You Don't Need a Yacht to Build a Table
By Ben Tyler Elliott
August 20, 2022
A lot of people think that woodworking is expensive. They see all the big power tools and intricate projects and they assume that it’s not something the average person can do. I’m here to tell you that those people are wrong. Here’s how you can get started without breaking the bank.
Inherit a Ton of Tools
Let’s face it, starting with an entire workshop has a ton of advantages. Not only do you have the means to get started right away, but you also have a whole portfolio of machinery that can open creative doors that would otherwise be closed to most novices.
It is true that some of the best pieces I’ve made have been created using nothing more than a few hand tools and some scraps of wood. But also it is true that my first car was, in fact, a car. And the fact that that car caught fire twice does not change how many wheels it had, or how many windows rolled up and rolled down, or how many seat belts it was missing. Most of the time it got me where I needed to go. But it was a bit inconvenient.
So if you’re thinking about getting into woodworking, remember that it’s okay start small and work your way up; you’ll save money and you’ll get a better feel for what you’re doing as you go.
But if you have the opportunity to inherit a workshop, that’s a much better way to get started.
Restore Used Tools, and Then Throw Them Away
There’s no shame in buying used tools, especially if you’re just starting out. You can find plenty of gently used options at yard sales, thrift stores, and even online. But remember to shop with your heart, not with your head. Sure, you could buy a $15 jack plane from Harbor Freight instead of an actual, buy-it-for-life $375 jack plane from Lie-Nielsen or Veritas. But why would you do that when you can barter for a jack-plane-shaped object at the flea market and then spend a couple hundred bucks on files, abrasives, solvents, and torque wrenches to slap and pound against your bargain before throwing it into the ocean? Woodworking is about the journey, not your preferred destination.
Steal From Home Depot
Lumber prices are coming down, yes. But not nearly as fast as wages are going up.
Lower Your Expectations
Woodworking is a great hobby for anyone who wants to be creative and make something beautiful out of raw materials. It doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming—all you need is a little bit of patience, imagination, and a willingness to lower your expectations. Or a ton of money. Either/or.
But mostly or, if that’s an option.