Basic Workshop

  • Advertise with us

« back to Focus on the Workspace forum

Forum topic by CM_2016 posted 07-27-2016 07:22 PM 1671 views 1 time favorited 25 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View CM_2016's profile


13 posts in 1876 days

07-27-2016 07:22 PM

If you are going to be starting from scratch, and don’t have much cash to spend, what basic tools would you recommend for someone who wants to be able to handle everyday maintenance around a house, and maybe a few small DIY furniture projects from time to time?

I am going out on my own soon away from my father’s supply of good power tools and such and would love to hear what you all recommend as the necessities.

-- Greatness is a lot of small things done well everyday- Ray Lewis

25 replies so far

View jwmalone's profile


768 posts in 1862 days

#1 posted 07-27-2016 07:33 PM

Look at your fathers stuff, see whats used most or what you borrow most. You have to have a skill saw, can be very versatile. Some layout tools are a must have. And a first aid kit. A good hammer. To start out you can improvise almost every thing, do it by hand and slowly add to the collection. 20 years and thousands of dollars later then the right way of doing it will come to you. Ask anyone they’ll tell ya.

-- "Boy you could get more work done it you quit flapping your pie hole" Grandpa

View Mark Shymanski's profile

Mark Shymanski

5623 posts in 4872 days

#2 posted 07-27-2016 07:38 PM

Hammer, saw, screw drivers of the common variety and sizes, pliers, and a good supply of elbow grease would be a good start. Stay on good terms with your father so you can borrow tools until you can afford to buy your own :-) would be a tactic I would use also, LOL!

-- "Checking for square? What madness is this! The cabinet is square because I will it to be so!" Jeremy Greiner LJ Topic#20953 2011 Feb 2

View KelleyCrafts's profile


4599 posts in 1899 days

#3 posted 07-27-2016 07:46 PM

Definitely look at your father’s most used gear. The other posts are good, also you will need a drill and some bits. Can’t think of many projects around the house where you won’t use one.

-- Dave - - pen blanks - knife scales - turning tools

View MikesProjects's profile


172 posts in 3062 days

#4 posted 07-27-2016 07:53 PM

Skill saw, jig saw & plug in drill, 50’ extension cord, saw horses , All these can be purchased at walmart on a budget…Skill makes good budget friendly tools, Ryobi is also good if your on a budget…...... maybe a table saw & maybe a belt sander… Now an air compressor & nail gun would be considered intermediate woodworking, you asked for Basic. You can make workbenches, carts, sawhorses & more shop furniture with these basic tools. For the first 6 years of my adult hood I worked out of a shed.
Being on a budget stick with plug in tools, they should last a long time where battery power cost money over time. Ryobi makes a decent 18v battery drill if the budget allows. Don’t get caught up in buying the best of anything as some may suggest. As the years pass and tools are replaced only then should they be upgraded. Your father may have doubles he could kick down. I moved out when I was 19 years old & bought these basic tools myself from walmart. I remember the skill brand jigsaw saw 19.99, the skill brand circular saw was 29.99 & the plug in skill drill was 19.99., I too was on a budget. Today I make a living doing wood working, lol

-- -Mike, Southern California, YouTube User ( Give & Take )

View Kirk650's profile


741 posts in 1908 days

#5 posted 07-27-2016 11:19 PM

I was making small rather crude wooden stools with the most basic of hand tools. Then, for Christmas, my wife got me a Ridgid fold up table saw. Things got out of hand after that. I got a bench top band saw, a bench top drill press, made a small simple collapsible router table. Then a bench top jointer and then a bench top planer. All that was in the garage. It all started with the table saw. Now I have a nice workshop with probably 20% more tools than I really need.

That said, my early woodworking mentor had taught high school wood shop for 35 years. He did amazing things with not that many power tools. He had jigs made for everything, and could do unbelievable things with jigs and his router. I used to marvel at his jigs and wondered how he even came up with the ideas.

View JBrow's profile


1368 posts in 2080 days

#6 posted 07-28-2016 02:35 AM


It sounds like my son is pretty much where you are in terms of tools. He had none and now needs some. However, unlike you, he has no interest, at least at this time, in developing furniture making skills. On those occasions where he has a furniture type project, we spend bonding time in my workshop. Here has been my advice to him geared toward home repairs and improvements.

