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Which tools for most jobs

8057 Views 11 Replies 9 Participants Last post by  Ralph Barker
I guess this is more of a survey than a question and I am a little confused on establishing my workshop, so I thought I would seek help here.

I have a 12.5 X 17 foot free standing block building with concrete slab floor that I have converted to a "general" workshop. Not a large area by standards of what most of you probably have.

The power equipment I currently own is a router and table, a contractor grade table saw, a miter saw on a Delta collapsable rolling table stand, a power belt hand sander, power vibrating sander, power hand jig saw, circular saw, rotozip tool, recpricating saw, cordless drill, pancake compressor with finish nail and brad guns, and most of the standard type home improvement working tools. These tools have gotten me by for my home improvement type projects, but I would now like to expand further into some occassional hobby type woodworking as well. No large scale projects just smaller items and working on some antique items from time to time.

My question here is: Which tools should I be looking to add to my "general" shop that would be able to handle 95% of a woodworkers needs. I do not want to go over board with every fancy "gadget" out there and would like to learn to use each tool to the fullest of what it is designed to do. Again, my space is somewhat limited as well as my budget. I don't mind mid price and quality range tools as I don't feel the high end tools are justifiable in my case.

What tools do you folks feel necessary to have a somewhat "complete" workshop without going to extremes? Some items that come to mind are a band saw, drill press and possibly a power planer. I'm not sure if these are required per say for a "complete" workshop, but it appears many in the woodworking circles have these as standard tools.

I know the first thing I need to add out there is a knowledge base of a few select books. I am happy to receive recommendations in that dept. as well.

Many thanks to each of you for offering your helpful advice and happy holidays to all.

Bob N
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Bob N,

I think I owe you a post somewhere else.... I'll get to that later......

A lot of what you get for the shop is based on what you are doing in the shop. I feel you can not ever have to many tools but my budget says other wise. When it comes to eating or getting a new tool I still have to go with the eating.....

I wish I had a shop that big!

As far as tools to add, and this list is in the order I would get them if I didn't already have them. Even before the list is a dust collector...... and any safety items you don't have......

1) Jointer (if you only do small jobs maybe a 4" but a 6" is nicer, and I wish I could afford and had the space for an 8").

1) Miter saw (I own 3, what can I say they are great to have..... now if I only had the money for the newer dual laser models.....)

2) Drill press, no shop should be without one.

2) Biscuit joiner

2) Kreg jig

3) Bandsaw (I have a 12" but sometimes I wish for a 14".......)

3) bench type scroll saw

4) Oscillating drum sander (look for one that tilts)

5) 9" to 12" disk sander with belt sander

6) lathe

7) surface planer

7) large drum sander (this is on my wish list)

That should about take care of a months worth of purchases..........

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I agree with Ed on the dust collector. As you can tell from my name, I don't have one. Wish I did. I just bought a band saw and LOVE it.

I am by no means an expert, just started wood working last year, but got a really good (expensive) blade for my table saw and have been able to get by without a jointer so far. If I were to get into unfinished wood, I am sure I would need to get one. It's on my list...
I couldn't do without my jointer and planer. Drill press too.
Hi Bob. Sounds like Ed's list should fix you up pretty well. I would prioritize it a bit different based on the types of projects I work on. Before going after any of the tools buy a big shop vac and some accessories like the large funnel for sanding dust collection, connections for your table saw and router table.
1) 12" drill press. A bench top model works well for most projects. Mounted on a home built stand with casters and storage for your twist drills, forstner bits, sanding drums and perhaps a mortising attachment.

2) 12" or 14" band saw. Price would be the deciding factor for me.

3) 6" jointer. Dont waste your money on a bench top version. The longer tables of floor models make it much easier.

4) 12" planer. Cost goes up on larger models and wont most of the wood you work with start out as 10" or less width? If you are planning on doing anything with exotic woods easily available at Rockler or Woodcraft they are rough cut and need to be planed to thickness.

5) Kreg jig. Even the mini jig will let you easily make pocket holes for repair on antiques. If you will be building cabinets or bookcases go for the big model. It includes the mini in the kit.

6) Miller dowel kits. They are only for edge doweling but will fit where biskets cant and since they penetrate deeper into the wood you get more glue surface lengthwise along the grain. Make sense?

7) 9" disk/belt sander. The reason this is so far down my list is you can always mount your belt sander upside down in a vise. Finish sanding needs to be done with the grain so the disk while a very useful tool is not as important to me as a big selection of belts.

