Newb in Chicago (beginner)

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Forum topic by buckylions posted 01-29-2015 01:12 PM 776 views 0 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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3 posts in 633 days

01-29-2015 01:12 PM

Topic tags/keywords: chicago beginner workshop

Hey Guys-

I’m new to the woodworking world and have decided to set up a small shop with a friend of mine in his basement. He is more experienced than I am but he is out of town roughly 2/3rds of the time and I could use some help and advice especially from local folks. I know there are tons of threads for most of my concerns but if there is one you really like or if you wouldn’t mind helping a newbie out please let me know.

I would like to build a nice workshop over time with all the bell’s and whistles we can fit in the space. I haven’t measured the room yet but it is relatively small. Anyways if you have any answers or comments for some of the questions below that would be great.

Floor Leveling: I am thinking of leveling the floor or having a pro do it depending on cost. It seems like a pain to do but I can’t imagine working with an uneven floor being very fun for setting up benches and tools.

Workbench: While ideally we would like to build a nice Roubo-esque table I would like to get some smaller projects done before tackling that monster. Assuming I get the floor level, any advice on that is greatly appreciated or if anyone has and old one they are no longer using that would be great too.

Tools: We have the basic low end power and hand tools but I think we need to upgrade our table saw. Obviously a cabinet saw is not in the cards at the moment but I would be willing to shell out some money for a better setup than we currently have. I’ve been looking on Craigslist a lot but any advice is greatly appreciated.

That’s it for now. I look forward to hearing back from you all.

-- Declan in Chicago

14 replies so far

View ohtimberwolf's profile


628 posts in 1769 days

#1 posted 01-29-2015 01:59 PM

Declan in Chicago, I think you have chosen one of the best sites for help that you could come to. Many here are willing to help new woodworkers get started so I’m sure you will be happy here. I’ll offer little advice as there are experts here who will jump in and advise you much better than I can.

The one thing I will say is that we all like to see pictures as it helps a lot in being able to help the person asking for advice or help. Keep that in mind as you post. Welcome aboard.


-- Just a barn cat, now gone to cat heaven.

View HornedWoodwork's profile


222 posts in 631 days

#2 posted 01-29-2015 03:36 PM

I’d veto the floor leveling. I don’t work on a level surface, I set my machines up square and my surfaces coplaner, it doesn’t really matter if the floor is level or not. I wouldn’t wan to build on the side of a hill mind you, but level isn’t that big of a deal. Get yourself an angle cube, they establish the table as “0” and then you can set your bit or blade to any angle to suit your cut, even on uneven surfaces. Simple.

My workbench is made out of 2X6 and sheet goods with two rockler vices on it. It holds stuff and I cut that stuff, don’t overthink the bench. Some of the best crafstman in the world build on a door on sawhorses.

Tools. I subscribe to 2 basic theroies when it comes to tools, use the right tool, practice until the right tool works. I know I’m going to make mistakes on my tools, so I choose the mistake I can fix. For instance I setup to cut my tenons fat, then I pair them to fit. I buck my boards wide then I creep up on the final dimensions, I bandsaw into the waste and leave the line, then I fair with sanders and spokeshaves. A healthy assortment of good enough low end power tools and a small group of the right hand tools (top dollar or salvaged) will take you much further than a $30,000 cabinet saw. Learn how to setup your power equipment quickly, make a good enough cut, then close with hand tools. My must have handtools are a 14 TPI Crosscut dovetail saw, a ryoba cross/rip pullsaw, a set of 1/8 – 1” bench chisels at 1/8 incraments, a No. 4 and No. 5 bench plane, a shoulder plane, a block plane, spokeshaves, card scraper, small (hand) router, and all the measure/marking tools you can find.

The biggest advice I can give you is that there are no devices that will overcome poor technique, you simply can’t buy your way out of poor technique. Your most worthwhile investment is time on the tools. Also watch a ton of youtube videos, they transfer all kinds of tips and tricks, and read and practice, practice, practice.

-- Talent, brilliance, and humility are my virtues.

View Redoak49's profile


1816 posts in 1405 days

#3 posted 01-29-2015 03:48 PM

Unless the floor is terrible I would leave it alone.

Make all your tools movable.

Buy a table saw with a good riving knife and blade guard. As a newbie, these are important as well as good push blocks and guides.

Make certain you have adequate power…there is never enough outlets and circuits.

Invest in dust collection to capture fine dust so you do not breath it or get interest of house.

Lastly, Good luck

View buckylions's profile


3 posts in 633 days

#4 posted 01-29-2015 04:28 PM

Thanks for the notes guys. I will put some pics up tonight.

Went back and checked out the floor last night. It is much flatter than I first thought. First project is a simple and cheap bench. I might even get a door from a reclaimed materials place.

I plan on really bootstrapping until I understand what tools would really help me. I’ve probably watched about 20 hours of youtube videos this week. Wood Whisperer and WoodworkWeb are great so far but if there are any others you highly recommend let me know!

Also, would love to hear from some locals about woodworking in the Chicago area.