1) A multiple piece set of wrenches and pillars (~$50 – $75)

2) A set of screw drivers (~$20)

3) A set of spring clamps (~$10)

4) A Ryboi (Home Depot) Combo 18 volt cordless kit. His includes the drill/driver, flashlight, reciprocating saw, circular trim saw two Li batteries and charger. Ryobi is affordable and range of other tools not included in the kit can be purchased as needed at a later time. (~$200)

5) A sliding compound mitre saw with stand. He found good value buying a Kobalt (Lowes) saw and stand (~$350)

6) As a project comes along requiring some tool not in the arsenal, include the price of the tool in the project budget and buy the best tool possible on the budget.

View Dustin's profile


707 posts in 1900 days

#7 posted 07-28-2016 01:29 PM

I only saw it mentioned once by Jbrow, but I’ll second the reciprocating saw.
I worked as a tradesman for 4 years, and always used my recip. saw from my work tools around the house. When I left that job (and that tool behind), I replaced my drill and impact driver, but didn’t think I’d miss the saw.

I was way off.

It’s one of those things that when you need it, you REALLY need it. If you plan on doing any sort of demo, or work on railings/fences, it’s pretty invaluable. If you’ll be doing this kind of stuff but only occassionally, you might make do with a hacksaw, but be prepared to get a workout.

-- "Ladies, if your husband says he'll get to it, he'll get to it. No need to remind him about it every 6 months."

View bbasiaga's profile


1259 posts in 3155 days

#8 posted 07-28-2016 02:51 PM

I hope this doesn’t become too controversial, but Harbor Freight is made for people in just your situation.

Go there and get all your hand tools. Screw driver set, socket set, end wrenches…etc. they are the cheapest around but their hand tools work fine for light to moderate home use. Levels, squares, tape measures,clamps….all very use able fromy HF.

Take the money you saved and get a name brand skill saw, maybe a reciprocating saw. The dremel multimedia and other flush cut saws are handy too, but that is a second or third tier. A 10” compound miter saw will have lots of uses too and you might find that an early purchase.

A vintage tuned Stanley #5 from a trusted LJ seller would be super handy. Also a palm sander or ROS.


-- Part of engineering is to know when to put your calculator down and pick up your tools.

View bbasiaga's profile


1259 posts in 3155 days

#9 posted 07-28-2016 02:54 PM

I should have also mentioned…a nice cordless 18 or 20v drill…


-- Part of engineering is to know when to put your calculator down and pick up your tools.

View Jon Hobbs's profile

Jon Hobbs

147 posts in 1864 days

#10 posted 07-28-2016 03:52 PM

Wood magazine has a currently running series on outfitting a shop on a budget. The premise is building a complete workshop in a year by spending (or saving) a little bit each paycheck:

Even if you don’t follow the program to the letter, there are still good ideas on how to stretch your budget, how to prioritize what tools you need, and how to extend the utility of your tools with jigs and such.

I’d also endorse the recommendation to stay on your father’s good side. Borrowed tools cost next-to-nothing :)

Also endorse shopping at Harbor Freight or the like. Sure, you’re not gonna find any heirlooms that you’ll pass down to your grandchildren. But they’ll get you in the shop having fun and making sawdust!

-- Jon -- Just a Minnesota kid hanging out in Kansas

View Kirk650's profile


741 posts in 1908 days

#11 posted 07-28-2016 05:43 PM

Harbor Freight was a good suggestion. A close friend, now deceased, used nothing but HF tools. Even had the HF jointer. And, there are several Ryobi tools at Home Depot that are decent. I have two 18V drill drivers that will not die. Batteries die, but they are reasonably priced. I have a Ryobi belt sander that won’t die, and a spindle sander that gets a lot of use. Same with my scroll saw. My air compressor is from HF. All my nail guns are Bostich, but my buddies nail guns were all HF. A fellow doesn’t have to have ‘the good stuff’ for woodworking, though the better tools are good to have.

I have another buddy that only buys the good stuff – Powermatic and such – but he never builds anything.

View MikesProjects's profile


172 posts in 3062 days

#12 posted 07-28-2016 09:29 PM

A fellow doesn t have to have the good stuff for woodworking, though the better tools are good to have.

I have another buddy that only buys the good stuff – Powermatic and such – but he never builds anything.

