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Forum topic by maxhall posted 05-17-2012 03:54 AM 1841 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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80 posts in 2196 days

05-17-2012 03:54 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question

Let me start off by saying what a fantastic wealth of information is available on this site. I feel I’ve learned more from perusing this site for a week than a yearly subsription to FWW! Ok so a little background I recently got out of the Navy as a nuclear electrician after 10 yrs of service. For several years now I have been interested in woodworking, this all started when I put in some flooring in my house and did some finish work for my parents kitchen (crown moulding, chair railing, baseboard, wainscoting). I know this is more aligned to carpentry but this is what got me into the magazines and envisioning a shop of my own someday. Now that I have a normal schedule and am finally grounded I’m hoping to put all these hours of reading and watching videos to good use and start aquiring some tools of my own. Like many of you I’m more frustrated with a poorly crafted piece of equipment over no piece of equipment so when I do buy I want it to be a quality piece of machinery that will give me many years of use. For the next few years my time will be mostly spent finishing my masters and fixing up my 100 yr old colonial (where the hell am I going to find anytime for woodworking). So most of my projects will be geared towards things like wainscoting (board and batten), built ins and adding coffered ceilings in various rooms. Tools that I think are required are:

Router Table: I want the Incra precision jig with the incra magna lock insert and PR-V2 sidewinder lift and a Milwaukee 5625-20 router motor. I would love to make my own base but seeing as I have never made a cabinet of anykind this is a little far fetched.

Table Saw: Honestly I’m not sure on this one. When it comes time to pull the trigger I think I could convince the wife to let me go as high as $2500 but is this really necessary. Plenty of people love their Grizzly saws which are considerably less than the highly touted powermatic, jet, delta tablesaws.

Eventually I would like to add a drill press, planer/jointer, bandsaw, dedicated sanding station, sharpening station to the mix but for the immediate tasks I would be using them for I feel this is my best choice. For space I have a 1100 sqft basement with rather low celingings (6 ft ins some places due to pipiing but averaging 7.5ft) so I should have all the space I need for my tools.

Kind of important to mention my neighbor’s recently passed husband dabbled in woodworking and owns a 10”contractor table saw, scroll saw router table and various carvers and chisels. All of his machines are low end (ryobi) but they could get me by on most of these projects. Any suggestions would be appreciated, I do intend on getting hand tools as well but for my upcoming projects I don’t see the benefit of adding these not to mention the fact it seems you are severely handicapped in the hand tool area if you don’t have a solid bench to use them with.

12 replies so far

View BilltheDiver's profile


253 posts in 2880 days

#1 posted 05-17-2012 04:02 AM

There are lots of good finds on craigslist, and there’s nothing wrong with a well made and maintained used tool. Especially for some of the higher end purchases. As for the things your neighbor might make available, if they are inexpensive enough, use them until you can afford, and really need more expensive replacements. Most of us started with garage and basement shops with “make do” equipment and upgraded over a long period of time. Personally I’d rather have Good Used than New Cheaply made equipment.

-- "Measure twice, cut once, count fingers"

View Loren's profile


10377 posts in 3642 days

#2 posted 05-17-2012 04:46 AM

I don’t recommend buying any machinery new until you understand
what your real requirements are as a craftsperson. Hand tools,
especially good ones, hold their value and of course good
quality hand tools make the work more pleasurable.

New consumer/pro-sumer machinery in contrast loses about
1/2 its value as soon as it gets unpacked. A couple of high-end
(European) brands are exceptions but their prices will give you
sticker shock if you’re looking at Grizzly as a reference point
for value.

You might want to go with a contractor saw for time being
and haul it from room to room while doing those ceilings
and stuff. That’s what I would use.

View rockindavan's profile


299 posts in 2631 days

#3 posted 05-17-2012 07:22 AM

As awesome as a nice cabinet saw is to use, it won’t be so great if it is the only tool the wife lets you get. I think most of us started with only a few tools. I started with a circular saw, miter saw and drill. You can do an unbelievable amount with a just these three tools. I bought tools, mostly from pawn shops, as I needed them for new projects. Once you do a few projects, you start to figure out what you actually need. If you can afford to buy nice tools right off the bat, thats not a bad thing, but you may end up with some tools that aren’t quite what you need. As far as a tablesaw, if you are serious about woodworking, I wouldn’t get a benchtop. The hybrid grizzly saw might be a better deal for you at around $1000, that extra money may be better spend elsewhere. There are sooo many supplies and tools you need besides routers, saw, planers and such that eat up a lot of money. You could easily spend over $1000 in clamps to get your bases covered.

I would just suggest getting enough tools to start building a shop. Heck, thats half the fun. Build projects you can do with the tools you have. You might have to get creative, but thats how you learn. Buy the tools when there is no other way to get something done, or are certain its what you need. There are always going to be tools you “need,” especially when convincing your wife, but it boils down to what will be the most beneficial at the time.

