As with any new hobby, cost is usually considered to ensure it is something that you can afford to take on. Fortunately, woodworking can come in many different forms. This will help in allowing people just starting out to participate in the new-found hobby without a large investment. Below we will cover a few different options to help you get started in your new hobby.
Is woodworking an expensive hobby? No, it does not have to be. There are many options available for those just starting out to keep the upfront costs at a reasonable level. You’ll also find that woodworking doesn’t have to be an expensive hobby, but the costs can add up quickly depending on how serious you get.
There’s really two types of costs associated with woodworking – 1) equipment and 2) material. We will start with the equipment first because it will determine the type of material you will need to use.
Types of woodworking
Wood Carving – This is one of the oldest forms of art and woodworking in the world. Technology hasn’t really changed that much over time to impact this, thus making the cost of entry relatively small. The primary tools that you will need to start out are some chisels and mallets. This will allow you to get started learning how to use the tools and what their purposes are. A entry level set of chisels for beginners can be found for less than $20.
When you are just starting out, you’ll need lesser amounts of wood. It’s better to learn this art form creating small items rather than practicing on larger pieces. The most common types of wood used here are basswood, oak and walnut. Given the small amount of wood needed, its likely you can purchase a batch for less than $25 that will keep you busy for a while.
If you are interested in trying wood carving, take a look my article geared towards a beginner getting started. In a separate article, I list all the tools you need to get started. Everything on my list is high quality and can be purchased for under $150. You can find the list of tools here.
Cost to get started: Under $150 – chisels, mallets, beginner books
Space requirement is minimal
Pyrography – Another low cost of startup option in woodworking is pyrography, also known as wood burning. This type of work includes burning images or designs into wood similar to someone drawing on paper with a pencil. There’s a wide range of wood that you can use in wood burning. Material costs should not be bad.
A great beginners set can be found here that comes with numerous tips to try as you grow your experience level.
Cost to get started: Under $100 – woodburning kit, material
Space requirement is minimal.
Wood Turning – this is a hobby that has some options available that will impact the cost and space that is required. Wood turning is where a person puts a block of wood on a wood lathe. Once the lathe is turned on it begins spinning. The speed at which a lathe spins is determined by the product you are making, but typically you’ll want to set it around 1,500 rpm’s but they can go up to over 3,000.
While the block of wood is spinning on the lathe, you’ll take chisels and begin slowly pressing them against the wood. As you do this, the chisel cuts into the wood and it begins cutting away the wood. Many people use lathes to create bowls, pens or table legs. If you want to see a large setup of multiple lathes that can cut precision material, I highly recommend a tour at the Louisville Slugger Museum in Kentucky!
As far as the equipment needed to being turning, the cost won’t hurt too bad. An entry level table top lathe can be found for $150. If you are looking for something bigger to put in a garage, then the costs will go up to several hundred to several thousands of dollars. You can find a buyer’s guide that I wrote for buying a wood lathe here.
After the lathe, you’ll need some chisels ($75), protective gear ($100) and at minimum a vacuum ($100). A pack of wood blanks can be found for under $20.
Cost to get started: $500 – lathe, chisel, protective gear, vac
Space requirement is minimal for a bench top lathe.
Sign making is an excellent choice for someone who is very creative and enjoys designing and watching their ideas transform from paper to actual wood products. Since the level of difficulty and costs can vary, we will break this into two categories – Basic and Advanced
If you are interested in basic sign making, the good news is you begin with a relative small amount of capital. Even with a small investment, you really have a wide range of options available to you. As far as equipment is concerned, the only real items you will need are paints, brushes and perhaps some stencils should you decide to create some templates that allow you to create the same sign over and over.
This type of sign work can be done with basic acrylic paints that come in hundreds of different colors and is readily available at your local craft store. The cost of each bottle of paint can run as little as .99 cents and go up depending on the brand and size. Paint brushes can also be found for under $5 to get you started.
Tip! – Should you find that you need a larger amount of paint than the small acrylic bottles but don’t want to purchase a gallon of latex paint, there is another option. Over the past couple of years, home improvement stores have begun offering small samples for sale. These are usually 4-6 ounces and offer a decent amount of paint coverage for under $5.
Prior to applying your paint, you may want to stain your wood. Home improvement stores sell small cans of stain for less than $10.
Rather than painting, another popular option to sign making has become cutting vinyl and applying it to the wood. This route will increase your costs as new cutters typically start out costing about $250.
The most common type of wood used for making basic signs that will be displayed in your home is pine. Over the past couple of years, barn wood has become extremely popular and its usually made from oak or poplar. Barnwood is more expensive and not available in big box stores. A good source to find some is Craigslist.
