Woodworking on a Budget: How to get Started

Woodworking is a fun hobby, but can be expensive as well. With all the power tools, hand tools, shop setups and, of course, the wood, many people are turned off to woodworking because of the impact on their wallets. That doesn’t have to be the case though. With a little pre-planning and inside knowledge, you can set up a basic wood shop and start making your own items without breaking the bank.

There are some basic things every woodworker needs to get started. Assuming you aren't the kind of person that does everything with hand tools, you'll first need a drill. Power drills come in many different styles and price ranges. The popular trend right now is for companies to make cordless tool systems that all run off of the same battery packs, and a drill is often the first tool a person gets in the set. Cordless drills are popular and handy for doing household tasks , such as hanging picture frames; but for serious woodworking, they can lack power and might die in the middle of a job. Corded drills are a less expensive option and often work better for the tasks you'll be doing in a wood shop; just get a cheap extension cord to go with it. You can easily find a corded drill of good quality for about $100.

The second big tool you need is a saw. There are many types of saws, and this can be the trickiest part of setting up a shop on a budget. As a beginner, you'll likely be using woodworking books, magazines and websites for instruction and inspiration. Unfortunately, most of these sources consider a table saw a beginner tool. For those of us on a budget, or with little space, a table saw may not be an option. They cost several hundred dollars to start, and take up several square feet of floor space. Instead, look for a good circular saw that allows you to adjust the depth and angle of cut. It's also nice to have a laser to help guide the cuts. You can get a decent circular saw for around $100.

Right now you're thinking, "but the plans say to use a table saw for this." That's OK , because the great thing about a circular saw is you can turn it into a table saw. There are plenty of videos online showing how to do this, but you are essentially cutting a slot in a piece of plywood, mounting the circular saw to it, and flipping it over. With careful planning you can have a good basic table saw without spending hundreds of dollars, and it can come apart if you need to save space. With that setup you can cut long pieces of wood that you may not be able to brace properly to cut with the circular saw. You can also make more accurate cuts than by holding the circular saw. It can also be used to cut simple dados and to cut a bevel. You do need to be careful, as it won't have the blade guard covering the saw blade anymore.

Those two tools comprise the most basic power tools you need to start woodworking. In addition, you'll need some hand tools. A hammer is an obvious necessity, and can be bought cheaply. A tape measure is a must- have for marking out lengths. A ruler or straight edge is needed to turn your measurements into straight lines for cutting, and can be clamped to a work piece to use as a saw guide. Speaking of clamps, they are important for joining pieces together for gluing, screwing or nailing. Most woodworkers have a lot of them, and you'll never have as many as you need. For now, just buy a few 6-inch and 12-inch clamps and add more as you need them.

That's it. That's all you really need to begin woodworking. Over time you will add more tools to your collection, like chisels, drill bits, a sander and, more clamps; but for right now you should be able to get started on most beginner projects. Don't be afraid to look online for second- hand tools. Old drills and circular saws work well when given proper care. With some ingenuity you can figure out how to adapt most plans to the tools you have available. People have been making wooden items throughout human history, and they didn't need expensive planers, biscuit joiners or fancy jigs. Start learning the craft, see if you like it, and have fun.