- Kirk650

Hahh, the buddy that has the fancy tools is probably a tool collector. It’s the ides that you “could” build anything but life happens, some people have better opportunities than others. I know of several fellas like this. There is a good guy who occasionally posts some of his tools on CL, I purchased a disc sander from him & recognize his shop from his ads. His clean garage shop is full of the best stuff, his tools are perfect looking, no dust anywhere on his epoxy floor.

Sometimes being at the right place at the right time pays off (craigslist comes to mind) I’ve purchased several shop tools that were such great deals I couldn’t pass them up, even though I didn’t really need them at the time. Its called thinking ahead or perhaps tool collecting???

I agree with buying at HarborFreight, if you can break a tool from there than one can consider upgrading to something better later. Also, Im all over the clearance section at the box stores. I like to collect tools that are marked down more than 50% – 75% off… BlackFriday through the new year is a great time to purchase new tools, after christmas everything gets marked down. People can begin saving money now to buy then, November is right around the corner.

-- -Mike, Southern California, YouTube User ( Give & Take )

View jwmalone's profile


768 posts in 1862 days

#13 posted 07-29-2016 12:45 AM

Yeap I go along with harbor freight, You can save a bundle picking up hand tools there. Also agree with stick to corded power tool, much cheaper, ive got an old craftman I bought used 12 years ago and I use it a lot.

-- "Boy you could get more work done it you quit flapping your pie hole" Grandpa

View Woodknack's profile


13564 posts in 3540 days

#14 posted 07-29-2016 05:55 AM

The downside of buying cheap is that you are stuck with tools that are sometimes more frustrating and difficult to use than something halfway decent. One example is a jig saw, a common first saw, cheap ones can be very frustrating which is why I typically recommend buying the best Bosch you can afford even if it’s used off Craigslist. Hand saws are another example where you don’t want to cheap out.

I wrote this up for someone else and saved it. More woodworking focused than general DIY.

You’ll be sawing wood on probably every project you ever build so don’t skimp on saws. A good circular saw will get your far, a tablesaw will get you farther. Handsaws are nice but buy them as you need them and don’t skimp.
- Table saw vs. band saw: At some point you’ll come to this dilemma; it boils down to if you’re cutting mostly regular quadrilaterals the tablesaw wins. If you are cutting irregular shapes, circles, and resawing lumber a good quality 14” (or bigger) band saw wins. Tablesaws can also do mouldings and cove cuts. In my opinion, the tablesaw is the most versatile tool in a woodworking shop, arguably second only to the router.
- Jig saws are overrated as beginner tools, wait until you know you need one then buy the best Bosch you can afford. Buying a used one is fine.
- Routers are multi-purpose tools, there are so many jigs that extend their use it’s worth buying a good one and eventually several.
- Drills, you’ll probably use a hand drill more often than a drill press but a press is nice when you need a straight hole or want to use Forstner bits. Don’t go overboard on a hand drill, just buy a decent one and save up for a drill press. A cheap drill press is better than no drill press.
- Clamps, you can never have too many… short, med, long, bar, C, spring, all sorts, all sizes, all useful. Buy ‘em as you need ‘em.
- Hand planes, very handy. The more they cost the nicer they generally are to use and the better they perform. But you can get good performance with inexpensive planes if you are willing to put some elbow grease into flattening/sharpening/etc.
- Squares are good investments and quality versions are money well spent. In the beginning you can get by with carpentry grade squares, I have several varieties of speed squares. You’ll also want a quality combination square – don’t go cheap or it’ll be an aggravation.
- Sanding: everything has to be sanded. A ROS is very nice but there will be times when you may want a finish or belt sander.
- Workbench: you can get by with whatever in the beginning but eventually you realize that a proper woodworking bench is indispensable. A woodworking bench is more than a table, it is a work holding device.
- Jointer: you’ll want one down the road, they make your life easier and projects better.

-Rick M

-- Rick M,

View becikeja's profile


1175 posts in 3973 days

#15 posted 07-29-2016 10:29 AM

I think my son-in-law has the right plan. Every time they come to visit, he talks me into upgrading one of my tools. Then miraculously my old ones end up at his house. Hmmmm??

-- Don't outsmart your common sense

showing 1 through 15 of 25 replies

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics