I quickly found that power equipment was not broadening my capabilities as much as it was like an anchor tethering me to a limited band of work and taking up valuable shop space. I also didn’t like wearing the requisite dust mask, hearing protection and safety glasses all the time – it was like a mini sensory deprivation chamber. When I asked master cabinetmaker Dan Faia what he does for dust protection in his own shop, his succinct reply was “I never coughed up a curl.” That pithy remark reflected the very different view traditional woodworkers have – without all the big machines, the dust and noise, you can focus on the work, invest in a smaller set of high quality tools that should last a lifetime and enjoy the process as much as the result.
Chapter 13 details making bookcases — the basic part of a carcass. Chapter 14 digs into tables where you get a chance to practice your edge-to-edge joints for building tabletops and use the most common and durable joint that exists — the mortise and tenon. Chapter 15 goes a little farther by providing plans to make a dresser and an armoire. By the time you finish with these chapters, you’ll be well on your way to feeling comfortable making furniture and will be ready to tackle more ambitious projects.
Don’t follow the temptation to cheap out and buy a cheap combination square. Because, like me, you will eventually have to replace it because of its inaccuracy. If you want your joinery to fit perfectly, then you need to scribe it accurately with precise marking tools. Unfortunately there is really only one company (that I know of) that makes a super accurate combination square. But fortunately it is amazing, and I use it daily. I’ll talk about it in-depth in the Layout & Measuring Tool Buying Guide.
About forty years ago I purchased a Shopsmith Mark V because I lacked space for a large shop, and also moved around the United States a lot. Later I purchased another Shopsmith Mark V Model 510 for the increase in table size and flexibility. I do wood working as a hobby, not to do many projects as fast as possible. I also have every tool and accessory that Shopsmith makes for the two primary tools. Their quality is excellent, and while I enjoy antique tools like the 1912 three phase electric Camel Back Drill Press I purchased for my son’s shop, the Shopsmith does every thing I have ever needed.
In 1900, just as it was when I was a student over 100 years later, the view is that it is better to buy a quality tool once that will last a lifetime than buy something of poor quality which will not serve you well in your work. Keep that in mind as you review the list — since the tools were not the cheapest back then and surely are not the cheapest today. But with this modest set of tools you can build an amazing array of projects just as many ‘Sloyders’ (Sloyd school students) have done before us.
I’m not sold on the need for a power jointer for flattening a surface. That said, I do have a Shopsmith 4″ jointer.. It’s great for jointing edges, and perhaps flattening the occasional rails and stiles, but it of course is inadequate for surfacing wide boards. Would a six inch jointer be better…..not by much. So what do we do? Go to an eight inch, or better yet a ten inch jointer? Now we’re getting into really big, heavy, and electrically hungry machines that are not really suitable for the small shop that is likely to be in a small shed or garage.
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).
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