Tool advice

I’ll soon be moving to a new house, and it has room for a fair-sized workshop. I’ve given myself permission to equip this properly, both for woodworking and for automotive work, with perhaps some metalworking capability.

I’ve got the basic tools covered: table saw, drill press, band saw, hand drill, socket set, and so forth. I was wondering if any Dopers might share their wisdom as regards less obvious tools that they’d recommend - powered, unpowered, hand-held and permanently installed. Never mind if it’s obscure - if you’ve found it useful, let me know.

I don’t know if there’s an archive for it, but Norm Abrams did a two-part New Yankee Workshop on building the ultimate woodworking shop.

For woodworking he suggested that you can never have enough clamps - all sizes and shapes. How about a band saw and surface planer?

For auto work, I would suggest a parts cleaner and perhaps a small media blasting cabinet.

The kids down in auto shop seem to like the impact wrench a whole lot. On the other hand, pneumatic power in a small shop like yours might be overkill. Definitely have a well-thought out vacuuming/ventilation system; both to get rid of sawdust, and to allow you to use paint that gives off fumes.

An anvil, even if its a scrap piece of I beam. Acetelyne torch, nothing like cutting steel with fire. A MIG welder.

For woodworking you gotta have a router or two. One large plunge router and a smaller one for profiling edges and such.

Lots of sockets and socket wrenches.
Screwdrivers of all sizes and types.
Hammers of all sizes and types.
Open end and closed end wrenches.
At least 2 different kinds of vices.
Several different kinds of nippers and sheers.
A grinder.
A saws-all.
Vice grips.
Volt/Amp meter.
Chain hoist.
Floor jack.
Jack stands.
Good lighting.
Good ventilation.
Good sound system, good beer cooler.
Torch (and fire extinguisher)
Short stool with wheels.
And of course, lots of duct tape.

Air compressor if you want the impact wrench. Of course, it depends on how heavy/intense automotive work you want to do. If you are talking just oil changes, then obviously you won’t need that.

And don’t forget a Dremel. They rock :cool:. And lot’s of bits. Get the variety pack and you will be amazed at the number of things you can do with it. I even have the mini router attachment and the bendy-arm.

Also mitre boxes are a must have for woodworking with hand saws.

Get a good router with interchangeable bases, and a router table. You can build your router table, if you wish. Instead of buying a bunch of $10.00 (or more) bits, buy a large set of inexpensive bits. There are sets of 25+ bits that cost less than $3.00 per bit – that’s what I’m talking about. My set of 50 cost $99.00, less than $2.00 per bit. Eventually, you will start to wear out some of these bits. Replace the ones you wear out with expensive bits, in other words, only spend big bucks on the stuff you use.

As far as a table saw, you can spend from $100 to $2000. A recent woodworking magazine recommended a $900 model for a ‘budget’ shop. I think they’re full of crap, but you should spend at least $350 - $500 on a decent table saw.

You’ll want a miter saw. It’s important to get a compound sliding one, and I’d recommend at least 10". Get a 12" if you can afford it.

A bench mounted belt/disk sander is in order, along with a variable speed random orbital sander. You also need a good shop vacuum, and a dust-collection tank ahead of it. (like this)

Here’s where you are going to go to get the really cool stuff you might not otherwise think of: Lee Valley.

I particullarly like these, this, and this.

You might also check out Wood Magazine, I’ve recently subscribed.


Look, you need the following tools and only the following tools:

My lord, the number of satisfying things you can do with a hammer alone could occupy me for the rest of my life!

My proof: I can name you many many workshops without a planer or router or band saw or other high-priced crapola. NAME ME A WORKSHOP WITHOUT A HAMMER!

I rest my case. :smiley:

All seriousness aside, I am so jealous I am tempted to hunt you down and moon your house…

I almost forgot the saw blade. There are differences and if you want the best cut I would reccomend that you check Forest Saw Blades. I did a lot of cutting of hardwood plywood, laminate and the edging for kitchen cabinets and this is the best blade I ever used. There was no splintering on the venneer face when using this blade in a table saw. You could laminate a piece of ply or pressboard then cut it to size without splintering the laminate.Not even on the underside where it always occured with cheaper blades.It cut maple edging for the plywood without hardly a scratch. There was not need for planing for a tight glue joint. It really saved me a lot of work and made my stuff look better.

For automotive tools, it really makes a difference what sort of jobs you’ll be doing and on what kind of car(s). What do you have in mind?

If you are going to be using rough wood, I would recommend a 6" jointer and a thickness planer. I would also recommend a router, I would suggest getting as big as you can afford, as in a 3 HP (variable speed) and a 1/2" collet. When you get into using larger bits on projects, like raised panel doors, or multi-profile bits you will need the power and the variable speed.

A Pullsaw… like this

Just for fun, I used mine to make all of the cuts while framing in my new bathroom walls and ceiling. Man, was that cool! It doesn’t take the place of a circular saw or jigsaw, but it certainly is easier to wield and control

Clamps/Cramps! - whatever you call 'em, you can’t really ever have enough of them - these can often be picked up really cheap at budget stores and the only real problem with the cheap ones is that there might be a casting seam remaining on the jaw (which you can just file off with a flat file).

A mitre jig and saw is useful if you aren’t getting a compound circular saw.

A good filtered breathing mask or ventilated visor is essential, especially if you plan to work with composite materials, but it’s actually still a good idea even if you only ever work with softwood.

A dust removal system. (A big shop vac outside, with flex tubing connecting it to each electrical dust manufacturing thing you own.) You’ll live longer.
Most shop vacs that I’ve encountered just blow the fine crap back into the air. If its set up outdoors, the dust is less likely to accumulate in your lungs.
Just a thought.

I could send you an Excel list of all my tools for a start, over 2000 items and added to almost weekly.

Seriously, the only thing not mentioned so far and overlooked in many workshops is good safety equipment. I am fortunate my employer allows us to bring home things such as safety glasses and ear plugs. Don’t forget a good, not an okay set of jack stands for working on cars. Use a dust mask even with a dust collection system. Make sure the shop wiring can handle all your needs.

And an air compressor is a must. I have 2, a large 200 gallon in the corner and a portable one I can roll around. I couldn’t imagine doing most kinds of work, whether automotive or woodworking without using some kind of air powered tool.

Thanks all - much good advice.

No problem there - it’s the virtues I’m short of.

I’d say it will be routine maintenance for the most part. But I just helped a friend deal with a botched shock replacement job (front shock lower stud broke off) - sometimes routine jobs aren’t. And I’ve taken my last 3 vehicles past 200k miles with few to no professional shop visits, so I guess routine maintenance covers a fair amound of ground. One dream is to have a hydraulic lift, but that won’t happen - not enough height.

Had some luck here - a friend knew a guy who was getting rid of a very serious 2-stage industrial-type compressor. Turns out only the tank was bad - the compressor and motor are in fine shape. So with a new tank I have a great air system.

Go for it, then! Air is always good to have.

I’ve got about $30K worth of tools and I don’t think I’ll be fixing cars anymore, professionally, at least. But I don’t think I could get myself to get rid of them. I don’t want to sell them, and then one day I’ll need something, you know?

I second the clamps. And dust collection.

I’ll add a really nice handplane or two, and the equipment to keep it sharpened and conditioned.

You would not believe how much you can do with a handplane, and how much sanding it can save you.

My husband has a well-equipped shop, all the power tools a body could want because he learned all his woodworking from Norm Abrams and the like. He later discovered the joy of hand tools. I mean, the Delta unisaw is a godsend, but he really treasures his planes. He’s a big Lie-Nielson fan.