened across this wonderful site the other day. I’ve only been reading so far but thought I’d pop my posting cherry and ask for some advice from all you great LJ’s out there.

I’m currently in the middle of a custom built cedar fence project to replace a cheap, worn out board on board fence the previous owner quickly put together. You might be able to see some of the new fence in my user image. I was able to talk the comptroller (i.e. wife) into budgeting in some new power tools for the job. I already had a few due to my younger days building houses and roofing but was needed a few more. At least that was the excuse I used :)

After the fence will come a number of other projects for the interior and exterior. I definitely need to build out the garage and get some good work tables, utility cabinets and shelves in place. There are also a number of other projects the wife is dreaming up for the interior too. Its amazing what Cedar with some quality Cabots stain gets a woman thinking huh?

Here is the current list of power tools I would consider worthy of further use for wood working:

1. New Porter Cable TS (Model PCB270TS)
2. New Rigid 12” Miter Saw (Model R4120)
3. New 18v Makita Drill/Driver combo kit (Model LCT200W)
4. Older 14.4v Dewalt Drill
5. Older Black n Decker Quantam Circular saw
6. Older but great shape, Black n Decker Mouse sander
7. Older Dewalt Recip. Saw (yeah, not the most precise tool in this list!)

Given this list, where would you go next? My personal thoughts are a router. I can definitely see the wife wanting some pretty edging and it could double for dadoes and the like. What I’m not sure about would be items like joiners, planers, etc. I’ve not used these types of tools in the past so I’m not the most familiar with their full capabilities.

I’ve recently picked up the Kreg pock-hole kit but I’m not sure if this will be the best route for solid “industrial strength” joints for the garage projects. It does seem to produce some pretty solid joints though. It also seems to be a fairly low cost way and one that supports my current supplies. Will it work for the long haul?

Anyways, if you all of some thoughts on this topic – and aren’t too tired of answering these same types of questions again :) – please post up.



-- Don't mind me, I'm just soaking up knowledge

7 replies so far

View Jesse 's profile


105 posts in 3062 days

#1 posted 02-19-2011 09:17 AM

I’m pretty new to this crafting also, but I do know it’s tough to recommend anything without understanding what you already have. It my opinion, you are better off getting good used tools then crappy new ones. Of course, everyone has different opinions on what constitutes a crappy tool. In the last 6 months, I purchased around $2000 worth of tools that eventually became difficult to disguise from SWMBO. In doing so, I’ve decided this.

1) I’m very happy I spent the money to get a good Lithium Ion drill. I have an 18v Hitachi cordless drill that i couldn’t be happier with. When I blindly got into wood working, i assumed I would be using a hammer a lot..but quickly learned I use a drill a lot more. After drilling a hole into the palm of my hand, I developed a solid foundation of reasoning why I needed a drill press:P

2) I hate Black and Decker. Most of the money I’ve spent on tools was replacing my B&D “starter” tools.

3) Table saws bring a lot to the shop. My very first purchase was a craftsman radial arm saw that my dad insisted was the ultimate shop tool. From his perspective, it is. It can cut miters, bevels, crosscuts and rips. However, I feel I can do all that a lot safer and more accurately on my table saw ( $125 on craigslist) My first experience with kick-back off the radial arm saw sounded like a shotgun went off and board splintering against the outside wall of my garage. My dad also doesn’t believe I can achieve any degree of accuracy with my table saw. I believe everyone just becomes attached to “their” tools and kinda close their minds off. Push comes to shove though, a good circular saw and a few jigs can do wonders at a fraction of the price.

4) I have a Dewalt recip saw and I really like it. It made cutting door jambs for hardwood flooring a breeze. It’s also my “how the hell am I gonna do that” tool. In my opinion, it’s a bladed hammer that I through at problems I don’t know how to take apart correctly. That said, It’s awesome for those tasks and there is a good variety of blade choices for jobs involving wood, metal, and even pruning. In the grand scheme of things though, I don’t use it often. It’s just one of those tools that damn useful to have around when you need it.

5) You can do things with a router that you can’t pull off effectively with any other tool. You don’t need to go nuts on getting an ‘uber’ one though. I would recommend looking at what you plan to do, and get on that fits those needs. There are a few compact routers on the market that really do a great job filling the needs of a hobbiest/handyman. They are essentially one step up from a trim router. They lightweight and can be used in one hand while providing enough power to do small profile jobs and light dado cuts. If you get into it further and make/buy a router table, then is when you want to invest the money for a beefier router that can handle hogging through more material with larger bits.

Finally, take some times to look over the “reviews” section here. There is a ton of great reviews from fellow lumberjocks to help steer you in the right direction. Craigslist can be a huge asset also. Many older tools offer a huge improvement over bargin new tools. Realize though that you may spend a bit of extra cash getting those tools back into prime condition ( new belts, bearings ect).

View Greedo's profile


473 posts in 3160 days

#2 posted 02-19-2011 09:49 AM

seeing your list, as portable tools i would add certainly a router, and possibly a random orbital sander.
you will see that for most users here it’s not a matter of having a router or not, but how many you have!
i have 4 and it’s jujst enough for the moment.

without a planer jointer, you will be limited to using standard size preplaned wood(wich is never verry straight, flat or square), and more expensive than rough sawn wood. many projects are hard or impossible without these. so if your serious about woodworking you may better get those asap.
theres enough info around to teach you haw to safely use those, and what they can do. i started myself using a tablesaw, shaper, planer and jointer on my own without any explanation or teaching.and i still got more than half of my fingers! kidding ;)

View wseand's profile


2796 posts in 3242 days

#3 posted 02-19-2011 10:05 AM

Jointerd and planers are mostly used for squaring rough wood that you would buy from a lumber yard not from a big box store. Make a list of projects that you are thinking of making and then determine from there what you will need to complete them. Nail guns, misc hand tols, clamps, a random orbital sander. Drill press and bandsaw.

