I think it depends on the type of woodworker you would like to become. Are you more interested in traditional “electric free” carpentry or are you drawn to the ease and convenience of modern machinery? Also, I think you should take into consideration what kind and how much shop space you have available. I have worked with all the modern machines for years now, and are just presently finding personal satisfaction in traditional woodworking. In fact, last night I built my very first bookcase with just a few “powerless” hand tools. So in all, I would suggest some personal reflection…What type of woodworker do you want to become?…and from there garnish your shop appropriately.
To be honest, I use to not know a thing about woodworking or power tools. In fact, I didn’t even know how to use a drill! And the thought of power tools and woodworking definitely sounded kind of intimidating and out of my league, like it was more of a rugged guy thing. I’m so glad those initial thoughts didn’t keep me from discovering one of my greatest passions.
More than a decade ago I spent 2 weeks in Maine aspiring to learn furniture making. On my return home I started enthusiastically planning to turn my basement into a proper shop – with all the “essential” tools I had learned to use. My list reflected my engineer’s preference for buying quality and quickly exceeded $25k in power tools alone (table saw, band saw, joiner, thickness planer, drill press…) even before solving the power, lighting and dust challenges.
The next important hand tool for the woodworker is an accurate tape measure. Get a retractable one that is at least 25 feet long. Any longer than that, and you start having problems getting it to roll back up. Since measurements on large scale projects can be very susceptible to even the most minute measurement variations, you’ll want to make sure the “hook” or tab at the end of the is firmly attached, with no give. When they get loose, you’ll have as much as 1/8” variation in your measurements. This can add up to some severe accuracy problems in the long run.
Jim, I belong to Charles Neil’s website and get his DVDs and watch his videos. He’s a great teacher. However, if I had to travel all the way up to Virginia I’d be out of luck. The Internet is a great asset for woodworkers. BTW, I wish the college you teach in was right here in my town. If it were I’d enroll because I know that you are a fine woodworker. Traveling somewhere to a class is an expense that I couldn’t afford in money and time.

Building a bookcase or bookshelf is a fairly simple woodworking plan that you can get done in just a day or two. This is also a low-cost project as well and since the project idea is free, you don't have to worry about busting through your budget. Just follow the simple steps in the tutorial and enjoy your own company building a simple bookcase on this weekend.


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