Seeking Advice About First Buy For Tools

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Forum topic by SquirrelyBarista posted 07-27-2011 03:28 PM 1654 views 0 times favorited 20 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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3 posts in 2460 days

07-27-2011 03:28 PM

Having had some experience back in high school and with a friend and his dad doing some work a summer or two later, I was thinking about picking up a new hobby this summer and wanted to start building things again. However aside from a drill, a nice hand saw, and a couple of other basic stuff. So my question is, for a first time tool buyer, what would be suggestions as for first tool(s) to buy, and what brands would fall into the inexpensive while good quality. Craftsmen verses Black & Decker, ect. I don’t want to have to spend a lot of money if I don’t have to, but I don’t want something that’s only going to be good for a few projects before breaking.

20 replies so far

View crank49's profile


4030 posts in 2935 days

#1 posted 07-27-2011 05:44 PM

It would help a lot to know what your wood working interest are. Do you want to build shelves for the utility room, or a bed and night stand, or a Maloof style rocker or turn some pens or make scroll saw craft pieces to sell at craft shows. There is just such a huge range of places this can go, and many destinations require specialized tools. There are even sub cultures within each group like hand tool “galoots” and power tool jockeys.

I guess it boils down to a few key functions:
1. Design, or decide what to build, then obtain materials.
2. Reduce and prepare stock to size, thickness, square, etc.
3. Cut, drill, shape prepared stock into component pieces.
4. Assemble using chosen method of jointery; mortise and tennon, glue, screws, nails, etc.
5. Sand, plane, scrape and generally prepare finishable surfaces.
6. Apply stain, paints, finishes as required.

Even these functions can be change in order. You might sand and stain before assembly, for instance.

A minimum “Kit” of power tools in my opinion would have :
1. A corded low speed 1/2” drill, cheap one from HF is ok.
2. An 18 volt lithium ion powered drill/driver set (Ridgid, Millwaukee, Mikita, Bosch, DeWalt are all good ones).
3. A good quality corded 15 amp circular saw. Mikita, Bosch, or high end Skil worm drive (but heavy).
4. A jig saw; hard to beat Bosch, Mikita, DeWalt. Especially Bosch blades, they’re the best.
5. A random orbital sander. I like my Ridgid 5”.
6. And a good router that will accept 1/2” and 1/4” shank bits and has both plunge and fixed bases. I recommend Porter Cable for a router because there are so many acessories that fit it, kind of a standard.
7. A good shop vac, with a delux, extra long flexible hose is a great addition. I like Ridgid.

I would put a little extra thought into which battery powered drill I would buy because there may be other battery powered tools I want in the future and it’s nice to have every thing use the same battery.

You will also need some hand tools and here is where it really pays to go quality.
1. Starrett combination square
2. Good tape measure, etched stainless steel ruler, framing square.
3. 9” and 48” levels.
4. Hammers, 8 oz. and 16 oz. claw.
5. Set of chisels, Irwin, Narex, Lie Neilson. Get the best you can afford, at least 4 sizes, 1/4” thru 1”.
6. A Veritas low angle block plane and a low angle jack would be my choices if I could only have two.
7. A coping saw, a hand saw and a couple Japanese pull saws.

View EvilNuff's profile


60 posts in 2592 days

#2 posted 07-27-2011 06:13 PM

I think crank has some good advice but that’s even more than is needed IMO.
I see no need for a corded and cordless drill…get the cordless and just deal with charging batteries until you know more about what you want/need.
A cheap circular saw works darn well with a good blade…no need to spend a bunch here. But absolutely get a good blade.
I see no need for multiple hammers to start with.
While the veritas planes are great, the wood river ones are cheaper and fine for a starter.

I also think a table saw is a really good tool. Read up and learn about safety with a table saw as they can be dangerous but the bosh 4100 or dewalt or ridgid jobsite saws are a good starter. When you reach the point where you want a real non-jobsite saw you can resell that one and upgrade.

View PutnamEco's profile


155 posts in 3251 days

#3 posted 07-27-2011 06:29 PM

I would suggest buying quality used tools. Craigslist and Ebay can be good sources as can be pawn shops.
If I was starting out I would want some one to steer me towards purchasing these tools
Makita 5007 NB or Milwaukee 6368 circular saw
Bosch 1591EVS jigsaw
would be a good start along with your drill.

