Help a woodworking newbie invest in power tools?

Considering how many woodworking veterans are on the forum, I figured I would ask here before I make silly purchasing decisions.

I’m ready to invest in power tools to complement my Shapeoko, right now I only own a couple of very average tools, literally only a power drill, jigsaw and orbital sander.

I’ll be making furniture, so a circular saw, miter saw, and possibly table saw are somewhere in my future.

The one mistake I will not make is going cheap, buying entry level stuff, only to buy the real deal later (been there, done that)

Here are the two main questions I have for now:

  • obviously each manufacturer has its own compatility ecosystem, so it is tempting to buy it all from the same brand, but how doable/practical is it to mix and match ?
  • I’m torn between going wired or cordless. I have a feeling that the 18V battery powered tools would be enough for my non-professional use, since I’ll end up cutting mostly wood, 1 inch thick or less.

I have my eyes on either the Bosch or Makita product line (DeWalt is not so readily available here, and a couple of comments I read here left me thinking it’s not as good as it used to be ?)

Thoughts ?

If you had to remodel a room and build custom cupboards, what power tools would you deem invaluable?

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Hi Julien,

First off, thank you so much for replying to everybody on this forum. Your knowledge and willingness to help is off the charts.

I started many, many years ago with just power tools and just got into CNC, so your reverse order. I did start with a lot of cheaper tools but have realized the quality difference and have upgraded most of my tools over the past few years.

Table saw - I bought a really nice Dewalt DWE7491 about 2 years ago and have been extremely happy. It’s portable but rigid and has a great rip fence (rack and pinion). Major difference from what I had before but probably 3x the price.

I also just upgraded to a lot of Dewalt 20 volt tools and love them. I have a jigsaw, drill, impact wrench, oscillator, palm sander, circular saw, and small fan that I’ve collected over the past 9 months as they have gone on sale. They go on sale about 60-90 days in the US and the prices are very good. You will find the power amazing and will last quite a long time.

My advice, pick one brand that has the battery tools you would like to have and stick with one to minimize the number of battery/chargers you will need. I think you can’t go wrong with either Bosch or Makita, both excellent brands. But do really recommend cordless. And you can usually find a good starter set that has the battery, chargers, and a few tools. I do think the 20 volt lines are really just 18 volt from what I have read, they just start a bit higher on the start. They even make 20V to 18V adapters. I just went with Dewalt as they have so many tools that are all part of the voltage series and readily available here in the US.

I hope this helps a bit - your experience to not start too cheap is dead on, but as someone who won’t use them every day, you won’t need the top of the line tools in my opinion.

David

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You are where I was at about this time last year, so here are my thoughts on the subject with only one year of experience.

There are real advantages to the “stay with one brand” cordless battery ecosystem. I picked Makita, but I can’t make a case for one brand over another. The battery life is so good on my cordless tools I regret the few corded tools I have purchased.

For space reasons I got a “job site” table saw, which works for everything except breaking down large sheets. Which is where the circular saw comes in, but you would need something like this to make straight cuts.

ProGrip Straight Edge Clamp Ideal for Cutting Large Sheets of Plywood and Dado Slots (50 inch Clamp) - - Amazon.com

My battery powered circular saw cut everything for my CNC enclosure, and I always got tired way before the batteries ran out.

Here are my favorite cordless tools

  1. Drill Driver
  2. Blower (garage de-duster)
  3. Circular Saw
  4. Sander
  5. Light
  6. Trim Router
  7. Jigsaw
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How much space do you have?

What is the total budget?

Do you want portable power tools or stationary?

Things I’d consider:

  • a bandsaw — mostly for the sake of resawing stock and because it’s more compact
  • a table/cabinet saw — often the centerpiece of a shop, many folks consider them the most useful power tool but they require lots of room around them, esp. if working with sheet goods or large pieces
  • a track saw — useful for breaking down sheet goods, it can make wonderfully precise cuts esp. if one has room to lay down a sheet of insulation to cut on

One of my most frequently used power tools is a classic old Makita cordless drill — the other is a corded drill I keep plugged in on a holder at my workbench — if I had room that latter would be replaced by either a drill press or a post/beam drill (hand-powered).

The big thing for any stationary power tool is to plan out how stock/parts will be brought to it, and how it will move through the cut — outfeed tables are a necessity for larger scale work.

