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Forum topic by danno posted 05-14-2008 05:17 AM 1763 views 0 times favorited 16 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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4 posts in 3810 days

05-14-2008 05:17 AM

Hello everyone,

I have been looking at building small birdhouses as a hobby. I became inspired from this site :

Anyways, I would like to know what type of tools you recommend for a small hobbyist to get into building such items. I was thinking about a table saw, air compressor / nailer, mitre saw, etc. I am really really green at this and dont think I need the “best” tools out there. Its just something I would like to build, and perhaps give them out to friends, etc.

Thanks for any advice.


16 replies so far

View Mark Shymanski's profile

Mark Shymanski

5622 posts in 3858 days

#1 posted 05-14-2008 06:04 AM

A rule of thumb I’ve used in whichever career I’m working at (and it seems I’ve had more than my share….not sure what that says about me :-) is to buy the best tools I can afford. Buying cheap tools is not a cost effective way to do a job or a hobby. They will not work/last as well as a good quality (not necessarily expensive) tool. The frustration of making do with a cheap tool will really tarnish the enjoyment of a hobby or kick the profitability and sustainability out of a job.

Welcome to LumberJocks!

-- "Checking for square? What madness is this! The cabinet is square because I will it to be so!" Jeremy Greiner LJ Topic#20953 2011 Feb 2

View Eric's profile


875 posts in 3929 days

#2 posted 05-14-2008 06:08 AM

Don’t forget hand tools!

-- Eric at

View danno's profile


4 posts in 3810 days

#3 posted 05-14-2008 06:16 AM

View Napaman's profile


5526 posts in 4223 days

#4 posted 05-14-2008 06:49 AM

danno…I also am a newbie…or so…last year my thought was go cheap—-fearing it would be another hobbie/activity I would start and then walk away from…

I went out and bought a bunch of Ryobi…some things were ok…and others not so…but my mentality was that if I wore it out—-then that would mean I was getting serious and then I would buy better tools as my skills increased…

Now I am of the mentality of that mark suggested…get the best you can afford…and you wont regret it…

And Eric is very right…if your goal is the small crafts like birdhouses that you showed the link to you may be able to get hand tools…learn from them and then slowly add…good quality hand tools may be the best…

The bottom line is have fun…I have been going for a year now…and I cant wait to get in the shop each chance I get…and the desire is growing…

Good luck…and dont hesitate to ask any questions here…it is a good place for beginners as well as veterans of the craft…so many people here are friendly and will answer anything if they can…

Explore the site…there is much here…tool reviews…and many forums that have asked the same question you posed—-what to start with…

No one can really answer this for you…but…start small…and expand…one thing I have learned—-you dont need a lot to get started…take your time…and as you get more ideas then you will realize—-darn you need another tool….

good luck…matt

-- Matt--Proud LJ since 2007

View gizmodyne's profile


1780 posts in 4235 days

#5 posted 05-14-2008 08:00 AM

I made my first birdhouse with a jigsaw, a corded drill, a hammer, and many nails.

Plus some paint.

Don’t go over board on the tools until you need them. Otherwise lots of stuff just can end up unused. Buy them as you progress in skill and “need”.

-- -John "Do I have to keep typing a smiley? Just assume it's a joke."

View Eric's profile


875 posts in 3929 days

#6 posted 05-14-2008 09:07 AM

But as you may already be finding out, there’s a big dispute out there as to whether you should “buy your last tool first” (meaning the nicest you can get), or whether you should just buy some crappy stuff and see how much you really use/need it before you invest in the super fancy tools.

-- Eric at

View Taigert's profile


593 posts in 3986 days

#7 posted 05-14-2008 09:36 AM

I take it that you live in Calgary, my suggestion is to take some classes. Check into night classes at SAIT. It’s good to have someone work with you to show the safety aspects of some of the machines. Such as the table saw, it can get real mean if you don’t know what to watch for.
I would start with hand tools to learn the basics. Check out they have a video series called ” Getting Started in Woodworking” it’s another great site. One thing about this site LJ is there is a lot of knowledge here, and they give you straight answers. You just have to ask.
Good luck with your birdhouses, and fun BUT be safe!!

