Woodworking As a Family Hobby: Setting Up Shop

Guide for the woodworking novice to setup a complete home wood shop. Included: list of tools and materials, recommended places to shop, and list of basic safety rules.

Woodworking is a hobby that the whole family can enjoy. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a man or woman, or a young boy or girl. It doesn’t matter whether you’re nine years old or ninety years young. It doesn’t matter whether you have never used a tool before in your life or an old pro, there are projects that fit your skill level and getting started in the hobby can be relatively inexpensive as well as easy. One of the biggest joys of woodworking is the satisfaction gets from taking unfinished lumber and turning it into a beautiful table, bookcase, chest or whatever. It really doesn’t matter what you build, it’s the satisfaction of being able to display and tell others that I built it myself or being able to tell others that we built ourselves is what really matters. It’s the pride that comes from having others admire your craftsmanship and of having friends; neighbors and relatives ask you if you would build one for them too. Another benefit of woodworking as a family hobby is that you can furnish your home and yard with beautiful thing for a fraction of what it would cost you to buy them.

In this article I’m going to concentrate on helping you set up your first woodworking shop. Shop space is something that you will never be able to have too much of but you can do wonderful things with a shop as small as a 12 X 14 foot shed or part of your garage. Basements are fine too but they do limit you to the size of the projects that you can build because you have to be able to get the finished project up the basement stairs which are quite often very narrow affairs. The center piece of every woodworking shop is the woodworker’s workbench. The woodworker’s workbench has some special features that a general do-it-yourselfer workbench doesn’t have, things like bench dog holes, woodworker’s vises, etc. There are two approaches to getting a good worker’s workbench, you can buy one or you can build your own. There are many good reasons to build your own besides saving you a ton of money. Building your own bench will give you practice using your new table saw, another essential item for every woodworker’s workshop and building a workbench is a great first project for you to tackle either as an individual project or as a family project. I could give you step by step instructions for designing and building your own bench but that would be like reinventing the wheel again because there are many fine plans available and many of them are free if you know where to look on the internet. I’m including plans for one as a pdf file that you can download and use. This one is from one of my favorite woodworking magazines, Woodsmith. This is an excellent woodworking bench for the small shop. It’s not only exceptionally sturdy for its simple construction; it’s very easy to build with a few power tools. I helped my thirteen year old grandson build one of these benches as his first woodworking project last spring when he wanted to set up a shop in the corner of his parent’s basement. The constraints I placed on basement shops didn’t apply to his shop because there was a ground level outside entranceway. The only modifications that I made to these plans were to add a second woodworking vice to the opposite end of the worktop. There will be times when you will want to support long, narrow work pieces for sanding, planning, or some other procedure and a second vice will help hold in a level, secure position. This bench is a bench that you build in one weekend with an investment of about $100 in materials.

Tools that you will need for this project

· 10” Table saw

· 10” compound miter saw

· 7 ¼” Skill saw

· Portable router

· Basic set of router bits

· 3/8” drill/driver

· Twist drill bit set

· 16oz Claw hammer

· 3/8” drive socket set

· Combination wrench set

· Speed square

· Tape measure

· Combination square

· 4 foot level

· 6 36” pipe clamps

For the small shop I firmly recommend going with a line of bench top power tools with the exception of the table saw. The table saw should be a standalone power tool. The Craftsman 10” table saw model 21805 at $199.00 is a good saw to start with. The Craftsman 10” 15 Amp compound miter saw with Laser Trac™ at $119.00, the Craftsman 7 ¼” circular saw with Laser Trac™ and LED work light at $89.00, the Craftsman 2hp fixed and plunge base router with electronic feedback at $120.00, and the Craftsman C3 19.2 Volt Drill/Driver at $119.00 are also all recommended as good tool for the general woodworker. When we get to choose your bench top tools we will be looking at the new line of bench top tools by Skill which are carried by Sears. Craftsman tool are great tools and are available on line at http://www.sears.com/shc/s/v_10153_12605_Tools?sbf=Brand&sbv=Craftsman or you can buy them at your local Sears retail store. The great thing about shopping at the Craftsman online site is that they offer free shipping on any orders over $99.00. Sears Craftsman tools is also the recommended source for power tool accessories and hand tools too but there are something better purchased from specialty hoses like Rockler woodworking-things woodworker vices, clamps, etc. All the other materials needed for this project should be available at your local home centers like Home Depot or Lowes.

Before I leave you today I want to start to inculcate you with the basic safety rules that anyone using power tools should obey at all times.

Basic safety rules to follow when using power tools

Since you will be starting with a table saw and miter saw the rules I’m about to give you today are especially needed for working safely with saws and routers of all types.

· Always wear safety goggles

· Never wear loose fitting garments. Never, never wear a tie because they can get tangled up in a lathe, drill press, saw, or some other rotating tool and pull you in

· Never allow pets or little children into the shop area

· Avoid distractions like playing loud music or having a TV on

· Never disable a safety device like the blade guard on a table saw. Many times you will see an expert using a tool with the guards removed in magazines but that was the purpose of giving you a better shot of what was being done, it doesn’t mean that you should take the safety guards off on your saw, router, etc

· Never stand directly behind the blade of a table saw because, even with anti-kickback devices in place, kickbacks do happen and can cause you serious injury.

· Always use a push block when feeding narrow work pieces into the saw blade

· Never reach over a saw blade to remove the cutoff piece

· Always disconnect any power tool before changing a saw blade or cutter bit

· Always work in a well lit area

· Never work with power tools when you are tired

· Never work with power tools if you are taking medication that causes sleepiness or disorientation

· Never use power tools after you’ve had any alcoholic beverages


Well, maybe getting started isn’t so inexpensive. The tools and materials that you will need to begin setting up your woodworking shop will run you between $800 and $1000s but these tools are good tools and with the proper care they will last you a life time. Once you become a tool guru you can find great bargains in used tools but you really need to know what to look for when buying used tools before buying one. When buying used power tools just like when buying a used car, you really need to know how to evaluate them or it’s very easy to get stuck with a lemon.

Next up we will talk a little about bench top tools and we will build a storage cabinet for them as well as a single base that can be used with all of them. Just because they are called bench top tools doesn’t mean that you have to use them on your woodworking bench.

Until next time decide where you’re going to set up shop, order your tools and materials, and build that bench. When you gaze upon that completed project you will have the confidence to tackle even more complicated projects. The idea here is to build up your skill sets and your tool kit with each new project.

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Posted on Sep 21, 2011