Tips & Tricks: Basic "start-up" tools & equipment

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Forum topic by MsDebbieP posted 09-15-2011 11:45 AM 2954 views 2 times favorited 28 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4185 days

09-15-2011 11:45 AM

Topic tags/keywords: equipment tips tricks

What advice would you give someone just starting to do some woodworking re: tools & equipment?

  • What would you put on the priority list?
  • What should they think about before purchasing?
  • other pre-purchasing and planning tips

(also add links to helpful blogs etc that are related to the topic)

Gateway to all Tips & Tricks Topics

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

28 replies so far

View Blakep's profile


232 posts in 2826 days

#1 posted 09-15-2011 01:50 PM

I think a table saw is the heart of every shop so that would be my number one priority.

Decide if this is a hoppy that you really want to do for a long time. Work with friends or family who have tools or take some woodworking classes to make sure you want to do this before you start buying tools. This can be a very expensive hobby so make sure your going to stick with it before you invest in tools. Remember that tools are just like a car, they lose value once you drive them off the lot. The higher end tools will hold there value much better than the cheaper stuff though.

Figure out what your going to use as shop space and have a good tool layout so that you can get the most out of the space that you have. Don’t start anything without some kind of protection from the saw dust, be it a dust collector and air cleaner or a good respirator (I still use a respirator while sanding and its a lot cheaper way to start up safely that other methods, just remember not to leave the respirator in the shop as the dust will be floating for a while after your done and will get inside the respirator).

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3139 days

#2 posted 09-15-2011 02:05 PM

huu the wishlist is endless no doubt about that :-)
but think about what you want to make to start with what entrencepoint do you have
a carver needs other tools than a cabinetmaker and scrollers again don´t need much
but layout tools they all need and a good not expencive bench to start with
and for general woodworking a few cheisels , blockplane , Jack and a smoothingplane
a ripsaw , crosscutsaw and a tennonsaw (can be used as a dovetailsaw ) a mallet for the cheisels

here I talk about one that wants to do it with handtools ,to build up a shop either with handtools or
with powered mashinery nearly is the same amount of money to be spend, goood handtools ain´t cheap
to buy but is the cheapest in the lenght they last several lifetimes :-)


View crank49's profile


4032 posts in 2995 days

#3 posted 09-15-2011 02:32 PM

I just posted a similar discussion over the last few days and the following is the resulting list we came up with. This is a list of essentials / road kit / starter set of tools for woodworking.

This started as a list of suggested hand tools for woodworking which I tried to make more universal with a few power tools; then decided it would be a good kit for making house calls. It is a good starting point and includes, I think, most things you need before you start looking for larger stationary tools.

I’m ultimately going to try to put this kit together into a box or bag and post a picture because I think I have spares of most of the things listed and I’d like to have a kit of tools like this to take on away jobs.

Layout and Marking:
1. Speed Square or Quality Combination Square and a Framing Square.
2. Sliding Bevel Guage
3. 25 ft. Tape Measure and a 6 ft. folding rule
4. Compass (for marking arcs, not finding directions).
5. Levels, a 6”-9” torpedo & 24”-36” (long one can serve as straight edge.)
6. Pencils
7. Chalk Line
8. Utility Knife (could have been in all three lists, but I’ll put it here)

Cutting, Drilling, Fastening:
9. Chisels, ¼”, ½”, ¾”, 1”
10. Planes, a Block and a Jack
11. Claw Hammer
12. Nail Sets
13. Screw Drivers, 3/16” and 1/4” flat and #1, #2 Phillips
14. Driver set, 1/4” hex drives for allen, torx, square bits and hex sockets, etc.
15. Japanese type Pull Saw or Shorty Toolbox type Hand Saw and a Trim Saw.
16. Circular Saw, w/combination blade
17. Jig saw, w/assorted blades
18. 3/8” or 1/2” Drill / driver, w/ brad point & spade bits & HSS split point drill bits.

Work Holding and Mechanical Tools and Accessories:
19. Saw Horses or Work Stand
20. Clamps
21. 8” wide range adjustable wrench.
22. Vise grips, needle nose and channel lock type pliers and diagonal cutters.
23. Putty knife, or 5-n-1 painter’s tool.
24. Vacuum and extension cord.

