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How to get started when space and budget is an issue...

by Ed_Wilcox
posted 07-10-2013 08:46 AM

25 replies so far

View knotscott's profile


8418 posts in 4459 days

#1 posted 07-10-2013 09:13 AM

The budget issue is best solved with good used tools IMO (if the opportunity arises…watch Craigslist and the classifieds here). Going the route of cheap new tools will yield lesser performance, lower value, and more money wasted in the long run.

The space issue is tougher to tame, and will require some creativity and compromise. All big tools should be on wheels, portable versions may need to suffice, and some things may need to perform double duty. Ie: May workbench doubles as an outfeed table for my table saw. My TS has the router table built into an extension wing. One of the guided circular saw systems may need to play the role of a good TS.

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


17325 posts in 3702 days

#2 posted 07-10-2013 10:12 AM

There are Shopsmith lovers here. I suggest a ‘search’ within LJs will turn up a few. Here a projects tagged woth shopsmith; check for tags in blogs and you may be surprised.

Send them a note and see what they think, good luck, and thank you for your service!

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. - OldTools Archive -

View Gary's profile


9419 posts in 4516 days

#3 posted 07-10-2013 11:56 AM

Someone posted:
My wife and I had words
I didn’t get to use mine

-- Gary, DeKalb Texas only 4 miles from the mill

View Charlie's profile


1101 posts in 3370 days

#4 posted 07-10-2013 12:09 PM

Nobody has asked so I guess it’s up to me…

What do you want to DO with your woodworking tools? What do you want to build? Pretty tough to advise you without knowing that.

That being said…. or asked, as the case may be….

Hand tools are a great option. And a good hand plane doesn’t have to cost $100+. I didn’t pay more than $20 for any of mine except for a big Anant jointer plane that was one of the first ones I bought. A good cleaning, sharpen the iron, flatten the sole if necessary and away you go. The time spent getting to know the tools is every bit as important as the time spent using them.

GET A DECENT HAND SAW. They’re cheap. Doesn’t have to be a gold plated one. I have a mid-sized Dewalt hand saw that I think I got for less than $30 at Home Depot. In my opinion… and it may be worth what I’m charging for it…. who knows… a cheap table saw won’t give you the precision that you buy a table saw for. So learn to measure and cut accurately with the hand saw…


Get a decent circular saw and make some edge guides. You don’t need one of the fancy track saws. They’re nice, but we’re talking budget and space and all that. I’d suggest making at least 2 guides for your circular saw. A 4 ft one and one made to cut a 90 degree cross cut. A sliding miter on one of the fold-up rolling stands is a nice addition for later.

A good drill. I use the heck out of my cordless. It’s a 20v Dewalt. I have a drill press too. A small one. And it’s hard to do what a drill press does best without a drill press, but I got along without one for a long time until space and budget allowed me to get one.

Hand tools don’t have to cost an arm and a leg. And very often you’ll find you can accomplish something by grabbing a hand plane or a hand saw in less time than it would take you to set up a machine to do the job.

Which brings us back to…. what would you like to DO with your woodworking?

View BArnold's profile


175 posts in 2916 days

#5 posted 07-10-2013 12:15 PM

Many years ago, my father had a ShopSmith that he used extensively. His shop space was limited to half of a two-car garage. When he died, I inherited the ShopSmith along with the rest of his tools. I was just starting to do more advanced projects and quickly found that the tablesaw setup on the SS was not going to work for me. It had been fine for my father since her did smaller items. I began to purchase dedicated tools for the convenience and power they provide. So, the bottom line is as with all discussions of this type: decide what you’re going to do in the way of projects, then determine what tool lineup you want.

-- Bill, Thomasville, GA

View Ed_Wilcox's profile


15 posts in 2982 days

#6 posted 07-10-2013 12:59 PM

Charlie, I’m glad you thought to ask, because I didn’t think to mention it. First I have been planning a workbench based on a folding design for myself. Many of the other projects my wife has asked me to do are simple designs. A couple plans from Anna White – a country diner table with bench and an outdoor patio set. Nothing too fancy, but I want to add a little style using dowels and wedges. That way I get some practice and it won’t look cheap.

