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Essential Power Tools for starting wood worker

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Matt Pitts

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Hi All,

I'm hoping for some guidance. I have recent starting getting more into woodworking, having moved to a new house. The list of projects is growing longer and I'm trying to figure out what power tools I actually need to buy. I already have a few from previous DIY projects, but funds and space are limited.

My current power tools are:
Drill
Mitre saw
Track saw
Sanders

Several of the projects I'm planning involve cutting grooves (dados) is that an American word? In the US people seem to use table saws with dado blades for this or routers.

So I guess my question is around the need for a table saw? I'd rather not just buy some cheap table saw or router only to find there's a better tool or alternative way to build. But the more I see people using tables saws and routers, the more useful they seem to be for all sorts of woodworking projects.

Any advice on the above would be much appreciated, bearing in mind I'm a fairly novice woodworker willing to learn.
 

Mike Jordan

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My suggestion is a router, not an expensive device when you consider all the things it will enable you to do. My choice would be a decent quality 2000 watt with 1/2" & 1/4" collets and one of the starter sets of cutters. From there you can buy cutters as needed. There are plenty of sites on YouTube showing how to make templates of all kinds. The machine will do everything from rounding edges to trenching staircases.
Best of luck with the project.
Mike.
 

AJB Temple

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I have been woodworking for 30 years and made musical instruments, three complete large kitchens, various utility rooms, wardrobes, furniture and timber framed buildings. So this is low volume and I am in no rush. At no time was a table saw ever essential. I happen to have two table saws now (one came as a job lot with other stuff) and I rarely use them. I use my bandsaw much more.

A router is definitely useful if you are doing a lot of grooving or moulding or trimming. And they are cheap now. You can do it with hand tools (and I often do) but a router is handy.

To me what I find essential for doing good work is a sturdy bench for cutting joints etc and a large table for use with a good track saw(Mafell in my case) for dealing with sheet goods. My large table is a sheet of 8' by 4' by 1" thick plywood, mounted on two really sturdy trestles with two lengths of 4" by 2" between the trestles to support the bench edge. So I can demount this lot in 2 minutes if it is in the way. This for me is better than a table saw in most cases partly because a good table saw needs a lot of room to manoeuvre sheet goods around whereas I can put my trestle bench anywhere.

I think a basic set of good quality hand tools is fundamental. I couple of good planes are useful and I use my tenon and dovetail saws a lot. Decent chisels are essential (you don't need many) and some means of sharpening such as a double sided diamond plate.

I would not spend a lot of money early on power tools. And over the years I have found that it is worth paying for quality. One power tool I use far more than I ever thought I would, is an impact driver. I have both the percussion and oil types (both are good) and I find them indispensable now.

If you get into stuff like timber framing a power planer is handy.

If you want to save money on timber and dimension your own (and deal with all the mess) a planer / thicknesses is useful. However, there is quite a significant payback for this versus buying pre-prepared timber, unless you plan to do a decent amount of work over the years. I use mine a lot (unlike the table saws).
 

MikeG.

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Welcome Matt.

A router is the next tool you need, if you are going down the power tool only route. However, my general advice would be to master what you have before moving on to the next bit of kit. Buy tools when you need them, not before......and that's a great way of gaining proficiency, because it forces you to really think what the capabilities are of the kit you have, and to gear your projects around that. Rule number one, though, is to buy wood not tools.
 

Sideways

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There are skilled woodworkers who don't need any power tools. That's not me but I admire them. In the early days one of my very first purchases was a good 1/4 inch router. I never regretted it and still have the same machine 30 years on. For edge mouldings, grooves, rebates and more they are a versatile powertool. Buy a few good tools rather than many cheap ones is my 10p of advice.
You have the drill and tracksaw. A router would be the other one of my top 3. A quiet reliable shop vac / power tool dust extractor would be in my top 5.
 

MikeG.

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Excellent post by AJB. I'd just add that as an alternative to a table I have 3 saw horses. These are in constant use, and if I am working with sheet material they're great for breaking them down......and when I need the floor space the horses just stack out of the way.
 

AJB Temple

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61kht2Gm7rL._SL1200_.jpg


These are the trestles I use. Toughbuilt C700. They are basically indestructible and fold up easily and quickly. They can be made into a bench by using the pull out attachment to take a couple of 4 by 2s or whatever, you can adjust the height and they have stabilising feet (the smaller models don't I think). I put big heavy oak beams on these (300kg) and they are totally fine. You can also prop sheet goods on them vertically. The cheapest version is about £80 a pair. The C700s used to be that price but they are £120 or so a pair now. Worth it.
 

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novocaine

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as already said, a router should be your next purchase, you don't need the table saw and a lot of what you see in american youtube with table saws isn't doable in this country or safe eg. dado blades, guarding etc.

I'd suggest a decent 1/2" as mentioned above but also a small laminate trimmer style router, which is 1/4" normally. the smaller one can be somewhat cheaper and you'll see a lot of mention about the Katsu router. having the 2 will allow you to do different things, the katsu is tiny and fits in much smaller spaces the a big 1/2" tool.

I don't superscribe to buying the best, target middle of the pack for good reliability and acceptable quality.
 

Mike Jordan

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image.jpeg
zThis is a sample template. It's used to make grooves of all widths and depths and is easily adjusted. As you can see, I always put cutter details on the template.
 

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Cheshirechappie

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The ONLY essential power tool for any woodworker is a kettle (augmented with a mug, teabags, milk and sugar). Anything else can be done with hand tools.