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 3309 days

#4 posted 02-19-2011 02:47 PM

Good Morning Cal and Welcome to LJs. The question on what tools to get is probably the most asked by new woodworkers. Considering that I only started about three years ago, I am definitely familiar with that dilemma. Much, obviously, will depend on what you are willing to spend, what you desire to do, and how serious you want to take it. Actually, why don’t we just scratch the comment about “serious” because I don’t know one dabbler here who didn’t turn this into a life long adventure :)

Two tools that will stick out (or a large combo unit if you have the capital) is a jointer and planer. Milling your own lumber has some real practical advantages. 1. Cost savings 2. expansive choice of woods to work with. To illustrate the point, my local big box stores can supply me with the following choices of wood – Crappy pine, Nice pine, pretty red oak, crappy cedar, pretty poplar. If I choose “pretty red oak” I can buy it for 6 dollars a linear foot for a 1×6 board. Calculated to the cost per board foot (what rough lumber from the sawmills charge), that comes out to 12 dollars a board foot for red oak. At a sawmill that is local to my area, I can get it for around 3.50 a board foot. True, the two tools would require about a grand in investment brand new, but you would already be saving over 8 dollars just for one board foot of wood at the start. At the mill I go to, I can choose cherry, walnut, poplar, white oak, red oak, locust, basswood, maple, pine, and whatever else someone might bring in. Many tools will save you time, these two will save you money and will pay for itself after just a few projects.

Past that, there is a slew we could get into, but it is best not to overwhelm yourself at the get go. You mentioned a router, that one is another tool that would be used in a good majority of your projects. Not just for routing edges, but trimming, circle cutting, inlay, rabbeting, dadoing, etc. I think you would find little reason not to get one.

One thing I would suggest is to look over plans on future projects. In books, magazines, and other sources, they will usually accompany a recommended tools list with the cutting list. Leaf over a number of projects that appeal to you, take note of what tools you would need, and then gear your purchases based on that list. As your interest expands, the tool list will become larger, and your collection will grow based on what is needed and while you are waiting for the funds to grow back for that next purchase, you will have things you can work on until you have that capital.

Good luck and, again, welcome to your new home ;)


-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

View brtech's profile


1052 posts in 3122 days

#5 posted 02-19-2011 07:05 PM

You need a Random Orbit Sander (ROS). I have a Porter Cable I really like, but there are many good, relatively inexpensive ROS out there.

I definitely think a router should be next on your list. Two decent choices are a Porter Cable 690 and the Hitachi M12VC.

From there, you have a lot of choices. I personally would get a drill press. After that, it depends a lot on what you want to do. For some things, a bandsaw really is what you want, but on the other hand, having a jointer and a planer allows you to get rough cut wood and mill it yourself.

You might want to consider improving your TS. First, get a dial indicator and magnetic base (Harbor Freight is actually okay for woodworking) and learn how to align your TS. Upgrade your miter gauge. Build a cross cut sled.

You have your safety equipment, right? Safety glasses, hearing protection, respirator. ALWAYS, ALWAYS wear all three when cutting/drilling/sanding… You will eventually need to get a dust collector.

You also want some hand tools. First on my list would be a bench. Something sturdy and solid. Build one yourself. Then you need a really good 12” combination square, a good 24” carpenter’s square and a caliper. I assume you have a decent quality tape measure.

If you don’t have a set of chisels, you need one.

And then there are planes. Lots and lots of threads here on LJs on the issue of planes. I think you want a decent #4 Jack, and a block plane to start. Having chisels and planes means you need to learn how to sharpen them. Again, lots of threads here on that. Particularly look at “scary sharp” if you are on a budget.

View clafollett's profile


114 posts in 2855 days

#6 posted 02-19-2011 09:09 PM

Taking a break from the Florida sun and digging more fence post holes. Great posts everyone! Thanks so much for the advice. Lots to think about for sure.

As for the planner, that definitely sounds like a handy tool. I’m not sure I would have access to much rough cut lumber around here though. If anyone is from the Tampa area and has some good info on local mills, I’m all ears!!!! I do have a local Cypress mill but not sure Cypress would be good for interior work. I am thinking about using it for a siding project though. Cypress would hold up well to the dampness and humidity we get here.

I’m thinking that a router seems to be pretty high on the priority totem pole. The question then becomes which type, plunge or fixed. I don’t have the room or funds yet to add a routing table so maybe some sort of multibase system which would allow for easy expansion? Although I do like Greedo’s perspective of its not IF you need one but HOW MANY do you need! That gave me a good chuckle.

This also brings another question to mind. Can I use the router as if it were a jig or scroll saw to cut out curved sections or is that just impractical? If so, then I would say this might also be high on my list.

I definitely see some good hand tools on the horizon and a boat load of larger clamps. My current clamp collection just isn’t suited for anything much larger than the proverbial breadbox.

Anyways, thanks again for all the welcomes and advice. I will soak it all in and then take those next steps into self reliance! :)


-- Don't mind me, I'm just soaking up knowledge

View Greedo's profile


473 posts in 3160 days

#7 posted 02-19-2011 09:47 PM

a good first router choice is a combo kit with an engine and a fixed and plunge base.
this is the one i have:

the fixed base sits under my router table, so i can still use it with the plunge base for other work.

you can use a router to cut freehand, though it’s not what it does best!

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