New to woodworking, looking for power tool list

jlc102482March 7, 2011

I am very new to woodworking and am hoping someone here would be able to help me with a basic power tool list. Specific brands and/or models would be great. I am interested in learning how to make shelves and eventually cabinets, and I also want to cut and install crown molding and other trim in my home. I believe I at least need a table saw, a circular saw and a miter saw but I am guessing I may need more than that. Can anyone advise?


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There is some duplication in getting three different saws with circular blades. You can get by with less, depending upon what you are doing. The best advice is to start off slowly and gradually add tools as your projects need them. There are always estates or collections out there where someone bought a complete workshop and half the stuff never got set up. The manual at the link below is a good primer.

The best advice I can give on tools is avoid the cheap ones. They don't work all that well and become frustrating as you try to use them often. Eventually you will end up buying the same type of tool twice.

No one manufacturer makes the "best" of everything. But brands to shop include Bosch, Makita, Milwaukee and DeWalt. Porter Cable used to be good, but they've been bought and sold several times in the last five years and are looking for their niche. Hitachi and Ridgid are generally OK. Ryobi, Skil, Craftsman, and Black & Decker tend to be for the occasional weekend warrior (with a few exceptions for trade-worthy specific tools). Festool is premium, but I've yet to decide if they are worth 3 to 5 times the leaders in the list above. A good place to start is to check out your library or bookstore or their respective websites for recent issues of various woodworking magazines such as Popular Woodworking, Fine Woodworking, Wood, and even Tools of the Trade.

In my shop, the table saw is the central machine. It can do everything the miter saw can do plus tenons, dados/rabbets, ripping, and many types of joints. I use a circular saw for cutting down sheet goods and rough carpentry. But I've built lots of bookcases with just a circular saw and a straight edge. Miter saw is usually used for portable use; I went 20 years without one.

Get a good drill and random orbit sander. Eventually get a router.

You'll also need some hand tools such as a combo-square, knife, measuring tools, screw drivers, planes, various drill bits, chisels, etc.

When you're ready to move to other than pre-surfaced and standard thickness stock, you'll want a planer.

Way down the road consider biscuit jointer, belt/disk sander, drill press, band saw, jointer, etc. etc. etc.

Here is a link that might be useful: I can do that free manual.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2011 at 8:41PM
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If you really want to move into woodworking and furniture making get a 10 inch cabinet table saw.

An old Unisaw is good.

Bench saws are very limiting.

If you are tight for money even a Grizzly saw can work well, though sometimes they leave off little items.

Year ago a friend had one that had no blade height lock mechanism.

The knob in the middle of the height adjustment wheel only held the wheel on.

for any table saw (or chop saw) invest in good carbide tipped blades.

For a table saw having a rip blade and a high quality cross cut blade is the minimum.

You can do a lot of stuff with just a table saw and a portable circular saw to cut down large panels.

Large panels are PITA on a table saw without some help , or a LOT of in feed and out feed rollers.

Wresting a 4x8 sheet over a table saw single handed is asking for poor cuts and injury unless you can rest it on something the entire time.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 8:45AM
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If you are working with 4x8 sheets, the festool track saw is worth the price. For prefinished or prelaminated panels, the festool track saw is my choice. The finish cut is perfect; clean on both sides and totally straight, better than the tablesaw.

For tablesaw, I recommend the SawStop. I wish these were on the market when I bought my Unisaw cabinetsaw for my home workshop years ago. I paid $1,500 for a new Unisaw with extension table, mobile base, and 51" Beisemeyer fence. A few years later they come out with the saw stop, and I see that for like $500 more, I could have purchased the awesome safety technology of SawStop.

Last year I purchased 2 new SawStop machines for my buiseness workshop. They replaced the 2 unisaw machines that were placed in service in 1965.

My point here is to buy quality, buy safety, and buy for life!

Happy woodworking!