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the easiest adder is a basic impact driver… cordless of course.
So much easier to do any kind of screws than a drill it’s surprising I hadn’t discovered these before.
Especially since I like to use Kreg style pocket holes/screws to join things (yeah yeah I know it’s a bit cheating, but with my skill level on this I need ll the cheating I can get)

Some time ago I decided that all new power tools will be cordless, if at all possible. Even if it means going to some 60V options (Dewalt makes that eaiser)…

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I am no expert, but I do have some wood working experience.

The first question you want to ask yourself, is where are you going to get your stock? Are you going to use raw stock, which means you have to join and plane? If so, you need a jointer and planer, or at least a planer and a jig to joint with a table saw, etc.

Overall I would recommend getting a table saw, depending on your shop space and needs you then would decide between a cabinet or a compact table saw.

Besides this I would absolutely purchase a miter saw, as it is one of my most used tools.

As for brands, or suggestions honestly it depends on your budget. As long as you stay away from cheap brands like Ryobi, you can get a decent mid-level setup using DeWalt/Makita/etc. But if you want higher end tools, then you can get something like a Saw-Stop, Powermatic, Laguna, etc.

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I have a Festool track saw, Jig saw, Domino, sanders and vacuum which are all great tools. One of the best features of them is they are all built from the ground up with dust collection in mind. So using that system when working in living quarters is a really big plus. Of course, the big drawback is cost - that green Koolaid isn’t cheap. That said, I also have a Bosch cordless reciprocating saw (Sawzall) and circular saw that work great. I used both of those when I was redoing a house I flipped and never had an issue. They both went through 2x4’s with ease and handled all the plywood I could throw at them.

For furniture construction I would strongly recommend some kind of track system - either home made or bought - as that makes straight cuts a breeze. Of course, as will most things the cost for this can be relatively inexpensive all the way to astronomical.

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Budget aside, its typically a matter of the space one has in a shop, or portability for site work. There is typically always a way to get a job done with any number of tool combinations.

I have an impressive collection of tools, many in duplicate. Cabinet saw, multiple job site contractor table saws, multiple miter saws, drill press’s, jointer, surfacer, router tables ect, and all manner of specialty tools - beam saws, mortise machine, dowel and biscuit cutters ect. I rarely use most of them anymore.

You’re industrious. I recommend the minimum. When one is not in a situation where time allotment is critical, one can do a great many things with very little. A track saw is fantastic and versatile tool, and with a little ingenuity, can largely sub in for a table saw. Router table and handheld routers, sometimes combined with jigs, can also punch outside of their weight, and the list continues.

Battery powered tools are great, especially when you are mobile. I have battery versions of most tools for site work. A battery sliding miter saw for crown molding and trim work for instance. With modern battery systems, these are quite capable. Personally, outside of specific use cases, I consider battery tools temporary. For specialty tools, tools that don’t leave the shop, or tools that get heavy use, I always opt for corded. For instance, I’d typically opt for a corded grinder if it was my only grinder, but if I was using it for prepping tack welds and the like, I’d opt for the portability of a battery operated. If I was using a multitool for a large project, I’d opt corded. If I was climbing a ladder to splice a piece of siding in, I’d opt for cordless.

Track saw - I have Festools, but I would recommend the cheapest you can find with compatible tracks, most tracks are cross compatible, but some aren’t. Makita, Festool, and most of the clones all use the same track geometry, Dewalt does not. There is no real difference, buy the cheapest with palatable reviews. Buy largest track you care to use, and a small one. I buy large tracks and cut them down for fixtures. Like cross cut table ect

I tend to avoid modern Bosch tools, same for most porter cable. I’d venture to say the majority of mobile tools I have are Makita. Dewalt has had its ups and downs, some of my favorite and longest lasting site tools are old Dewalt tools. At least the modern battery tools seem to be of good quality, and I’ve picked up a variety of cheap small stuff from them in the last few years, sanders ect, all seems nice enough for the price point.

Hitachi, which now owns a Metabo, makes a good many tools I consider professional quality. Nail guns are a prime example.

