First Workshop - advice needed!

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4 Apr 2024
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Hi all, it's my first post here, so apologies that it's a dull one, but I don't have any projects to show yet, and too green to pass any comment on anything else!! Thanks in advance, and apologies it's a dull one.

I'm looking to put together my first workshop. I have a 3m (could push to 3.5) * 2.7m space, dust collection will be paramount as my respiratory health is bad enough as it is, and the garage I'd be using gets used for other things outside of this assigned space. The main things I'd want to build would be bookcases, side tables, desks, lamps, shaped shelves and doing some steambending - so unfortunately quite a large mix. Typical design styles we go for are modern takes on mid-century or scandi so I'd want the option to work in Oak, Ash and Walnut, if that makes a difference to Wattage/HP of machinery needed. Our power is single phase only. My budget could run up to around £5k that I have set aside. Although obviously machine by machine if I can, rather than all at once. I have some basic power tools (including an alright Orbital Sander, crappy jigsaw & circular saw, Dewalt combi drill/impact), but clamps, set squares etc. would all need to fit in this budget.

Second hand is an option, but I'm incredibly weary of my ability/motivation to get a second hand machine working/restored. I've also been keeping my eye on the various usual classifieds/market and it's a little overwhelming having 0 knowledge and a lot of the machines looking very worse for wear. It feels like there are enough uphill battles already with getting started, fettling too much with a machine would put a serious dent in my motivation. I understand any new machine will also require fettling to get things square.

Initial Purchases. I think I need these two to get started on making some bookcases, shelves etc.

I did have my eye on the Axminster AW254 as a first purchase tablesaw, however I've been informed by the Axi rep that they're out of stock until July. There seem to be plenty of alternative purchases rather than wait that long when I've already been planning and plotting for months as it is. I'd been put off the AW216 as some reviews mentioned it was underpowered and struggled with hardwood, not sure if anyone can confirm this or not? Any recommendations on a TS would be appreciated as I'd put a lot behind the AW254, and I'm now feeling lost again. I'd been looking around the £800-£1100 price range for this purchase, so iTech/Laguna1 kind of options rather than anything fancier. I'm a big fan of mitred edges and bevels on furniture, which seemed to lean more towards a 10" blade than an 8", so that a mitred crosscut wasn't too limited on board thickness if using a sled.

I think the other key initial purchase would be a router. I think I want a router table, probably paired with a separate router as well. I'd considered the Rutlands R15 lift and motor in a home made table. I can see myself using a router a lot and the Festool Routers seemed to be leagues ahead of others for extraction, but that was mainly because most of the recommendations I could find online were for US only models where the UK ones weren't recommended, e.g. the 1/2" DeWalt.

<Edit> As I posted this I realised that the R15 has gone back up £150 to £500, I think that brings something like the AUKTools Motor back into contention.

Dust Collection I had looked at the Axminster AW153E, potentially paired with a Festool extractor for sanders, router, router table etc.

Potential and Short/Medium term purchases once I've tried a few projects with the above.

A combi planer thicknesser could be on the cards, ideally I'd wanted to use boards and break them down myself, but I'm thinking I could rely on squared all round, purchased online, for now. I don't think I'm going to be able to do lots and lots of hand planing, I'm prone to RSI in my shoulders and elbows from injuries. I think a PT, whilst expensive, might be key to me enjoying the hobby. Alternatively I could get a lunchbox thicknesser like the DeWalt, with a skid, and jigs on the tablesaw to tide me over.

A bandsaw would then need to follow at some point, to help resaw and open up the option of using boards rather than squared all round, but also as I can see myself wanting to do curves and make templates for the router. Both Record and Axminster seemed to offer Bandsaws in the £1k range that could resaw up to 12".

Are there any standout suggestions people have for any of these, or any key mistakes I'm making?
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Hello and welcome- my 1st thought is If you are just starting out on your woodworking journey and in your own words you are green , and your not sure of your abilities then before you potentially spend £1,000s on tools and equipment you need to get a feel for what you will enjoy doing and what you are capable of. Maybe a few woodworking courses or joining a woodworking group ( men’s shed ) or similar. Every machine you have mentioned can inflict some serious injuries if not used/ set up correctly. I don’t want to put you off in anyway but you need to be realistic and with that your safety and the safety of those around you comes first. So by all means go down the hand tools route but before buying loads of machinery and equipment decide what exactly you want to make and then decide on the best way to achieve this . Eg a track saw will be better for breaking down sheet goods rather than trying to balance an 8 x 4 ft sheet of plywood, before getting a 1/2” router then try a 1/4 “ model to get a feel for it - the power difference on the 1/2” will be noticeable and not for the feint hearted even if it’s fixed to a table.. I wish you luck but just be careful and get some experience first and don’t just rush in with guns blazing..
I agree with Bingy man. Aiming to set up a complete workshop in one hit is not the way to start. It takes years to build up. What can you make with the tools you have now? Then pick a project slightly more ambitious that you feel you can tackle and perhaps buy another tool or machine to help get that done. Continue the process one project at a time. Be aware of the workshop space you have to play with and avoid overfilling it with machines because you also need space to actually make things. First major project for most woodworkers is a half decent bench. Does not need to be flash just practical. Builds up some basic skills and gives you the most important tool in the shop. Anyhow welcome to woodworking.
The space you have allocated for a workshop is fairly limited - you need to be very sure that all machines earn their keep.

Tools and equipment needs change with time. Many (me included) find that their initial expectations of what they might make, and the kit they need, changes over time.
  • larger machines have a bigger footprint which may not be usable - with a 3m max workshop dimension the longest item you could put through a machine will be below 1.5m
  • consider mounting machines on mobile bases - the first project could even be building the bases. Bases can be used for storage which will be limited
  • buying machines for current projects from decent popular suppliers will allow you to better understand your actual needs - if they need to be upgraded they should be easily saleable.
  • do a floor plan showing accurately - dimensions of all machines, think about how they will be used, how much storage, size of workbench, wood storage, space to work safely etc
I had never heard of mens sheds until I came on here. Have a search for one local and find out when they are open. I really want to encourage you, but some of these places can be 'cliqhuey', if you know what I mean. Others can be the total opposite. If it means you travelling a distance to one of the latter ones, then so be it. You will learn important safety aspects of woodworking, so it really is well worth it. You'll also find out what machines you are happy to use and otherwise. Please, please go and find out for yourself. If you're the gregarious type, then all the better. Enjoy your journey into woodworking, it's great. Welcome aboard! HTH.