-- Taigert - Milan, IN

View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

1520 posts in 4270 days

#8 posted 05-14-2008 04:43 PM

I’ve bought the crappy tools, and now I won’t. But I also acknowledge that tools are suited for a particular purpose. For instance, people complain about the cost of Festool, but at the rate I’m going through Maple, Mahogany and various exotics I just can’t make the capital costs an issue in the face of materials costs, even though I’m buying this stuff reclaimed and surplus off of Craigslist. On the other hand, bird houses may be the sort of thing better made from soft woods and with precisions that aren’t what I’m trying to achieve (in doing trim for our front entrance last weekend I was cutting 1/8” long and shaving ‘til things fit just right. I know the trim wood isn’t going to move much, I hope that the fir and redwood of the house doesn’t distort too badly when the rainy season comes…).

However, you can make bird houses with just about anything. As others have suggested, you could easily start with hand tools, probably don’t need much more than a hand saw and a hammer to do your first one, and then you could look at what you want to do more efficiently or more cleanly, and work forward from there. And as Ed mentioned, quite often your local high school or vocational community college has a shop that they do “adult ed” classes in for dirt cheap, which basically means you can go in and work on your project of choice with the assistance of some guy who’s teaching these classes as a hobby and really knows what he’s doing.

Because my dad’s got a few inadvertantly shortened fingers and has trouble typing now, I’m a huge fan of a circular saw on a rail rather than a table saw (or at least a table saw shy of a euro-slider or a SawStop, neither of which I’ve got room for), I’ve got Festool, but Makita has a (compatible?) system now, and EZ-Smart has been around for a while, I wrote a list of things I'd look for in a saw system in another thread.

I’d start with a good hand saw, a hammer, maybe a corded drill, take a piece of pine (looking at what you’re wanting to do, some reclaimed barn siding looks perfectly suited!), and try to build a bird house. Yeah, it’s not going to be perfect, but you’re trying to figure out where that fails. Maybe you get a hole saw or a big drill bit for cutting the entrance, maybe you get a coping saw, maybe you decide this is where to get a jig saw. Maybe you want the bevel between the sides of the roof edge and the roof to look better, and you have to decide between a jig saw that can bevel, a circular saw with a guide system, or the table saw. Or maybe this is where you end up saying “I want the walls joined together with dovetails”, and have to decide between hand-cut or a router and a guide system.

It’d be really easy to spend tens of thousands outfitting the perfect shop, but if you advance using the tool that you need next, and buy really good tools as you go, you’ll be able to make progress at every step of the way, have a better understanding of what the tool does for you, and be able to make stuff. And it’s far better to be turning out projects than to just be collecting tools.

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California,

View Bill's profile


2579 posts in 4307 days

#9 posted 05-14-2008 07:14 PM

Danno, I think you will have a great time with your new hobby.

I would suggest starting simple, and adding tools along the way. As you build a few bird houses, you can see what tools you do need, others that are nice to have, and even some you do not.

You will need something to cut the wood with, be it a table saw, a miter saw, or even a hand saw. You will need something to join the pieces together, like glue, clamps, nails, screws, etc. This will determine the types of tools you need. Also, do not forget your sanding and finishing supplies.

You probably have a design or two around ready to go for your first projects. The nice thing about small items like bird houses is that you do not need as many tools as for say building kitchen cabinets or maybe a chest of drawers. Take a few minutes to plan what you are going to make, and then see if you have the means to make it. If not, can you borrow the tools to try out. That can also help you decide which ones to buy. The fewer tools you need to buy, the more money you will have for building materials, and eventual tool replacements.

