Back to the future?

something I see from time to time on forums is the subject of how to start out in woodworking. Inevitably the answer is to buy the best tools that you can afford. But what is best, especially to someone who doesn’t know any better? What’s a good woodworking space to someone who has never tried it? Wait, have I done this subject before? Deja vu is strong all around.

I sometimes wonder what it would be if I were in those shoes again. The answer, invariably, is to chart a course very similar to what I did. I still say that now? Yes. The hardest thing to appreciate is quality, so I think starting out with the very best doesn’t lend that experience of getting by. Does it cause some lost cost along the way? Yes. Sometimes the cost of experience is cost. It’s hard for me to sit here and tell people they have to save up and buy the very best from the very beginning. Nothing gets done that way.

Now, it would be a completely different answer if I had to start over, with all of the knowledge and experience I currently possess. I would take that advice so many give. You look at it like this: something happens with your shop, and you’re given a fair value to get back up and running. Not a fantasy amount, fair value. I’m going Festool first and foremost for power tools. Track saw, domino, sander, router – all replaced. The accessories too, plus the MFT and CT, but I’d probably go bigger on the capacity there. They all play such a key role in my work now.

For bigger tools is where I diverge from history. I would either buy a more standard table saw, or perhaps not buy one at all. I got a great deal on this one, a big reason why I haven’t seriously considered selling. My jointer takes up too much floor space for my liking. I do think I need one, so I would probably look for one that has a smaller base. I’d keep capacity if I could. I would go back with the Dewalt 735, however I’d leave the door open to a combo jointer/planer to help save space. I’d buy my drill press again all day long, if only they still made it. It’s hard to go really wrong on a floor drill press. My bandsaw…eh. I’d probably go nicer on that one, probably a better resaw ability. The 1412 run on 110v? I’d probably not buy the lathe again. I love it, I love turning. It just takes up so much room.

I’d go in a different direction for hand tools. I’d skip the Groz and Record and head straight for the Veritas. I don’t need as many planes as I have, anyway. I probably would buy the Narex chisels again, but there’s no reason to buy every one of them. Oh well. I’d buy the Veritas saws again, and probably just one carpenter style saw, plus the flush cut. I’d go straight for parallel clamps, Irwin quick release, and Festool quick release clamps. Not much else needed there. I think I would go again with Ryobi 18v tools like drills/drivers, the radio and the fans. The rest really haven’t been used lately. I’d skip all of the straight edge clamps in favor of the Festool, I’d keep going with any Woodpecker and Incra measuring tools. Would I skip the Ridgid vac? Yes. A real dust collector and a bigger Festool vac should do. I’d buy the Ridgid OSS again. The air compressor I’d try to go larger, if I have room.

The router table I’d like to keep separate and offset, but going forward that might change. I’d go again with the Triton router and Kreg plate. I’d try to go with the Incra fence like I’ve planned. I’d build the chaos wall again, albeit slightly differently in terms of construction. Stands for everything else would have to be determined on floor space.

Now, the big question comes to the workbench. I don’t really know what I’d like to do here. The Holtzapffel is nice, but probably not my next bench. Would it be Roubo? The Holzwerken uber bench? Something else? Hadn’t really thought about it. I think if I could pull it off, and it would be sturdy enough, I’d build the Holzwerken, particularly if it meant I could combine the footprint of the router table. It just seems like a great compromise, if you had to compromise.

I suppose the ultimate question would be what to do about the workshop itself. Everything else being equal, meaning no moves or variances were on the horizon, I’d build basically the same simple structure, with a bit higher ceiling. Perhaps a barn-style, and plug the dust collector up there. I think the real determine question would be if I considered a move in the next few years probable. If so, same size and look for options in the next place. If not, I’m thinking heavily about getting a variance waiver and building as big of a shop as would be in the budget.

The key point I try to get across here is that to learn from experience, you must first have experience. Those just starting out might need to take the same steps I did. Certainly, I hit on some really good tools and ideas the first time around. I hope everyone has that same luck. Do your research, and if you can’t buy very much at first, just try to make wise decisions.

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