Tools for new DIY’ers

I’m writing this post for one reason. To ENABLE you to start building your own furniture and decor. Historically, enabling has been painted in terribly negative light, but let’s let this post be an exception to the rule.

Building your own furniture and decor is fun, challenging, engaging and (after you acquire some basic tools) cheaper than purchasing from stores. But most of all it’s rewarding. There’s a level of pride that comes along after you complete a build, even if it’s the ugliest thing you’ve ever seen. But it’s YOUR ugly thing. And who knows, you may end up gaining a lifelong hobby of building things (hopefully not all ugly).

But in order to build, you need tools. So here are my recommendations to get you on the road to building your first project…

Hitachi Compound Miter Saw – $109

This Hitachi Compound Miter saw is a well built, sturdy entry level saw. This saw will enable you to cut stock for most of the basic to intermediate projects on this site. It will make both straight and angled cuts up to 45 degrees.

One of drawbacks of this saw is that because it does not slide, it will not cut material thicker than 3.5-4″. If you plan on cutting thicker material, I would consider a sliding saw such as the Craftsman sliding miter saw.

I also always recommend upgrading the stock saw blade provided to a higher quality blade which will make cleaner and more accurate cuts. Check out something like the Diablo 10-Inch 60 Tooth ATB Fine Finish Saw Blade. It really does make a huge difference.

Craftsman 10″ Sliding Compound Miter Saw – $215

I purchased a very similar sliding miter saw and it’s still going strong after almost five years later. Why spend $100 more for such a similar saw as the Hitachi? Well, sliding miter saws can accommodate much larger material. This saw also features a laser guide, though I’ve never had much luck with them being very accurate. The cutting capacity is as follows (taken from Amazon):

Crosscut …………………………….. 3-5/8 in. x 12 in.
Miter 45 ° R. & L …………………… 3-5/8 in. x 8 in.
Bevel 45 ° L …………………………. 1-5/8 in. x 12 in.
45° Miter and 45 ° Bevel ………… 1-5/8 in. x 8 in.

As mentioned before, I also always recommend upgrading the stock saw blade provided to a higher quality blade which will make cleaner and more accurate cuts such as the Diablo 10-Inch 60 Tooth ATB Fine Finish Saw Blade.

Black & Decker Circular Saw – $54

A circular saw is ideal for cutting large sheet stock, such as plywood and MDF. Though if you’re on a tight budget or short on space, a circular saw can make most of the same cuts that a miter saw can. If you do go this route keep in mind that it may require a little extra setup time to make both straight and angled cuts as you’ll either have to cut freehand or make your own guide/fence.

My best recommendation (assuming you have the space) is to start off with a miter saw and then add a circular saw to your arsenal later to in order cut sheet goods.

I’m in the realm of thinking that a casual DIY’er doesn’t need to spend much more than $50 on a circular saw. I have a similarly priced unit that’s almost four years old and as good as new.

Just like my miter saw, I replaced the blade on my circular saw to get less splintering and better quality cuts. Check out the Diablo 7-1/4-Inch Ultra Finish Saw Blade.

BLACK+DECKER Jig Saw – $29

In terms of necessity for getting started building furniture and decor, I would rank the jigsaw below the miter saw, circular saw AND table saw. So this would be the last saw I recommend getting. BUT! If you plan on making curved cuts or very intricate cuts with changes in direction, a jig saw is the perfect tool for the job. This 5 amp $29 BLACK+DECKER is perfect for the casual DIY’er.
Kreg Jig K4 Pocket Hole System – $99

The Kreg Jig is the coolest thing ever. It enables DIY’ers and woodworkers to make quality furniture with strong, long-lasting joints. Plus, it’s easy to use once you get the hang of it! I use the Kreg Jig in about 90% of the projects on my site.

There are more expensive and less expensive Kreg Jig options (Kreg K4MS Jig Master System and the Kreg Jig Jr.),  but like most things in life the thing in the middle may be just the ticket. I am a middle child so OK, YEAH, maybe there’s some bias.

Anyway, the Kreg Jig K4 set really has everything you need to start building and KEEP building furniture: Kreg Jig K4 unit, stepped drill bit, 6-inch square driver, starter screw set, starter plug set and carrying case. It’s the unit that I purchased when I first started DIYwithRick and it’s the one I still use today, almost five years later.

If you’re giving this as a gift, maybe the Master System is worth looking into as it has an extra clamp (that really comes in handy) and some more bells and whistles. If you live in an apartment or condo with limited space, the Kreg R3 Jr. may be perfect for you. The one pitfall is that it the Kreg R3 Jr. does not come with a clamp, you’ll have to use one of your own!

DEWALT 5″ Random Orbit Sander Kit – $59

I’ve been through a handful of sanders over the years and have come to the conclusion that random orbit sanders are where it’s at. They take 5″ sanding disks that simply stick on the bottom of the sanding pad like velcro.

There are a series of holes on the sanding disks to allow for dust collection, which is never really as effective as advertised but on this unit it’s fairly effective. You can always take off the dust collection bag and hook up your shop-vac to the end for more efficient dust collection.

This sander only has one speed, but for $20 more Dewalt offers a variable speed 5″ Random Orbit Sander which may or may not be worth it depending on your needs. I tend to only use the highest speed, but there have been times over the years where I drop down to lower speeds.

I always use a mix of 80-grit, 100-grit and 150-grit sanding disks for the majority of my projects (start with the lower grit and work your way up to finer grit paper).

Dewalt 20V MAX Cordless Lithium-Ion 1/2 inch Compact Drill Driver Kit – $129

You’ll notice that this drill is a bit pricier than the majority of the other tools listed and that’s because it’s one of the few instances where I think it makes sense in the long run. I like a drill that will LAST and because Dewalts are designed for contractors, it should hold up very well no matter how rough you are with it.

You also want to have a drill that’s got enough power to do all of the drilling and pre-drilling any given project calls for. The Dewalt 20V Max’s 300 UWO (Units Watts Out, the point where the drill’s speed and torque output are the highest) or 373 in/lb should offer more than enough in that department. The kit comes with (2) Lithium-Ion batteries and the drill sports an LED light to light up your workspace and possibly your life.

BLACK+DECKER LDX120C 20-Volt MAX Lithium-Ion Cordless Drill/Driver -$45

Like the Dewalt, this drill also offers a 20-Volt Lithium-Ion battery, but no extra battery is included. It has less than half the power of the Dewalt (115 in-lb compared to 373in/lb) but should get the job done nonetheless. This drill won’t take the kind of beating the Dewalt can, but it’s not like we’re building houses here, anyway!

All in all, I consider this drill to be pretty good bang for your buck, especially if you’re on a limited budget.

Irwin Quick-Grip 12″ Mini Bar Clamps – $27

As you get more and more into woodworking and building things, you’ll undoubtedly come across the saying, “You can never have too many clamps,” and that’s SO. TRUE.

But getting this set of (2) 12″ mini bar clamps should be enough to get you started. I built my king-size platform bed with these and a set of heavier duty 12″ bar clamps. I find the mini clamps to be much more convenient to use than the bulkier ones. Moving forward it may not hurt to get a pair of the longer, heavier duty 18″ and 24″  clamps to hold together larger material.

Swanson Tool 7-inch Speed Square – $10

This speed square is super useful. It’s small, heavy duty and perfect to make straight marks or check for square.  It can also be used as a guide to make straight cuts with your circular saw.

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