After those, there are three other projects in the back of my mind that I think will eventually build off of those.

The first would be a coffee table/storage chest we both liked. It was a simple design with a split top that opened on drawer slides. The furniture store wanted $600. No way I’m paying for it when I can build it.

The last two I believe may require a lot more experience. Since I have been quarantined to two little drawers and one medium at the very bottom of the one dresser we share, I want a campaign chest/dresser drawer to match our current bedroom furniture with a couple features added in so that she knows it’s mine.

The third is a one-day-maybe project. I want to convert my mountain-bike into a trike for physical reasons, and if it’s possible, why not build the frame out of wood. I have a wood magazine somewhere that showed how to make an amazing rocker with, not simple, but basic joinery. I believe – one day – I might be able to use the same process to construct a light but solid frame.

It’s a goal to strive for anyway.

View 8iowa's profile


1591 posts in 4845 days

#7 posted 07-10-2013 01:20 PM

Many years ago I started with a few hardware store tools and worked on the kitchen table in our small apartment. You know, at the time I didn’t feel disadvantaged. In ‘83 I purchased a Shopsmith model 500 with the bandsaw and 4” jointer. I only had 1/2 of a small garage to work in.

I suspect that the “inherited” Shopsmith mentioned above was a 500, with it’s small table. There has been considerable improvement in the tool since the era of the 500. Many Shopsmith’s on the used market today are the model 510 with the larger table, two floating tables and connecting tubes. This has transformed the Shopsmith into a big “jig” that can be configured many ways depending on the sawing requirements. With a helper, often my wife, I can rip 4’ x 8’ sheets of plywood.

Take a look at used 510’s, better yet a 520 if you can find one. They often go for under $1000 and often include some accessory tools such as the bandsaw and jointer. If you have any questions concerning a machine that you are considering send me a PM. I’ll be glad to help.

All this being said, Christopher Schwarz and his “Lost Art Press” have “infected” me with hand tool working. I now have a nice collection of older Stanley hand planes that I have re-furbed. The cost was minimal. Even my $9 Ace Hardware backsaw gives good service.

-- "Heaven is North of the Bridge"

View Don W's profile

Don W

20055 posts in 3651 days

#8 posted 07-10-2013 01:26 PM

I’m with knotscott. Good quality tools (especially vintage) can be found resonabley, especially if you don’t mind restoring them yourself. Some are the best quality and many good ones can be bought for the cost of a cup of coffee.

I tend to buy tools when they are cheap (not cheap tools, just good tools cheap), rather than when I need them. I make due with the tools I have had untill a deal comes along.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View Straightbowed's profile


717 posts in 3382 days

#9 posted 07-10-2013 02:01 PM

buy 1 quality tool at a time learn to use handtools and as the money grows so will your choice of tools, if you buy a tool just say a tablesaw buy one that will last if you buy on the cheap it will fold on you when your tryin to do a big project, handtools will make your fit a hundred times better as you learn to use them, lets say you make a box and you just want to glue a bottom in if you use the tablesaw you will make many trips and then you may overcut but with a handplane you can take passesand get a flawless tight fit go the handtool route then your need for powertools will be easy because you will know exactly what you need

-- Stevo, work in tha city woodshop in the country

View Straightbowed's profile


717 posts in 3382 days

#10 posted 07-10-2013 02:09 PM

I started out with a 79.00 delta saw then I thought I really done a upgrade to a 179.00 crapsman will it blew up but my little delta kept on truckin it took me 6 years to get all good heavy tools but now I don’t have time to use them buy good heavy tools or the shopsmith could be your answer I like to build boxes I guess a shopsmith would have been the cats meow for me but I went heavy cause I wanted them to be there when I retire if I live that long craglist has tons of good quality tools and some really good deals and ebay for your handplanes you can get some great deals on the Ebay

-- Stevo, work in tha city woodshop in the country

View crank49's profile


4032 posts in 4055 days

#11 posted 07-10-2013 03:10 PM

A wood bike is definitely possible. The picture in my avatar is a bamboo road bike.