View Don Butler's profile

Don Butler

1092 posts in 3420 days

#4 posted 09-15-2011 05:55 PM

Re: Buying tools

My experience with acquiring tools leads me to this conclusion.
It’s necessary to have a willing, even encouraging spouse. I wouldn’t have half the tools if my sweetheart hadn’t urged me to buy them.
Of course, she’s well motivated. I do lots of things for her like work tables, bookcases, chairs, picture frames, etc.
That doesn’t mean you can’t do it without a willing partner.
It’s just harder.

Don’t buy cheap stuff.
If you can’t afford good tools, save up until you can. You won’t regret getting the good stuff.

Know where you want to start and buy the appropriate tooling.
Some people have only one tool, and that’s all they want. Good for them. ddwwb

-- No trees were damaged in posting this message, but thousands of electrons were seriously inconvenienced.

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


15369 posts in 2643 days

#5 posted 09-15-2011 06:05 PM

@crank – I was hoping to see your list on this thread. Nice work.

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

View KnickKnack's profile


1090 posts in 3591 days

#6 posted 09-15-2011 06:44 PM

Prefix – I’m no professional, nor particularly skillful – just a hobbiest having a good time.

I’d put router at the very top of the list.
Just below that I’d put router table, but it’s easy to make your own starter table with a hole in a piece of plywood – a few bolts and you’re good to go.
With just that you can get a whole load of stuff made – simple and complicated. I’m on my 4th router now – I started with one costing 30 euros – the current once cost me about 110 euros – and it does everything I ask of it. Perhaps a 500 euro machine would work better, but I have no experience of that.
What I would not skimp on are router bits – since I started buying good, rather than cheap, bits, it’s been much more of a pleasure – and I get better routs (is that a word?) to boot.

-- "Do not speak – unless it improves on silence." --- "Following the rules and protecting the regulations is binding oneself without rope."

View Manitario's profile


2630 posts in 2907 days

#7 posted 09-15-2011 07:26 PM

This topic is one of those that comes up time and time again on LJ’s with many interesting responses and varying opinions. As a relatively new woodworker I have spent many hours debating what tools I should buy and pouring over reviews. My mindset at the beginning was that I needed a whole bunch of tools in order to learn how to WW, and I bought at least several tools that I now regret. My advice to anyone starting off woodworking is to pick some relatively simple projects to start on, and buy the tools that you need for the projects, along with some books that tell you how to use the tools. You will quickly realize then what you want, and what you need in a tool

-- Sometimes the creative process requires foul language. -- Charles Neil

View ShaneA's profile


6956 posts in 2623 days

#8 posted 09-15-2011 07:35 PM

One must understand the commitment, in terms of time and financial investment, to reap the rewards of woodworking. Like all hobbies there is a certain amount of skill needed to make it “work”. One just doesn’t buy a table saw and become a cabinetmaker so to speak. Having a true interest and ability to invest time and resources, with the knowledge that there is a learning curve is the only place to start.

With that understanding and commitment, quality tools will help to achieve the best results possible, and will aid in the enjoyability. No matter what type of woodworker one wants to become, the journey will be made easier and faster with the right tools. of course the right tool is subjective, so research and homework is the best place for anybeginner to start. Making the best informed decisions on technique and tool selection will serve any beginning woorker well, and is the best way to begin.

Having said that, having a dependable table saw and clamps is a good place to start. One trap to avoid will be buying too cheap or poor quality tools, then later having to upgrade, therefor costing even more in the long run. I know I made that mistake a few times.

View Richard's profile


1916 posts in 2715 days

#9 posted 09-15-2011 07:35 PM

I would get Cranks list of tools since as he says these can all be used in the shop or on a work site. Then for stationary tools I would go with these in the order listed if you are going to be making larger projects like tables, bookshelvs Etc.
1. Table Saw
2. Router and Table & a good set of bits maybe 10 piece to start with then expand as needed.
3. Joiner Min 8”
4. Planer Min 13”
5. Drill Press Floor Model
6. large Drum or Belt Sander 24” to 36”
And then if you decide that you want or need them a Lathe and Scroll Saw.The Lathe will bring it’s own set of add ons that are specific to it.

And a good size Dust Collector as soon as you can get it and an Air Filtration Unit as well.

