Beginner advice: $1000 to spend on a garage shop... and I need some expert direction.

  • Advertise with us

« back to Power Tools, Hardware and Accessories forum

Forum topic by bwoods posted 02-01-2013 09:11 AM 3481 views 0 times favorited 36 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View bwoods's profile


41 posts in 1942 days

02-01-2013 09:11 AM

I was wondering if you guys might be able to help me out. I’m a minister and I was allotted $1000 dollars through a program to further my education in an area that will aid my ministry. Many of the other participants took trips and did seminars. I am taking up woodworking. I wanted a practical skill that I could take some pride in, something I could eventually pass on to my son (only 2 so I still have some time to acquire the skills) and one that would come in handy in my line of work and woodworking is the sweet spot I think. It also happens to be something I have greatly enjoyed in the opportunities I have had.

I have a basic home set of handtools, and a cordless drill… and that is it. I am thinking that the work will take the shape of furniture for the house and church… tables, shelves, bunk-bed kind of things, “Dad” type projects like tree houses and forts, and then just random projects as is needed for work. Most of what I have been looking at is power tools, since they are big ticket items and I happen to have a good chunk of money now, and other smaller ticket items can be acquired with my own money.

Along these lines, I have a few questions that you guys may be able to help me out with, that have come up in my research.

1. If you were just now starting to put together shop and had $1000 to spend… where would you spend it?

2. Table saw… some people say it is the staple of any shop worth it’s salt. I’ve also seen some who say that they got by without it for a long time. What say you?

3. If it is the most important item… how much of my budget should I spend on it? Most people seem to agree it isn’t something you should skimp on, it is an investment (like all power tools) and the cheap tables aren’t worth investing in. However getting a solid table saw will mean fewer items overall. I know he who has the most tools doesn’t win, but I would like to have a good range of tools to cover a wide range of projects.

4. I’ve used a miter saw several times and they seem like a pretty handy tool to have around, and are super easy to use. However it looks like many, if not all, of these same miter cuts can be made by a table saw as well, using a miter gauge… is this true? Are both a necessity? A miter saw is also a lot more portable and that is a plus.

5. Rank these tools in order of need… what can I not live without in this hobby. Feel free to add stuff since I definitely left something off in my ignorance.

Table Saw
Circular Saw
Jig Saw
Random Orbital Sander
Compound Miter Saw
Drill Press

6. Finally… any tips for buying used tools off of Craigslist? Anything I should make sure to buy new?

36 replies so far

View Hubster999's profile


8 posts in 1941 days

#1 posted 02-01-2013 09:23 AM

Table Saw
Radial arm saw
Circular saw
Belt and orbital sanders
The rest will follow as you go on to start making your projects – good luck

-- Treat others with respect, as you would like to be treated also. The world would be a much better place if more ppl did this...

View knotscott's profile


8016 posts in 3375 days

#2 posted 02-01-2013 10:24 AM

TS is #1 in most shops, but it depends on what you do and how you do it….there’s definitely more than one approach. I happen to favor the TS for the things I build, and I suspect it’d be an invaluable tool for the furniture you listed (buy a jigsaw for cutting curves until you have a bandsaw). A good TS can rip and crosscut very accurately and leaves a very clean cut (a bandsaw can make the same cuts, but leaves a much rougher edge that needs more attention before using). I see little reason to spend $ for a compound miter saw at this point unless you plan to do lots of very long pieces like molding…instead, a good miter gauge and/or a crosscut sled is a terrific accessory for a TS. If possible, I’d opt for one of the full size stationary saws with a belt drive induction motor. They start right around $500….IMO, one of the better bangs for the buck is the Ridgid R4512 or nearly identical Craftsman 21833. Many HD’s will accept a 20% Harbor Freight coupon, bringing the price well under $500, leaving some budget for a decent blade or two….trying a 2nd manager or store, or getting support for corporate headquarters helps if they balk, so it’s very doable. Making Sense of Table Saws

IMHO, tool #2 should be a router in a router table. It’s the most versatile tool in the shop, and can be very reasonably priced….especially if you build a simple router table. Get something with 11 to 15 amps, variable speed, and that accepts 1/2” shank bits….lots of good choices for $100 to $250 (Milwaukee, Bosch, Hitachi, Makita, PC, DW, Freud, Triton, Craftsman, Ridgid).

