My Take on a Small Budget/Space Shop #3: What can you build in a small low budget shop?


All of the stationary stuff that I described in the last post cost around $1500 or less with a little shrewd horse trading and not really a lot of looking on CL. I said that my investment might be as high as $2500. The rest is all standard stuff like drills, sanders routers, grinder etc. and far too boring to go into. The main gist here is that you can do it with quality tools and still not spend a fortune. Maybe more importantly, it needn’t take up a lot of space.

The ShopSmith comes with very good casters that lift and lower and it is very easy to move around . The SPT cart is on casters and of course so is the HF DC. I can set up in a minute or so and put things away just as easily. There is no feeling of “Oh I have to drag all that stuff out” at all.

As for the quality that you can achieve in this space on this budget, I’d say you’d be hard pressed to tell which of my projects were made here and which at the big shop at home. As an example I built my first chevalet here in this shop. Most of the “in action” pictures in the last segment of this blog were taken during this project.

I’ve never been a believer in the high end tools. I have no problem with those who love them. They just aren’t worth it to me. I think that the quality has to be in the hands of the craftsman and if it’s there, he can produce fine results with less than fine tools. If it’s not there, the finest tools money can buy won’t improve his quality much at all. Why do I feel like I shouldn’t have said that?

Anyway this is a wrap. I hope I have helped in some way to get some of you into better organization and better tools for your space and budget.

Thanks for looking in


The early bird gets the worm but its the second mouse that gets the cheese.


My “wood shops” have been high dollar shops, with big machines, at three schools and a garage/driveway, and now a corner of my hangar. With that, I think you can build any quality and almost any size.

YEARS AGO, about 1988, I built a full set of kitchen cabinets, with the help of my father in law, for the in law’s kitchen. All was done with a late 40’s/early 50’s era Shop Smith, a small Craftsman jointer, a router and drill.

Built a wooden airplane in that same garage later, as well as running hundreds of sets of replacement bed wood boards for old Chevy and GMC pick ups.

Actually, my first “wood shop” was the front porch of the trailer house, shortly after my wife and I got married.

So, I think one can do almost anything in a small shop.

Happy Wooding!

Keith "Shin" Schindler

I think it depends on what you mean by high end tools. I have an old 20" Cantek planer, nothing fancy. Very basic and very heavy…works great and should have many years from it. I’ve never felt the need for an automatic table lift but variable speed and a/or a helical head would be nice. lol. Compared to my previous planer, a 13" Jet it is very high end as it is made with steel and not tin. lol Same basic technology though.
My buddy has a shop that has a sliding table saw (with scoring blade etc) but the tool of choice for them seems to be their ancient 14" General.. depends on what you are used to as well I suppose. Personally, I would love to upgrade to either of those.


Well said Paul. The first set of kitchen cabinets I built using a skill saw, a jig saw, a portable drill, and a t square that has a level in it. They are still in my kitchen, (old project), to this day. Great article by the way, your writing skills are only surpassed by your woodworking skills, thanks for the information.

CHRIS, Charlottetown PEI Canada. Anytime you can repurpose, reuse, or recycle, everyone wins!

My woodworking mentor designed and built every piece of millwork in his rather amazing loft apartment in downtown Manhattan with nothing more than a decent tablesaw and a few very basic other tools. No planers, no lathes, no other big stationary tools. The thing he tried to ingrain into me more than anything else is attention to detail. A little creativity and attention to detail can take you a long way. It wasn’t really that long ago that none of these gadgets even existed and the only tools obtainable would fit into a relatively small tool chest. A chest you made for yourself, of course.

Losing fingers since 1969


You’re taking away all my excuses for why I can’t make anything quite right!


“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” Benjamin Franklin

A man I know very well has a circular saw mounted under a table for table saw.
He created some very nice furniture.

Thanks for the reminder.

Abbas, Castro Valley, CA

I agree Paul that the skill factor is the most important part of woodworking by far, and that expensive tools are not a necessity, but I do think that there is a ‘joy’ factor attached to quality tools that adds a lot to the experience. Most of my years in woodworking have been with cheap tools and they worked, but they weren’t sweet. In the past 4 or 5 years I have acquired some better quality tools, namely a great chevalet (Your design), a good scroll saw (Excalibur), a good saber saw (deWalt), a good sharpening system (Tormek), a good router (Trend) and a good battery drill (deWalt). Except for the chevy, these tools were all replacements for lesser quality tools that I never liked much and I can honestly say that I really love them.

Mike, an American living in Norway

I use a single car garage as my shop space. Total of about 140 sq ft. It’s equipped mainly with tools purchased off craigslist or yard sales. The only exception to that is a Grizzly band saw that I received as a Christmas gift from my family. Neither space or tool quality has stopped me from building anything that I’ve wanted to build. Anything is doable with the right attitude.

Very well said………. I is called Craftsmanship not Toolmanship. I have always said that the craftsman makes the tool b i t the tool can’t make you a crastsman. I am a third generation woodworke r still using many tools from my dad, my grandfather and those I have collected from the 60s and 70s. I like to think I am skilled in using what may be antique tools….. but then again I’m an antique myself.


My first out feed table for my table saw was an old ironing board. I like to think that the table I built later from a salvaged kitchen counter top is a significant step up!