Some additions to these would be a Porter Cable 330 1/4 Sheet Speed Bloc Finish Sander
Porter-Cable 690 Router and even further along would be a Makita 9903 belt sander

Shop wisely and you could have lifetime tools for less than $150. and be able to make your money back should you decide not to pursue this hobby.

The cheapest tools often end up costing you the most money….

if you absolutely have to buy new bargain tools I would recommend the Ryobi CSB123 circular saw as I see a lot of them on job sites and they appear to be able to take some abuse.
I couldn’t recommend a bargain jigsaw as they all appear to be ready to fall apart right off the showroom floor.

-- “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.” ― Franklin D. Roosevelt

View Loren's profile (online now)


10260 posts in 3612 days

#4 posted 07-27-2011 06:45 PM

Just buy used. Get a drill with a 1/2” chuck and a cord – I have
a Hitachi that has served me well but I did burn up a couple of
cheaper $30 drills from Craftsman and Ryobi before I got the
Hitachi. The bigger drills from most of the makers are made to
a better quality standard than the lightweight handyman drills.

The heavy-duty craftsman stuff is ok – if the price is right Craftsman
isn’t a brand to avoid, in my experience – but if buying new there
are other makers that do a good tool for the same dollars.

I really like the old Porter Cable 743 circular saw – a blade left model
that hasn’t been made in awhile. The brand is not as good anymore,
but the 743 is lightweight and powerful. The 347 has the blade on
the right, which is better for some things.

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 3123 days

#5 posted 07-27-2011 07:52 PM

A circular saw, a drill, a jigsaw, a sander, a tape measure, a speed square, and some clamps will get you started. Buy those used.

This will allow you to build some workhorses that you can put plywood on for a workbench and/or assembly table.

After that, then you can start to figure out the types of projects you will do and can then add tools from there. But I think you will find that you can build just about anything with what you have.

Things like chisels and hand planes are not needed, but they will let you do some more challenging projects and give you a better quality project. Of course, once you own them, you’ll wonder how you lived without them.

That last sentence pretty much explains tools. Big stationary tools and high-tech or fancy things are never really needed…but they do make life much easier…and in many cases much more fun.

If you are willing to spend a grand or two, then definitely consider a good quality table saw as your first major tool. That will be the single biggest time saver.

As for brand names, just about every company makes some bad tools. Look at reviews and make your decision from there. You do get what you pay for in terms of new tools. That’s why buying used is a good thing…many people don’t know what they have.

-- jay,

View Stuey's profile


43 posts in 2922 days

#6 posted 07-27-2011 08:56 PM

As others mentioned, your requirements are a bit broad. What type of projects do you plan to work on?

With a limited budget, you may be better off with a few general-purpose tools that can potentially endure years of use.

Figure out what you need to do, and then determine which tools will best serve those needs.


View brtech's profile


1028 posts in 2887 days

#7 posted 07-27-2011 09:33 PM

I’m going to disagree with one choice a couple of folks have made:
I’d get a cheap B&D or Skill circ saw, and get a used, decent contractor table saw.

If you have a table saw (TS), you have a much wider range of things you can do. The only thing you need a circ saw for is to break down 4×8 sheet goods into sizes you can manage on the TS. Sure, you can also use it to cut 2×4s on simple construction jobs, but in terms of woodworking, sheet good breakdown is the only job a circular saw is needed for.

View will delaney's profile

will delaney

325 posts in 2600 days

#8 posted 07-27-2011 10:15 PM

I have acquired most of the tools I needed to make the project that I enjoy. Now I am getting the tool that I believe should have been my first. The most versatile and one of the safest tools the bandsaw. Not cheep but I think it will become my most used tool. The one you would wish to have if you were stranded on an island with electricity of course. But it all depends on what projects you plan to make. What ever tool you decide to get invest plenty of time on how to use it safely. Happy woodworking.

View crank49's profile


4030 posts in 2935 days

#9 posted 07-27-2011 10:47 PM

I don’t see much dissagreement here.

I agree completely that a table saw is a great asset to have in a shop.
However, a circular saw, especially with a zero clearance guide, will do almost as many things and some things better; like cross cuts on long boards. But sure, if the budget and space is available, by all means, get a table saw.

