I watch all sort of woodworking videos on YouTube. I see some craftsmen working in warehouse sized shops with elaborate dust collection systems hooked to top of the line cabinet saws, router tables, thickness planers and jointers. In another lifetime, after winning a big lottery, that could be me. I’m not sure I would be happy owning all that stuff though. When you invest many thousands of dollars on your “dream” shop you kind of feel you must justify it by using it a lot.
The biggest shop I ever put together was 25-30 years ago when I lived in my Ferguson, MO home with my wife & two kids. We owned a small split level house there that had a good size basement that I turned into a complete workshop. I’m talking about a table saw and radial arm saw, floor stand drill press and a nice big router table I built myself. I owned thousands of dollars of bits and blades with every accessory on the market at that time. That was two lifetimes ago.
Fast forward 25 years and I find myself alone in a one room government housing unit measuring 10’x20′. Don’t get me wrong here, I love my little apartment! I still love my woodworking hobby as well. It’s just scaled down a bunch to fit my home.
My budget is also limited to Social Security and a small pension. You don’t qualify for one of these government housing units if you’re well off. Still I pick my battles and I budget to allow myself one new “toy” a month. Over 18 months in my present home I’ve put together a nice collection of quality tools. I’ve saved a ton of money building a lot of my own tools like workbenches, router tables and jigs and fixtures. When you have limited floor space you learn to build vertically.
My new workbench is strong, nicely sized and exactly what I need to make anything. A similarly sized store bought workbench would cost over $1500 dollars. I built mine for $80 in one day using a Japanese hand saw and a screwdriver.
When I buy tools, be they power tools or hand tools, I buy the best quality I can afford. You don’t skimp on quality when it comes to hand tools. It’s taken me 18 months to buy my 3 Lie-Nielsen hand planes, worth every penny. The same philosophy applies to measurement tools, marking tools and sharpening tools. You’ve got to understand these tools are an investment to producing quality work. What good is a cheap square that’s not square?
So my lifelong love of all things wood continues. I don’t care if I use my tools to just make lots of sawdust. It’s in the blood of every diehard woodworker after all! 🙂
Workbench – 2’x4’x36″ built with Simpson Strong-tie Workbench brackets and 2″x4″x8′ construction lumber and 3/4″ MDF top & bottom shelves.
Kreg PRS2100 Benchtop Router Table with Porter-Cable 690LR 1 3/4 HP 1/2″ bit router.
DeWalt 745 Contractor’s Table Saw with 10″ Amana 50 Tooth blade and Incra 1000SE miter gauge and Miter Express Crosscut Sled(not shown)