There is a seemingly endless selection of power tools. Variations of tools that were only seen in large cabinet shops and furniture factories can now be found at the local big box hardware stores. Prices are lower today than they have ever been in terms of real dollars. Quality can vary and old brand names don't always mean what they used to. So where do you start?
I always try to ask my students why they have come to my school. The standard answer is, "I wanted to learn the right way," but frequently the answer is "that I sit in front of a computer all day and don't feel like I do anything at all." Or simply, they are bored with sitting at home every night. These are the people who are really fun to have in class. They have no preconceived notions, no bad habits to break and they usually really appreciate whatever they have made. Many of them go on to make some new friends at the school. Through the years, I have seen many make plans to take another class "if my buddy is going to do it, too."
At the same time, in order to improve your skills, you have to first use those skills and will make mistakes as a novice. How quickly those are overcome and improved on varies from person to person. Some craftsmen grasp a skill quickly and progress to higher levels, others, for several reasons, take more time. Those that do this quickly thrive as self-taught artisans.
As projects increase in size and scale, there is usually a desire to get a larger table saw, a miter saw, add a small jointer, a router and maybe a belt sander. Eventually, things get out of hand and you are seen at every tool sale, and spend more time online looking at the few remaining tools for which you have not yet found a project that will justify their purchase.
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One of my mentors started out as a cabinetmaker who loved working wood but dreaded getting to the finishing part. He started doing some digging to learn more about it and became so addicted to the process that nowadays he loathes having to build anything because all he wants to do is the finishing! I promise that if you give a little energy to learning how to properly finish your work, your enjoyment of the finished piece will be dramatically increased. These final touches are enough to inspire you to take on another project.
Thickness planer. A thickness planer is used to fix surfaces of imperfect wood. If you are picking up less than perfect wood from the lumberyard, wood with some surface defects, a planer will let you fix that wood in the quickest time. A thickness planer pays for itself quick as it allows you to buy cheaper wood that doesn’t have perfect surfaces and fix it yourself. Be careful though. You loose wood during planing. So the remaining amount of wood still has to be worth the price you paid for it.