Here is a link that might be useful: festool track saws

    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 9:28AM
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This is a totally open-ended question. More tools= better.
Sliding double-compound (tile both ways) miter saw.
Workbenches and tables.
Routers and bits.
Drill press.
Sharp cutting tools: planes and chisels.
Sharpening equipment. Bench grinder; waterstones, etc.
Random orbit finish sander. Belt sander.
Marking and measuring tools: knives, pencils, marking gauges.
Jigs and setup tools. reference/engineers square, micrometers, etc.
Hollow-chisel mortiser.
Hand saws.
Band saw; scroll/fret saw.
Disc sander/bench belt sander.
Cabinet scrapers; paint/glue scrapers
Clamps; all kinds.
Straightedges and cutting guides.
Panel saws; sliding table saws.
Molding machines; four side planer/molder machines.
Veneering tools. vacuum press.
Carving tools, too many to mention.
I tried to put this in a logical order from most general to most specific, so consider it the order in which you should acquire things, but you will always need more clamps than you have!


    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 10:05AM
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You listed two distinct types of woodworking that need different types of tools. The main tool for trim carpenters is a miter saw. Table saws are too large for the portability necessary. It is possible to use a TS, but it requires a LOT of trips back and forth.

The width of the crown you want to use dictates the size and type of miter saw you will need. 4" and wider crown means a sliding miter saw is required. Good sliders start at $500. The slider can be used for anything, so buying one is not necessarily overkill.

I cope cut inside trim joints. A coping saw and a couple cabinetmakers double files are the basic tools after the saw.

You will need a nailer and/or a compressor, depending on the nailer you select. Pneumatic nailers are less expensive to buy and use. Cordless nailers are a bit easier to use since there are no hoses. But, cordless are larger, heavier, and require more maintenance and you have to buy fuel. Many folks use 15 gauge finish nailers for trim. I preferred a 16 gauge model that will shoot nails from 1" long to 2&1/2" long.

To install molding and even cabinets alone, a Third Hand tool is necessary. Those are basically an adjustable stick used to support the far end of a piece of trim as you start installing.

Shelf making can be done with a circular saw and straight edge. Or a table saw. The circ. saw and guide is a great tool for sizing plywood without having to muscle it onto a table saw. You simply precut pieces close to the required size with the circ'saw/guide and finish the sizing on a TS.

Basic woodworking shop tools are: table saw, router/table, band saw, and a drill press. That gives you the tools to do almost anything with plywood or other sheet goods.

To be able to buy inexpensive sawmill wood(versus the much more expensive finished dimensional wood) you will need to add a jointer and planer.

You first need to educate yourself on the proper use of all those tools and how to safely use each tool. Woodcraft is a woodworking supply store chain that offers classes in basic and advanced formes of woodworking. There are lots of books easily available. Joining a woodworking website also allows you access to advice and tips. WoodNet and Saw Mill Creek are two with which I am familiar. You can sometimes get instant feedback and usually answers in minutes.

There are no 'best' tools for any job. There are good ones and not so good ones and cheap ones versus expensive ones, as mentioned above.

I have a Skil Mag77 circular saw because I needed that big ol honker for construction. That along with a 9' straight edge I have no idea from where it came and two clamps, allow me to break down sheet goods instead of using a table saw. Total cost-$180. Festool makes a circular saw system to do the same thing. Cost-over $900. But, that includes a sawdust collection system. Is the Festool better? Probably. Is it faster. Probably. Is it safer? Yes. Do I want one? No.

Table saws got a lot safer with the invention of the SawStop brand saw line. But, they also cost more. But, it is darn near impossible to get more than a slight nick if a finger hits the spinning blade. That safety costs more. Do I have one? No. Do I want one? No. I am perfectly happy with my contractor saw.

Using woodworking tools means generating sawdust. Outside, so what? Inside---that is a whole different colored horse!

The reason I mention that is because contractor saws are terrible saws for collecting dust. Cabinet models(much heavier and contained) do a better job, but cost more. New cabinet saws start at $800 or so for a base model and there are a LOT bof really cool and useful addons that hike the prices up to over $1500 really quickly.

Brands popular are Delta(Unisaw---the granddaddy of table saws), Grizzly, SawStop, Jet, and Powermatic are the familiar brands.

You might look at hybrid table saws. They are similar to cabinet saws in looks and dust/chip collection, but comparable to contractor saws in price. Craftsman, DeWalt, Grizzly, Jet, Rigid, and others make this relatively new style.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 10:09AM
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The other question we forgot to ask, are you planning these for a long-term hobby, or just to knock out some around the home projects?