A biskiting tool is nice to have if you will be doing a lot of production glue ups. The biskit functions can be performed using pocket screws and dowels, both of which provide stronger joints. Glues are strong enough to hold the joints. The chief advantage of biskits is in rapid alignment of parts.

A scroll saw is nice for getting into very close angle cuts, I find I dont often need it for my projects.

A wide belt sander is the end of my wish list. Nothing will sand glued up panels so quick and easy. Long boards are sanded in a fraction of the time of any other method. And isnt sanding the most time consuming part of woodworking?

Build an outfeed table for your saw and include lots of storage in the base. A place for cut offs, dowels, hand power tool storage... why waste the space? Cover it with Formica and it can double as an assembly table. Glue comes off easy. How about a storage cabinet to fit under the wings of your table saw? Keep your blades, wrenches, push sticks and jigs handy! Consider building a workbench with a removeable panel to mount your grinder, small disk/belt sander, dedicated mortiser, scroll saw, etc. Build a rack to hold these premounted tools and you have a homemade version of the Tool Dock. When not in use you can drop in a plain panel for more bench space. Or how about making a panel with holes drilled through it, covering it with a non slip sanding pad? Build a funnel and attach your shop vac and you have a nice dust free sanding station. This bench idea is something I am starting to work on. I find I have more small bench tools than I have bench or storage.

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WOW.... You folks are magnificent!

This information is so helpful and I cannot thank you enough. Kindness of gold must run through your veins. Although some of the items you have discussed are still a little greek to my infant knowledge, I plan on researching them so I can relate them closer to my needs. At this time I have not fully defined my needs and total direction, but I do seek a well rounded arsenel that can achieve most of the undertakings that come about as I travel through the days ahead. I do know that with extra effort, some tools can achieve the same results as others in limited ways, thus eliminating the need of having every single tool on the market.

Now that I have this 100 year old house fairly well restored I hope to turn my focus on smaller and more detailed projects in my shop.

One advantage (I think it is an advantage in my case anyhow) is that I can roll most of my tools out my shop door onto an awning covered porch of my workshop and keep all of my sawdust outside. I live in the Atlanta, GA area and our weather here is fairly mild and I can pick and choose the nice days to do most of the sawdust producing work out of doors. A dust control system is on my list, but not as high a priorty as some of the other tools.

I am very excited about returning to woodworking in a much larger way from my small background years ago.

You folks have been so kind and so helpful. Someday as my knowledge increases perhaps I can return your favors to me by helping some other kind soul in my current position.

Many Thanks,
Bob N
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Well.... Based on the kind advice from the good folks here, I got busy with tool shopping and ended up with a table top belt and disc sander as well as a table top band saw. I stayed at the low end of these two items and will upgrade down the road based on need later on. I was really wanting to use the available funds on 2 larger items and I think I have decided on the drill press and the 6 inch jointer.... both floor models and both by Rigid.

I have been doing my homework and find that it is a good brand and the models I choose are of good quality and duty. I hope to go purchase these in the next few days and get to work on my new shop layout. My first projects are going to be a router table and a woodworkers bench. I figure that will keep me busy until warmer weather for sure.

I just wanted to update those that spent the time in sharing their knowledge to advise me on a direction. I hope Santa is EXTRA good to you this year for helping a newbie in need.

Best wishes,

Bob N
A tip of the touque to you people! I just started reading this forum about an hour ago and have picked up a few tips already, GREAT STUFF! :)

I feel like a borrowed a pair of Bob's shoes and I'm pretty much walking the same walk in a slightly bigger toy room. Your tips are great and I think your willingness to help out us newby's is outstanding.

Bob my wife almost bought me a drill press for Christmas, but when she started with the accurate stuff on the salesman he hesitated and she walked, THANK GOODNESS! I looked at the drill press and it was JUNK!
For the same price I found a better drill press on sale (bigger, more rigid, and a Lazer I don't use much) which my wife bought me. :D It's a suprise! :rolleyes: Get one soon, you will wonder how you did without. I have about 5 or 6 hand drills including a 5 amp, 600 rpm (gear reduced), WRIST BREAKER. Trust me you need a drill press!

A book I picked up at Lee Valley is called "200 Original Shop Aids & Jigs for woodworkers" $17.95 US or $27.95 northern peso's (my money :'( ).
ISBN# 0-8069-8929-7 It's full of little things to make your life in the woodshop easier. Great book.

Thanks again to the posters, and good luck BOB!

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Thanks for your kind post and just a quick note to update. In addition to many tools I was able to purchase during the madness sale of the main competitors in my area, a drill press was one of them. I ended up with the floor stand Rigid model and it appears to be a quality machine from eveything I have researched.

Welcome aboard and please hang around with us, we can all have fun and learn from each other.

Thanks for the tip on the book.

Bob N
Bob- Reible gave you a really great list of big items. Some other things you should consider, from my perspective, since I was in your shoes not very long ago with my 20 by 20 shop.
1. Good dust collection and filtration really are a necessity. Get a good book on layout and GROUND the system for saftey. My dust collector and filtration system are both from Jet. I spent roughly $700 in the system. But my finished projects don't have dust bumps.
2. A very overlooked item in a shop is adequate lighting. I've spent about $200 bucks on getting good lighting in my shop and my accuracy has improved dramatically.
3. No mention on how many clamps you own. You can NEVER have too many. :) A Bessy or Jorgenson clamp (both are great products) at various lenghts run from $30 to $45 each. They make great birthday/ Xmas/ Father's Day requests. Especially if the givers realize that they may benefit from the production of your shop. :)
4. You need at least 4 routers, really :). Well tell people that, anyway! For most, two at a minimum suffice, one dedicated for a table (3 HP) if you want to make raised panel doors, and a plunge router (2 HP) for general use. I also own a laminate router that is great for mortising. I haven't acquired a 4th yet, but it would be a dedicated fixed base for doing dovetails, if I decide to go that route in the future.
5. If I could do one thing over it would be to skip the jointer and buy the planer first instead. It's true that a jointer is the ONLY tool that can reliably flatten a board. But I don't buy stock that way. And I have better results on edge to edge glue-ups on my router table, with a straight bit and biskets to align the boards. I've only used my jointer a few times and although its a nice Jet 6 inch model, its become the boat anchor of my shop. I'm really considering selling it.
6. Education! Do you subscribe to any wood working magazines? Bob and Rick do a wonderful job on PBS and I hope their online courses take hold. But, for $40 a year, I have learned a tremendous amount of things just subscribing to a couple of magazines. Technology has changed things dramatically in the past 5 years. So you have some persepctive, I grew up carrying my Dad's tools from kitchen remodel to kitchen remodel. Earned snocone money as a 7 year old, sanding drawers at 5 cents a drawer. :) No kidding! Two drawers= one snocone. At 7, it seemed like a good deal in 1965. LOL. How things have changed.

Anyway Bob, that's my 2 cents worth. May every joint you make fit tight and every project you make for someone be cherished. It's why we do this. :)

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I am pretty new to this hobby, but I have done an incredible amount of DIY, and a respectable amount of metal working.

The drill press.. i want to meet the guy who came up with it and shake his hand. then buy him a case of whatever he liked to drink.
From drilling out a guitar headstock for tuners to fabricating 100 standing quail feeders for a hunter (20 gallon steel drum with 3 legs, each with a hole in the bottom of the leg to secure to the ground with a steel shank), this machine has been my savior.

Miter saw and a way to support long boards.

bandsaw. even the benchtop cheapies make life easier than always trying to use your jigsaw.

table saw. I have got to buy a new one. I own a hand-me-down Skil that has served my dad and I quite well over the last 15 years, but as my dad and I grow into this hobby even more, its limitations are quickly surfacing.

Router. obvious.

Sanding: i own a random orbit and a palm, plus a wide variety of makeshift blocks and rounds. I would love to pick up a disk and drum when the money is right.

As one guy said, the Kreg pocket hole jig is a lifesaver. That plus my bandsaw helped me repair two antique tables the previous owner left at my house when I moved in. My only question.. why the H3LL does it say in the woodworker bible that you HAVE to use those dang square drive screws :mad:

beyond that, a good 18-24v cordless drill, a capable jigsaw, a good reciprocating saw (one of my faves,) as many clamps as you can afford, and sawhorses. You can never own too many sawhorses or clamps.

Oh yes, do not forget quality layout and measuring tools. Especially after doing much metalworking and fabrication, I am a firm believer in purchasing the most accurate layout equipment you are able to reasonably afford.
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Although the thread was started in 2004, the underlying question of "which tools" is probably timeless.

In addition to the "standard" power tools, if find a reasonable selection of hand planes indispensable. Combined with a "shooting board" for trimming stock length/squareness with greater precision, there are few of my projects that don't feel the sharp edge of a plane.
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