One thing to keep in mind is that in many cases, a really low-end tool will just be frustrating. If you only need to save up for a couple months to buy better tools and your window of opportunity for woodworking will still be open at that time go ahead and wait. You may even find some great deals in the meantime.
But if you have a choice between saving up for a year (or longer) and buying a cheaper tool now, you may be better off buying the cheaper tool now and getting some experience with it before buying a better one later. Often you can still put the old one to good use.
Power Tools & Accessories
If money is tight, it's okay to pick up a corded drill for $20 or so. But now that you can get cordless lithium-ion drill/impact driver combo kits for $100 or less on sale, it makes sense to start out with a good cordless drill rather than a $50 NiCad drill. Everyone should have at least 2 drills to avoid having to constantly switch back and forth between drill bits and driving bits.
- One for drilling
- One for driving
- Additional drill(s) may be used for countersinking, other sizes of bits, or other specialty bits
Drill bits dull and break. Even if you sharpen your own bits, some are more difficult to sharpen and others are cheap enough that you can basically consider them consumable.
- multiples of the driver bits that you use frequently, especially those that strip and wear easily (e.g., #2 Phillips)
Practically nobody has just one router, so it hardly matters which router you buy starting out. Although it's tempting to go with the beefiest router you can afford, you don't need a particularly powerful router for handheld routing. In fact, a more powerful router might tempt you into taking deeper cuts than you should. A decent trim router is actually a very practical first router purchase, and although I've been shunning trim routers ever since they started to grow in popularity a few years ago, Marc Adams convinced me I should have bought one a long time ago.
- Trim router: incredibly versatile, and eventually you'll want one so if you're on a limited budget, you can buy a decent trim router. A nice side benefit is that the 1/4" bits that you'll need to use with a trim router are cheaper than 1/2" bits. Many accessories are also available, such as an offset adapter base, plunge base, angled bases, collet adapters for your Dremel (rotary multi-tool) bits, etc.
- Plunge router: good for many tasks; not as good as a fixed-base router in a router table
- Fixed-base router: great for mounting in a router table
- Additional routers: many people have anywhere from 5 to 15+ routers. Some might be dedicated to specific tasks for a given project to avoid constantly needing to swap and/or readjust bits, while others may each be permanently dedicated to a specific bit (e.g., a dedicated router for use with a dovetail jig).
- It's useful to have some of the same profile router bits in both 1/4" and 1/2" shanks depending on which router you will use for a given task.
- Smaller, cheaper bandsaw for scroll work/tight curves with a narrow blade
- Larger, more expensive bandsaw with deeper throat capacity and larger resaw capacity for resawing, cutting bowl blanks, and milling small logs.
- Cabinet saw for accurate and precise work, less frustration
- Cheaper table saw dedicated to running a dado stack
- One circular saw dedicated to cutting reclaimed wood that may contain nails
- A second circular saw with a good blade on it, for clean cuts
Planer (and/or Jointer?)
Some people will swap a dull set of knives into their planer and/or jointer for cleaning up reclaimed wood. The problem is, swapping knives can be a pain or you might not have an extra set of knives on hand suitable for this purpose (maybe you just had all your knives sharpened).
A second planer or jointer can be useful to clean up reclaimed wood before processing it on your good tools. Personally, I'd suggest a second planer but not necessarily a second jointer, since a typical woodworker is more likely to have a wide planer than a wide jointer, and you can use a belt sander or table saw to edge joint reclaimed lumber after planing the faces.
If you work exclusively with clean lumber, then a second planer or jointer doesn't provide much benefit unless you regularly transport your machinery to a jobsite.
Random Orbital Sander
- Smaller (e.g., 5") sander with a small stroke length for fine finish sanding
- Larger (e.g., 6") sander for faster sanding of large panels
- Additional sanders can also have other benefits
- Two sanders let you sand more quickly (one in each hand)
- Multiple sanders with different grits can save some time, though changing paper is pretty quick
Whether your first one is a fixed 90 degree chop saw, compound miter saw, or sliding compound miter saw, you can probably still find a use for it if and when you upgrade later on down the road:
- One semi-permanently set up as a chop saw for 90 degree crosscuts on long boards or, for example, for trimming cabinet or door stiles after final assembly
- One set to whatever weird angle you need to repeatedly cut today
Oscillating spindle sander
It can be handy to have more than one oscillating spindle sander (or one OSS and one spindle sander attachment for your drill press) with different grits and/or spindle sizes, or one for sanding and one for buffing (a paint roller works for buffing). Depending on the type of work you do, you may or may not get much use out of a second spindle sander.
Although it's easier to swap blades on newer oscillating multi-tools, if you have to keep switching back and forth between blades, or if you have an older oscillating multi-tool on which blade changes aren't as easy, it makes sense to buy a second oscillating multi-tool.
- big one in the (possibly unheated) shop
- small portable one for inside the house or smaller secondary shop, or for travel
- multiple chucks and/or faceplates so you can work on multiple pieces without having to unmount them and hope when you remount the incomplete piece, you get it mounted exactly the same as before (more an issue with faceplates, but some guys in my turners group use the same argument for owning multiple $300+ chucks, too)
- multiple chisels/gouges of the same type so you don't have to stop and resharpen as often
Clamps, of course
Everyone knows you can never have enough clamps, though certain types are more useful than others in mass quantities. You'll want to buy most clamps in pairs.
- Cheap pipe clamps and F-style bar clamps are useful, and you can put off buying more expensive parallel clamps by using cauls.
- Gear clamps and cheap "Quick Grip"-style clamps are handy for holding stop blocks and for temporarily holding things in place for alignment. You probably won't need more than a few of these.
- More expensive, heavy-duty Quick Grip and parallel clamps are useful for glue-ups
- C clamps aren't that useful in the woodshop these days, but if you do metalworking or welding in your projects it might be handy to have a couple on hand.
- Band clamps, corner clamps, and other specialized clamps can be useful depending on the types of projects you build.
Various types of handsaws in different configurations are useful depending on the type of work you do, especially joinery. These aren't exactly duplicates, but it's useful to have the following:
- Classic hand saw (multiple lengths are convenient but not necessary)
- Traditional bow saw
- Coping saw
- Rip dovetail saw
- Crosscut carcass saw
- Rip tenon saw
There are a lot of opinions about which 1 or 3 hand planes you should buy first, but I'll just focus on which types of hand planes you may want to own in multiples.
4, #4-1/2, or #5 planes in at least a couple configurations depending on what you do.
- "Normal" setup
- Scrub plane (e.g., if you dimension your lumber by hand)
- I don't have a very large collection but haven't found other planes as useful in duplicate, other than perhaps getting multiple sizes of router planes or shoulder planes, for example. However, some people keep duplicates so they don't have to resharpen as often.
You'll definitely want more than one set of chisels, so it isn't important to buy a good set up front. No matter what chisels you buy, you'll have to learn to sharpen them anyway, and it isn't that difficult to learn.
- Cheap set of bench chisels to "bang around." Depending on your budget, these could range from $5 to $70 for a set of 4 or 5. This set isn't necessarily for opening paint cans, but for scraping glue squeeze-out after it has dried, for working reclaimed or dirty lumber, and more generally to learn how to sharpen and use chisels. If your first chisels are expensive, you may be too afraid of ruining them. Oh, and you'll undoubtedly drop one of your chisels on a concrete floor somehow, so do that to a cheap one before you do it to a nice one.
- Nicer set(s) for fine work. Eventually you'll want some nicer bench chisels which hold their edges better, and maybe after using a cheaper set you'll decide whether or not it's important to you to have the nicer chisels be socket chisels so you can swap handles for different tasks. You may also buy more specialized chisels, such as mortising chisels or skew chisels if you decide you like hand-cutting your joinery.
Different sizes and types of squares are handy to have. For example:
- 6" combination square and/or try square: convenient and easy to handle
- 12" or 16" combination square
- framing square
- speed square
Mallets and hammers
Different sizes and weights of mallets and hammers are good for different tasks.
It's really convenient to have at least a couple marking gauges so you can leave them set to critical dimensions when laying out cuts, especially for joinery.
- At least two more pin or (preferably) knife marking gauges
- At least one standard-size one for general use
- Preferably a small one for easier handling when laying out dovetails
- Round wheel marking gauge for marking around curves
- Mortise gauge for (surprise!) marking mortises
- Have enough pencils lying around so one is always within reach.
- Mechanical pencils are good but buy a lot of lead
- Also have a knife or sharpener handy at all times.
Marking knives are good for laying out very precise lines where a pencil line would be too thick. In combination with a square, they're great for extending lines around corners and for making precise registration marks for starting cuts. You can also use them to sharpen your pencils.
- various types of knives are good depending on the work you're doing, but even a hobby knife like an Exacto knife can work pretty well as a marking knife
- a knife with one side flat (not beveled) registers better against a straightedge
Tape has at least a million uses in the shop, from protecting against tearout to holding pieces together, to standing in for clamps (or even making improvised clamps). Because it's a consumable, you'll always go through more than one roll.
- painter's tape (aka "blue tape")
- double-sided, fiber-reinforced carpet tape
- duct tape--maybe not as good as some other tapes in a lot of applications, but it usually works fine in a pinch
- whatever other types of tape you find useful
Even with at least a half dozen tape measures floating around, I'm lucky if I can ever find more than one, and sometimes even finding that one takes me a couple minutes if I forgot to put it away the last time I used it!