This is a section from A Beginners Guide to Woodworking: Helping New Woodworkers Make Better Projects, which is available on Amazon. Over the next couple months, you will be able to read the entire book, and I hope that you like it enough to get tour own copy. Enjoy.
Finding Deals on Tools
You can pace this yourself, but starting from nothing you will surely end up buying your share of tools. This is the same for any other hobby in the beginning. If you look around, you can find great deals on tools that will save you a lot as a beginner, and throughout your woodworking career.
The first place to start is online. The internet is full of quitters, and you can pick up their forgotten hobbies for pennies on the dollar. There are a ton of person to person sales web sites that connect people who are looking to buy with people that are looking to sell.
There are always lots of tool on sites like these, and many times it’s someone who got into the hobby too quickly, and ended up not enjoying it. Now, they have a ton of tools to unload, and are looking for someone to buy them so they can fund their next hobby.
I know of a guy that bought his entire woodworking shop, sold it all when he had to move, bought it all again, and then sold it all again to buy a very high end shotgun for competitive trap shooting.
Every time he bought and sold, it was online, and from people just like him. When he got into the hobby, the prices were great, and when he sold his tools, he got nearly what he paid for them. In this way, he controlled his expenses, and funded his next hobby with the proceeds from the first.
Though I never met the customers, the two people that bought his shops got a great deal. This is the beauty of online person to person selling, everyone gets a deal that they are happy with in most cases.
Search online and see if you can find people in your area that are selling the same tools you need. If you don’t know exactly what to look for, take someone with you that understands tools.
They can spot problems right away, and help you avoid mistakes. Thoroughly test every tool before you buy it, especially power tools. Anyone honest will let you plug in the tool and try it out, and avoid people that do not, no matter the reason.
Another good reason to take someone with you when you go look at tools is that you are meeting someone on the internet, and you have no way of knowing if they are an axe murderer or not.
It’s a good idea to take all the precautions that you can to ensure your safety. A great deal on a tool is not worth any trouble, and sometimes the people you meet online are not the best.
That being said, I have never encountered anyone that was more than just weird, and nobody that was ever really scary. I always have someone with me when I buy or sell, and I look into their ads to see if I can spot any problems before I ever contact them.
Another great place to find deals on tools is second hand stores. There are many stores that take donations from the public and then sell the items for a deal. In cases where tools are donated, they are sold alongside everything else for a great price.
You will have to go through several of these stores to find anything, because most of the time the best tools get bought up fairly quickly. However, a little effort is well rewarded when you find tools for a mere fraction of what they would cost brand new.
When you are in a second hand store, make sure to test the tools out. Talk to the manager before you start making people nervous and running the table saw inside the store, but any place that is worth the time will allow you to make sure it runs before taking your money.
If it works well, and the price is right, you can get a great deal like this.
Pawn shops can have some great deals on tools too, as people cash in their items for money and then can’t collect them before the hold period expires. The store then sells the tools along with everything else in the store, and you can find a deal sometimes.
Check that the tools work, and ask about the return policy in the store. Sometimes, you can get home and something that didn’t manifest itself in the store pops up. You want to have a clear answer before you need to return something and find out that it’s all sales final.
Lastly, some tool sellers also sell second hand items that customers sell back to the store. They may also take consignment pieces from customers, and sell them on their behalf for a cut of the deal.
If your local woodworking store does this, it can be a huge resource. Tool stores know what the tools are supposed to do, and supposed to sound like. They can spot a problem right away. They tend to only accept tools in really good condition, and can spot the ones that are a bad deal before they ever touch their shelves.
If you buy from a tool store second hand, make sure to ask about the return policy, and test the tool in the store before you leave. In the cases of stores that have been around for a while, they have a vested interest in your happiness as a customer.
They will do everything they can to make sure you have a good experience, and they will help you if something goes wrong. They do this in the hopes that you will continue to shop there long after this initial purchase.
Buying tools can be quite an expense in the beginning, but you can find deals in second hand stores, online, and in your local hardware store. Buying tools that are used can be a great way to lower your tool cost in the beginning, and help you fill your shop more quickly.
Avoid scams, and people with bad business practices, and you increase your chances of getting a good deal that will last a long time.
Tool Sizes and Saving Money
Power tools come in a number of sizes, and depending on what you are making, you can save money by getting the size that you need.
Smaller tools are less expensive, and they can also take up less space in the shop, making a smaller area feel less cluttered.
The bigger the tool, the more it will cost. This means that the bigger floor standing units are going to cost more to buy than smaller bench top models.
If you look at what you are making, and you see that you only need the smaller tool to do the same job, then you are wasting money by getting the larger unit.
Instrument makers are a great example of this, because everything they use is on the medium to smaller end. A bench top table saw, thickness planer, and jointer are perfect for them.
The bigger versions are nice too, but the tools will never see anything bigger than medium and small stock, which is perfectly fine to handle on a bench top model tool. Also, an instrument maker can cram an entire shop into a small space, and still have enough room to produce good work.
Look around and check out bench top models of the tools that you are thinking about buying. If the tool has the capacity that you are looking for, it can be a great deal that can save you money on tool costs.
What Your Tools Can Do
After you have your first round of tools, make sure that you know everything that your tools can do before you buy more of them. It can be a little hard in the beginning to understand everything that your tools are capable of.
With the right jigs, some tools are practically magicians, and can do all sorts of things that you might not think of at first. Knowing what your tools are capable of can help you lower your tool costs.
If you do some research, you will discover that certain tools can have jigs made for them that allow the tool to do more than it normally does. Some can also be adapted with jigs to perform different tasks as well. If you know this before you buy anything, you can make better decisions.
For example, if you are going to buy a router, you may not need to buy a jointer. A router can be set into a table and used as a really nice jointer. It can also be set up on a jig with a flush cutting bit and a straight edge to joint the ends of boards.
Either way, the router works as a jointer for smaller to medium thickness boards. The best part is that if you really only need a jointer for a couple small things here and there, you can make the jig in the shop and save a lot of money over buying another big tool.
Also, a router and a flute bit can be used instead of a dado blade set on the table saw. This works the other way as well. If you have a table saw and you need to make dadoes or rabbets, you can do that without buying a router for most flat work.
If you look around online, you can find tons of jigs that people have mode for their tools, and they are all meant for a specific operation. Most of these people show how they made the jig, as well as how it works.
The woodworkers that make jigs increase what their tools are capable of by making these attachments, and they also create work that is more accurate and repeatable.
Look at videos of handmade jigs for the tools that you are interested in learning about. Then, see what people are making and using. If you spot a jig that can do the process you are thinking about doing, look into making that jig for the shop.
Also, the more you understand about the tools you have, the better you can use them safely. When it comes to buying more tools, you will already know that you can’t do the job with what you have in the shop, and that the tool expense is worth it.
This is why it’s so important to know what your tools can do before buying more of them.
Setting Up Your Tools
Oddly enough, tools do not come set up correctly right out of the box in most cases. They need squaring, honing, and setup, which help them perform their best. If you skip this part, your tools may never perform as well as they possibly could.
Thankfully, it only takes a short while to give each tool its best opportunity to shine.
Nearly all larger tools will need some squaring or setup before you can start working with them.
On saws, squaring the fence to the blade is very important, because you will get the most accurate cuts. A poorly squared fence allows for the piece to wiggle, and in really bad cases can pinch after the cut. This is dangerous, and also leads to measurements that are never really accurate.
Drill presses need to have their table tops squared to the drill head before use. Most come really close, but you can spend a few minutes with a simple jig made from a stiff wire that will ensure you are drilling perfectly perpendicular to the piece. After all, that’s the reason you bought a drill press, so you might as well get what you already paid for.
Routers need to have the plate loosened, and then aligned with a centering pin that you can find in most bushing or collet kits. This moves your router plate to the exact center of your machine.
While this is not important for some things, if you are working with a router inlay kit or collets and templates, having the plate perfectly centered will become very important when you start noticing that things aren’t fitting like they were supposed to.
Edged tools are another category that benefits from some setup work before you actually start using them. An edged tool will be sold sharp, but not honed in most cases, even the expensive tools.
The tool will be sharp, but it needs to be honed to a really fine edge in order to get the best performance from it. Follow the instructions on the tool for the best honing practices, and you will love working with the razor edge that you create.
If you spend a little more on your edged tools, they will be much closer to usable right out of the box. The really low end stuff will have to be worked heavily to create a nice straight edge, and then honed razor sharp.
A well made edged tool will already have a straight, sharp edge, and will only require honing.
Also, look at the adjustments that are on the tool, and make sure that they are set correctly. Sometimes, a clamp or a lock is not set well, and it can make the tool work improperly when you go to use it.
A notable example is on a router table with a side switch. In order for the side switch to work, the router has to be turned on as well. If you start it up with the side switch alone, it will seem like the tool does not work.
In reality, the side switch only allows power to the router. If the router switch is off, the power never reaches the motor, and it looks like you have a bad tool right out of the box.
Lastly, don’t skip on these steps because you are excited about getting a new tool into the shop. Everyone has the new toy jitters when they get a new tool, but it’s worth the time to set it up well before you start.
You will have a much better experience, a much safer experience, and you will give your tool the best chance to perform as advertised. Be careful during these operations. Be sure to unplug the tool and make it safe before you adjust anything or make any changes.
Check Your Tools Before Use
It’s a good habit to check your tools before you start using them. This is a simple safety check, and you are looking for frayed wires, loose fittings, and anything else that can make the tool unsafe. It’s important to be safe in the shop, and it starts with inspecting your tools.
Even on new tools, inspecting them to ensure that they are all set up correctly is a quick way to help avoid injury. If you see something on your inspection that needs to be addressed, do it before you use the tool.
Follow all safety guidelines when performing maintenance, and do not use the tool until you get it into safe condition again.
All tools benefit from inspections, as you can spot problems while they are small, and fix them before they get too expensive.
If you can catch something like a frayed wire and fix it at that point, you can avoid an expensive electrical short that can potentially burn out the motor, which can be costly to replace.
Listen to your tools, because they will tell you when something is wrong. If your tool all of a sudden sounds different than it used to, it’s an indication of a problem. Do what you can to solve those problems when they are small, and they will cost you less money in the long run.
Power Tools Save Time
The only real difference between a power tool and a hand tool is the time that it saves the woodworker. For nearly every power tool, there is a hand tool equivalent, and you can get similar results with slower progress.
Since power tools are so much more common now than they were years ago, you can many times get a power version of a hand tool for not much more money.
In fact, some older hand tools are becoming the stuff of nostalgia now, so they can be even more expensive than a power tool sometimes.
In general power tools save time, and they can be more accurate than hand tools. The process are cleaner, and the results are better in many cases. You also reduce fatigue when working with power tools, and this can lead to a more productive time in the shop.
There are already a few dozen books that detail all of the tools and what they do. This is a shorter list, and a description of what the tools are mainly used for in a woodworking shop. It’s a good way to start thinking about what you need to get for your shop.
Part 15 – Wrap Up
I hope you liked Part 15 of A Beginners Guide to Woodworking: Helping New Woodworkers Make Better Projects. As you can see, this is a different kind of beginner woodworking book, and I encourage you to get a copy for yourself so you have it all in one place.
- More than 20 Years Woodworking Experience
- 7 Woodworking Books Available on Amazon
- Over 1 Million Words Published About Woodworking
- Bachelor of Arts Degree from Arizona State University
I receive Commissions for Purchases Made Through the Links in This Post. Join My Woodworking Facebook Group