Over 100 responses came in to answer our most recent question: How Would You Outfit Your Wood Shop from Scratch with ONLY $1000? (Please note that this was not in any way a contest!)

Keep in mind – this is zero tools, from scratch, bare wood shop and $1,000 for the NEXT YEAR. The question brought out some creative, funny and highly informative responses at the following sites:

The WoodWhisperer

I read all the responses and divided some of the answers up into the following categories:

1) the 2 questions you HAVE to ask before spending your $1,000
2) Woodworking Celebrity list
3) Most Notable Answers
4) 5 Essential Tools Lists From Forums

1) the 2 questions you HAVE to ask before spending your $1,000
The first question I read repeatedly was: “what are your projects for the year?” This simple question really helps to clarify the rest of the thought process for this exercise and I hope will bring some clarity to woodworking newbies who are just starting out in the hobby.

The second question I read over and over was: “what’s your skill level?” It appeared that often professional woodworkers said they would buy high quality hand tools rather than buying mid to low quality power tools. Hobbyists more often leaned towards a wider array of inexpensive power tools.

To me these two questions trump the old manifesto of “buy the best tools you can afford.” I still think it applies, but only AFTER you know what you want to make and you’re sure you’re buying the kinds of tools that match your skill level.

2) Woodworking Celebrity lists of Essential Tools

First off I have to thank Marc Spagnuolo, the WoodWhisperer, for kicking this question off in his blog. Here’s Marc’s list:

Dewalt DW618PK Plunge and Fixed Base VS Router Kit- A versatile router that will do just about everything. Fixed base and plunge base as well as 1/4? and 1/2? collets ($225)

Bosch 1590EVSK Jigsaw- This would essentially be my bandsaw substitute. ($160)

Bosch 33614-RT 14.4 Volt Cordless Drill/Driver Kit- You always need a good drill ($180)

Bosch 1295DVSK 5-Inch Random Orbit Sander- Essential for good finish preparation ($70)

Basic Set of Chisels and Block Plane- Probably Marples Chisels and a simple Stanley Block Plane ($45)

So that’s $680 total so far. I would use the rest of the money to buy the best tablesaw I could afford.

And here’s what Marc learned from the exercise (added in comments on his blog post):

What I learned from this whole thought process was how screwed I’d be with only $1000 to spend. And I also made the assumption that I would have to buy dressed lumber for the first year, since I couldnt imagine fitting a jointer and planer into that budget. I also learned that I would rather do without certain tools until I could afford a decent one.

In the comment section on his blog, Marc posted a comment on the behalf of a “Norm.” I got excited at first because I thought it was Norm Abram, your #1 most influential woodworker. He’s not the New Yankee Norm but he has some dang good ideas so I kept him here in the celebrity list section ;)

Here’s what Norm thought:

The very first tool in my starter kit would be a good heavy-duty router. Depending upon what the individual woodworker plans to do that first year, and upon the type of shop space available, I might vary the selection of the other tools. But with only $1000 in my pocket, and no tools, I would definitely defer the table saw purchase until I could afford a good contractor-style Delta or better, and a good fence.

1. A good electric drill is essential.
2. You need sanding tools (unless you are willing to do a lot of hand sanding that first year), at least a random orbital one.
3. I would add a Dewalt surface planer as an essential item in my first-year shop, but that is because of the type of work I like to do.
4. A good hand-held plane AND a good sharpening system are very useful.
5. A good set of chisels, too.
6. You need a good hand-held electric saw, to rough cut things.
7. You need good dust collection, so plan on getting a good wet-dry shop vac, to keep things clean.
8. A good Japanese Dozuki (or two) for sure.
9. Did anyone say anything about router bits, yet? You need several good ones, and they cost $$. (straight bits, round-overs, etc.)

During that first year, with limited tools, one should devote their time and mind to learning how to make and use jigs (lots of jigs), to do special tasks using the available tools.

3) Most Notable Answers
My favorite answers were those that either showed something about the personality of the woodworker or made me think a little bit differently about woodworking in general.

Here’s what I mean:

1) Lay-out and Hand Tools: from Tod Evans in FamilyWoodworking.org

“this is simple…….the entire budget would go toward lay-out and hand tools…..i wouldn`t spend a nickel on power tools…that way in a barren shop i could still build and i wouldn’t throw my money away on cheap, make-do type of power tools……tod”

2) a computer: from Max Rockatansky in WoodNet.net

I would take that $1000.00 and buy a $600-$700 laptop and install the free version of SketchUp on it, take the rest of the money and buy inexpensive hand and power tools.

With a laptop I could get jobs quickly with the designs/drawings I could create in SketchUp. I would take the profits from each job and invest in new/better tools to advance my capabilities which would allow me to take on larger and larger projects with bigger profits.

3) Invest the $1,000 and work weekends: from jon003 in WoodNet.net

I’d invest the $1000, and spend my weekends working a second job until I could double that!

4) Layout tools: evenfall at WoodNet.net

Of that 1k, if people are not buying an adequate set of layout, marking and measuring tools, they got nothing, and it don’t matter what they buy after that.

5) ROFLMAO: Jesse Cloud at FamilyWoodworking.org

I would spend the $1,000 on beer and go looking for another hobby.

6) Table Saw converted into an assembly table: knottscott at Woodnet.net

I use my TS alot and wouldn’t want to do without one. The surface can be covered with a $10 piece of hardboard and can double as an assembly table.

4) 5 Essential Woodworking Tools Lists
1) Sean of WoodNet.net:

EZ Smart and good saw-300$

Good but basic router like a PC 690 or DW 616-100$

Bosch 1591 or Milwaukee jigsaw-160$

Drill of some sort, prolly a Ryobi-under 100$

4 Jorgie/Bessy clamps- find a sale 100$ total.

Leasves a couple hundred planer. EZ can do the edge jointing.

2) okstatefan of Woodnet.net:

Used 14″ band saw – $250
timber wolf blades – $50
Measuring/marking tools – $50
chisels + mallet – $50
5″ ROS – $60
new Sears 2hp router kit – $120
router bits (the ones I use often) – $60
Ryobi cordless drill – $60
EZ Smart system + good cir. saw – $250
pipe clamps (as many as I can for $50) – $50

3) K. L, McReynolds of Woodnet.net

I basically did that over three years to start my shop. But there was a gotcha—-I bought cheap—–that $400 TS broke—I had to spend $570 to replace it with a decent one.

Table saw–$400

Router set, fixed/plunge—$200

B&D Workmate—$70

48″ belt/6″ disc sander–$90

Scroll saw–free



mini biscuit joiner–$60

Used band saw–$80
New tires and three blades–$75

4) ned at WoodNet.net:

Bosch tablesaw (no stand) 400
Bosch 1587 jigsaw 120
Makita hammer drill and impact driver 105
Drill and driver bits, basic kreg jig, dowel points 40
Bosch colt 100
Holbren bit set, Warner base, bushing, biscuit slotter 70
ROS 40
8 F-clamps, 2 parallel clamps 100
Block plane, 2 chisels, honing guide 35
Calipers, framing and speed square, tape, level 45
Hammer, wrench, screwdriver, pliers, drop cord, utility knife 35

total 1090

Less than 10% over budget which is outstanding for me when woodworking.

5) Allen Bookout of FamilyWoodworking.org:

This is what I would buy to try to give me the most capability for $1000.

Basic EZ rail system from Rockler-$164
EZ sliding square/fence from Eurekazone-$70
Good circular saw-$148
This group would substitute for a tablesaw, edge jointer and mitersaw.

Add a good quality jigsaw (such as an older model Bosch) for curved cuts-$100.

DeWalt 621 router-$199 for edge treatments and dados, and on and on. Especially with shop made jigs.

Ridgid 5″ ROS $70.
Ridgid 3/8th inch corded drill-$70.
Kreg Pocket Hole jig-$139.

Now we are at $962. I would spend the other $38 in this manner. Three piece Buck Bros. chisel set-$20, Stanley 24″ carpenters square-$6, Husdy 6 in 1 screwdriver-$6 and an ecomomy Homedepot claw hammer-$8.

What are the truly essential tools?
In the $1,000 wood shop stocking thread in LumberJocks I found a link to a story from Dennis Mitchell about a story he heard on a plane ride one time. The story teller describes how he had a desk made in India:

“The furniture builder showed up with his tools rolled up in a cloth about 6 inches in diameter and about a foot long. All he had was a small saw, a few chisels, hammer, really just the very basics. For the next week this fellow sat on the ground and built a nice medium size desk with drawers. Good craftsmanship, nice wood, oil finish, and a good price. Today I have to have a full size truck to pull my trailer full of tools to install cabinets that have already been built!”

Ingenuity is a hallmark of the woodworker’s craft. By reading through how over 100 woodworkers responded to the $1,000 wood shop from scratch exercise I saw that ingenuity plainly stated.

I highly recommend that you spend time to read through their responses and let me know here in this thread or in the forum of your choice how YOU’D build a wood shop from scratch for only $1,000.

Again, here are all the links to the threads and conversations that fueled this article:
The WoodWhisperer