I thought I would post a few pictures of my shop. I have recently moved and have redone my shop. My new location is much more permanent than before so I finally was able to do more permanent things such as ducted dust collection with homebuilt cyclone separator and 220v power!
I often get asked about initial outfitting of the shop with stationary or powered tools. If I were begin again from scratch today, this is how I would proceed.
My first purchase would be a stationary table saw (contractor or cabinet) with at least a 2 hp belt driven motor. The 2hp is necessary for powering through thick stock or using dado blades, the heaviness of a stationary tool and the belt driven motor help reduce vibration and give you better cuts. I would also find a saw with a cast iron table and a riving knife. This single tool is probably the most versatile and central to a modern woodworking shop. Sometimes the blade you get with the machine is good but often it is a general purpose. I would probably splurge for a good quality plywood blade as plywood is also pretty central to my woodworking. Make sure not to cut cost corners on this purchase. Often you can get good deals on used machinery and tune them up yourself.
My next purchase is tied between a drill/driver and a router. There are very good handtools that can do either of these functions but powering these actions can really speed up what would be pretty mundane tasks. When getting a router, get at least a 2 hp router with the ability to change the collet size. The 2hp is essential because you really don’t want a boggy router because it slows feed rate and increases burn. Cleaning up a burned routed edge is a nightmare. That being said, having good bits is also essential. At the very least get carbide bits. If you can afford it, get top quality carbide bits and in the biggest shank size you can fit in your router because this will reduce your vibration and clean up results better. Good router bits are expensive but they are worth the extra money IMO for quality, expected life, and results. I would probably recommend getting a large router bit collection unless you know for sure what your style of woodworking will require. You also might consider a router table at this point as well, depending on what you are doing.
My next purchase would probably be a random orbit sander. Make sure to pick up some masks at the same time and a good selection of sanding disks. Who likes sanding by hand? Enough said.
Next purchase would be a stationary bandsaw. I would recommend researching what you intend to use it for before deciding what to buy. Again, deals can be found with used tools. If you are planning on doing fine work and not much resawing you can save some money and get a slightly underpowered 14″ 3/4hp bandsaw. If you are going to be doing resawing and a lot of it, definitely consider a larger saw with a lot more power. Think 2hp or more. I have a 14in 3/4hp bandsaw and I can only resaw wood up to about 3 in without bogging down. I however, have no problem with sawing normal curves in normally thick stock. I’ll add a caveat at this point. A lot of the functions you can do with a table saw can be done on a bandsaw although feed rate is generally slower. If you want to saw a lot of curves, maybe consider a bandsaw first. You also might want to consider a scroll saw here if your interest is in small detailed work. The feed rate is incredibly slow so don’t think you can saw 2x4s on a scroll saw.
Depending on how much you deal with sheet goods, a circular saw might be in order. Stick with the reputable brands on this one and you will love yourself for it later on. Sheet goods are heavy. Instead of trying to hoist up a whole sheet to the table saw and try to get an accurate cut, I cut all my panels oversized and then trim to spec on the table saw when they are more manageable. A neat trick I use to cut plywood anywhere without worry of hitting something with the blade underneath is to get a 1in thick sheet of foam insulation- the hard pink stuff. I set my blade to just nick the surface of the insulation. I can easily cut plywood in the middle of the table by myself without worrying about supporting the cutoff. I use a 90degree angled piece of aluminum from the local home improvement store and clamp it down as a track. Super cheap and lightweight. Circular saws are handy in general around the house.
Perhaps the next thing I would buy is a drill press, used if possible. The precision you get compared to a hand drill is remarkable. Get a floor standing one, used if possible. The ability to change speeds with a turn of a knob is overrated IMO. I use two speeds and it’s not that hard to switch. Drill presses are great for hole drilling using forstner bits.
I would buy a compound miter saw next. This is a non essential tool but ever so nice. It’s fast, accurate, and I probably use it the most. But on a shoestring budget, I would make do for a while unless you are doing crazy angles for crown moulding. You could probably with a little practice still get by on the table saw.
I you are going to deal with roughsawn lumber you may want to consider getting a jointer and a planer at the same time. I would recommend against getting anything less than an 8″ jointer, larger if you can wing it really helps with long stock. The portable planers on the market are actually quite nice and give great results. They are much cheaper than stationary tools. Unless you are doing high production requiring lots of planing, I would stick with the portable planer.
Other tools to think about are a biscuit joiner, drum sander, and a vacuum press. None of these are essential but can be really nice. Each person’s shop is different.
Many people ask what tools they need to get started with woodworking. It is an interesting question with no specific or correct answer. Some may say that you need to buy many shop fixtures up front, some might say to start with hand tools. I personally think a mixture of the two is best. Both have their places and there is no one tool that will accomplish every task you need to get done. Of highest emphasis, save yourself the trouble and purchase only the best quality tools. Even if they seem simple, there are huge differences. The extra premium is worth it. They last longer, have better features, and make the whole experience less about the tool and more about getting things done and having a good time. If I were to set up a shop today knowing what I know, this is what I would do.
The first tool I would buy is a set of nice chisels. I would start basic and get only 2-3 sizes like 1/4″, 1/2″, and 1″. You can do so much with a set of sharp chisels including rough cutting and fine joinery. It has always been and continues to be a mainstay.
I would then buy a saw. A general purpose one would get almost everything done at first. If you needed a suggestion, a dovetail or coping saw would be up there especially if you are following my advice for a mix of tools.
The next essential tool would be a hammer or mallet. You need to be able to hit your chisels to do fine and clean chopping, and sometimes you just need a little more force to accomplish your task in assembling or otherwise. Make sure it’s a finishing hammer with a flat face and is comfortable in your hand.
Next you will need a set of screwdrivers.
Engineer square- Doubles as a square, ruler, and level. Great bang for the buck. I prefer a 16″ versus a 12″ if it’s going to be a mainstay.
Clamps- I love handscrews. They are able to acheive serious clamping pressure and various orientations. They are more pricey than quick clamps but you can’t beat them. They can even hold panels vertical when you want to work on the edges. You really cannot have enough clamps. Personally I use handscrews and bar clamps the most.
I would get the following planes. Bench plane, low angle block plane, and shoulder plane. I use planes so often now to tweak things. The more you do woodworking the more you realize it’s less about getting things right to begin with rather than tweaking things to make them work. Planes let you shave off super thin slices to get things flat or even up uneven surfaces. They are easy to whip out and setup.
Scraper- I would get one that is rectangular and a file to sharpen it. It is great for finishing your projects quickly and for smoothing weird grained woods. You can also clean up glue and other things from the surface without the dust of sandpaper.
These are the handtools I use on a regular basis and would consider essential.