My brosef (brother) in law is on board with starting some woodworking. So I'll share what I know as to what you most likely need to get started with a few tips. I am not a master woodworker but I love it.

Table of Contents

Budget-Friendly

This is a very budget-friendly guide. There is very little reason to spend far more with tools that have all kinds of extras you won't use for years if at all. There are a lot of things you don't need also.

I would advise shopping at a store like Harbor Freight if one is nearby for the best price. Even a Marketplace for used tools like Facebook Market. Although I love Lowe's and Home Depot, I suggest only buying lumber from the ladder two.

You don't need to pay a ton of money for things, and your tools will last a very long time – you'll accumulate enough over time.

You Don't Need All Tools To Start

You only need a few basic tools, and the rest can come over time. I'm going to pretend (Like with brosef in law) that you are going to first learn by making a work-stool for your garage shop as a hobby. Not complicated, but you can get creative!

So with that said, this doesn't include materials which in the aforementioned note would likely be three 2x4's, Wood Glue, and perhaps some screws at most.

1.0 Safety

Safety is extremely important. I know this is probably the most boring thing to consider but realize that you are going to use power tools. Such tools have sharp blades and can rip through solid wood at speeds of 5,000 to 10,000 RPM. it's extremely important to use safety gear. Even the best professionals injure themselves due to overconfidence, and these can be very bad.

1.1 Eye Protection

You should always use eye protection, all the time no matter what. This is affordable (under $10) and could save your eyes. From sawdust to wood chips flying! Believe me, you never want a stray piece of wood no matter the size flying in your eyes!

1.2 Gloves

This can be debated, as gloves could be considered a hindrance in some cases. I strongly recommend them. You can get a Kevlar pair easily from $8 to $20. The best protection would be Chain Mail. It may sound crazy, but I would much prefer chain mail and keep my fingers if I were distracted. Having cut myself on multiple occasions (without any gloves), I currently use Kevlar but Chain Mail would be preferred since it's the strongest option and does not have as likely of a possibility of being pulled off your hand.

Injury from a Blade

Also, pay attention to the direction a blade might spin. Table saws have the teeth pointing away from you and it spins away from you. This means your fingertip is very likely to bounce off with serious damage, but not as bad the other way around.

Now consider a Miter saw. The blade has teeth facing you and it spins towards you which in theory could pull a hand inward and cut far worse. However, with a guard in place and the fact that releasing the Miter saw will stop it and lifting it very fast means it will not keep spinning as a table saw will.

1.3 Ear Plugs

Over time if you do no wear protection such as earplugs or ISO certified ear muffs you can lose or harm your hearing from the loud noises. Young or old, I advise highly considering the use of ear protection. At the very least get the earplugs, I prefer ear muffs now.

2.0 Tool: Most Important, The Saw

This will be the most expensive item you buy. Some would argue to get a table saw but I see it as more dangerous to begin with. A miter saw is much easier, quieter, and pleasant to work on – In my opinion. I would suggest spending between $100 and $200. I don't see a reason to go higher. I'm assuming you have some sort of table to place it on to make it sturdy.

  • Features To Ensure:
  • Protective Fence: This is a plastic cover that folds and unfolds when moving the saw up and down.
  • Blade Size: I find a 7" blade works perfectly for me. Bigger blades will just cut deeper if you happen to need to cut that deep, which is probably unlikely.
  • Swivel: Saw can swivel left or right 45 degrees (One way is fine).
  • Tilt: Saw can tilt horizontally 45 degrees (Usually one direction).
  • RPM: This is the Rotations per minute of the blade, it will say on the box. I'd say anything over 2500 RPM will do all of your needs. A table saw usually spins 5000 RPM with a 10" carbide-tipped blade.

3.0 Tool: Jig Saw

These are very inexpensive and replace the need for band saws. Look to spend $15 - $35, and no more. It is a fairly safe tool that cuts away from you with a small long blade. This can fix small mistakes, do plenty of tweaks, work with creative jigs and even cut curves that takes practice.

4.0 Tool: Drill or Driver

You, of course, need a power drill, or driver. Both being very similar, if you already have a household drill you can use this or you can get a driver which is far more effective with woodwork.

I always recommend two batteries in case one runs out you can swap it and charge the other. I would spend no more than $60 on one of these. Keep in mind that a standard drill will do just fine and a driver is not the same as an impact driver, nor a hammer drill. You do not need either of those at this time.

5.0 Tool: Sander

A power sander will save countless hours of the mundane task of smoothing out your precious projects. You can keep it simple with something like a circular sander, or even an oscillating tool with a sander attachment. Almost all modern sanders are using velcro to attach sandpaper to it. The sandpaper has holes to vacuum most of the dust into a bag in the rear. I would suggest no greater than $35 at most.

  • Sandpaper
  • Grit: The lower the number the rougher the grit. Meaning, a 40 will sand more away with less smoothness than an 80 grit.
  • Basic Sanding: The least I would sand is once with a heavy grit such as an 80, and end it with a 120 which is fairly fine. This can get a lot more precise but in starting you shouldn't fret over this.

6.0 Tool: Shop-Vac

You will get dusty whether you want to or not. It's not time nor necessary to invest in a serious dust collecting solution, especially if you can work with the garage open.

I recommend a Shop-Vac with at least 2.5 horsepower, yet I'd push for 3-5 HP for superior results. The size of the vac bucket is not crucial, later on, you'll learn that you can use a makeshift middle dust collector of a full-size bucket without collecting any dust inside the shop-vac; Thereby, you will not to to clean off the air filter.

7.0 General Must-Have Tools

Many affordable tools that will make working with wood much more enjoyable. Here's a list, and these, in my opinion are all must-haves and they are all very cheap.

  • Writing; Pencils, Chinese Markers, and/or even permanent marker.
  • Tape Measures; English and Metric Units. I'd grab two.
  • Speed Square; (est $4 to 15) – This is a Triangle piece (plastic or metal) and has infinite uses. A standard for so much!
  • Level; (est $4 to $15) – Keep your cuts leveled and anything hanging evenly.
  • Apron; (est $3-15) - Due to the dust.
  • Clamps; These hold your project together when gluing. Perhaps two that stretch 12-24 inches, and two smaller 6-inch ones.
  • Wood Glue; It will bond stronger than the wood itself.
  • Hex Set; in English and Metric, these are "L" shaped tools. You may just need them to adjust something obscure.
  • Wrench; A very adjustable wrench, a set if you so desire. I prefer using flexible wrenches.

These are what I recommend but they are certainly OPTIONAL

  • Pocket Hole Jig; Primarily for furniture screw holes. These can be pricey.
  • Mini-bins/Organizer for various screws.
  • Drill Bits; Drilling holes for your screws will prevent wood from splintering. It also makes it possible to drill near an edge safely without cracking the edge.
  • Face Mask; This is a safety-related item but not required. If you have trouble breathing or spend many hours in a closed environment with air being recycle then you need something. At bare a face mask will suffice.

Overall Cost

I do not think you should spend over $250 if possible. I think $350 at a maximum is reasonable, but any higher is pushing it when it's not necessary as a beginner.

Always remember, you can and will get more tools over time as needed. This is a basic recommendation to start creating projects and bringing out the wood-smith within.

I did not mention materials such as stains, paints, or shop brushes intentionally. These will come once you are ready to finish your first project or clean-up the work-space.

Happy Wood Working

You are as good as your next project, the most expensive tools won't make you great but your skill and passion will.