    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 6:24PM
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How's your woodworking going?

The most exciting tool I've seen that will eliminate a few is the Festool (that's a small brand) circular saw with the guide and dust catcher. It eliminates the need for :
table saw, miter saw, regular circular saw.

I don't own one yet, but I have those other tools and can't wait to get one.

We like to do projects where the project is - kitchen project, hey let's do it in the kitchen - so clean up is KEY. Hence the recommendation for a good way to keep the mess and stress of the mess LOW…!!!

    Bookmark   September 18, 2014 at 6:05AM
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I would have to completely disagree on this. It will never do everything my table saw can do with ease. With my rip fence and sliding cross cut table, I can make repeatable cuts all day long. I can tune miters to a perfect fit. I can work on small pieces, compound miters, dadoes, rabbets, coving, tenons, and other things a track saw can not do.

>> The most exciting tool I've seen that will eliminate a few is the Festool (that's a small brand) circular saw with the guide and dust catcher. It eliminates the need for :
table saw, miter saw, regular circular saw.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2014 at 9:21AM
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The Festool track saw outperforms most small table saws for rips and crosscuts. And it's portable so it can go where you cannot haul a tablesaw. But as your only hand-held circular saw, it would be quite a disaster. IMHO. Very clumsy and un-ergonomic feel, learning curve, weird hand position and proprietary blades (which are super expensive and can't be purchased at the corner lumberyard) means that this wonderful specialty tool is not every-day-ready, unless your every day consists of cutting up sheet goods.
At my old job we had the Festool (for sunday best) and the Hilti spinoff (for cutting abrasive materials we would not let the Fe$tool get close to).

    Bookmark   September 18, 2014 at 9:38AM
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Hmm, that's interesting.

I at first was intrigued by CAbeachGal's comment and was going to ask her for an exact model name, so I could investigate it.

I do any woodworking out of my apartment--I have to get everything out of the big storage closet, carry it somewhere (like, my tiled bathroom, or the common area of the basement, or the basement passageway), and then put it back away when I'm done. AND I have to clean up all the sawdust from everywhere.

And so clean-up and portability are important.

I have a jigsaw that I've used in conjunction w/ a clamp to cut boards to the proper length for shelves, but I found that I have trouble getting a square cut; the jigsaw blade tends to bend or "lean" out. I tried going really slowly, checked the kind of blade I was using--it really didn't eliminate the problem. I think it's just inherent to the unsupported blade. (I didn't realize it would do this; I got the jigsaw because it was lightweight and I could handle it, w/ my wimply forearms; I thought all circular saws were huge.)

I don't do a lot of cutting, but I've been thinking about getting a small circular saw so I could cut boards to make shelves w/ my Kreg jig.

I'd need it to be lightweight enough that I can manage it (guide it; keep it firm against the guide) even with wimpy forearms. And it would need to be able to cut square, vertically speaking.

My "everyday" is "every six months or so," so blades aren't going to be wearing out every week or so (I guess I'd want a new one for every project? Or would I be able to get three or four bookshelves out of one blade?).

So is the Festool whatever-its-name-is a bad move for this? Should I just get a 4.5" circular saw from Home Depot?

    Bookmark   September 19, 2014 at 2:17PM
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Festool makes some fine tools. And dust-collection is a feature point of them. They are just 2-3 times as expensive as most of the regular high grade tools like Bosch, Makita, Dewalt, Milwaukee, etc. And they are fair-traded, so you will pay the list price wherever you shop.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2014 at 10:56PM
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Yeah, I just looked at the website--$615 for the track saw. It's really not worth that for me.

I may start a separate thread asking for advice on what circular-saw solution to get.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2014 at 12:07AM
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For the dust collection to work, you need their $600+ shop vac. But calling it a "shop-vac" is a slander. I have one, and it is the best Vacuum I ever owned.
But yes, unless you have specific need to cut sheet goods and make plunge cuts with a saw, a track saw is an unnecessary expenditure.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2014 at 8:55AM
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I've never met a serious tool junkie that ever regretted any Festool purchase. Yes, they tease us for being a "cult". Fine by me. Come to the dark side.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2014 at 11:58PM
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