I still stand by my earlier recommendations; maybe you could get by with one hammer. There is not much difference in the price of the Wood River and Veritas planes; they are both good, I just prefer the Veritas because they are not made in China, they’re made in Canada. I can’t imagine trying to do any quality work without at least a block plane and a chisel or two.

I did not include any stationary power tools in my original suggestions at all because I didn’t get the OP’s intention of setting up a full shop until he got started with some basics.

Jobsite saws, of the quality that is worth having, are $500 machines and are often $200-$300 used. Plus, I didn’t want to get into the whole discussion of limited, or non existant dado capacity, non standard miter slots, very limited infeed /outfeed support, noisey universal motors, lack of stability due to light weight, etc.

The very bare bones minimum that I started out with was a Diston hand saw (from my dad), a Stanley 12 oz claw hammer and a block plane, a Blue Grass level and framing square (speed squares hadn’t been invented yet), a B & D 3/8” corded variable speed reversing drill, a B & D variable speed jig saw (back when they were all metal), and a Wen 3” x 18” belt sander. All of these tools were made in the USA in the 1960’s.

The first project I built was a saw bench and then a pair of saw horses.

View WayneC's profile


13753 posts in 4062 days

#10 posted 07-27-2011 10:51 PM

I would read two books before buying any tools. It will cost you around $50 and in the long run should save you a lot of money.

The New Traditional Woodworker by Jim Tolpin.

The Anarchist's Tool Chest by Christopher Schwarz

These books may appear to be hand tool oriented and I may take some guff from the motor heads. But I belive the information in these books go well beyond handtools and give solid advise about common woodworking operations, techniques and solid advise about choosing tools to support these operations. I would also point out that my shop is full of machinery including delta bandsaw, unisaw, lathe, general jointer, etc… I am not a hand tool pureist by any streach of the imagination.

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

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 3123 days

#11 posted 07-27-2011 10:51 PM

@Will: That speaks to my point though. I’ve largely gone most of my adult life without ever needing a band saw. Of course, it’s the next large tool on my list and will change the way I do things dramatically. I would say the table saw and router are my most indispensable tools, but even then there are people that can do without them. For me, my CMS goes largely unused, though for many it’s an MVP of the shop.

If we’re honest, we don’t need power tools at all. At that point, it’s up to each of us to decide what power tools we can purchase that make us most productive at the least amount of cost (assuming cost is even a factor).

Really, it’d be nice to know what the OP has in terms of budget, work space, and project desires. At that point, the only thing we’ll probably all agree on is that half the budget should be spent on clamps! LOL!

-- jay,

View WayneC's profile


13753 posts in 4062 days

#12 posted 07-27-2011 11:04 PM

Hell yah on the clamps!!!

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

View SquirrelyBarista's profile


3 posts in 2460 days

#13 posted 07-28-2011 10:49 AM

Well as that it was mentioned several times, here are a few of the projects that I have been thinking that I will want to work on by the end of summer
1) a treasure chest for my nieces (first one in the 12”x12”x12” or so range for them to play with and a possible second one closer to 3’x4x’3’ for a stationary toy box)
2) a base/frame for a coffee table with a old street sign as the top.
3) if I feel like I am ready for it amongst other ideas, a section of cubicles or shelves to hold and organize yarn to get to my mother for her birthday

As for the comments about wanting the Copley Plaza for $25.00, I will admit I sound picky; however, working in a coffee shop, I only average slightly above minimum wage, so I often try to get the most fries I can out of the dollar menu of life.
Do not confuse not having lots of money to spend, with not able to save lots to spend. From the sounds of whats been offered, some of the names above may take a paycheck or two, however as my father always told me “one good toy worth two paychecks is better then buying two toys that can’t entertain you for time it takes to earn one check”

At the time of posting, with access to drills and shop vacs already, I’ll probably start looking for a circular saw and a router. The jigsaw and sander to follow as they are found on local craigslist or yard sales.

View Blakep's profile


232 posts in 2767 days

#14 posted 07-28-2011 02:01 PM

SquirrelyBarista, do you mind telling us where your located at?

View SquirrelyBarista's profile


3 posts in 2460 days

#15 posted 07-28-2011 06:54 PM

Southern Houston Area for the summer, then I will be headed out to the East Texas area to go back to school.

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