Below I’ll talk about what I consider to be the top 10 must have tools for starting a beginners wood shop.
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Starting to build your woodworking shop can sometimes be overwhelming, especially if you are starting from scratch and trying to decide what tools you even need to get started. Below I will outline what I consider to be the top ten most needed tools for starting in your shop. While I consider all of these tools very important, the list of most important tools for YOUR woodworking shop will depend largely on the work you build or the service you provide. Though many of my tools are DeWalt brand tools, I will also give options that are a bit more affordable for those starting on a more strict budget. Though this list is numbered, the listing is not ordered by need or functionality.
1. Table Saw
Like many others, I consider the table saw to be the most important and one of the most versatile tools in a woodworking shop. In most cases this will be the first large tool that you will buy for your shop. Because of the nature of my woodworking, I opted for a portable table saw and built a mounting shelf into my work table. This allows for my table saw to be mounted into my table when using it in the shop and to be removed and mounted onto the included stand when using it portably. Regardless of whether you decide on a portable or stationary table saw, this tool will enable you to make long rip cuts, deep cross cuts, and even assist in joinery! The table saw I use is the DeWalt DWE7491RS (~$590). It features a 10-inch blade with a 32-1/2-inch rip capacity and a 15.0 Amp high torque motor. It comes with everything you need to get started including the portable stand, a miter gauge, a blade guard, and a push stick.
Affordable option: SkilSaw Skil 3410-02 (~$260)
Stationary option: Delta 36-5152 table saw with extension table (~$1,150).
Before I continue, it would be foolish of me not to put in a brief paragraph about table saw safety. THIS IS AN INCREDIBLY POWERFUL TOOL. These tools, like all circular based saws, can do extreme, permanent damage to your appendages without skipping a beat and before you can react. Please take every precaution when operating a table saw, big or small. If you do not have a push stick already, you can find free plans to build one here. Even if you have a push stick, I use and recommend the GRR-RIPPER by MicroJig to anybody looking to increase the safety of using their table saw.
2. Miter Saw
The miter saw is essential in making cross cuts with varying angles and depths with ease. Some people consider the miter saw to be lower on the list of necessary tools because many cross cuts can be performed with a table saw or circular saw. However, I believe it is necessary for quick and efficient cross cuts. While a table saw can do a good job at making cross cuts, the time you save with a miter saw alone makes it worth the purchase in my eyes. The miter saw I use is the DeWalt DWS779 (~$350). It is a double-bevel saw that boasts a large 6-3/4-inch thickness capacity and is capable of cutting 2×16 lumber at 90-degrees.
Affordable option: Metabo HPT C12FDHS (~$200)
Top-of-the-line option: DeWalt DWS780 (~$580)
3. Cicular Saw
The circular saw is another highly versatile saw to have in your wood shop. It is highly portable and can be adjusted to many different angles. The circular saw I use has a bevel capacity of 57-degress as well as an electric brake. The biggest way I put mine to use is for cutting down large boards to make them more manageable on the table saw. The model I use is the DeWalt DWE575SB (~$120).
Affordable option: Makita 5007F (~$100)
Top-of-the-line option: Makita 5008MGA (~$200)
4. Jig Saw
The jig saw offers the ability to cut outside the confines of straight lines. I put mine to use the most when cutting patterns and curves in pieces. While I use an older Ryobi cordless model, I recommend the DeWalt DW331K(~$130), a corded option.
Affordable option: Bosch JS260 (~$65)
Top-of-the-line option: DeWalt DCS331M1 (~$265)
5. Impact driver/Drill driver combo
These are obvious tools that every wood working shop should have in its arsenal. I don’t think you need a detailed description of what these tools are used for so I will leave it with this: you need these to drill and to drive screws. While this is technically two tools, I combined them on this list because of their relationship to each other. In addition, buying a drill set like the one above is far cheaper than buying each driver seperately. While I currently own an old used Makita set I got for $50, the set I recommend for starting is the DeWalt DCK250C2 (~$150). My dad has the set and they work great. In fact, they will likely be my next upgrade purchase.