A modest circular saw can be useful, a couple of hand planes, chisels, clamps, measuring devices, etc., are where I’d spend the remainder of your budget. You’ll also want a flat surface to work on….some ingenuity can score a good surface pretty cheaply.

Buying used is often a great way to get the most for the money, but requires patience and good timing., and it can vary a lot. Used bits and blades aren’t usually worth much, but good stationary tools can be a viable option. Look for things in decent condition that appear to have been well maintained. Capacity, power, and cast iron are rarely a bad thing vs small, underpowered, and plastic or lighter metals… (induction motors with belt drive are usually preferable to universal motors). The general rule of thumb is roughly 50% of what an item cost new. A little surface rust is easy to remove…heavy corrosion is a sign of neglect. Pay more attention to the individual tool type and construction than the brand. Setup and blade/bit choices are key factors in how well any tool performs.

Table Saw
Jig Saw
Random Orbital Sander
Circular Saw
Drill Press
Compound Miter Saw

Good luck and please keep us updated!

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

View EEngineer's profile


1102 posts in 3613 days

#3 posted 02-01-2013 12:22 PM

knotscott summed it up real well… not a lot to add, maybe just a slightly different emphasis.

With only a thousand bucks to spend the table saw is going to consume more than 1/2 your budget. knotscott covered that well. I have seen the discussions here about whether a table saw is needed but I simply don’t agree – get a table saw! Leave room in the budget for a decent blade – the ones sold on the saw are almost always junk!

Router and table next – hell, they don’t have to be fancy – I spent years making furniture and house projects with a cheap Craftsman router, a simple set of starter bits and one of their small aluminum router tables.

A cheap circular saw to break up sheet goods and a quarter-sheet sander would round out all the power tools you need. You already have a hand drill and, with care, that can do any drilling you need.

Hand tools – get a cheap set of wood chisels and learn how to sharpen them. Clamps! I like the HF bar clamps – they are cheap but good (sort through them at the store, QC is way down the list at HF!) – buy twice as many as you think you might need. One small block plane – again, learn how to sharpen it. Buy a GOOD tri-square – cheap ones are too inaccurate to be useful. One tape measure – two if you are like I am and lose the damned thing all the time!

And that’s it! Any thing else can be made up for with ingenuity and jigs.

I echo knotscott’s sentiments about buying used. A glance at my shop shows that is where a lot of my tools come from. I like old arn. But be prepared – everything I bought used consumed a lot of time to get them into shape! If you have less money, spend more time. If you have more money, spend less time!

-- "Find out what you cannot do and then go do it!"

View bbasiaga's profile


1233 posts in 1995 days

#4 posted 02-01-2013 01:45 PM

Craigslist is your friend for a lot of the smaller tools too. Shop carefully and you can find some stuff in pretty good shape for much less than new. If you got the table saw route, you may choose to buy new on that since it will become a ‘cornerstone’ piece.


-- Part of engineering is to know when to put your calculator down and pick up your tools.

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 3158 days

#5 posted 02-01-2013 02:44 PM

Good to see kindred spirit, brother. As a fellow minister, let me advise you to use your newfound tools and abilities away from the shop. There’s a real ministry to be had doing woodworking and carpentry jobs for others, and it quite often is at their homes. For this reason, I’m somewhat torn as to how you should spend your money.

For example, in a home shop, I would advise a good stationary table saw first…spending about $500 on something new or used (ideally more). But if you do a lot of work onsite, either a portable TS and/or miter saw becomes more important. In a shop setting, the miter saw is not a very important tool for me because my TS does the job better (other than chopping down larger boards first)...and this means I really only need a cheap chop saw for shop use. What I have now is a luxury, though I do use it portably on occasion.

Whatever you do, a router would be my second purchase after a table saw. I can’t tell you how many of my neighbors need a board rounded-over or profiled, and being able “dress up” boards is a big deal when doing various home repairs, IME.

Also important is a good combo set of cordless tools, like a drill/driver, reciprocating saw, and circular saw. It’s good value for the money. If you are happy with your current cordless driver, then at least get a GOOD corded circular saw (a necessity for onsite jobs and breaking down sheet goods). Likewise, I’d look into a good multi-tool…very versatile for home repairs.

Much of these smaller ticket items you can add as you go, so you should consider that. But for the initial $1000, I would put it mostly into a table saw, a combo router, and a circular saw…whereas the type of table saw depends on how you think you might need it from a portability standpoint.

