Whether starting a workshop from scratch or enhancing an existing one, few woodworkers will come up with the same workshop tools wish lists. Most often the first priority is either a table saw, band saw, or radial arm saw, followed by equipment to dress up lumber, such as a planer, lathe, and drill press. From there on, the equipment you’ll want will depend to a large degree on the projects you end up building most often.

Maybe you have a tablesaw and a 13” thickness planer already, but most of us don’t. Be careful not to fall into the trap of feeling like you have to buy expensive machines to build things. When I work with wood, I use only hand tools and love every minute of it. If you learn how artisans worked their lumber before machines dominated the furniture industry, you will find woodworking by hand to be efficient and viable. There are many tried-and-true techniques to expedite the process that free us from feeling like we have to do machine-perfect work by hand. The real key is to use the right tool for the job: coarse tools for coarse work and fine tools for fine work. Still not convinced? Check out my good friend Jim’s story. I hope it inspires you.

Finding a toolbox for a mechanic, for his hand tools, is not a big challenge at all - there are dozens of the tool boxes available on the market, from huge roll-around shop cases to small metal boxes. Plumbers, electricians, and farmers are well served, too, with everything from pickup-truck storage to toolboxes and belts. But, if you are a shop-bound woodworker then the case changes. You get to need a tool box that suits the range and variety of hand tools that most woodworkers like to have. For those who deny making do with second best, there's only one solution, you’ve to build a wooden toolbox that should be designed expressly for a woodworking shop.


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.
Picture it: eight people with different skill levels, each trying to design a different project (which, by the way, they have no idea how to do) and hopefully cutting some wood by the third class. Meanwhile, the instructor is running from student to student, and then running to the table saw where a kickback has occurred. It is no wonder that at the end of the class not a single thing has been made and most of the students don't come back.
In this age of air-powered nailers, drills, sanders, impact wrenches, grinders, saws, spray guns, washers, and other pneumatic tools, the compressor has become a virtual necessity. The compressor consists of a motorized pump; a tank for storing the compressed air; an on/off control (governor) that tells the pump when to start and stop in order to keep the pressure within preset limits; and a regulator to control the pressure at which the air escapes the tank to suit the needs of the tools being used. There’s a metal frame on which all the parts are mounted, usually with a carrying handle and sometimes wheels.
Your first backsaws should be (1) a dovetail saw, with fine rip teeth, used for cutting joinery along the grain (like dovetails), (2) a “carcass saw” used for cutting across the grain (fine cross cut teeth), and (3) a larger tenon saw used for cutting deeper cuts, like tenon cheeks, along the grain (rip teeth). All three saws are used very, very often in my workshop. You could certainly get by with just a larger dovetail saw and a carcass saw at first, if you don’t plan on immediately cutting large tenons. Buying backsaws can be very confusing because there is no standardized naming system, and a dovetail saw can be turned into a carcass saw (and vice-a-versa) by sharpening it differently. And practically everybody that’s selling antique saws mixes the names up. My buyer’s guide really clears this confusion up and will help you know what to look for.
Being without machinery to dimension and dress rough timber myself I can definitely see the benefit, but I think the investment (both in money and space) in machinery like this is premature for ‘basic’ woodworking. Additionally, without some other machinery (table saw, bandsaw) you’re still going to have trouble dimensioning smaller timber for projects from large/rough stock (e.g. producing timber strips for case fronts, ripping to reduce thickness, etc).
Upon graduating from high school, I wasn’t sure exactly what career to pursue, but I knew it had to be something that involved creating things with my hands. I’d always had natural talent working with tools, and despite having been an A-average student, I was never fond of conventional academics. Not having better plans at the time, I took one calculus course, got an “A”, then promptly decided two things: I didn’t enjoy college and taking on any debt would force me into a dull, conventional 9-5 job until the debt could be paid off. I didn’t know this back then, but I was pretty much a textbook case of the restless student with the entrepreneurial spirit. Just a few months later, I got the opportunity to accept an apprenticeship at Remmert Studios which was an incredible break. It was a result of reading a local newspaper article about the business, then going to meet the owner. Not many are able to break into woodworking that easily, especially in the high-end market. That company did a lot of contemporary furniture for churches, and being short-staffed, it wasn’t long before I was given a full-time position.While working that job, I was also taking week-long classes at Marc Adams School of Woodworking as time and money permitted. The combination of hands-on work and classroom study allowed me to acquire new skills very quickly. Being at the school also netted an internship opportunity with one of North America’s most prestigious furniture-makers, Michael Fortune.
Cut off a 21-in.-long board for the shelves, rip it in the middle to make two shelves, and cut 45-degree bevels on the two long front edges with a router or table saw. Bevel the ends of the other board, cut dadoes, which are grooves cut into the wood with a router or a table saw with a dado blade, cross- wise (cut a dado on scrap and test-fit the shelves first!) and cut it into four narrower boards, two at 1-3/8 in. wide and two at 4 in.
Manufacturing the furniture is one of the most complex crafts, because manufacturing the good quality furniture requires a lot of skills, tools and rich experience. As the part of interior, the furniture is always on the visible place and it is often the main element of interior decorations. Because of this, its manufacture does not allow any mistakes. Just a tiny error on a visible place can often ruin all the effort that was made to produce that piece of the furniture. Because of that, a quality furniture plan is one of the basic things for reducing the risk of errors.
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