Festool is not what I’d consider a professional quality tool. Its a vanity tool. In my life being on site and working with some real craftsmen(Which I am not), I’ve only ever seen a few outfits using it. I imagine the pricing is different in the EU, but in the US, it does not make sense. The tools are not, by any stretch of the imagination, durable. But they have some cool stuff, and I own plenty of it, but it isn’t necessary or magical. If I was just starting out, I’d avoid. If I was a professional, I’d largely avoid unless they produced a specific specialty tool for a job I was doing.

Anyway, I am rambling. I could probably continue forever. It all really depends on the job. I am happy to buy a 5k beam saw for a single job when I have to cut a lot of beams, or a boring machine when I have to make lots of inline holes, but these are not “required”. A circular saw, recip saw, and dril or plunge router will do both jobs for fractional money… plus so many other things.

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I went through updating and adding some power tools to build for and work with my Shapeoko a couple of years ago.

As for corded or cordless, my opinion is that for hand held tools which don’t need dust extraction cordless is now likely better in most ways, the DC brushless motors and speed controllers have some serious advantages over AC universal motors. This also frequently includes stopping faster when you release the trigger which can be nice when things go wrong.

If you’re going to plug the dust hose into the tool anyway, then the corded version may be cheaper, or importantly, lighter which matters for things like sanders. I put a power socket and extract hose point on the ceiling above the workbench to hang both power and extraction from.

I borrowed my neighbour’s Festool track saw for quite a while before admitting that I ought to buy one. Based on comparative reviews of the quality of the recent Festool I went with the Bosch GKT55 (Many parts shared with Mafell). Back to back it is at least as good a tool as the Festool and arguably the track system the Bosch comes with is more flexible in terms of the other things you can run on the track. The sections of track link well and self-straigten when you connect them. A track saw can do most of what a table saw can and you don’t have to carry the work to the saw and then guide the work so you can work on big stuff, like breaking down 2440x1220 sheets. I was very surprised by the precision achievable with careful setup of the track. There’s a cordless version of this but I have not used it.

I have the Bosch GTS10J table saw and do not recommend it. The blade change is a pain to use, the T slots are some stupid non-standard size so I have to print my own track inserts to use fingers and other accessories, the fence doesn’t move as far from the blade as the DeWalt, the insert is so shallow (pressed steel) that it’s very hard to make a zero-clearance insert for it and the supplied mitre guide is a total joke. A table saw, however, as Will says is amazingly useful once you’ve built the various sleds for doing various kinds of cuts, I recently squared the ends of my Shapeoko X beam on mine but you need space or you’ll end up making the table saw your main assembly bench, or building it into said bench. You can put aluminium cutting blades into the table saw and cut 10mm 6061 plate too, which is the single scariest thing I’ve ever done with a power tool, the chips are hot shrapnel but it works.

I have done without the mitre saw as I can use stops on the mitre and crosscut sleds of the table saw for repeatable lengths and get single and double bevels. Like most tools you can do many of the same things slower on another tool.

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Recommend checking this video out wrt mitre saw:

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The Festool line is metric and Euro centric. Although very expensive I don’t think you would be sorry for buying quality. The Festool is an entire eco system that all work together. The down side is cost. Here in the US the brand is virtually the same price everywhere. There are occasional sales but they really fix the price.

For me the table saw is the heart of my shop. The track saws can perform as well and can be packed up and put away but a table saw takes up considerable space. And bench top saws have no power.

I have quite a few battery tools and I work outside a lot out of range of electricity. However if your work is confined to inside the shop electric powered tools are better. The cordless tools are freeing but are limited by how many batteries you have. Many cordless tools like circ saws brake the blade everytime you let off the trigger using up battery power. So the 2 amp hour batteries are consumed very fast. So if you go cordless buy the 5 amp hour batteries to extend run time and not have to stop mid project to change batt or recharge.

