Beginner’s Guide to Power Tools: Start Building for Under $500

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I may have shared a really embarrassing picture of myself using a power tool for the very first time (a band saw, to be exact). I had literally never used anything, from saw to drill to everything in between.

However, I’d seen so many plans and tutorials for DIY furniture and I was bound and determined to join the ranks of all of the bad ass builders out there. Despite, you know, complete and utter lack of experience.

So I took the most logical step: I signed up for a local park district woodworking class suggested by a friend, and after two classes declared power tools were my jam and promptly set up a beginner’s woodworking shop in my garage. It may not have been the most logical move, but it’s definitely been a lot of fun, and awesome having some tools on hand to work on projects at home!

I referenced Ana White’s get started guide to begin figuring out what I might need, and then did an intense amount of online searching and comparing until I landed on the following lineup.

Hitachi C10FCH2 15-Amp 10-inch Single Bevel Compound Miter Saw with Laser: This is my hard-working, go-to saw for 99% of the projects I work on. It’s so user friendly for a beginner, and makes you feel “safe” even if you have minimal experience. This was my biggest investment and completely worth it! I love that I can do mitered corners, and the laser is an added bonus for lining up cuts.

Black & Decker BDEJS300C Jig Saw, 4.5-Amp: I opted for a very simple jigsaw; I only use it on occasion but it’s great when I need to cut a curved edge.

Kreg Jig K4 Pocket Hole System: If you’ve looked at any build plans for furniture in the past few years, you’ve probably noticed that the Kreg Jig has become indispensable for DIY builders. I had no clue what it was all about, but I bought one and can now concur: super simple and awesome tool. Great when you need a quick and easy way to join boards together.


Black & Decker BDERO100 Random Orbit Sander, 5-Inch: An orbital sander isn’t terribly exciting, but for a basic sander it’s a minimal investment and a necessity for finishing up projects.

Stanley 46-071 Premium Quick Square Layout Tool, 7″: Every builder needs a speed square to measure off cuts and check for square.

IRWIN Tools QUICK-GRIP One Hand Mini Bar Clamp, 6-inch (546ZR): Quick-Grips are pretty much magic in my book, and a must have for any project. I started with two 6″ Quick-Grips and later added in some larger Quick-Grips for bigger projects.


Gorilla Wood Glue: My woodworking teacher said at one point that while nails and screws help keep things in place, it’s the wood glue that is really doing most of the work. Moral of the story, don’t skimp on the glue!


Windsor Design Workbench with 4 Drawers: You’ll see many plans out there for simple work benches. But if you’re like me and are starting from square one (including almost zero knowledge of how to use any of tools that you’re purchasing!), buying instead of building a workbench is probably a good idea.

For around $420 I was set up with all of the basics for building some simple furniture pieces at home. I already owned a basic power drill, a hammer, and a measuring tape, so you know, two things checked off the list right from the start.

With the tools above, I was able to make my first ever solo project, a dress up center for my daughter’s dress up clothes (thanks to the plans from Ana White for Craftiness Is Not Optional’s dress up storage). A simple beginner project!


Since my initial $420 investment in tools, I’ve added the following to my line up, which encompass my favorite and most terrifying tools.

Ryobi P854 ONE Plus 18V Cordless Lithium-Ion 2 in. Brad Nailer Kit: This is hands down my favorite tool! It makes everything go so much faster, and I love that I didn’t have to buy an air compressor for it.

SKIL 5280-01 15-Amp 7-1/4-Inch Circular Saw with Single Beam Laser Guide: This saw basically terrifies me. There, I said it! I bought it to cut down some plywood, and I think I’ve decided that I’d like to leave that work for the nice people at my local hardware store to take care of! As a newer builder, I am nervous using a saw where the risk of dismemberment is so much more of a reality.

While $400-$500 is not exactly “cheap,” I was pretty happy to get my initial building set up for that amount, with a few additions along the way. But that initial investment has taken me far, from larger furniture projects to little updates around the house.

Please read all instructions that come with your power tools and use everything safely and as they are intended to be used.

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