View maxhall's profile


80 posts in 2196 days

#4 posted 05-17-2012 10:47 AM

Loren: I agree that hauling the saw around would be easier. I have a decent 12” compound/bevel miter saw that I was intending to use for all my crosscuts for the ceiling projects. As far as the table saw I could do all the ripping outside since cleanup would be easier and all the boards will be the same width. I do intend on getting good hand tools, hopefully I can find some quality ones on craigslist/ tag sales and I can restore them to their former glory.

Rockindavan: I agree a table saw and router table aren’t the only tools needed for woodworking. I just stated the ones that will be the larger single purchases. I already have a miter saw, quality jig saw, circular saw, cordless 18v drill, 5 clamps ( I know not near enough), dremel and fein multimaster with other assorted tools that have nothing to do with woodworking. I agree with building projects with the tools you have which is why I believe a tablesaw and quality router table are integral to building a well constructed built in.

For projects when you 1st started out did you just start with something in a magazine like wood or fww? The only project I believe I will need to get alot more experience before attempting is a built in. Just due to its size, various jointery, and cabinet construction. Thanks again for all the advice.

View Gshepherd's profile


1727 posts in 2196 days

#5 posted 05-17-2012 10:53 AM

Check Local auctions…... Craigslist….. Invest in Quality Measuring Tools…... No matter what your woodworking focus is quality measuring tools will be needed. Take your time and do your research…. Most of all be safe…......

-- What we do in life will Echo through Eternity........

View Vrtigo1's profile


434 posts in 2986 days

#6 posted 05-17-2012 01:22 PM

My advice to this kind of question is always the same…if you have the budget then buy exactly what you are looking for brand new, but if you want to save some cash or make that budget buy more tools then I would watch Craigslist, etc. I have picked up a lot of high end WW tools for great prices that way. I probably have close to 8-9k retail cost of stationary machines and paid maybe a third of that and all of them are in good shape. You may not find exactly the brand or model that you want, and it isn’t the fastest way to buy tools but if you are patient chances are you will find what you are looking for at a great price. I setup the tools category from Craigslist in an RSS reader and check it every day to see if anything interesting pops up. You can also create searches on craigslist and add those to an RSS reader, i.e. only show posts from the tools category that contain the word “grizzly” or “powermatic”. That cuts down on the amount of junk you have to sort through.

View jdmaher's profile


427 posts in 2574 days

#7 posted 05-17-2012 01:23 PM

Generally speaking, I believe a CHEAP tablesaw is a good first purchase. Your neighbor’s sounds fine (if the price is reasonable).

Here’s the thing: it ain’t the tool, its the experience. Learning to use the tool takes actually using the tool, adjusting your technique to its quirks and your then current skill level, and progressing. If you take the cheapo Ryobi table saw, you’ll be able to rip sufficiently well for the work you plan. Hopefully, you’ll outgrow it in a few years; that’s great! Invest TIME now, money later – only when you have to.

Get just the tools you actually HAVE to have, AFTER you need them (not before). That will slow you down – which is a good thing.

For the work you plan, a router table might NOT be necessary. Think if you can do what you must do NOW with a hand-held, carefully. (When you do need a table, I like my RT1000).

Planer MIGHT be a key. Thicknessing is a pain by hand. However, for what you currently plan, standard thickenesses should be fine. Me, I’d wait on that.

Hand plane for edges and light smoothing. Lots of people here at LJ can offer advice about reaonsably priced old Stanleys. To me, Lie-Nielsen is worth it – AFTER I get good with a used Stanley.

The other stuff can come with time, all will be useful if you actually stick with the craft. Until then . . .

Sharpening is the thing. Good stones (oil or water, your choice). Good grinder (don’t have to be great). Great lapping plate. Consistent technique. Practice, practice, practice. Dull the chisels and plane irons building things. Practice honing some more. Dull some more, Hone some more. THEN get a “station”. Sharp fixes everything, makes the craft a pleasure to DO, and improves results dramatically.

Get to the point where you absolutely can NOT proceed with the current project without a new tool. Then get the tool. Only when you absolutely need it NOW. That’ll sharpen your patience – and sharp fixes everything.

Have fun and BE SAFE!