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Julien,
As you imply, you will be evaluating the answers from many, which are all unique opinions based on their experiences. I would ask you to evaluate if you need a lot of battery powered tools early in the game. I work in my shop with corded tools most of the time. I wired the shop, which I built, for corded tools. With that said, I do have a few battery powered tools - primarily a driver and drill. Yes, “engaging” with cords can be an issue and it does keep you near the outlets. My shop is 24x30 and I have several 25’ extensions so, with prior planning, I will have three or more corded tools plugged in at one time.
However, the cost difference between my high end drill and my medium quality battery powered drill is an issue. I could buy three corded high quality drills for the cost of one medium quality battery powered drill.
Convenience over cost?
My son-in-law buys nothing but battery powered Makita and it works great. Miter saw, drills, drivers, sanders, power planer / surfacer, etc. Impressed and common batteries. And I am impressed with the quality.
The next question is what are your power sources? 120 VAC / 240 VAC?
My suggestions?
Really good table saw, with 240 VAC for a power tool you will most likely not outgrow, bigger blade the better,
Really good compound, sliding miter saw,
Compliment them with good blades - cross cut, smooth cuts, plywood cuts, etc., if you get both 10" you can cut most 3 1/2" thicknesses, and swap blades,
Then, (battery powered) angle finder,
And refresh your skills in plane geometry. (I love making stuff with bizarre angles and joints.)
Then practice. While the tools are essential, skills in using them and knowledge of angles and joints is even more important.
And get selective on the wood you purchase. Clean, clear pine, birch, oak, etc. move into my shop pretty regularly. Not after knots and warps in my toys, picture frames, and drawers.
Good luck and happy sawdusting,
Rex

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The rest of the advice here is great, I’ll try to address the part of the question about which tools are worth spending the extra money on.

  • For tablesaws the dewalt jobsite portable saws are a terrific value. You won’t get the precision of a heavier saw but otherwise they’ll do the job. If you’re looking beyond that I can’t recommend the Sawstop enough, at the lower end (contractor/jobsite saw) there’s a significant premium for the finger-saving technology (which I’d argue is still worth it, but the dewalt saws are really nice for way cheaper). Once you start looking at cabinet saws the sawstop is more comparably priced and even without the safety feature is a terrific quality saw.

  • Cordless tools - I like Dewalt personally but availability for you is a huge factor. Makita gets good reviews, I also hear good things about Milwaukee. Honestly any of the big brands would serve you here - most cordless tool lines are generally the same between brands.

  • One tool that I’ve recently learned is worth splurging on is a random-orbital sander. You can get one that works fine for $30-100 but once you get into the hundreds of dollars they become significantly more efficient. I’ve heard good things about Festool sanders but I got the Mirka Deros for way more than I ever thought I’d spend on a sander and between how much faster it works and the insanely good dust collection, it was totally worth it.

  • Track saws are totally worth it over circular saws. I like the festool but the makita gets good reviews as well, I’m not sure you need to splurge on this but the dust collection is nice on the Festool. Trying to use a straightedge with a circular saw does not get nearly the same quality of results, and the Festool track makes it really easy to line up with exactly where you want to cut.

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I second (third?) that a tracksaw or similar setup (like Kreg RipCut) is very handy, especially if you cut on top of a sacrificial surface like XPS foam board. The battery operated circular saws I have seen are all smaller blades (7.25" in the US vs 10"+) but are more than adequate for the stock thickness you mention.

I prefer to grab the small one when I can because it’s light, no messing around with a cord, and it’s a bit quieter. For actual tracksaws the Makita or Festool versions seem to be best, beware the Grizzly/Wen/Foxshop variants unless you want to mess around every time.

Here in the US I have grown to like some of the 24V li-ion Kobalt tools sold by Lowes, but I am also partial to blue :laughing:.

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Thank you all for the excellent insights! This forum rocks.

  • space: my new garage is 24’ x 10’ (plus one extra space of 7’ x 7’ but that’s where my Shapeoko will live). So while a huge step up from my current garage, it will still be quite small by American garage standards.
  • budget: as I mentioned my #1 priority is buying tools just once, so I’d rather wait or buy fewer of them initially. For the first round, I’ll see what a thousand bucks can get me.
  • cordless vs corded: now that I think about it, I’ll do 99% of my work in the garage. My main concern with corded was managing the cord during the cut. I was stupid enough to cut my own cord one day while using my hedge trimmer in the garden, the breaker tripped, not a good memory, and a silly mistake I thought I would never do, so I have this cord-anxiety looming over my head now. BUT, Liam’s trick of having both the dust collection and power coming from the ceiling, would most definitely lower the probability of me doing something stupid again. I guess I will follow the very sound advice that for tools that will never move, in my case the miter saw, corded makes more sense. I’m still considering cordless for a circular saw, just so I can occasionnally bring it outside without the hassle of plugging an extension cord.
  • I’ll have to look into those “60V” battery powered tools, that’s new to me.
  • Table saw: while I acknowledge that this would be a great tool, now I’m afraid that my garage space will not be large enough for the table AND clearance around it to load the material or install supports. When/if I do, I would probably go for a SawStop for the safety feature alone. Each one of my fingers is worth a LOT of money to me (I have NO idea whether it’s only marketing hype, the demos look convincing though)
  • Jointer/Planer: similarly, they would probably take up too much space at this point, but I’ll keep the idea in mind for round #2, sounds invaluable to work from pretty much any raw stock.
  • (cordless) impact driver: cheap and small, and sounds like something I should have on hand.
  • miter saw: that video makes a lot of sense but I still have an urge to get one for some reason, it sounds very convenient to cut things quickly with something that is always ready to cut in seconds.
  • sander: this was not really in my scope, but…Falcmike’s comment about getting one that does dust collection really well could be a game changer (I hate sanding, and in a closed garage dust goes everywhere fast)

