There’s a tried and true response to any question you see on woodworking forums: buy the best you can afford. It’s a simple statement, said simply. It’s not always true, however. Most people mean it to convey you should be buying something very expensive. In their mind, best equals the most expensive. To others, best means best reviewed. To me, however, best is what works best for the person in question. There’s never a point in buying something at the top of your budget if it doesn’t do what you want it to, or find it too complicated.
Sometimes people need to find their own way. Buying something at entry level lets them know exactly what they should be looking for in a subsequent purchase. This is especially true when one first enters the world of woodworking. It helps to have taken instruction, but most people jump into this hobby not knowing what they want to do or what they need to have. I wouldn’t have spent as much as I did on my table saw without using one that nearly killed me first. I wouldn’t have upgraded to a 12″ SCMS without using my 10″ CMS first. Sometimes you have to find your own way.
I spent very little on the lathe tools and face shield. These were conscious decisions. I knew at some point I would have to upgrade the chisels, but these will do me fine until I start getting serious and learn to sharpen. I was very disappointed with the shield, because it lacked clarity. Until today, when I found out there was a very hard to discern coating that peeled away. It’s very clear now, however the 3M shield I bought to replace it (before I discovered this) is so much better. It was $4 vs $25. I will still use the cheap shield, just perhaps on other things.
I very rarely ever consider any purchase a waste of money. I do research on everything, trying to find out what will work for me. I can only think of a couple things that I wish I could take back, and I did. Other than those, I’m happy with all of my purchases, even the ones that eventually became obsolete.