Originally Published in Issue 35 of 4Low Magazine
Photos and Story by Eric Anderson
So, you’re thinking about getting into some woodworking, but you’re not sure where to start or what you need. Let me try to point you in the right direction and suggest some tools that I think will give you the most bang for your buck.
The basics: You’re going to need a few basic hand tools. You’re reading this, so I’m going to assume you’ve got a hammer and a drill.
I’ll keep this list to the dedicated wood tools. You’ll need some layout tools, a 4” and 12” try square, plus a 24” framing square. A set of three or four chisels. Small hand saw and a block and smoothing plane. There’s a lot of great videos on YouTube that cover sharpening and tuning your planes and chisels. Again, I call these the basics. You’ll add lots of hand tools to your collection over the years, but you can do a whole lot with what’s here.
Router: I consider this the most versatile tool in the shop and should be your first power tool purchase. Using fences, jigs and templates, and an unlimited variety of tooling you can shape edges, put a straight edge on a board, adjust surface thickness, and create all kinds of joinery. Get yourself something in the 1 1/2hp size and always buy bits with a 1/2” shank when possible. Most of the good tool manufacturers sell a combo kit that gives you a motor, d-handle base, plunge base, and a standard base. That’s totally the way to go.
Track saw: If I was starting out, this is the next thing I’d get. Basically, it’s a Skilsaw that runs in a track; they’re pretty cool. This will allow you to easily and accurately cut down sheet material. The cuts are tablesaw quality, but it’ll take you a bit longer. So what if it does, you’re in the shop to enjoy yourself. The track saw’s big advantages are: it’s fairly cheap, doesn’t compete for space in your overstuffed garage, and is portable. All the reputable tool companies are making a version of this.
Kreg Jig: This is commonly known as a pocket hole jig. I don’t have one of these, but I would for sure if I did more cabinet type work. These things make screwing parts together so nice and easy. You’re going to find yourself making a few basic cabinets and doing some plywood projects when you’re starting out; this will make you cuss less.
Books: Lowe’s and Home Depot have excellent book sections covering beginning to complex projects ideas. Tons of projects with plans and cut lists. Do a few of them, kind of following the instructions, and you’ll soon start seeing how things go together. Before you know it, you’ll be on to your own designs.
Now, go out to your shop and turn big pieces of wood into smaller pieces of wood, and don’t cut no fingers off.
Eric Anderson is a professional woodworker and 4WD racecar driver..