The clear winner across all responses is the track saw, so I’ll look into getting that, probably Makita, Bosch, or Festool (I got a CT Midi for dust collection on my Shapeoko, based on advice from people here, and love it).

A silly question still: what would be a usecase best done with a circular saw, that would be awkward/inefficient to do with a track saw?

For now this is what I take from this, for round #1:

  • corded track saw (and…smaller cordless circular saw to get the best of both worlds? There is a small Makita one that looks super handy)
  • corded miter saw
  • cordless impact driver
  • corded random orbital sander
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a circular saw is more useful in construction settings than a track saw (e.g. very rough work and “in place” work where you just can’t do a track)… but for finer work a track saw is superior by far imo

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Instead of a cabinet saw, why not get a benchtop table saw? I use DeWalt 10", on a table, with infeed/outfeed rollers. If you need more rip capacity, you can build a jig with the table saw it self.

It is not the best option, but it is an option. I only get half of my garage for projects, so my table saw/miter saw/ planar sit on a shelf when not in use and then I just rotate them in and out when needed.

For an example, I built this crib for my little one out of Walnut/Ash from raw stock, so it was planed and cut using “mobile” tools.

I am adding edits, to me edits. But also, I used my table saw for about 80% of the work for the crib. Including using a dado blade set to cut tenons.

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I’ve got both a battery and corded track saw. If you’re using the dust extractor, corded doesn’t make a whole lot of difference. But is annoying unless you have the vacuum and power cord hung from above. Constantly catching on the track and stock. The cordless with a dust bag is the jam! But you’ll have a bit more fines floating round… impressively minimal though. At least with the Festool, the battery one seems more capable. The corded TS55 is a dog in the power department, fine for plywood, seemingly a joke for thicker stock, plastics ect, but it works, and I use it everyday. Regardless, If I was buying a saw for my shop, I’d go corded. If you want to spend coin, get a TS75 or Mafell larger option. Kind of unwieldy for many a thing, but generally much more capable. As for jointing, you can use a track saw for a nice square edge to work off of. I do this a lot, and I have a jointer.

Circular saw, I’d go corded. It a real power tool, and has many a use. I use my battery circular saw to cut up bits of scrap to better fit in the trash can.

Router table and routers will let you create rabbits, mortise and tenons, dados, flatten stock, joint edges, and all kinds of crafty stuff. ect. Some of that generally faster with a dado stack on a table saw or radial arm saw, but hey, you can’t have it all. Yet.

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Coming at this from the ‘compact space’ end of things, but with an eye for good kit, I eventually opted for the Triton TXW7 workstation - a sturdy portable table with replaceable tops/inserts for a) table saw, b) router/spindle with fence, c) cross-cut saw if the cross-cut device with the table saw is not adequate, and d) a peg-board style flat worktop. I hang the modules from my garage rafters when not in use. Dust extraction is good, accuracy from what I have seen so far is good. Seems well built and durable. Moderate budget, a full set will be sub-£800. All mains powered, not battery, but I rarely need more than a drill to be truly portable.

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Hey @Julien, a lot of good advice here.

My humble opinion, start with the best, largest-table cabinet saw you can afford and will fit in your space. With a mobile base it can be moved against a wall when not needed.

With it you can build a plethora of accessories, jigs, tools that will enable the creation of amazing furniture pieces and cabinetry construction. It will also serve as a pretty decent workbench.

C A B I N E T S A W.

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