Many beginners trying to get started in woodworking take one look at their budget and worry about how they can afford to buy a whole shop full of power tools to get started. Fortunately, one doesn’t have to spend a fortune to get started.
1. Circular Saw
While some people consider the circular saw to be more of a carpentry tool than a fine woodworking tool, others would disagree. There may be no more versatile basic handheld power tool than a circular saw. When used with a clamp-on straight-edge, the circular saw can be just about as accurate as a table saw and handle quite a few of the same tasks, including cutting sheet goods such as plywood or medium-density fiberboard (MDF). When woodworking on a budget, a quality circular saw should be the first handheld power tool purchased.
2. Power Drill
Some might expect to see a cordless drill on this list, but when we’re talking about basic power woodworking tools, a corded drill is more versatile and powerful. Cordless tools have the advantage of being more portable, but corded drills are less expensive and can do more than a cordless drill. There are some options to consider when choosing a corded power drill, such as whether you want a 3/8-inch or 1/2-inch chuck, keyed or keyless chuck, straight drill or hammer drill, and so on. Learn about all your options before buying.
The third essential tool for the beginner is a jigsaw. A jigsaw allows the user to cut curved and circular patterns in stock. While a band saw is more accurate and can cut thicker stock, the jig saw (also called a saber saw) can be perfectly effective for a beginner. For versatility, choose an orbital-action, corded jigsaw that feels good in your hand and has an easy blade-changing system.
4. Random Orbit Sander
The fourth most important basic handheld power tool every beginner should buy is a random orbit sander. While palm sanders are less expensive and can use plain sandpaper (cut into quarter sections), the random orbit version uses hook-and-loop fastened sanding disks. The random orbit motion will not leave patterned scratches in the workpiece, as do other types of sanders. Of course, be certain that your local woodworking supplier has sanding disks readily available in a number of grits to fit the model that you choose, as the key to proper sanding is to use progressively finer grits.
5. Table Saw
Once you have the four aforementioned handheld power tools in your arsenal and you’ve had time to get comfortable with using them, its time to make your first (and likely most important) major tool purchase. The table saw is the heart and soul of every woodworking shop—the centerpiece around which all of the other tools are used and organized. The table saw’s strength is its ability to cut sheet goods with perfectly straight edges, but it can also make just about any cut you want, including miters, bevels, and even dado grooves.