I’m excited to kick this new year off by checking a few items off of my TDC to-do list and one of those rather large tasks is to beef up our Getting Started, Tool Time, and Tips & Tricks sections of the site! There is a definite wall of mysticism that surrounds the woodworking and construction industries and my hope is to slowly tear down that wall and make sure that all of you have the proper skill set to move forward in building with confidence. I will be providing a whole host of DIY Basics that truly start at the beginning and work up in skill level, and even plan to shoot some video content for you fine folks…. gasp. We shall leave no one behind, ya? Can I get a Yahoo?
Today we are going to do precisely that and start at the beginning… well kind of. You see once upon a time, in a far off land, this quirky gal named Rayan (that’s me, if you didn’t know) shared a Must Have Tool List with you guys. Now this list was what I like to call the absolute skinny, meaning that it only lists those items that are absolutely necessary, supremely crucial, and totally vital to build something. A few of the items were task specific, like mentioning a nail gun and compressor combo for anyone attempting to install trim or molding, and aren’t items you need to add to your arsenal if say you wanted to build a bed, for instance… but I noted that for each item so it shouldn’t scare you too much.
But this list, the one that I am finally getting around to writing today, is for the fun stuff and those items you will need to really truly be utterly successful in your furniture builds, and without suffering from Angina along the way. Now, just like the first list (here), there are going to be some items included that are fairly specific to the task at hand. So, if you don’t ever plan on attempting that particular task, you can simply ignore those items and focus on what you will be more likely to use. No point in aimlessly buying tools that will sit around untouched, collecting dust. Also in a similar fashion to the first list, I don’t plan on suggesting brands or price points here, though I will include affiliate links for the items I personally use or find to be a nice price point and product feature combo, or have found to not cause brain damage in the attempt to use. I am in no way currently affiliated with any of the brands or products shown here, just in case you were wondering, and this isn’t to be confused with affiliate links, which are all actually created through Amazon and don’t directly relate to any of these brands whatsoever. Yahoo.
So lett’s get started and dive right in, shall we? In no particular order…
A Battery Operated Portable Nailer…. need I say more. This bad girl will shoot 2″ finish nails and shares the same battery as a myriad of other tools in the same collection, and that my friends is the bees knees. A nail gun might seem intimidating at first, and with good reason. These suckers are indeed a deadly weapon and not to be underestimated for any reason. With proper precaution and a few good reads of the manual, this is by far the most convenient and time saving tool in my arsenal outside of my saw, which I will get to next). I included a nail gun compressor combo on the original list of must haves, so this item is simply the updated, more portable version of that item and feels a bit like a splurge for just how time saving and easy it is to use, so I would indeed recommend you go this route if you will need to use finish nails or brad nails for any reason whatsoever. And… it’s possible it might actually be less expensive than the nail gun compressor combo… not sure.
12″ Double Bevel Compound Miter Saw… If you can afford to purchase one of these in a large size that slides, even better. The bigger the blade, the larger the cut and having the compound capability (can miter and bevel at the same time) is crucial on occasion, though most of the time either a miter or a bevel is all that is necessary. Double bevel indicates that it can bevel in either direction, which is definitely nice… all that board flipping will make a gal tired, especially if she’s only 5’2″ like someone I know (me). Having a saw that will do these gorgeous things, set up in an easy to access location is quite literally a requirement for me to be able to build. If you are balancing babies, like I am balancing babies, being able to get in and get out when inspiration strikes is quite literally a make or break for me. This saw or one like it in your price range (a 10″ blade capacity will be less expensive, but will require a good deal of board flipping) will easily change the way you build and will allow you to build more quickly and easily. Not to mention it will give you the ability to cut as you build which is always a good idea so that you can measure and cut to length as needed. Your local home improvement store will often makes your cuts for you, but when they are off by a bit it’s a major hassle to rectify if you don’t have something on hand.
Cordless Drill + Impact Driver… Now let it be said… I don’t care what they say, a cordless drill does not even come close to the power that a corded drill has. The end. But… a cordless drill and an impact driver are absolutely lovely to have on hand. When those puppies have the interchangeable battery system that the Ryobi One + series happen to have, well it’s just too darn convenient and simple to ignore as a set to include in your arsenal. Plus, it’s quite handy to have a separate drill and driver on hand so that you don’t have to change out your bits every 5 seconds. Even a quick change chuck is a tad inconvenient when you need to switch between drilling and driving with any kind of frequency.
Kreg K5 Pocket Hole Jig… The best of all the features from all the versions before this and with some fabulous additions to boot. You see, you will need a pocket hole jig to build most if not all of the projects on this site. So while any of them will do the job including the Kreg Jig Jr., this kit takes the cake. If you aren’t quite ready to go with the latest greatest of a thing, and you prefer the tried and true, the K4 Master System comes with quite a few bells and whistles, including a Mini Jig (which I use constantly for on the fly pocket holing) and a Kreg Face Clamp (hands down the best clamp around).