-- jay,

View otindashop's profile


53 posts in 2020 days

#6 posted 02-01-2013 03:34 PM


I’m a bit like you. Moved from a crowded City to a rural area. Set up a shop for the first time. The other bloggers are right about the table saw. Since you didn’t mention how much space you are able to use, I recommend figuring that out first. As you go and as others “help” you with tool donations (We were given a large bandsaw), you will then need the space. As you reticulate on tools going through Craig’s List, you will also find some great deals and end up getting them.

Back to space. For space reasons, even though our shop is large, I elected to put as much as possible on wheels. Our table saw is the Ridgid contractor model with wheels. With good blades and careful alignment, it is as good as a large table saw in the middle of a floor with huge outfeeds.

Spacewise, we got some cabinets at Habitat for Humanity for very little, painted them and put them on the walls for storage and organization. Getting stuff up off the floors will allow you more footprint room.

For your skilsaw type. Be sure to get one with a laser.

Also, suggest getting clamps as previously mentioned and one of those long straight edge clamps that will give you a nice straight edge on a 4X8 sheet of plywood or MDF.

A bench is absolutely necessary. If you have the money, a SJobergs is a good pursuit, if not, build a heavy duty bench for your first project.

You will also need measuring devices of many types, squares, flat rulers and framing squares to build houses.

Eventually, air tools will be an addition but that can come later.

For helping others, a set of sturdy saw horses will be a necessity.

I’m not sure where you are or are helping but maybe you will need to borrow a generator at times to build.

Jay gave you good advice about the portability on the saw.

For evaluations, go to the blogs on this site for the tool selections and google “best…..” for more info and then check magazines like woodworker types for tool reviews. Check your library for Consumer’s Reports. It really does pay to check with the guys in the ditch for the best stuff. The desk and the ditch are still far apart. I’ve learned a lot from this site about some tool selections.

Lastly remember Ne 4:9 when shopping.


-- Read and Write, thank a teacher...Speak English, thank a Veteran.

View Dave's profile


11429 posts in 2840 days

#7 posted 02-01-2013 03:43 PM

Used tools, estate sales, eBay, Craigslist local flea markets and swaps are a great place to get tools. A basic set of woodworking hand tools are great as well. Chisels, drill bits, a hand saw or two. Tell your congregation what you are doing and do they have any tools they could help you out with.
Good luck.

-- Superdav "No matter where you go - there you are."

View sprucegum's profile


324 posts in 1997 days

#8 posted 02-01-2013 04:14 PM

Pretty hard to add much to the above knotscott is pretty much rite on. I would go with the table saw first then the jointer this will give you the ability to make good glue joints which to me would be important for furniture building. After that follow your needs and by all means look for used, some of this stuff lasts almost forever. My son is still using a 4” craftsman jointer that belonged to his great grand farther.

-- A tube of calk and a gallon of paint will make a carpenter what he ain't

View Derakon's profile


89 posts in 2167 days

#9 posted 02-01-2013 04:41 PM

I’m not as experienced of a woodworker as many here, but my two cents on the tablesaw thing: tablesaws are scary. There’s an awful lot of energy in that sawblade. If that energy decides to go into your workpiece all at once, then the workpiece is going flying; never mind what the blade can do to skin and bone (that’s what push sticks are for). Personally I find a bandsaw to be much more approachable than a tablesaw; the bandsaw blade is sending all of its energy down instead of out, so it’s very unlikely to throw your workpiece back in your face!

Now, a bandsaw’s going to have a much more limited cutting depth (e.g. mine can’t make a cut wider than about 13”). But generally if I want to make a crosscut that wide, as a hobbyist it’s no big deal to just use a hand saw; it just doesn’t come up all that often. You also can’t make dado cuts like you can in a tablesaw, so if I want to cut dados then I have to do a little chisel work. On the flipside, you can make curved cuts with a bandsaw, and you can also resaw wood (take e.g. a 1.5” board and cut it into two .75” boards, more or less). I don’t find the cut quality to be any worse than you get with a tablesaw, though the bandsaw does take some calibration before it’ll cut straight, and you’ll certainly have to replace the manufacturer’s blade with something better (e.g. a Wood Slicer blade).