And also as pointed out by blakep , do your homework first to make sure this a hobby that you really want to keep at because it can and will consume a lot of Time, Money and space to continue it.
Takeing a woodworking class at a local School is a very good idea since making sure you attend all the classes is a good way to make sure you really want to do this instead of ending up saying “or no I have to go to class today” which pretty much means you really don’t want to be doing it.

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

10118 posts in 4076 days

#10 posted 09-15-2011 08:13 PM

A Band Saw… is used here quite often… Glad I have it… It was one of my first REAL power tools.

-- Have Fun! Joe Lyddon - Alta Loma, CA USA - Home: ... My Small Gallery:"

View Dallas's profile


3599 posts in 2511 days

#11 posted 09-15-2011 09:22 PM

Circular saw, accurate straight edge, framing hammer, ( I use a 28 oz, most need a 22 oz.), finishing hammer, cross cut hand saw or a decent jig/sabre saw, various screw drivers of various bit configurations, (ever try to take down a set of cabinets when you don’t have a Robertson or a Clutch head driver?), water pump pliers, (Channel Locks), 25’ accurate tape measure, carpenter pencils, mechanical pencil if you do fine work, not just good, but GREAT pliers. (Klein comes to mind), Crescent wrench, (Adjustable spanner in the UK IIRC), chalk line, construction string… and with that a set of string blocks, decent nail apron.. not one of those cotton/FEMA tarp junky things. A real nail apron. Boots with good soles and steel toes….. ever have a 2X4 stud come down? Level(s), ( I use a string level, a torpedo level and a 4’ aluminum Empire level that has proved itself many times in 20 years).
Drill, I use an older 14.4v Milwaukee that’s been around since the dawn of time, but it will work driving 3 1/2” screws into decks for hours on one battery, and I have 3 batteries. You may be happier with a corded drill, but you’ll need a 12 gauge 100’ extension cord, plus a place to hook it up, something like a power pole or maybe a small generator….. I’ve been to a lot of cabin sites that I worked on where the power was 4 miles away.
Drinking water,
some way to haul all this stuff.

If you are a “Hairy Homeowner”, don’t worry about most of this, but if you are serious about building your own stuff, these are the very minimum.

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4185 days

#12 posted 09-15-2011 09:59 PM

a good strategy (as stated above) by as you need things – based on building projects that you need and enjoy doing

buy the best quality that you can afford (this applies for most tools)

and, we find, that even though we don’t use some tools/equipment very often – it sure is nice to have it available when we do!

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View Sawkerf's profile


1730 posts in 3093 days

#13 posted 09-15-2011 11:54 PM

Another vote for buying based on what you’re making.

I’ll amend that to add that you DON”T need the top of the line “whatever-it-is” right off the bat. Get what you can afford and learn how to use it. Eventually, you’ll outgrow it, but by then you’ll know what features your next one should have and what features you don’t really need or want.

-- Adversity doesn't build reveals it.

View doncutlip's profile


2832 posts in 3580 days

#14 posted 09-16-2011 01:01 AM

I’ve done a lot with a circular saw, bandsaw, mitre saw, jointer, planer and router table. The wood you buy is typically not square of flat in any dimension, so a jointer and planer is a must. I want a table saw, but there’s really not much it can do that I can’t do with the tools I have. Table saw allows you to rip boards, but I’ve ripped with the bandsaw – mind you I have a pretty good one from Grizzly. Plus bandsaw might be safer, but a real dummy can cut themself with a sheet of paper!

-- Don, Royersford, PA

View Blakep's profile


232 posts in 2826 days

#15 posted 09-16-2011 02:13 PM

Don, I agree with you that a table saw can’t do much more than what these tools can do but it can do a lot of them better. Out of your list I could drop the circular saw, bandsaw, miter saw, and jointer and buy a table saw and jig saw and do most of what you can do with those 4 tools with only two. I have all of the tools on your list and I use everyone of them (I didn’t know what I was missing until I got my bandsaw) but I can square boards up on my table saw, I can make all of my miter cuts on my table saw, and I could get by with a jig saw in place of a bandsaw if I had to. The circular saw is hard to replace for sheet goods unless you want to invest in a panel saw but that is mega bucks compared to a circular saw. For my begginers list I would probably have to go with table saw, planer, why not build a router table as one of your first projects, and maybe a circular saw. I agree with the other posters though about buying as needed. Find a first project and then buy the tools needed to complete it. Each project would probably add a few tools until you end up with a full shop.

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