As a beginner woodworker having to buy lots of tools and supplies can be daunting. Learn ways to save money while woodworking on a budget.
Woodworking can be a very expensive hobby.
The most expensive part is the tools of course. If you watch any of the professional woodworkers on YouTube they have every stationary power tool you can think of.
Not to mention all the extra accessories for clamping, sanding, making complicated joints and finishing.
And with the price of lumber lately having gone up, just getting the supplies you need to build something requires a hefty investment as well. Even standard construction grade lumber has gotten more pricy.
But there are ways to save in what can be an expensive hobby if you let it.
Find Cheap Lumber And Wood
The main cost in a project is the lumber or wood you use.
Especially when you opt for the more expensive hardwoods such as oak, cherry and the exotic hardwoods.
As I mentioned in 5 Easy Ways To Adapt Woodworking Designs For Your Needs you can switch out an expensive hardwood for a cheaper alternative such as poplar or ash.
Or go for a softwood with the understanding that it won’t be as durable.
Construction grade lumber is also a cheaper option. Most will require you to rip off the rounded edges unless those are not a concern in your project. The key here is to look for the straightest, best pieces so be prepared to spend a few minutes going through the pile at the lumber yard or home centre.
If you’re looking to save even more money, scour your local classified ads (Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, etc.) looking for good quality furniture that is being sold or discarded for free. You can take the furniture apart, clean off the old finish and re-use the wood in your projects.
And often you can also find furniture sitting on the side of the road for free. But always check to see if the furniture is made from solid wood or at least veneered plywood. Skip the cheap particleboard stuff.
Palette wood is another option. It’s sometimes frowned upon by established woodworkers but it is at least a good material to use for the beginner that may make mistakes and have to throw out projects that don’t turn out they way they wanted them to.
Just make sure you get palettes that are heat-treated to avoid nasty chemicals. And be prepared to spend time prying them apart and dealing with nail holes and splitter wood.
Recycle old hardware or make your own
If you’re building a dresser or cabinet with doors and hinges, you need hinges, handles and catches.
Buying these new can sometimes be more expensive than the wood in the project.
As mentioned above, you can buy old pieces of furniture or find them on the side of the street for free. Take the hardware off those pieces, clean it up, paint it if the finish has worn off and then use it on your project.
If you have a local Habitat for Humanity ReStore, you can sometimes get a whole bag of hardware cheaply. Again you’ll have to do a bit of work to get it looking nice enough to put on your projects, but your investment will be next to nothing.
And to give your project a custom design element, consider making your own hardware. Drawer and door handles can be made from scrap wood.
There are even ways to hinge doors with just a metal rod running in drilled holes.
Drawers don’t need expensive drawer slides. You can simply have drawers running on wooden door slides as was done many years ago before the advent of metal drawer slides.
Keep Your Joints Simple
The moment you go for fancy joints you require more expensive tools in most cases.
Domino joints require a domino jointer.
Cutting box joints either requires a router with an expensive bit or table saw with a dado stack.
While complicated joinery can sometimes be done with simple hand tools, as a beginner you may find that you have to practice a lot on scrap wood before you get good at these joints, which means more wasted wood.
So keep your joints simple. I cover four simple joints in this article.
Buy Used Tools
Everyone wants that shiny new tool, but that comes at a cost. Sometimes you can take advantage of sales and special deals to get tools cheaper such as checking Amazon’s Todays’ Deals), but even then it is an investment not everyone can afford.
So buying used tools can save you a great deal of money.
But buyer beware. You can end up with more frustration dealing with a tool that is either low quality or needs a lot of fixing to make it work reliably.
I prefer to buy from other woodworkers if I can, not from a general DIYer who might not take as good care of their tools. Often woodworkers upgrade their equipment and their older equipment, which still works well, is available for sale.
Hand tools such as chisels will likely require a resharpening, but even new ones would need sharpening eventually. These can be resharpened just with different grits of sandpaper glued to a piece of glass or smooth tile.
When buying power tools, where possible ask to see it running. Look at the overall state of the equipment – if it looks well cared for, it probably is.
However if it’s rusty, parts are missing or the seller is not willing to plug it in and run it for you, be cautious. Yes, you can buy a tool and restore it, but that’s a hobby in itself and can get expensive, especially if you have to buy replacement parts.
And above all else consider your safety: any broken or misaligned parts or missing safety equipment such as guards is not worth taking a risk on if you can’t afford to replace them.
Get Mistinted Paint
If you are looking for a finish that hides cheaper varieties of wood, such as pine or fir, paint is the best finish to apply.
However even a can of paint nowadays is expensive, especially if you go with a quality brand that doesn’t require as many coats.
But most paint stores and even the big box stores now have an Oops shelf or mistint area where you can get brand new paint for a fraction of the cost of new.
These are paint cans which have been mistinted. Either the store employee made a mistake or the customer realized the colour was not what they wanted.
Perfectly good paint if you can find the tint that works for your project. Or if it’s a light tint, you might be able to use it as a primer coat and then coat it with the colour you actually want.
And you can sometimes also check with house painters – sometimes they will have some extra stain or paint leftover from a project. And if you ever get your house painted, make sure to ask for any extra paint that is left over. Not only to patch up your house’s paint but also to use on other projects.
Sell Projects To Fund Your Hobby
Finally you can always have your hobby self-fund itself.
By making projects people want and selling them, you can make enough money to save up to buy new tools or to afford better lumber.
If you keep your projects small enough to ship, you can sell on Etsy, eBay or other online shopping sites.
For larger projects, shipping gets prohibitively expensive, so you may be better off finding local buyers. Use Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist or one of the other local shopping sites. Just keep in mind your personal safety – it’s usually recommended to meet buyers somewhere publicly, such as in a shopping mall parking lot.
Pricing can be the hardest part. The general rule of thumb is to price your items according to this formula:
(Cost of materials + your labour (typically $30/hour)) x 1.4
For more info and an example check out Jennie and Davis’ blog post.
Woodworking can be a hobby that doesn’t break the bank if you use these tips for woodworking on a budget.
Wishing you all the best with your projects!
Victoria, BC, Canada