View rkober's profile


137 posts in 2292 days

#10 posted 02-01-2013 04:41 PM

All good advice. However I don’t think you could get a viable jointer and/or planer on that budget. I would go for a couple good hand planes instead (a #7 and #4, or #5). But defiantly a tablesaw and router at the top.

-- Ray - Spokane, WA - “Most people don’t recognize opportunity because it’s usually disguised as hard work.” - Unknown

View rockindavan's profile


299 posts in 2636 days

#11 posted 02-01-2013 05:36 PM

I started out with a circular saw, miter saw, corded drill and some c-clamps. That will be enough to get you started and you can make sturdy tables out of 2×4’s and plywood for the shop, along with a circular saw guide to cut the plywood. Then I got a router which opens up a lot of possibilities. I got a lot of my first tools at a pawn store which can have some good prices.

After a year or two of making shelves and stuff for my college rooms, I got an old tablesaw from my brother. I honestly didn’t use it all to often because the work I did didn’t require it. Fast track 5 years later and I want tools that I never knew existed back then. You kind of just figured out what you need as you work.

My advice is check out the Woodwhisperer video where he makes a cabinet with very basic tools.

View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

1520 posts in 4125 days

#12 posted 02-01-2013 06:13 PM

Mine is a tablesaw-less shop, and often find that the fun things aren’t the things I initially set up for.

So let’s start this with: What do you want to build? Cabinets? Furniture? Toys? For a guy like me who’s now got a shop full of Festool, a thousand bucks doesn’t seem like much, on the other hand I did some things that people said “wow” to with $150 worth of tools for a while, so…

1. If you were just now starting to put together shop and had $1000 to spend… where would you spend it?

I recently saw a presentation by a guy who was making gorgeous fantastically strong chairs. If he had a thousand bucks to spend he’d get a good battery powered hand drill, a basic set of bits, a draw knife, a maul, a couple of wedges, a versatile hand saw (or two, maybe a pruning saw as well), and a shaving horse.

Add a scraper or two and the stones and files to sharpen those tools, and with some friends in the tree-trimming business you could build chairs that’d last a few generations.

Before I dove into this thing whole-hog, I built a couple of cabinets and sets of shelves using dimensional lumber from big box stores, a circular saw, a jig saw, and a router.

As I got better at woodworking that router got incorporated into a table, rather than being used separately, and that greatly improved the technique I could throw at wood.

2. Table saw… some people say it is the staple of any shop worth it’s salt. I’ve also seen some who say that they got by without it for a long time. What say you?

I think for many styles of furniture you’re better off with a bandsaw than a table saw. My shop will likely never have a tablesaw, it takes too much room, and only allows a few cuts that I can’t do with a circular saw on a rail.

You can build your own rail for any circular saw, and if the saw itself doesn’t give you a jointable edge, you can set up a jig to run a router down it later to make that edge clean.

3. If it is the most important item… how much of my budget should I spend on it?

Part of the reason I don’t have one is that my Dad has a number of short fingers from a screw-up on his. Because of that and other observations about saws, I think a tablesaw starts at the $1600 that a Saw Stop contractor’s model costs, and goes up through the Euro-sliders.

4. I’ve used a miter saw several times and they seem like a pretty handy tool to have around, and are super easy to use.

I think you’ll need to develop the techniques to do those sorts of cuts on whatever saw you use. I’d love to have a good miter saw with stops at 45.000°, but I can make those happen with a circular saw, or even, though I haven’t developed this as far as I can yet, a good Japanese pull-saw.

5. Rank these tools in order of need… what can I not live without in this hobby.

  • Good solid table to work as a workbench
  • Clamps to hold stuff to it (a vise would be a bonus)
  • Sharpening materials/system
  • Scraper
  • A couple of chisels
  • A good hand saw, if I only could have one it’d be the Bakuma 300 Japanese-style pull-saw from Woodcraft.
  • a basic block plane
  • A benchtop drill press
  • Router (and build a table insert for this early)
  • Circular saw
  • Jig saw

But I’d acquire each of those things as you needed it to do a particular cut or operation, because once you’ve tried to do that cut a few other ways you’ll start to see what you really want out of that tool.

6. Finally… any tips for buying used tools off of Craigslist? Anything I should make sure to buy new?

I’ve had nothing but good luck with Craigslist used tools.