Buy good quality tools is something most of us will suggest. Good quality will produce good results, last a long time, and be something you will enjoy working with. Poor quality will always bother you while working with them, because of poor results, difficult to use, loud, etc. This does not mean you need to spend top dollar on tools, but something that is reasonable especially for the things you are doing.

By the way, once you start building bird houses, you will probably want to add other things to your woodworking projects. Maybe storage boxes, bird feeders, toys, and any number of small projects. This may cause you to buy even more tools. But at least you will have some tools to start with.

Good luck and let us know what you build.

-- Bill, Turlock California,

View john's profile


2376 posts in 4527 days

#10 posted 05-14-2008 08:46 PM

Hi Danno and welcome aboard . It,s good to see some more birdhouse builders on here . I have done a few birdhouses myself . I use a skilsaw , table saw, mitre saw , hammer , side cutters , 16 gauge finish nailer and cordless drill.
Here are a few more

-- John in Belgrave (Website) ,

View bayouman's profile


94 posts in 3811 days

#11 posted 05-14-2008 08:53 PM

Danno, I’m a newbie and have found that buying tools is a slippery slope. There’s always a reason to buy another tool. (The wife thinks the reason is that I’m crazy.) I just ordered a Delta 14-651 mortising machine. She doesn’t know about it yet. I hope I’m home before she is the day it arrives and that it fits in the trunk of my car. Once it is in the shop she won’t know about it. She almost never ventures into my domain. But I have found that buying good tools is the best way to go. I can’t afford the most expensive out there, so I too have to be careful about getting the best I can for the money. I have also been careful about buying the tools that I think I can learn to use quickly and safely. I have a shop full of Ridgid tools, tablesaw, band saw, jointer, planer, oscillating sander, etc. I have been very satisfied with them. The price for the value seems to be there and I have found that Ridgid stands behind their product. Good luck and I hope you’ll share your birdhouses and the things that will lead you to.

View danno's profile


4 posts in 3810 days

#12 posted 05-15-2008 04:26 AM

Hey thanks a bunch everyone. I will take my time and buy accordingly. Cool my heels and figure out how to make my first birdhouse. I need to search out some different birdhouse plans and go from there. Get a taste before exploring on my own.

I will for sure post some pics when i make one.



View ShannonRogers's profile


540 posts in 3933 days

#13 posted 05-15-2008 04:57 AM


I think the best rule is to only buy a tool when you need it, and even then after you have thought about ways to get by without it. This exercise forces you to be creative and also builds your reperatoire of skills. When I started 5 years ago, I inheirited a bunch of tools so I was fortunately pretty set. However, it put me in a mindset that all my problems could be solved with another tool. I spent a lot acquiring tools for a specific project. Ironically, now that I am pretty well stocked I find myself going back to hand tools more and more and working out new ways of doing things. Now I am ashamed to admit that there are quite a few things in my shop that haven’t been turned on in some time. (of course that could be because the dog chewed off the power cord and i haven’t rewired it yet)

More than anything, welcome to the addiction, and welcome to LumberJocks. this is the best site on the web!

-- The Hand Tool School is Open for Business! Check out my blog and podcast "The Renaissance Woodworker" at

View Napaman's profile


5526 posts in 4223 days

#14 posted 05-15-2008 06:40 AM

hey danno—-i did not read all the LJ feedback above since my last post…but earlier today I was flipping through my latest issue of Popular Woodworking and the have a whole spread on pg 74 that details a beginniers set up and what you need…it would be a great issue to pick up and check out…also they have some online material

The part of the series hi-lighted for beginners is in a series calls: “I CAN DO THAT”...where they feature projects for beginners and this issue is on setting up shop…check it out…the article is called: “Build Furniture Without a Shop” and they show great stuff on “rules for tools” and give a list of must haves to get started…and none of it is big expensive stuff to start…

the Issue is : June 2008

online resources says:

-- Matt--Proud LJ since 2007

View Napaman's profile


5526 posts in 4223 days

#15 posted 05-15-2008 06:40 AM

-- Matt--Proud LJ since 2007

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