-- Jim Maher, Illinois

View AJLastra's profile


87 posts in 2223 days

#8 posted 05-17-2012 02:23 PM

you will find that you’ll get many, many different answers to this question and every one who provides you with advice…............ALL of us…............has the same thing in common: we ALL asked this SAME question at one point in time, whether we were talking to other woodworkers or ourselves. The best advice I ever received when I started as a hobbyist more than 20 years ago was that only rich people can afford cheap tools. you can go to Harbor Freight and buy stuff that will work… might not work well, but it will work….........for a time…..........then it wont…........and you’ll spend your money buying a replacement. As I said, I started 20 years ago as a hobbyist. I now make custom and commission pieces in a home shop detached from my house that holds well over $100,000 dollars worth of machines, power tools, and hand tools. Do I use them ALL, every day? NO. Do I multiples of some items simply because I love tools, I admit I do. But I don’t own a PowerMatic 66 tablesaw, or ANYTHING from Powermatic for that matter. I’d love to, but I dont HAVE to. My tablesaw is a Craftsman contractors saw that I bought almost 20 years ago. I fitted it with steel pulley, a link belt, a Vega fence system and Forrest blades. It does everything I ask of it and more and it has paid for itself. As a number of guys have posted, look before you leap. check out sites like Craigslist and Ebay, your local newspaper. Go to woodworking shows and kick the tires. ultimately, you have to determine what you are going to make and what ultimately you WANT to make. If you are going to make woodworking/cabinetmaking, furniture making your life’s work, then spend for the best you can buy because its YOUR LIVING. I wanted to make furniture so bad, in 1995 I convicned a tool sales manager at a local Sears in colorado springs to hire me to sell power tools. I wanted that 10% employee discount. I worked there for two years, part time, and managed to get stuff like the Porter Cable 1 1/2 horse router for fifty bucks because it fell off a truck during delivery to the store and the metal case was dented. I apologize for the length of this post but you can do GREAT work without having to spring for the best there is READ READ READ tool reviews from the wood working magazines. you can buy the annual issues of tool reviews for each category, like what is published in Wood Magazine, Woodworkers Journal, and Fine Woodworking. You’ll get solid advice and comparisons on everything…...sanders, tablesaws, band saws, routers, etc, etc. One thing I will tell you, as you are an aspiring woodworker: NEVER< EVER scrimp on safety. I’ve spent a ton of money on safety devices and I have NEVER regretted those purchases. Good luck in your endeavor. And God Bless.

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

4928 posts in 3955 days

#9 posted 05-17-2012 03:03 PM

No matter what brands you buy, using them is the best learning process.
Always buy quality blades for saws.
Don’t get caught up in the myth that all wood parts should be cut or flattened to within .0005”.
Wear hearing and eye protection.
Clean up at the end of every day.
Count on your fingers. That way you’ll know if you’ve lost one (or more).


View bobblack's profile


8 posts in 2545 days

#10 posted 05-17-2012 03:40 PM

You are getting on a slippery slope – but it can be grand fun. When analyzing advice keep in mind that most woodworkers have a power tool mindset. Also keep in mind that all of the “good” furniture was made well before power tools were available. My definition of “good” is a piece that sold for over a million dollars, thus probably being an antique.

I think that to do good work requires a mix of hand and power tools, while keeping in mind that power tools are inventions to duplicate what was done with hand tools. A good beginning would be to obtain the three Tage Frid books on hand work. Try or ebay.

First tool should be a good bench with the flattest top you can produce. There are many plans out there but if you can’t hold steady it’s hard to do good work.

Pick up measuring tools as you need them. The bench can be made with a circular saw and hand tools for a start. Many plans are available in old magazines.

I’m of the opinion that if you put counters on every start switch on the power tools in a well equipped professional shop you would find that the table saw is by far the most used piece of equipment.

All you need to get a board or a table top flat and square is a bench, a hand plane, a hand saw, a couple of winding sticks and a square. I think this is one of the most labor intensive jobs in a shop. For my money, this makes a planer and a jointer the next items on the power tool list. The jointer gives you a flat plane on the large face and then a square edge that is also flat. You then you have reference surface to feed into the planer, and then a ripping pass through the cabinet saw to get the second edge parallel and square to the jointed edge.

If you are thinking of a hobby version of a trim shop forget all of the above. Typically a trim shop will have moulders, routers, and shapers with no workbenches or hand tools.

I’m an old tool nut with the idea that to keep costs down you have to go used and probably rebuild what you buy. That will have you wire brushing a lot of rust so if you can find working used tools and can afford them then by all means go that route. Example – my jointer. I paid $750 plus $50 loading, made a one day trip to pick it up. Cleaned it up, painted it for show and love it. I’d guess a new replacement would run $15,000 -$18,000, and for the record, financially, I could never consider spending that kind of money on a jointer.

View AJLastra's profile


87 posts in 2223 days

#11 posted 05-17-2012 04:10 PM

Bobblack Good point about the use of hand tools. Even with all the machinery I own, I make it a point to do SOMETHING on a project by hand. Often, its cutting tenons or dovetails by hand. I LOVE watching Roy Underhill of The Woodwrights Shop use all of those hand planes. you’re right. It IS a slippery slope. (okay, now do I use that No 4 smooth plane to make the slope smoother or that Porter Cable belt sander…hmmmmm.)

View rockindavan's profile


299 posts in 2631 days

#12 posted 05-17-2012 04:25 PM

I never used plans when I started out, and still don’t. I think plans limit the possibility of learning design. Your first few projects might look a little off, but its how you learn. I would look at plans from FWW for inspiration or construction details, but I wouldn’t limit yourself to building a direct copy from a plan. If you haven’t checked out the Wood Whisperer on youtube, you should because he has some awesome videos. In one of his projects, he builds an entertainment center with only a circular saw, router and another few accessible tools. You can use his techniques for about any project.

I would start off with something simple like a bookshelf or something. Get a feel for how a project goes together. I would suggest getting a bunch of 2×4’s and BC plywood and start building things for your shop such as shelves and benches, they go together quick and are enjoyable to make. I have my old workshop posted on my page, everything cost around $300 and went together in less than a week.

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