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California,

View bullhead1's profile


228 posts in 2249 days

#13 posted 02-01-2013 06:37 PM

I think the responses have pretty much covered the equipment side. I would suggest that you search out for a local mentor or two, possibly there is one in your congregation. You could visit their shops and maybe get a demonstration on the capabilites and uses of the various tools. You could also see shop layouts, jigs, etc. This could be a resource for those times that you need a board jointed or planed. I find that people that do woodworking are usaully open to sharing their skills and ideas with others as is evidenced by this forum. Good luck!

View derosa's profile


1577 posts in 2836 days

#14 posted 02-01-2013 06:55 PM

One very important question to consider is how long will you be staying in any one place, what denomination are you?
I am in the process of packing to move because the house one of the two churches I work for provided as housing is very deficient. The list of critter inhabiting it was just topped with a bat in the hallway yesterday and the lead is so bad my daughter has elevated levels. However I suspect that the church that owns it will be attempting to fire me in the next two weeks, they don’t like being challenged into action. So after 2.5 years I’m packing. My Methodist friend has had 4 churches in the last 10 years which isn’t uncommon for that denomination. Find the right church looking for your ministry and 40 years from now you could retire from it. With that thought in mind you may need to decide between hobbyist items that are 75-85 percent of their big brothers but half the weight. It may also push you to used since you may need to sell the stuff in 5 years and replace it.

There have been only a few items that have been truly useful in my ministry to others in the congregation.
Compound miter saw
Air compressor with nail gun
circular saw
These let me show up, cut sheet goods, help with framing and in general be useful, all are portable. My compound saw is a ryobi, they don’t get the best reviews for perfect accuracy but for basic framing it has never stopped working. Paid 200 for a husky set up on the compressor/ nail gun. From there your hammer, prybars, screwdrivers and other essential hand and measuring tools will be necessary. All items that let you show up for a habitat project or help with repairs after storm damage. This is where your ministry can really be out in the public, just don’t forget to advertise your church on your clothing when you do this stuff to really peak people’s interest.

For a home shop,
tablesaw- I plan on getting a sawstop soon, your current budget won’t allow this unless you’re lucky.
bandsaw- really is next in line.
Lathe- old deltas and craftsman lathes overflow the market around me, get one and some accessories. One of my ministries is allowing members and their kids to come to my shop and make gifts for family members. This typically requires having a bandsaw, tablesaw and drill press to set things up for the lathe. I also make gifts for the christmas giveaway and these 4 tools fill that function the best.
Planer- I put it next because it matters a lot but you can always buy prefinished wood, do get one though.
Jointer- want one, will help save money along with the planer to buy rough cut wood and save money.
Chainsaw- yup, you can use one of these. Helping with storm damage, these come in handy. Someone needs a tree removed you can show up for the trunk and save the wood.

Lots of clamps, these should be at the top but you’ll never have enough. Start with harborfreight F clamps and fill in with better later.
May God bless your ministry and all the projects you put your tools to.

-- --Rev. Russ in NY-- A posse ad esse

View Sandra's profile


7207 posts in 2075 days

#15 posted 02-01-2013 07:11 PM

Great information here. I’ve not gone wrong following the advice of the ‘seasoned’ members here.

As a relative newby myself, I’ve been gradually adding to my tools. Because I’m the main shopper in my house, I’ve applied that experience to shopping around for tools. I’ve had mixed luck with used tools.

By happenstance, I ended up with a used miter saw as my first power tool and I still use it more often than my table saw.

My advice would be to buy only as you need, unless you have to spend all the money at once.
You could pick a project and then figure out what you’ll need to complete it.

From what’s on sale at right now with free shipping, I would highly recommend

-Bosch palm router. It’s on for $100.00, regular price is around twice that. I do have a router table now, but the palm router is portable, versatile and gave me a chance to get comfortable with routing. I still use it frequently.

-Bosch corded jigsaw Between 122-150$ on Amazon right now.

-Makita 7 1/4” circular saw – around $ 130.00 I did my homework on this purchase and have been very pleased with it.

With those three power tools, you can do a lot and it would give you $$ left over for
-a portable work surface such as the Dura-bench for $129
-good shop vac such as the Ridgid wet/dry, with accessories would be around $160.00
-random orbital sander for around $120.00

If my math is right, that’s $790 before taxes. You may be shocked to find out how quickly the consumables like glue, screws and sandpaper add up.

Good luck

-- No, I don't want to buy the pink hammer.

showing 1 through 15 of 36 replies

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics