(guest post by Ted Leger)
It took one time working with lumber and wood stock and I was hooked. From then on I loved to eat, sleep, and talk about woodworking to everyone. And within a short period, I built my first shop and grabbed my tools and organized them. That was my “man cave.”
It normally doesn’t take long for someone that is going to have an interest in woodworking to grow hungry to setup his or her own shop or “allotted space” so they can satisfy their craving for building projects with wood. Especially if they can afford it, (and sometimes even if not), even the novice woodworker will start to check out the tools of this awesome hobby and skill set.
The issue that most will run into is the cost, especially if you want to fill a shop to the brim with a vast array of tools. This can be very pricey. So you have to start slow, and add as you go. But there are six indispensable tools that are needed when you begin.
The table saw is essential to any woodworker’s arsenal of tools. Even if it is a bench-top table saw, that’s fine. You have to have one. When you start ripping lumber over and over, doing so with only a circular saw, or what is more commonly known as a “skill saw”, just won’t cut it.
A table saw is more accurate and more powerful than a circular saw. Due to this your cuts will be straight and your arms won’t be so tired from the circular saw and straight jig that you would constantly be setting up. And don’t forget the time factor. Table saws cut much, much faster than any circular saw.
Corded Electric Drill
If you can only afford one drill, this is the choice to make. And be sure it has a 1/2-inch chuck to hold the larger bits. A corded drill tends to be more powerful than a battery operated one, unless you can afford a high-end battery operated drill.
If you can somehow get two drills into your tool list, that would make a large difference as well. One battery-operated and one corded drill with a half inch chuck on both tools is best if you can possibly make it happen. Don’t skimp on a low-cost cordless. If you do, you will learn why it was so cheap. With a cordless drill, you normally get what you pay for.
Again, here is an example of a tool that you really do best if you have both of these – the jigsaw and the bandsaw. If you cannot afford both at first, then go with the jigsaw. A good bandsaw will set you back about 500 dollars or more.
The jigsaw and bandsaw are great tools because they cut the curves in your wood. Unless you want all of your projects to be at 90 degree angles on every part of them, then you’ll really have a hard time without this tool. For any large scrollwork you have to have a jigsaw or bandsaw. There is no way around it.
Compound Miter Saw
A miter saw is an awesome tool for any shop. The compound saw will cut multiple angles at one time – the bevel and the miter. Some of the lower-cost miter saws will just cut the bevel. If you can, go with the compound machine. There will be times where you have to cut them both at once.
This tool also will act as a chop saw for straight cuts. Many projects have the same cut over and over, and you can’t beat the speed of this saw with a circular saw.
Some compound miter saws will have a slide on it, allowing you to slide the saw across a wider board. This feature is very useful. If not, you will only have the width of the blade as the surface area the saw can cut. This will vary depending on the size blade that goes in the tool. But you can cut up to 12” wide with some sliding miter saws.
Random Orbital Sander
For those only able to purchase one electric sander, this is the one to get. Palm sanders may be a bit less expensive, but they aren’t cheap enough to justify getting a regular one over the random orbital sander.
These sanders will use sticky backing or even hook-and-loop fastening systems to hold the sanding disc on. What puts this tool above its lesser versions is the simple fact that it won’t leave a sanding pattern when used correctly. This is due to the motion of the sanding head moving completely random at all times. Regular palm sanders go back and forth or side to side, and so that is what sanding pattern will be left on the stock you are cleaning up with the tool. No matter what your finish, if you use a sander where the motion isn’t constantly random, then marks will appear in the finished product.
Finally, the last tool for your work space is going to be the router. Even the beginner does well to own one. It shapes and molds the wood. It will cut beautiful grooves and patters into the work piece, and can be used for joint work also. If you are all about trim and molding on your pieces, this definitely is the tool for you.
If the money is there, then it’s highly recommended to purchase a combination router. This is a router that has a base that you can change out from a fixed router that doesn’t move, to a plunge router that can make plunge cuts in the lumber. Rest assured that once you start using the plunge side of the router, you will be glad you purchased it.
The router does well on its own, but you will want to eventually purchase or build a router table for it to slip in. This will make routing not just easier, but there are many cuts that only can be made on a router table.
If the woodworking bug has bitten you, don’t fret. Getting a shop or space going so that you can enjoy this excellent pastime is not hard to set up. And with these six major tools, you will be rolling in the shop cranking out projects as your heart desires in no time, even if you are on a limited budget.
About The Author
Ted Leger is a woodworking enthusiast who turned his hobby into a passion. You can find more woodworking tips and advice from him at his woodworking blog, www.WooDesigner.net.