Pine can be purchased at any home improvement store. You could get plenty of wood to keep you busy for a couple days for under $20. If you like, most stores offer free wood cuts up to a certain number. Take advantage of this before leaving the store, otherwise you may need to invest in a small hand saw (less than $20).
Cost to get started: Under $100 – paint, stains, brushes, pine.
Space requirement is minimal.
The cost of entry for an intermediate or advanced setup can increase significantly. Once you begin acquiring some of the tools required for this area, you are more than likely selling products whether at a craft fair or the social media.
Several saws will most likely be required.
Table Saw – probably the most common and versatile saw in a workshop and the first or second saw you will purchase for your setup. These saws can rip wood, cut angles and a multitude of of things. An entry level saw can be purchased starting at $200 and increase quickly into the thousands. For additional information on the most important features to consider when buying a table saw, check out this article I wrote.
Miter Saw – this is also referred to as a chop saw. This is probably the second most common saw in a shop. These saws can start at around $100 for go up to $1,000 depending on the size and features you are looking for.
Router – Ever been to a craft far and see someone cutting a welcome sign with a customer’s last name onto it? If so, they were most likely using a router. Routers are used to make a wide range of different types of cuts and designs in wood. A router can be purchased for as little as $150. A secondary expense to these machines are the bits which can get costly. Entry level bits can be purchased for under $6, but typically don’t last long. High end bits can cost $200 or more.
There’s a number of other miscellaneous tools that will be needed before you can start making advanced level signs. If you are adding some of the saws mentioned above, it’s highly likely you already have these tools on hand. These include: circular saw ($100), drill and bits ($150+) and screwdrivers & wrenches ($100+).
In addition to the tools needed to create your signs, you’ll also need tools to protect the air you breathe. It is highly recommended that you purchase at least a basic dust collection system which starts at approximately $250. In additional, you’ll want to acquire a shop vac to clean up the saw dust in your area. These can be purchased for about $100.
Another tool that is growing in popularity now that small amateur versions are becoming more readily available is CNC machines. These allow you to design patterns and artwork on a computer. The computer then creates a tool path that moves a router around to cut the design into the wood. Entry level models of a CNC machine starts at about $1,200 and goes up over $100,000. I built my own CNC machine a couple years ago and I loved working with it. These machines open up a whole new world of woodworking. Here’s an article I wrote on how CNC machines work.
The material used in advance sign making is unlimited. Different looks will require different types of woods, stains and finishes.
Cost to get started: Depending on tools you desire but at least $1,500 for just entry level tools.
Space requirement would be a 1 car garage.
Just like sign making, we are going to break furniture making into a couple categories.
I consider basic furniture making to be an entry level project. This could include a small stool, a bench or a basic table. Most of the cuts that will be needed for these plans are going to be basic cuts. Most of which can be done with a handsaw which can be purchased for around $20 at a hardware store assuming you are working very basic plans.
Another tool that I highly recommend is a hand sander. This will save you some aching muscles in your arms, shoulders and back. Entry level units can be picked up for $30.
Other tools that you will need will be a drill ($100), some sand paper ($20), screws ($10), wood glue ($10) and whatever paints and stains you desire to use.
In addition, you’ll need a vacuum ($100) to clean up your saw dust once you are done.
Cost to get started: Under $250 – This is assuming you use hand tools.
Space requirement is small/medium. A 1 car garage would be nice, but it’s possible to do it in a small bedroom with adequate ventilation and dust collection.
Much like advanced sign working that we covered above, the equipment needed, space and costs can increase significantly as you begin to progress in your furniture making skills.
To get started at this level, you will a table saw and a miter saw. We covered each of these above, but these will cost you about $400 to pick up an entry level unit of each.
Band saw – this is one of the most versatile tools you will find in a workshop. A band saw can be used to cut irregular shapes and designs into wood. The other nice thing is that it can be used to rip very this wood that you may not be able to cut with your table saw. One of these machines will cost about $300 and go up.
Planer/Joiner – These are 2 separate tools. They are used to “square up” wood that may be twisted, warped or rough cut. When you buy wood from a home improvement store, it has been cut so it has a relative flat surface on all 4 sides. Once you get into furniture making, it’s common to purchase “roughcut” wood from a sawmill to lower your material cost. Entry level machines can start at about $250 apiece.
Cost to get started: Depending on tools you desire but at least $1,000 for just a few of the entry level tools.
Space requirements can vary on this. You can probably get by with a 1 car garage, but more likely a 2 car is needed to move around comfortably.
As you can see, when it comes to woodworking, there are many options available to someone that is just starting out. Fortunately, these choices provide the ability for someone who may not want to put a lot of upfront money into the hobby to get started.