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  • Writer's pictureSean

Essentials Tools to Build Out Your Shop

So, you finally have some space in the garage or maybe you built your first she-shed and you want to add some woodworking tools. Maybe its an old hobby or an emerging one. Either way, tools can be expensive and purchasing the right tools first can be a little intimidating.

What you really want to consider first is what you are going to be making. Cutting boards and coffee tables are going to use different tools mainly because of their size. It's easier to use a handheld tool on a large piece of wood rather than maneuvering it around a blade and vice versa with a smaller piece. I'm going to go about this with a sort of general theme in mind but make some points regarding substitutes for certain tools. Also, i'm going to assume you already have some basic tools like drills, hand saws, and screwdrivers.

1. So, the number one tool in my mind is.... drum roll... the table saw. The table saw can rip, crosscut, and resaw. It's hard to beat the versatility of a table saw. And being that they come in many sizes, the table saw wants to be your friend and can be in almost any situation. I would place this as your most important purchase.

If you plan on doing a lot of large slab or live edge work, that can be a little tricky with the table saw. The more physically versatile substitute for this would be a track saw or just a circular saw with a straight edge clamped down. Not quite all the abilities of a table saw but definitely easier to use on large chunky wood slabs.

2. My next most used tool is the orbital sander. It's so necessary I feel silly putting it on here. It's almost like writing build plans with the first step being "remember to breathe oxygen throughout this build." I mean... get an orbital sander.

3. This might be a little controversial going in at #3 but it's really essential in a lot of my projects and nothing can really replicate its job. Get a jointer. Even if its just a small one, you need it. The table saw does a great job at getting straight edges but you just won't get that extremely satisfying feeling of putting two edges together and watching the seam disappear without a jointer. Nearly any kind of glue-up will be better off being ran through a jointer first.

4. Here we are at one of my favorite tools. I have two actually. The router. Bevels, inlays, ... and... well I guess I only use mine for different bevels and inlays but i'm doing that often. A nice round over bit along the edge of a small kitchen cafe table is a thing of beauty. Or a chamfer on a round white oak coffee table! I could go on. The router just adds a nice little extra and if you need to do any inlay work it'll really save you lots of time.

5. Bandsaw. This tool is really great at making irregular shaped cuts such as curves and also its the resaw king. I mentioned that the table saw has resaw capability but you're limited based on the blade size. Typically, if not always, a bandsaw will have a greater resaw depth.

6. Here we have the miter saw which is commonly confused with the chop saw. The difference is that the miter saw has angle change capability while a chop saw is only a straight up and down 90. Just don't even concern yourself with a chop saw. It's a shame they even make those. So here's the thing: I use my miter saw daily but honestly I can do all these cuts on a table saw. It's just wayyyy more convenient than setting up the same cut on Big Bertha (my table saw). Is it worth it to purchase a $300-$400 saw just for convenience? Yes.

7. A planer is really essential for most projects unless your making jewelry boxes or toys or something that just doesn't have a large flat surface. I use a planer on 100% of my projects in some capacity. Something I use as a less aggressive alternative is a drum sander. I think this is definitely where you want to consider the size of your projects and whether purchasing a planer is necessary. If you're making dining tables, the planer would need to be about the size of a VW bug and cost upwards of $250k so it could be best to see if you can rent time on one in that scenario.

8. Dust collection might be boring to some but this is actually an essential tool and can be fun building out. Keeping your work area dust free is not only better for your health but you will produce work at a higher quality - especially during the finish process.

This is my list of the 8 most essential tools for building out your first shop. Let me know what you think in the comments!

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