As far as military lifestyle restrictions are concerned I understand because my son has been in the USAF for 20 years and he has had to adapt and come up with mobile shop solutions.

One key is to think multipurpose. Like, a good power drill does more than just drill holes. Get a variable speed, reversing hammer drill and you can drill holes in concrete, wood, or metal and drive and extract screws as well.
Good power tools to handle most situations would be a circular saw, a jig saw, a 1/2” drill, a 2hp (1/2” collet) router with 2 bases, and a random orbit sander. I’d be reluctant to go used for power tools, especially battery powered ones. Don’t forget to budget for bits and blades.

As said before, good used hand tools are a great solution. the older hand tools are almost always better quality than the new stuff in the box stores unless you get into the really expensive tools. For example, a good old Stanley block plane is just as good as, or better than, anything you can buy new for 4 or 5 times the money.

Good set of hand tools would be a couple of planes, a block and a #4 or #5, couple of chisels, a 1/4” and a 1/2”, squares, bevel gauge, good straight edge and/or a steel rule. Note: be sure the graduations on the rule are etched and not just printed.

A Stanley “Sharp Tooth” hand saw, as available at Home Depot for about $12, is one of the few modern hand tools I would rather have than a vintage version. I like the wood handled version that’s about $23, but the plastic handled version has the same blade. A small, fine tooth Japanese pull saw is very handy as well. If you don’t start out with a powered jig saw, a coping saw is cheap and lets you cut curves.

Then there is the work place. If you are in base housing like an apartment you might have to use something like a Black & Decker Workmate. They are really pretty good to have even in a garage shop. They have a built in vise and fold up out of the way when not being used. Could even be stored in the back of a closet. These are often found on Craig’s list.

Finally, don’t forget the clamps. If you are near a Harbor Freight, pick you up a few of their aluminum bar clamps. Then for heavy clamping some pipe clamps can be made any size you need by just adding to the pipe. If you have to relocate, loose the pipe and keep the clamp parts. You can always get more pipe.

View rfusca's profile


155 posts in 2927 days

#12 posted 07-10-2013 03:15 PM

I’ll echo the vintage sentiment – I picked up a number 4,5,6, and 7 hand plane for less than 100 total. Put in a little elbow grease and they’re wonderful. Ebay is practically overflowing with vintage saws.
You may even check out the ‘gems’ at Harbor Freight – some of their items are perfectly fine. Their blue clamps are good and the pocket hole (you did mention Ana White ;) ) jig there is better built and far cheaper than the Kreg.

-- Chris S., North Atlanta, GA - woodworker,DBA, cook, photographer

View a1Jim's profile


118162 posts in 4661 days

#13 posted 07-10-2013 03:18 PM

Hi Ed
Thank you for your service to our country.
I’m not a fan of tools that convert(like Shop smith) from one operation to another simply because once you set up to say saw you need to use a drill press you have to convert over to that tool and then back again to a saw or something else. The other thing deceptive about Shop Smith tools is that there taunted to take up a small foot print in shops but the thing people forget about when considering this type of tool is each accessory has to be stored when not in use.
The other issue is all of those accessories cost ,some almost as much as a free standing tools there suppose to replace. The cost of the main Shop smith plus accessories can cost more than good used tools that may do their prospective job better.
I don’t know what your budget might be or what kind of weight or space limitations are so my best guess is if you can get a table saw and some use hand tools that might be a good start. The type of table saw you could get will depend on what power you will have available ,how mobile it has to be and of course cost. There are some very light table saws that have folding stands that are used on job sites that might work but I must admit they would not be my first choice given the tops are small compared to more stationary saws. A little saw I owned years ago made buy Ryobi had a larger top and was light weight might work too, it was a bt3000 I believe sears sells a newer version,again not my top choice if you had more room in a at home shop. Knotscot has a very good blog about table saws that might be helpful .

