11 entry level tools you need to buy to own a wood shop.
Okay so now I've lured you closer with the tool nography you see before you...
Let's get down and dirty here.
If I were starting out again, let's say I was robbed, the insurance company paid out and I had to go shopping to replace everything. I'd buy everything you see in this list.
Whether you can afford to go shopping and buy everything on the list in one hit (wow)...
If, like the rest of us, you need to spread it over a few christmases.
There's no getting around it. You need every one of the tools listed here if you want to be able to make most things in your shop. You'll need a few hand tools too but we'll get to that...
The key decision is this:
1. Do you, buy secondhand or reconditioned tools?
2. Do you buy entry level but brand new tools with a warranty so WHEN they fail, you get a new one?
3. Do you save yourself from having to buy any more tools in future by buying the best you can afford now and get it over with?
I'm a firm believer in option 3.
I actually did option 2 but, I think that if I had to start again, realistically, I'd end up choosing option 1. Reconditioned tools.
I like the idea of buying tools that have been reconditioned by the manufacturer.
As long as I get a warranty and the price is cheap enough to justify buying a tool that has been owned by someone else before, I'm in.
As you can probably tell, I've been a Dewalt fan for a while. They've served me will over the years and I know what to expect when I buy one. I guess I'm a creature of habit. If I have a positive experience, I go back for more.
Don't get me wrong, I own tools by most major manufacturers and honestly, bad experiences are few and far between.
There is one golden rule that seems to be particularly true when investing in power tools.
YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR
Don't forget, your tools are an investment... They pay you back because you can make things and sell them or because you can do things for yourself rather than pay others to do them for you. Either way, tools are a plus, a good investment.
I also believe that, much like the cars we drive, if you look after them, they look after you.
If you throw your tools around the shop when you're in a rush...
A. Expect to lose limbs that way, and... Here's a link to a good first aid kit, you'll need it at some point so might as well get it out of the way...
B. Don't be surprised when your tools break and let you down when you need them most.
You've been warned.
So which of the tools above, get used the most.
There's one simple answer to that question...
My Dewalt DW734 table saw is used literally, every time I make anything. It is the workhorse of my shop and by far the most valuable tool I own. Being a garage wood shop. I have a Dewalt contractor table saw with a 20" rip capacity. It makes a lot of noise and I've made improvements over the years but I wouldn't change it.
The one thing you want to do and can't with a contractor saw is insert a dado kit because it simply doesn't have the power. It's no biggie, It just takes longer to nibble away 1/8 inch at a time. you'll want to buy an FTG blade (Flat Top Grind) because normal combination blades have angled teeth (ATB Alternate top bevel), not something you want for cutting a dado or groove.
Next up has to be the router combo kit. there are sooooo many jobs you simply wouldn't be able to do without a router. That tool would probably be number 2 on my shopping list and you'll need a decent selection of router bits to start you off. You'll buy many over the years but something like the Freud 91-100 13-piece set will get you off the ground.
Next I'd spring for a jointer. I own the Ridgid JP0610 6-1/8" jointer. It takes an hour to change blades and you'll be doing that fairly regularly but that's to be expected of an entry level machine. It's a lot faster though with the help of the snap check from igaging. On the plus side, set up properly this little machine will turn a cupped, warped or bowed piece of hardwood into a perfectly flat piece with no effort at all. It's a joy to use once it's set up properly.
Next up, I'd have to say that the first machine, I bought that really started to speed things up in my shop was my Dewalt DW734 thickness planer. There are very few things that I can do that give as much satisfaction as running a piece of stock through that machine and getting a perfectly flat and perpendicular piece out the other side. A set of 3 new blades are easy to change and available from most hardware stores for around $50 a set. Don't bother trying to sharpen them, it won't work and you'll waste your time. This machine can trim off a few thousandths of an inch per pass. It's that accurate and it teaches you a lot about wood also.
Mine taught me that if I run stock through bowing down, i.e. the cutter head is skimming off the convex side of the stock, it removes stress in the wood and it starts to flatten out. Yup, you can run a long piece of stock through your thickness planer and although it's a uniform thickness, it'll still be bent. You can straighten out that cellular stress by cutting away the convex side of the board.
Next up, you cant really finish most pieces without sanding them can you.
I sand everything from 180 grit to at least 320 grit before applying a finish. the DWE6423K is the perfect starter machine for the Home Based Wood Shop, in my opinion. It's versatile, plenty powerful, dust collection is superb and the hook and loop sanding sheets for it are available everywhere. I strongly recommend Klingspor stearate disks because they out last everything else and if you can buy in bulk, they are way cheaper too.
Next is the Miter Saw. Take a look at our Miter saw review right here for our advice on the perfect miter saw for the small shop.
You want something like the Bosch or the Festool (ideally) because they take up less space. They don't need to step away from the wall because of their ingenious design features and the quality and accuracy is everything you could ever hope for.
I'll stop there for now because this wasn't supposed to become a review of every tool in the shop.
If you'd like hints, tips or advice on any of the tools we recommend here, write a comment below and we'll get right back to you right away.
Tomorrow, we'll talk health and safety. See you then...