I know it can be a pain when you are considering buying a new tool and can’t find enough information on it, especially considering how expensive things can be. Here are some brief reviews of different things I have purchased or acquired for my own workshop. I’m not supported or funded by anyone and don’t pretend to be an expert, just my honest take on things. Remember, your mileage may vary.
Dewalt DWE575SB 7.25” Circular Saw
When I started working with 2+ inch thick slabs of hardwoods, it was time to upgrade from my small 5.5” diameter plywood circular saw. I am pretty conservative with my money but I would rather buy an expensive tool that lasts rather than a cheap one that breaks. I wanted something tough and durable that could handle most anything I would be throwing at it. While the Dewalt 7.25” circular saw wass definitely not cheap, I have had good luck with Dewalt in the past so I took the plunge and picked up the Dewalt DWE575SB 7.25” Corded Circular Saw from my local Home Depot.
Tool was nicely packaged and came with a passable blade already on it, as well as the customary tool bag. Out of the box I was able to rip right down a thick slab of black walnut with no issues, no bogging down or stalling out whatsoever. This thing has seen a ton of use since then and is used on a weekly basis ranging from cutting thick slabs to slicing through underlayment during a floor renovation. Good all around workhorse, you won’t regret it.
Ryobi Drill/Driver Combo Set (P1832)
When I first started getting into wood working, I knew I would need a drill/driver set but didn’t feel like breaking the bank for super high end stuff. Browsing the local Home Depot I came across this drill/driver set from Ryobi (Set P1832). With some kind of sale going on I got it for around $110 total. For someone starting out, the hobbyist or mild weekend warrior, this is a great buy. Fairly inexpensive and pretty reliable they will definitely be able to do most common things you might encounter around the house. I would be a little concerned if you had any plans for things involving metal or concrete. I have been able to punch 1/2” holes in cinderblocks but it is not enjoyable.
Ryobi 10” 15 Amp Portable Table Saw
As a novice woodworker, I had finally decided to purchase my own table saw. The only thing I really knew at the time was that I didn’t want to spend my life savings (an older gentleman at work insisted that if I wanted to do real building then I needed an imported one from italy…) Since I don’t have 15 grand to drop on an Italian table saw, I settled for the Ryobi special from my local Home Depot.
The saw was mostly plastic with an aluminum table. It came with a fence, miter gauge, riving knife, and blade guard. You can mount the saw to a plastic stand and lock it in place with some small plastic tabs.
Inexpensive, won’t run you more than $100.
Very portable and lightweight, easy to set up and take down.
Gets the job done (accuracy is another question)
With all of that plastic and aluminum, this this is not very sturdy. It always seemed to jump slightly off the ground whenever I started it.
Don’t bet money on the fence. It’s to be expected with the price point you are at but still, don’t harbor much hope for being super accurate.
If you have to have a table saw and only have $100 to spend or you are going to cut a half dozen pieces of wood a year then go ahead and get this. Otherwise, you would be wise to save up and buy a higher end model. I would suggest perusing craigslist, you can usually find some higher quality older table saws in the $100-$400 dollar range.
Dewalt 12.5” Heavy Duty Planer DW735
This was one of my first big purchases I made when getting into woodworking. I was a little scared of the price, depending upon the time of year and store you can expect to spend 325-499 dollars. That said, it is well worth the cost. Machine is very easy to set up out of the box, mainly just attaching the dust collection port and handle for changing the planing thickness. The infeed and outfeed tables mean you don’t have to have a dedicated planing station if you are strapped for space. The overall form factor is fairly compact, no bigger than a large toolbox so you can fold it up and pack it away if you need to. She comes in around 70-80 lbs though, so lift with your legs. It has a 12.5 inch capacity which will be more than enough for the majority of the projects you will be doing. The blades were plenty sharp out of the box and I have had no trouble planing down a range of different hardwoods. I sent a 12 in wide piece of white oak though and the machine had no trouble with it. No helical head but there are some guides online about how you can do that mod if you are so inclined. Make sure you have a solid dust collection system, you will generate a lot of material.
If you are considering this then you are probably also looking at the DW735 (slightly more expensive Dewalt planer). The DW735 has two cutting speeds, where the DW734 only has one. Also, the casing is a little different and I don’t believe the DW735 comes with infeed and outfeed tables included (you can purchase separately though). I didn’t think all that justified the additional 50-75 dollars which is why I choose the DW734 but that’s a decision for you to make. All in all, I am a huge fan. Great tool, absolute workhorse. If you take care of it, she should last you a long long time.