After a table saw some basics will help like a circular saw,a hand held jig saw,cordless drill, a router and a few bits, a few clamps,a Radium orbital sander , some measuring tools like : a combination and framing square,6”rule and measuring tape,plus the bench you want to make should give you the most basic start. After you have some basics you can make things like outfeed tables and other jigs and fixtures that are much cheaper to make rather than buy. If I can help with questions feel free to send me PMs and I’ll be glad to help.


View DS's profile


3746 posts in 3504 days

#14 posted 07-10-2013 03:28 PM

Stolen from Steven Covey’s book; Take baby steps… Start with the end in mind.
Add a piece at a time until you eventually get to where you are going.

I set aside a portion of each project’s proceeds to upgrade tools, or my shop space.
I made do with a circular saw and a straight edge before i could afford a tablesaw.
Used tools are a miracle as well. Every few years I get to celebrate a terrific find on a quality used tool that changes the entire dynamic of my shop.

If I’m bidding a job I know will need a speciific tool that I don’t have, I usually add a little wiggle room in the bid to purchase that tool. It’s a great way to expand over time.

-- "Hard work is not defined by the difficulty of the task as much as a person's desire to perform it.", DS251

View fuzzface's profile


69 posts in 2954 days

#15 posted 07-10-2013 03:30 PM

Let me add my 2¢ worth on the Shopsmith. I bought a 512 about 12 years ago. My workshop was confined to a 2 car garage. To the basic unit, I added a jointer, bandsaw and belt sander. During that time I built some very nice stuff, including a grandfather clock, sideboard, blanket chest, sofa table, headboard and dresser. I can tell you that the SS is very well built, and customer service is excellent. As you become familiar with it, you really appreciate the ingenious design. Setups can be a pain, but you learn to anticipate your needs to minimize this. Is it as good as dedicated machinery? Of course not. But the SS is not designed for someone with a 5 acre workshop. It is designed for those of us who have limited space. SS is an excellent way to get a lot of woodworking capability in a small area. For that, I thank them. I recently retired and built a ranch house with a 10 ft walkout basement. I’m in the process of ordering a crapload of dedicated machinery, but the SS will still occupy a corner of the new workshop. I’ll still us it as a lathe, drill press and horizontal borer. Hope this is helpful.

-- I'm a LumberJock and I'm OK.............. I sleep all night and I work all day !!

View Fresch's profile


520 posts in 3004 days

#16 posted 07-10-2013 03:46 PM

I started with a corded, drill, saber saw, circle saw, 3×21 belt sander. Then a Shopsmith ER, Shopsmith 500, and now a Shopsmith 510. Still have them all, if space is the hold back from single tools a Shopsmith can do great work as set up for any tool is about the same.
With the Shopsmith your mind set is more like for high production, set the tool and do that function until all parts have been tooled; then change. Change if doing a one off, with no plan, design as you go could take longer; write down your settings.
I work out of a 12’ x 16’ shed, the Shopsmith 510 or 520 is what you should look for, the TS is much larger and will have in/out feed add on tables.
Look for used, my like new 510 with band saw, biscuit joiner, 4” jointer, lathe tools and parts, dust collector, tons of blades and parts, books…, cost me $800. My 500 with less stuff cost $250 (now a drill press). The ER $125.

If you go Shopsmith look up the models so you know what you are getting.

View Dallas's profile


3599 posts in 3571 days

#17 posted 07-10-2013 03:54 PM

If you are in the Killeen area you are about 90 minutes from me.

I don’t have the greatest shop on this site but you would be welcome to use it and decide what tools would be best for what you want to build.

I might even get you to slab up some trees for your own lumber on the chainsaw mill.

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

View shipwright's profile


8716 posts in 3882 days

#18 posted 07-10-2013 04:14 PM

Shopsmith again, but it keeps coming up because it is a good option if you go the power tool route. Here is a blog I did on my compact, budget shop in Az. It’s worth a look.

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

View shampeon's profile


2167 posts in 3267 days

#19 posted 07-10-2013 04:17 PM

If you are short on space and cash, vintage hand tools are really the way to go. You’ll need to spend a little time getting them back to working condition, but as a beginning woodworker this is the perfect opportunity to learn the basics of sharpening and shaping wood. Every skill you gain here will be transferable to power tools later on, even if it isn’t obvious.

