Which Woodworking Tools to Buy First?
I began woodworking in 2005. At the time, I lived in a 24' x 24' mobile home located right next to a remote airstrip. I had no shop, no garage, and commuted 105 miles roundtrip every day to work. I knew I wanted to build stuff in the evenings, but did not have much time and really wasn't sure what I wanted to make. I figured I would use the front patio as my workshop. I chained the new tablesaw to the porch post and started cutting. By year two, I started making sculpted rocking chairs. By year 8, I was in my 4th shop (none were fancy). I'll start building the newest shop here in Alaska this Spring.
I've been at it for 10 years now, mostly as an avid hobbiest and remodeler. I sell things occassionally and have a website. I completed a major kitchen cabinets-bath-flooring-ceilings-windows-electrical-deck-yard-shop remodel on our old house in Idaho last year.
My tool buying has slowed considerably in recent years. I now own most everything I need. I have never been interested in collecting tools. I simply buy good tools and put them to use. I give away those that gather dust. All in, I figure I have invested $30,000 in tools over 10 years. Always paid cash.
Below is a list of tools I currently own (or have owned) and use regularly, organized in the order they were purchased or received as gifts.
SKYE'S TOOLS LIST
Bold Text indicates a reliable tool and a solid purchase.
Red Text indicates the best tools I own, always a joy to use. These make woodworking more fun.
Block Plane - Stanley Low-Angle w/ Adjustable Mouth #STA12-960 <-- High quality, low cost
Palm Sanders - Porter Cable 5" Random Orbital Sander <-- I'm on my 4th one of these
Circular Saw - Skil 7-1/4" Mag77 worm drive <-- Reliable, heavy, construction site standard
Table Saw - Grizzly left-tilt contractor-style w/ cast iron wings, 110/220v, 2 hp #G0576
Miter Saw - 12" DeWalt #DW708 Sliding Compound Miter Saw (gift from Alan)
Miter Saw Stand - Ryobi steel tubing <-- Awesome, no longer made, rare quality from Ryobi
Router - Porter Cable #690 fixed base/plunge base combo kit
Spokeshave - Lee Valley Flat Spokeshave #O5P32.51
Jigsaw - DeWalt DW318 <-- Total crap tool, buy Bosch jigsaws
Sharpening Jig - Lee Valley Mk.II Honing Guide
Shoulder Plane - Lie-Nielsen O1 Steel Medium #1-042 <-- Performs a specific task well
Tenoning Jig - Delta Deluxe Universal for table saw <-- Just like Norm
Drill Drivers - DeWalt 18v XRP 3-speed drill <-- Way too heavy, gave it away
Shavehorse - Built a Brian Boggs style horse in white ash <-- See FWW Issue #139
Water Stones - Norton 1000g/4000g combo, 250g Norton <-- Keep submerged in tupperware
Air Filtration - Jet 3-speed Air Filtration unit w/ timer #708620B-AFS1000B
Air Nailers - Porter Cable 18g Brad Nailer and 16g Finish Nailer (gift from Alan)
Compressor - Porter Cable CFFN2511 135psi portable pancake style
Bandsaw - 17" Grizzly #G0513 <-- A lot of saw for the money, 131-1/2" blades
Workbench - Built a Roubo in Doug Fir w/ traditional screw leg vise & 10" Columbian vise
Smoothing Plane - Veritas #4 (gift from McBeans) <-- Great tool, better than L-N
Spindle Sander - Delta BOSS benchtop model <-- I never use this tool
Portable Vacuum - Rigid 4.5 gallon ProPack <-- Indispensable, perfect size for on-site work
Rasps - Dragon brand, coarse and fine <-- Great cheap rasps from StewMac
Chisels - Stanley Sweetheart set <-- Well balanced, enjoyable to use, well priced
Clamps - Wetzler #412 <-- Best clamps ever made, eBay only, no longer made
Clamps - Bessey 12" x 5-1/2" heavy duty <-- Second best clamps ever made
Clamps - Bessey tradesman professional series F-style bar clamps <-- Great all around clamps
Clamps - Pony #37HD1 <-- Great all around clamps, affordable
Clamps - Irwin QuickGrip <-- Buy only the smallish ones
Drill Press - 15" Rigid floor standing model #DP1550 <-- Pretty good quality, no complaints
Belt Sander - 4" x 24" Porter Cable Variable Speed #362V <-- Workhorse, loud, strong, effective
Rabbet Block Plane - Lie-Nielsen rabbet block plane
Card Scrapers - the medium-hardness kind <-- Required for any furniture maker, saves time
Jack Plane - 14" Lie-Nielsen Low Angle Jack #1-062
Planer - 13" Rigid 3-knife Cutterhead Benchtop Planer #ZRR4331 (gift from Alan) <-- Blew itself apart
Dado Stack - 8" Freud Professional Dado #SD208
Jointer - 6" Jet Gold Series jointer #JJ6CSX
Nippers - 6" Channelock End Cutters #356 <-- Use these all the time, never would have imagined
Miter Gauge - Incra 1000SE
Wet Sharpener - 10" Grizzly Wet Grinder #T10010 <-- Useful, but not that fun to use
Planer - 12-1/2" Porter Cable 2-knife Benchtop Planer #PC305TPR <-- Bought used $100, good tool
Compressor - Hitachi EC12 portable hotdog style compressor
Framing Nailer - Hitachi NR90AE
Framing hammer - 18" Stiletto titanium framing hammer <-- Makes hammering nails fun again
Wide Belt Sander - 16" Jet #16-32 wide belt sander w/ stand (gift from John)
My 2nd shop. I built my first two rockers here. Pullman, WA
Suggestions to New Tool Buyers
Power Tools - For the mid-budget buyer, stick with Jet, Bosch, and Makita. You will be very happy.
First Purchases - Table saw, Planer, Rough-cut lumber.
Hand Planes - Stick with Veritas. And buy new hand planes - they are way better than the old Stanleys.
Workbench - Build yourself a split-top Roubo style bench from construction lumber.
Workshop - Work outside, out of direct sun, as much as possible.
Do Grizzly Tools Suck or What?
No, they don't all suck. You get what you pay for. There are good Grizzly tools and bad ones. Grizzly's very large, commercial tools are super nice. Their entry-level machines are lousy. A few good choices for the woodworker exist: the large stationary thickness planers, the larger bandsaws, the helical-head jointers, and the cabinet saws that sell for >$1000. Grizzly does well with big, simple tools that don't require finesse or daily adjustment.
What Would I Do Differently?
1.) Should have bought a Powermatic cabinet saw first thing, even though I couldn't afford one at the time.
2.) Spend more money on wood, less on tools. Find local sawyers and mills. Use locally-grown woods.
3.) Take a chairmaking course from Curtis Buchanan early on.
4.) Vertical-stacking auto mechanic-style tool cabinets in tandem with a traditional wall cabinet work best.
5.) Diamond sharpening plates are the best way to sharpen hand tools and blades (Dia-Sharp, EZE-LAP).