-- Declan in Chicago

View HornedWoodwork's profile


222 posts in 631 days

#5 posted 01-29-2015 04:52 PM

Check out a guy named Paul Saunders Youtube. He’s oldschool and relies on handtools. I’m not recommending you dive into a handtools only shop, you need power tools as well. But WHEN you pickup a handtool you need to know how to use it and he can certainly teach you that.

-- Talent, brilliance, and humility are my virtues.

View HornedWoodwork's profile


222 posts in 631 days

#6 posted 01-29-2015 04:54 PM

Whoops Paul Sellers, not Saunders.

-- Talent, brilliance, and humility are my virtues.

View Drew's profile


290 posts in 2517 days

#7 posted 01-29-2015 05:33 PM

Yea, I wouldn’t waste any money on the floor either.
It would help us out if you told us what type of things you want to build.

Co-op space might be another option for you as well. I know there are a couple groups in Chicago that do that. Check out craigslist if interested.


View daddywoofdawg's profile


1006 posts in 992 days

#8 posted 01-29-2015 07:08 PM

Everything you invest in with your own money make sure you can remove if you two have a falling out or he desides to sell the place.Has happened.
The floor is in his house Don’t invest in it.
A saw, chisels,banging tools,fastening tools,clamping tools,sharpening tools, lots of lighting.then work on skill building shop projects like clamp racks,saw tills,etc using the best joints you can make,practice making different types for different projects dovetails lap finger etc.

View OSU55's profile


1039 posts in 1406 days

#9 posted 01-29-2015 10:20 PM

Look for a 1960’s or so woodworking textbook – what the shop teacher’s used to use (when high schools had woodshop!). It will cover a lot of ground in a no-nonsense, un-marketed approach. I’ll try to remember to post the info on the one I have (my son was lucky – he used this textbook in high school, 1960’s edition, and he graduated in 2010). Paul Sellers is great. Charles Neil is good, he does a lot more mktg/selling, though.

There are many ways to skin the cat in woodworking. Look at your introduction to woodworking as a project in and of itself. I like the textbook use because it introduces a lot of tools and methods, w/o being marketing gimmickry.

Some like a lot of hand tool use, some don’t. It’s a methods choice, driven by the person and their situation. Personally, a table saw is central to all the woodworking I do, and since I have space considerations like you, I recommend you look at the Bosch 4100. I sold the Bosch stand, and made a smaller footprint mobile stand for it.

Unless the floor is all broken up with 2” ledges, don’t make your buddy fix it (it’s his house, not yours). Workbench needs are driven a lot by methods. Hand planing and hand cutting dovetails will drive some design coniderations. The power tool route allows for simpler bench design.

Welcome and have fun!

View SuperCubber's profile


828 posts in 1701 days

#10 posted 01-30-2015 12:31 AM

There aare so many good YouTubers out there. Some that you haven’t mentioned are: Steve Ramsey (Woodworking for Mere Mortals), Jay Bates (Jay’s Custom Creations), John Heisz (I Build It), Mathias Wandel, Frank Howarth, Stumpy Nubs, Izzy Swan. They all have varying styles and do different types of projects, so you may not be into them all, but I’m sure you’ll pick up some good stuff.

-- Joe | Spartanburg, SC | "To give anything less than your best is to sacrafice the gift." - Steve Prefontaine

View OSU55's profile


1039 posts in 1406 days

#11 posted 01-30-2015 03:01 AM

The textbook is “Technical Woodworking” by Chris Groneman and Everett Glazener, McGraw-Hill, I have the 1966 edition. Yeah it’s dry, it’s a textbook, it isn’t supposed to entertain, and it isn’t full of marketing/sales gimmicks trying to sell you anything. Yeah it’s 50 years old and equipment has changed some (mainly safety aspects) but methods of how to use the equipment haven’t. It present basic industrial arts methods, not a bunch of opinions from who knows. My son’s shop teacher taught from this book for over 40 years. It’s a great way to get started.

View firefighterontheside's profile (online now)


13054 posts in 1273 days

#12 posted 01-30-2015 03:09 AM

I too would skip the floor leveling or at least not spend much money on it. Easiest way to do it would be a wood floor over the concrete, but then you lose height.
You can find lots of good tools on CL, especially in Chicago. Sometimes when I’m trying to find something on CL and there are none locally I look at Chicago just to know what it’s like to find what I’m looking for. Don’t overlook the good older craftsman and delta contractor saws that are always out there. With a new fence these are good users.

-- Bill M. "People change, walnut doesn't" by Gene.

View JAAune's profile


1614 posts in 1734 days

#13 posted 01-30-2015 03:58 AM

Yes, the Chicago area is a good one to get used tools. I live south of the city but make frequent trips up there to pick up tools at good prices. Don’t forget either. I got my spray booth from that site.

-- See my work at and

View buckylions's profile


3 posts in 633 days

#14 posted 01-30-2015 05:39 AM

Thanks again guys. Interesting note on that textbook. I actually did take woodworking shop in 7th and 8th grade back in the late ‘90s.

The floor is not that bad and we are going to stick with it. Thanks for the advice again everyone.

-- Declan in Chicago

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