If you know anything about our home, you know that it is not particularly large. The same goes for the plot of land our house is built on – just 3,000 square feet. Since space is at a premium I have had to get creative when thinking about building out my toolkit to get started with fine woodworking. I’ll detail my actual workspace in a future blog post, but suffice it to say that I don’t have a large workshop to store large machines.
I didn’t start from scratch. We’ve been buying tools as we encounter new project challenges. This isn’t an all-inclusive list of every tool I have, rather, it is a list of what I think will be useful in woodworking. Obviously, some of the tools below have synergies outside of pure-woodworking.
Table Saw. This is going to be replaced by something else (see below). I don’t really like this table saw, and I don’t really have the space for a larger one.
Compound Miter Saw. I use nearly every single weekend. This has been useful for doing finish work, as well as a fancy chop saw.
Finish Nailer. This was the first power tool we bought for our board and batten entryway. I also use this nearly every weekend (I’ve probably put 10,000 nails through it). I like this one because it is purely electric, and doesn’t require an air compressor or propane cartridges. The downside is that is struggles driving a 1 3/4” finish nail into hardwoods.
Kreg Jig. We got this to build a chair for our front porch and is useful for joining boards more discreetly with screws.
No. 4 Smoothing Plane. I bought this to trim down the long edge of our front door refurbishment! This was a life-saver at the time, but is not actually a very nice smoothing plane. I plan on making rougher cuts with this plane.
Measuring Tape. A staple for accuracy.
Coping Saw – Useful for cutting out waste from dovetails, etc.
I’m not going to say it was particularly cheap to start this craft, but I also did a lot of reading about how you get what you pay for. I am fairly committed to learning and getting better at woodworking, so I decided to go from middle-of-the-road to higher-end tools.
Another No. 4 smoothing plane for finish smoothing
A No. 5 plane for flattening stock. This is a compromise since I don’t want to spring for a No. 6 + No. 7 plane for this task (I also don’t want to get a thickness planer machine, so I will be doing a lot of flattening by hand)
A low-angle block plane for cutting end-grain
Small routing plane for cutting rabbets
Shoulder plane for forming tenons
A spokeshave for fine shaping
Card scrapers – better than sanding (and way less dusty)
Having gotten so many planes, I needed a way to maintain their cutting edges. This is something one should do when they get a new plane regardless, as even from the OEM the irons are not as sharp as they can get by a 8000-grit wetstone.
220/1000 and 4000/8000 grit Norton wetstones
Honing guide. This is useful since it can keep a consistent angle against the stones, which means you take fewer passes over each stone as you progress, which preserves your bevel and lifespan of your iron for longer.
I don’t have a grinding wheel, nor do I need one (for now) as all of the bevels set by the OEMs will be sufficient for my purposes.
I had a cheaper pull saw I bought at Home Depot that bit the dust over a year ago, and I liked the action of that saw better than traditional American saws that cut on the push stroke.
Some tasks are just easier with power tools. I don’t have the space (or budget) to go all-out here, so no thickness planer or drum sanders for me. I also don’t have the indoor space for a proper table saw with a cast iron surface. These are the additional power tools I purchased:
I got a deal on this Track saw (included two 5.0 Ah batteries + router below) and also got a 55” track. This is what I plan on making a lot of what most people would use a table saw for. The configuration of my workspace makes my traditional table saw cumbersome to use, and not at all accurate. A track saw fits my space better and can get me close enough to joining up panels (with the addition of my hand planers) as well as making some miters and rabbets in longer pieces.
Mini-router. This was a bundled deal with the track saw I bought (so it was “free”), and I needed a router anyway. This is hand-held and with the addition of various cutting heads can give some consistent and nice character to soften sharp edges.
Due to the limited time only deal I got I ended up saving around $160. I assume these types of deals happen fairly frequently, so be on the look out if you are in the market.
Totaling it up, the new tools I purchased cost $1,088. This is obviously an investment, and like most things in life you can really spend as much as you want (top end tools would run you up to 5x). Think seriously about if you want to get into a new craft, and weigh how much you might enjoy it with your budget. This also doesn’t include the tools I have purchased over the past couple of years (probably add another $500, most of which is the compound miter saw).
This post was written for the Collected Eclectic blog.
Collected Eclectic was a passion project focused on recording the process as Grace and Michael van Meurer transformed their builder grade home in to something special.
124 blog posts were published between 2018 and 2021. Explore the complete Collected Eclectic archive here.
Learn more about the project here.