Right Angle Close Quarters Drill… For those hard to reach teeny tiny spaces and of course with my beloved easy swap battery system this guy has fast become a fave. I had the pleasure of getting my mitts on one of these recently (thank you Ryobi) and it’s funny how you don’t realize how much suffering you might be experiencing until someone puts you out of your misery. This guy did that for me. I have the 4V version which does not pack hardly enough power for my power hungry self, so this 18V version both packs a bigger punch and uses the same battery as so many of my other tools. That is a much better arrangement I think.
Circular Saw… This might not sound like a dream team tool, but in fact I prefer my circular saw over my table saw any day of the week. That is the truth of the matter. Also a table saw is technically not for making cross cuts, which for me defeats the purpose. It’s a rarity that I need to rip down a board to a smaller size, so cross cutting is where I need this to function. Now combined with the item below, this is a powerful and accurate cutting tool which is much safer when handling plywood sheets. Attempting to push an entire sheet of ply through my table saw blade with the limited wingspan that I have, has proven nearly impossible. This is my go-to every single time. Much safer for me…
Kreg Rip Cut… When combined with my circular saw, this baby is the bomb dot com. I can hardly walk in a straight line, so cutting in a straight line, even with a guide marker is virtually impossible for me. I will be posting an article on using this bad boy shortly, but in the meantime, I urge you to check out the description here and take a look at the demo pics. It will blow your mind! This is hands down one of my best purchases to date. Actually I feel like most of these are, but this one is useful constantly!
Palm Router… Of course there is no question that a larger table unit type of router is going to be the end all be all, but for most builders here at TDC, this kind of unit will do the job and then some and all with the ease of portability in a hand held tool. A router is a fabulous addition to your workshop for many reasons, but the main reason I feel this is a good investment is that it can do the job that you might otherwise need a table saw for (rabbets, dadoes, and grooves) and will also deck out your trim with pretty detailing. It’s a fabulous way to cut a template, for example many of the legs we design for seating and even the modern tree shaped bookshelf would absolutely benefit from a router, creating smooth beautiful organic lines as opposed to the sometimes rough cut from a jig saw. Inset hinges? Router. Beautiful inlay wood designs? Router. Freeform pattern and irregular curves and cuts? Router. Picture frame inset? Router. And on and on and on. A super cool tool that has so many possible uses and features it will definitely earn it’s keep.
Belt Sander… This is so very helpful when you are building with less than stellar lumber or you are a newbie to building, without doubt… but even for a more seasoned pro, having a belt sander, in my humble opinion, is like having 7 extra helpers over to help you sand your piece and perfect your build. Once you master your machine, this will greatly speed the sanding process, but be cautious when you are learning or you just might sand off a corner or create an uneccessary groove in your table top about 3 inches wide by 18 or 21 inches long, eek! There are two machines which I would love to get my hands on (I use an ancient Craftsman belt sander), the first is this more expensive Makita beauty for it’s claim to sand edges and corners. This is often the most trying aspect of a sander and why I typically stick to the 1/4 sheet variety for my basic sanding purposes. Those corners are super tricky to get into and sand the way you sand the rest of your piece. I know many of you, especially those of you with an orbital sander, know what I mean. So this Makita has a cloth dust collector and a nose that will allow you to reach those tricky spots with the front rather than the side of your sander. Awesome… Now this SKIL belt sander is priced a little bit more in my league, and has an awesome micro-filtration system with easy empty chamber. Double awesome! It doesn’t have the protruding nose and specialized design for edges and corners like the Makita, but we all have to find our ideal compromise to suit our budgets and our particular needs best, ya? Both of these tools are within the typical size for sanding belts – 3″x18″ or 3″x21″ – which is actually quite important since it means you will be able to replace these with ease and for less cost than a more specialized size that requires a specialty brand of belt. With both sanding supplies and wood filler I always feel like this needs to be considered and it would be lovely if it were possible to buy these items in bulk. I go through them like I blink my eyes and if you haven’t purchased a sander that uses standard sheets or belts, you will pay out a small fortune in sanding materials over time.
Band Saw or Rockwell BladeRunner… Some of the features of this insanely awesome thing are a bit redundant with a few of the previously mentioned tools, BUT, that doesn’t stop this cool guy from being pure genius. The perfect, and much safer option for ripping materials and creating stock from raw lumber. For those of you with access to beautiful species of wood, in it’s raw form, this is the perfect way to make yourself some gorgeous one of a kind furniture with wood that is costly or hard to come by. This particular tool I have linked to here, will scroll, curve, miter, cross cut, and even cut metal and tile without the need for a special water spraying saw! Woot! Ya, pretty awesome and I would donate one of my dogs for this baby! Most band saws will cut in this fashion, though I’m not entirely sure if they will cut metal and tile, but perhaps. Check out a few of Jake’s posts regarding his bandsaw experiences here and here. Isn’t it the end all be all? Indeed.
There may be other amazing things to add to this list, but for me, this is the ‘best of’ list of things that save me amazing amounts of time and energy when I build. I would love to know what your faves are! Please feel free to add your two cents in the comment section here, I would love to know what amazing things I might be missing out on.