Power tools can be useful at times to make lighter work of some slogging tasks. However, they are no substitute for the development of some knowledge and lots of practice - in other words, skill. Some good quality basic hand tools, research into ways of doing jobs, and getting stuck in and trying a time or three, will build confidence and competence far more than investing hundreds of hard-earned pounds in shiny, noisy, spinny-whizzy things, beyond a few basic and versatile ones. Wood isn't cheap - spend money on that, instead!
 

Matt Pitts

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Wow, thanks to everyone for your input. I totally understand the hand tool arguments and I forgot to mention that I do have various hand tools already plain, saws etc. Being a forestry worker I do also have a chainsaw planker, which I have used a few times to mill small amounts of timber myself and run it through the thicknesser. As was mentioned it's a lot of work and mess, but I sometimes have access to free wood and I prefer to try and use local timber wherever possible, accepting all its challenges.

I'm glad to hear that people think a table saw is really unnecessary. I also only have a small workspace. I also have an other half who sees things and assumed that I can just make them!

I sounds like a router is going to be most useful for the various projects I have to do. Do people have any specific recommendations for some sort of middle of the road priced router?
 

thomashenry

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I'm a 95% hand tool guy, a decent sturdy bench with a good vice is the most important thing I have. In terms of power tools, I regularly use a cordless drill driver, and sometimes a bandsaw. My power router, tablesaw, circular saw, mitre saw etc were packed away some time ago and haven't seen any action in years.
 

woodbloke66

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AJB Temple":4vaxbcpm said:
At no time was a table saw ever essential. I happen to have two table saws now (one came as a job lot with other stuff) and I rarely use them. I use my bandsaw much more.

A router is definitely useful if you are doing a lot of grooving or moulding or trimming. And they are cheap now. You can do it with hand tools (and I often do) but a router is handy.

To me what I find essential for doing good work is a sturdy bench for cutting joints etc and a large table for use with a good track saw(Mafell in my case) for dealing with sheet goods. My large table is a sheet of 8' by 4' by 1" thick plywood, mounted on two really sturdy trestles with two lengths of 4" by 2" between the trestles to support the bench edge. So I can demount this lot in 2 minutes if it is in the way. This for me is better than a table saw in most cases partly because a good table saw needs a lot of room to manoeuvre sheet goods around whereas I can put my trestle bench anywhere.

I think a basic set of good quality hand tools is fundamental. I couple of good planes are useful and I use my tenon and dovetail saws a lot. Decent chisels are essential (you don't need many) and some means of sharpening such as a double sided diamond plate.

I would not spend a lot of money early on power tools. And over the years I have found that it is worth paying for quality. One power tool I use far more than I ever thought I would, is an impact driver. I have both the percussion and oil types (both are good) and I find them indispensable now.

If you get into stuff like timber framing a power planer is handy.

If you want to save money on timber and dimension your own (and deal with all the mess) a planer / thicknesses is useful. However, there is quite a significant payback for this versus buying pre-prepared timber, unless you plan to do a decent amount of work over the years. I use mine a lot (unlike the table saws).
Yep, spot on; I do more or less the same. To reiterate, you don't actually need a tablesaw although most newcomers tend to think it's 'must have' in a 'shop...it's not. A decent bandsaw with reasonable capacity (depth of cut and width of cut) is a much better investment. And yes, go for a good quality router as well with half inch and quarter inch collets - Rob
 

Simon89

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+1 for a router, a secondhand dewalt with interchangeable bases can be had for sub 200. An additional base turns it into a router table too :)
 

MikeG.

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woodbloke66":134c8l1b said:
......... you don't actually need a tablesaw although most newcomers tend to think it's 'must have' in a 'shop....
The reason we have to repeat this so often is undoubtedly because of Youtube. Americans have bigger workshops than us, and their first purchase seems always to be a tablesaw. Very few UK hobbyists have enough space to have one without seriously compromising what can be done in their workshop.
 

sammy.se

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Definitly a router, and building a router table wilI be a good project.

I bought a table saw when I started woodworking, because I thought it was essential. I don't use it much at all. A track saw is great if you will make cabinets etc.

Don't forget a vacuum / extractor, and safety gear like goggles and face mask. Start off with good habits for dust and safety.

Since you have a mitre and track saw, just check you have the right blades for the jobs you are doing. There's a great thread on here about that.


Sent from my SM-G973F using Tapatalk
 

Richard_C

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Agree about router. I use mine rarely but when I do it's excellent. Make sure you get one that you can get the kit to fit it to a router table one day, I didn't think about it hard enough and regret it.

A router is invaluable if your new house has chipboard flooring upstairs. If you do need to access any plumbing etc. you can set the cutter depth to a tiny bit less than the board thickness and confidently cut a section knowing you won't damage anything underneath. Then just
push it out. Saved me grief and £££ in plumber call out finding the source of ceiling stains below after I moved in here.
 
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I personally wouldn't be without my tablesaw, not so much because I can't do without it, but I just prefer using it for operations that others may prefer to do on a bandsaw.

A mobile tablesaw (e.g Dewalt 745) takes up no more space than a bandsaw. Any infeed/outfeed restriction you would have would be the same with a bandsaw.
 

deema

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It depends on what your planning on making. If your making cupboards / storage for your house which is to be painted you will be looking for tools to help with sheet material. You already have a track saw, so the next most useful tool would be IMO either a Domino or a really good biscuit jointer (such as Lamello). Have a look at David Millards superb uTube videos (10 minute workshop) for inspiration of what can be done with these two tools and limited space. He makes a living making cabinets.

If your looking for making solid wood stuff such as windows doors, tables etc the most useful tools in order are a table saw, planner thicknesser and a Spindle Moulder (with power feed). I would not recommend any American uTube videos on how to use these, rather if you’ve no experience, get yourself on a proper course for safe use. Peter Sefton I understand runs excellent courses to get you going.
 

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