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    Woodworking Wisdom I Wish I'd Known Sooner - No. 2: Buy tools only as you need them...

    Dovetail Jig

    A Leigh Dovetail Jig is an awesome tool, but do you really need one now?

    ...but buy the best that you can afford. 

    When you first get bitten by the woodworking bug, it’s easy to get sucked in to an “I need one of everything” state of mind.  When I first started out, I had to buy a Leigh Dovetail Jig.  I mean, how could I not have one of those awesome looking things?  And besides which, dovetails are just so cool! 

    The only problem was that I was building a workbench at the time, followed by a whole bunch of shop furniture and some house renovation projects, not one of which has any dovetails in it whatsoever.  So, total cost of Dovetail Jig - $700.00.  Total number of ‘real’ dovetails made with said jig to date – Zero.  That’s right.  Apart from the try out ones that I made when I first bought the jig, I have still not used it for real even once.  The same can be said for that really cool spoke shave I bought on EBay, the funky cove molding router bit that was on special, the…  Well you get the picture right?  The moral of the story is simple – Buy tools only when you need them… but buy the best that you can afford.

    This is a list of the basic hand tools that you need to get started – don’t skimp on these; they are the foundation of your tool collection and you will use them constantly.

    • A good combination square
    • A framing square
    • A good steel tape measure
    • A marking gauge
    • A panel saw
    • A crosscut saw
    • A back saw
    • A no. 5 Jack plane
    • A low angle block plane
    • At least 6 ‘F’ clamps (more if you can afford them)
    • 2 Quick Grip clamps
    • At least 2 sash or pipe clamps (more if you can afford them)
    • A set of chisels (¼, ½, ¾ , 1”  or 6, 12, 19 and 25mm)
    • A claw hammer
    • A wooden mallet
    • A set of rasps – round, half round and flat
    • A sturdy workbench with a vice

    In addition, you’ll need a few power tools:

    • A variable speed drill with a good quality set of bits (better to have a cheap drill than cheap bits!)
    • A plunge router (buy the bits as you need them, but again avoid cheap bit sets)
    • A Jigsaw
    • A circular saw
    • An random orbital sander

    With a tool set like this you should be able to complete a pretty wide range of projects, but for real versatility you probably need to add a table saw and a jointer / planer into the mix - I’ll talk about stationary power tools next time.

    Meanwhile, remember that having a huge collection of tools doesn’t make you a better woodworker, but having the right tools will certainly make it easier and a lot more fun.

    Happy woodworking!