Affordable option: Porter Cable PCCK604L2 (~$90)
Top-of-the-line option: DeWalt DCK287D1M1 (~$230)
6. Router with Fixed and Plunge Bases.
A router can be one of the most versatile tools in your workshop, hands down. It can be used to cut full or stopped grooves, dados, rabbets, dovetails, you name it, the router has bits for it all. It can be used to cut box joints and even joint the edges of boards. The router I use and recommend is the DeWalt DWP611PK (~$165). It comes with the router and both the fixed and plunge base. The build of the router allows for extremely easy removal and adjustment of the bases.
Affordable option: Makita RT0701C (~$100). This router only comes with the fixed base, so its use will be limited. However, you can still take advantage of many of the router’s positive aspects with just a fixed base.
Top-of-the-line option: Bosch MRC23EVSK (~$270)
7. Shop Vacuum
An often overlooked tool when putting together a workshop, a shop vacuum is essential in keeping your workshop clean. Far quicker and more efficient than a broom and dustpan, a shop vacuum can make quick work of any woodworking debris. I purchased a Shop-Vac 5989300 (~$80) because it has a stainless steel body for more durability and increased mold resistance. In addition, its 4.5 HP motor allows it to do a decent job of collecting debris for its price range.
Affordable option: Porter-Cable PCX18301-4B (~$46)
Top-of-the-line option: Craftsman CMXEVBE17595 (~$112)
8. Dust Collection Kit
In addition to a shop vacuum, a good dust collection unit can greatly reduce the burden of cleaning your workshop. Using a funnel to direct airflow, the Dust Deputy AXD001004A (~$110) seperates dust and wood chips from your vacuum and collects them in a 5-gallon bucket. This reduces damage to your vacuum and also reduces the frequency at which you must empty your vacuum. While a full dust collection unit is always the best way to achieve workshop dust collection, a shop vacuum and dust seperator/collector can do a great job with a low budget. The AXD001004A kit comes with the dust deputy funnel, two 5-gallon buckets, casters, and a mounting bracket to attach it to your vacuum.
Affordable option: Dust Deputy DIY Plus AXD001004HE (~$70). For this model you can create your dust collection unit with just a 5-gallon bucket and a lid.
Top-of-the-line option: Shop Fox W1685 (~$365)
Clamps are an extremely important part of building many woodworking projects. They can play many roles in the shop, from holding joinery to laminating boards. There are many different types of clamps you can buy, but the three I recommend are trigger-activated bar clamps, parallel-jaw clamps, and pipe clamps. I bought my clamps in that exact order, but as I said before, this will also depend largely on the work you will be doing with them. So far I have ten total clamps: one 10-inch and two 24-inch parallel-jaw clamps, 3 12-inch trigger-activated clamps, and four 30-inch bar clamps. This givfes me enough clamps for small, medium, and large jobs.
10. Tape Measure
If you thought that drills were an obvious addition to the list, I’m sure you are literally laughing out loud at this point (or at least quickly exhaling through your nose). While it may seem obvious, the tape measure is still a vital tool, of course. Like the drills, I dont think it’s necessary to give a detailed description other than: you need a tape measure. I use the DeWalt DWHT36107 (~$13), and while I wish I could give you a detailed description of why I use it, I simply cannot. It is just the tape measure I saw that looked nice and it ended up doing the job just right. I dont have an affordable or top-of-the-line option for the tape measure because if you’re looking for a tape measure under this price, it will likely be junk. If you spend any more on a tape measure, you are spending too much, in my honest opinion. But of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder so choose accordingly.
That concludes the list of what I believe to be the top 10 must-have tools for starting a woodworking shop from scratch. There are a few tools that I had a hard time omitting from this list, so I will update this post soon with five honorable mentions. Thanks for reading and good luck!