If you’re getting serious about woodworking, or buying a gift for someone who is, chances are you’re going to invest in tools that saw, drill, sand and grind. But woodworking tools can be much bigger investments than your standard glue gun or paint brush.
The price tag for these items can range from $40 for a drill that can help with small hobby projects to thousands for a professional grade table saw.
Each woodworker will have his or her own focus and need, depending on the type of projects he or she will be building. If they’ll be hammering away in a garage or woodshed, tabletop machines may be just fine. On the other hand, if they’ll be cutting down trees or trimming large pieces of wood, a cordless chainsaw and cordless drill may be essential.
If you’re planning to start a home wood shop (or buy a gift for someone who is), here are the basic tools to consider. The more one understands about the tools needed for future projects, the more efficient any purchases will be.
Circular Saw or Table Saw?
Both circular saws and table saws allow you to make straight wood cuts, but circular saws are usually handheld and table saws typically come with a large surface area to lay the wood down on to cut. There are tabletop and standalone versions of table saws, which typically allow for different sizes of wood to be cut.
The quality and capabilities range quite a bit between these two saws (from two to four figures), so you’ll want to think carefully before making a purchase. Will you need to cut several planks of wood at the same exact width to build a new backyard deck or just fashion the pieces for an occasional endurable? Sometimes an accessory like a rip-cut can make a circular saw almost as useful as a table saw. Watch Chris Salomone’s video for more insight.
According to Pro Tool Reviews, most DIY cordless drills can be had for less than $150 while professional (or prosumer ones) cost more. But which do you need? Consider some of this topics: How long does the battery life need to be? Are you going to be drilling metal, which will demand a stronger drill, or just plywood?
Compare the torque and RPMs between different models to get a sense of power and speed.
Some drill packages include an extra battery, others with none. If you’re going to also use the drill for driving in screws or routing, you’ll want to check the included and available accessories.
You may not think you need a jigsaw but if you’re a hobbyist who doesn’t plan on making a lot of big wood cuts, a jigsaw may be all that is required, instead of a circular or table saw. Prices can range from $30 to $200 or more for a jigsaw, so you’ll want to check what type of wood can be cut with your potential purchase, given the strength of the motor.
Buying longer blades for the jigsaw may also make it possible to cut bigger pieces of wood.
One of the major advantages of a jigsaw over a table or circular saw is that it enables the user to make curved cuts. That freedom also means the woodworker has to have a steady hand, good experience, excellent guides or all of the above. Watch Outlaw CRS’s video for more details about the differences in jigsaws and their accompanying blades.
While not an expensive tool, orbital sanders pay off well when you need a smooth finish. Sometimes that means sanding down wood to an even plane, like the curved bottom of a boat, or taking down the bumps that can appear on drywall after its been nailed in and spackled over.
Look for a sander that has an extra handle, advises Andy Stevens from Homebuilding & Renovating. This seemingly small addition really helps when guiding the sander to create an even result. Ones with holes can also help with funneling away the sawdust and spackle so the machine doesn’t clog up.
Routers are mysterious tools for a lot of woodworkers. One of the common ways they’re used is creating rounded edges on wood.
If terms like palm router, plunge base router and spiral bits are unfamiliar to you, listen to Jonathan Katz-Moses’ primer on router tips and buying advice. The folks over at Mellow Pine have put together a guide that can help you find the right cnc router for woodworking for your needs. Your requirements may change if you're a hobbyist or a small business.
As you start shopping around, you'll see some routers are easy to place into a router table while others will require purchasing accessories. Confused? A little watching will go a long way.
Biscuit Jointer, Drill Press, Shop Vac
As a beginning woodworker gets more serious, there are many more tools that may make sense to get, but only if the shop is focused on specific types of projects. In the above video, John Malecki lists his top 10 tools for beginner woodworkers, some of which are powered, some of which just make a lot of sense, like clamps.
Bigger tools like a jointer may not be necessary unless the woodworker is planning to employ a lot of rough lumber. A biscuit joiner is great for making cabinets, yet may not be recommended if furniture making isn’t the focus of the creator. A shop vac certainly isn’t the most fun tool to buy, still it’s almost required for any serious wood shop.