I know some people love their ShopSmiths, but what I’ve noticed is that most of their fans also own other power tools and the ShopSmith complements them, rather than replaces them.

-- ian | "You can't stop what's coming. It ain't all waiting on you. That's vanity."

View 8iowa's profile


1591 posts in 4845 days

#20 posted 07-11-2013 01:33 PM

One of the most curious “objections” to the Shopsmith is that it makes you “plan ahead”. if this is something bad!

There is a difference between “change over” and “set-up”. I can “change over” my shopsmith from saw to drill press in a couple of minutes or less, using one tool, the 5/16” allen wrench.

On the other hand, “set-up” is what you have to do to organize your tool to make a particular cut according to your plans. This can be as simple as adjusting the position of your fence, or in some cases rather complex, requiring test cuts and multiple adjustments. Set-up is a fact of life for both Shopsmith and dedicated tools.

Now I’ll grant you that if I had a 2000 sq. ft. shop with a cabinet saw with in-feed and out-feed tables I could rip that 4’x8’ sheet with a simple adjustment of the fence and save the 15 minutes that it takes me to “set-up” the Shopsmith to do this. But the simple fact that a Shopsmith owner in his 1/2 of a garage can also accomplish this task is pretty neat.

-- "Heaven is North of the Bridge"

View Ed_Wilcox's profile


15 posts in 2982 days

#21 posted 07-11-2013 05:22 PM

8iowa, I have been looking around on Craig’s and Ebay and found a 510 for $800 and a 500 for $400. About how much of an investment do you think it would take to give them the capability of the MK 7… specifically being able to be used as a router?

View Loren's profile


11193 posts in 4731 days

#22 posted 07-11-2013 06:49 PM

You can do a lot with a guided circular saw ( I like the
Eurekazone system because it’s modular, accurate
and investment is incremental), and a plunge router.

A table saw is a convenience but not essential
unless you need to produce repetitive straight
cuts faster.

A drill press is handy but a hand drill can be pretty
accurate if you’re careful.

Curves can be cut with a bow saw. It can resaw
and cut joints as well, but resawing is not so easy
to do well.

A solid work table or bench is almost essential. With
it boards can be flattened, thicknessed and corrected
with bench planes. It’s tricky to get good work done
without a decent bench vise mounted flush with
the bench.

View bandit571's profile


28493 posts in 3767 days

#23 posted 07-11-2013 06:55 PM

Could be worse, I guess. Some of us just have a corner of a cellar to work in

( Now, go check out my Projects)

Went from a Pole barn sized shop ( time shared) to the Dungeon Shop. A few hand tools over the years….

-- A Planer? I'M the planer, this is what I use

View helluvawreck's profile


32122 posts in 3950 days

#24 posted 07-11-2013 07:06 PM

I bought my first basic set of hand tools about 42 years ago for $1000. They were nice tools and I still have every one. Then I bought a basic set of portable power tools one by one. I ended up keeping all of my tools in an old antique wardrobe out on a carport that had a roof over it. Not long after I bought a vice and built a workbench out of 2×4’s and 2×6’s and painted it in case the rain blew in. One side of the carport had a chest high brick wall and the side next to the house was a full wall with the back entry door into the house.. I worked that way for a long time until I closed the carport in and added a table saw, a band saw, a drill press and joiner. All along the way I added more hand tools and portable power tools. I’ve never regretted doing it that way. In fact, I would have had a hard time doing it any other way. Since then we’ve moved to another house and I am fixing to build a stand alone 30×30 work shop and purchase a few more tools and some more machinery.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View Woodknack's profile


13557 posts in 3464 days

#25 posted 07-11-2013 07:53 PM

Yeah, Shopsmiths seem to be love it or hate it which is why they are common on the used market. It wouldn’t be for me, but I’m not very methodical or patient.

Other options would be types of woodworking that don’t take much space like turning or carving.

-- Rick M,

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