Ryobi 7.5 Amp 4.5” Corded Angle Grinder
An angle grinder is an incredibly useful tool to have around the shop as it is capable of so many different things. Throw a flap disc or lancelot on there and you can do some serious power carving. Add a metal cutting or grinding disc and you can start playing in that workspace. Angle grinders are definitely an underappreciated tool. Have done a lot of automotive work in the past I have abused and burned up a handful of them. My advice is to grab this Ryobi 7.4 amp corded gem. It is a basic tool, pretty robust, and light enough to work with one hand if necessary. Normally retailing for around $40 dollars it isn’t so expensive that you are worried about dragging it around under a truck or chopping up some heavy steel for a table base. Don’t waste the money on a more expensive one, this will get the job done.
Skil 2.5 Amp 9” Band Saw
I needed a bandsaw that was small (my workspace is limited) and I didn’t want to drop a ton of money on it. Striking out on craigslist I found this guy on amazon for around 70 dollars. It is pretty basic, mostly plastic with an aluminum table. Out of the box you will need to assemble the table and the knobs for adjusting the table angle. It does come with a basic fence and miter gauge, as well as a nifty integrated LED light that illuminates the blade (actually a really nice feature). The fence isn’t going to win any awards but that is to be expected at this price point. Weighing in around 25lbs it is easy to just pull it out when needed and then store away again. I was able to cut 1.5” thick white oak into thin strips for a laminating project but I wouldn’t go much more aggressively than that. Decent tool for smaller projects and the price point but be aware the limitations. I am planning to upgrade sooner rather than later.
Dewalt 611 Router
The Dewalt 611 router would be considered a trim router that possesses a fair degree of flexibility. Definitely not cheap, it seems to be retailing anywhere from $125-$225 depending upon the features and bases you are getting. That said, this router should be able to handle 90% of what most people will need it to do. The tool has a variable speed adjustment with a max horsepower of 1.25 and accepts bits with a 1/4” shank. It is pretty easy to handle, lightweight, and you can change the orientation in the bases for whatever is most comfortable to you. A nice feature is the LEDs that illuminate the area where you are routing. I have run this in a router sled to flatten slabs, cut mortises (the Porter-Cable 42690 Edge Guide fits the plunge base nicely), and do a whole range of other jobs. It even fits in the X-carve CNC machine if you are considering going that router. Rockler also makes a portable router table that works with it if you don’t feel like making you own. Really just a great all around tool, I would definitely recommend.
Narex Chisels (1/8” and 1/4” Cabinetmaker Chisel with Beech Wood Handle)
As I started getting into woodworking, I really started to develop an appreciation for hand cut joinery. All the different ways you could use mortise and tenon type joints to assemble something was just so appealing. I had a cheap set of chisels from a big box store that had worked well enough, but when I started getting more serious about furniture making, I knew it was time to upgrade. I didn’t really have the funds to drop $150 plus on a high end set so I took a gamble on these Narex chisels I found on Amazon. They came in at around $18 dollars each which wasn’t a bad deal. They arrived promptly, thanks to amazon prime, and had been packaged quite nicely. I don’t believe this was advertised but they had already been sharpened quite well and had plastic blade protectors guarding the edge. Handles are smooth and the balance is superb. I broke them in chiseling some angled mortises in a cherry stretcher for a dining table and they really did a superb job. They kept their edge, cut cleanly and smooth, and proved to be a drastic improvement over my big box store set. I am definitely going to be picking up a few more to fill the set out. At $15-$18 dollars, they are a great deal. You can’t go wrong.
Suizan 9.5” Dozuki Pull Saw (a.k.a. Japanese Pull Saw)
Another hand tool I acquired when I started trying to do more mortise and tenon joinery type of stuff. The pull saw only cuts on the pull stroke (hence the name) allowing you to make must more highly accurate controlled cuts than if you were cutting with a conventional saw on the push and pull strong. The nice feature with this is that the blade can be replaced when it goes dull (simply remove a screw to take the blade out). To hold the blade straight there is a rigid spine on the saw that the blade mounts, this really helps minimizing flexing in the blade. The blade is very sharp and can slice through hardwoods such as oak or black walnut with ease. Be careful or teach yourself how to sew because if you accidentally knick yourself you are going to need stitches. Ask me how I know this…
Kunz 151 Flat Spokeshave
I really wanted to try my hand at shaping bench or table legs the old fashioned way, lathe free. I had grabbed a draw knife at a estate sale but that proved to be pretty aggressive. To do finishing work I picked up this little guy. The blade wasn’t bad but not great out of the box so I took about 15 minutes and sharpened it up. Once that was done this little thing was humming. I shaped some nice curly maple into bench legs with no problems at all (see my Live Edge Black Walnut and Curly Maple Sitting Bench). My only gripe would be that the handles are a touch small so if you have some big mitts be aware.