Woodworking may seem off limits to some because they think that it costs to much to get setup, they don’t have a shop, tools, and more. It’s possible that many feel that it is too expensive for the lumber and raw materials. For everyone in this boat, I want you to see that this isn’t the case.
Izzy Swan has a good point in the video that I added below. Woodworking is more about your imagination than the shop itself. If you have a shop full of tools, but no imagination, then it’s possible your projects will be a bit on the bland side. But with some ingenuity and vision, even with limited tools you can turn out beautiful work.
Here are some great tips if you are either limited in tools or revenue to fund your woodworking hobby:
LOW COST LUMBER
This is typically a complaint of the hobbyist. Lumber is incredibly priced. Especially for anything above your local hardware stores pine and fur. And even then, if you don’t have the money for the low cost lumber, what do you do? I have a number of articles here on WooDesigner discussing low cost lumber and ways to get it. But to reiterate this:
Pallets – Pallet material makes for great lumber. Even if you don’t have a planer for pallet wood that is still in the rough stage and isn’t milled, you can turn it into rustic style furniture and projects. If you have a buddy with a planer, he would probably appreciate you pulling any nails or getting any metal off the wood first before running through his machine.
Lumber yard mis-cuts – Your local hardware store, and even big box stores like Lowes and Home Depot cut lumber for customers. Sometimes there are mis-cuts and drop offs. Some call them shorts. Whatever the case, you can get these typically at a fraction of the price it would cost. A lumber mill will have wood stock that could have been infested by beetles, some type of rot, etc.. and you can get a huge stack of this at a low price. I have heard of some where it was just at the end of every board and they got a steal on the entire stack. See if you can bargain with them.
Local Classifieds – Check the online and local classifieds, such as Craigslist and BuyFinder (or whatever is local.) You can find someone trying to get rid of a stack of lumber they never used and realized never will. And again, you could possibly price them down and they go for it just to get rid of the stuff. Let them know it’s not doing them any good sitting there and you could put it to good use.
Another one of the biggest gripes about woodworking is the tools needed and costs involved. But you can still do fine woodworking with a bare minimum of tools.
Circular Saw – Even a cheap one to start can do much of the work of a table saw if you build the right straight cut jigs. You also can take a cheap low cost circular saw and turn it into a table saw by building the cabinet for it. Also, if you can’t afford a skil saw or circular saw, you can use a handsaw even for plywood. But it is very time consuming. I have articles here that show you how to create both the jig and the cabinet/box for the circular saw:
Hammer – Essential to most shops even if it is to beat things into place. Harbor Freight has wooden handled hammers for around 3-4 dollars.
Drill – If you can’t afford a battery operated one, then get one with a cord. Start with a cheap one if you have to. But a drill when working with wood is almost essential.
Chisels – Even a cheap set will go far in the shop. If you create joints for your projects, hand chiseling is a bit slower than with a machine, but it is still doable and an art form.
Worktable/Bench – A workbench is crucial to woodworking. Even if it is 2 knock down sawhorses and a sheet on top – try to have one of these. They can be cheap to build.
Clamps – Granted, clamps aren’t cheap to buy them all at once. But if you get a few at a time it will lighten the load on the pocketbook. Also, I have several posts here on WooDesigner where you can make your own clamps for dirt cheap:
FASTENERS AND OTHER EQUIPMENT
If you’re looking for other equipment, like nails, screws, PVC, or other odds and ends, you have a few other options too. First, check with your local hardware store to see if you can get cut pieces at a discount. Often when someone needs a specific length or type of pipe, cable, or any other raw material, they’ll pay extra to have the hardware store cut and size it for them—which inevitably leads to odds and ends that are either available for cheap or difficult to sell. See if they’re willing to sell them to you.
Second, check near construction sites in your area and see if they’re willing to part with any of those secondhand pieces or unused equipment. Sometimes they have to account for everything, but even small home renovation sites and projects are willing to part with a box of drywall screws if they accidentally picked them up instead of wood screws.
Larger constructions sites may be difficult to work with, but you never know—if you ask nicely near the end of the day, or if you know someone in construction who might be able to hook you up, you’d be surprised what you can get. As for smaller renovation projects, it always helps if you know the neighbor in question who’s building an addition or renovating their kitchen, but even if you don’t, it doesn’t hurt to ask if you can make use of their demolition trash or leftover equipment.
The video below is another great one from Izzy Swan. He backs up the point that imagination is essential to woodworking. Even if you can’t afford high end power tools and lumber, odds are it’s possible for you to keep this hobby going.