Wood working is a terrific skill to pick up. With enough experience, you can create an incredible variety of beautiful and useful objects - everything from tiny pocket trinkets to serious pieces of furniture. Although the ideal tools for your own wood working projects will depend on your personal tastes and the types of work you end up specializing in, certain tools are practically universal. These are some of them:
The Table Saw
Of all the tools woodworkers use, none is more versatile than the table saw. If you are only going to invest the money and space in buying a single mounted power tool, it should probably be a good table saw.
The really technical name for a table saw is a tilting arbor saw. "Arbor" is just another name for the axis around which a saw blade spins. Thus you can see that the ability to tilt and make angled cuts is one of the table saw's key features. A good saw is easily capable of handling both perpendicular stock (an operation called cross-cutting) and parallel feed (rip sawing).
When it comes time to pick out a table saw, there are two key factors to consider: blade size and table size. Bigger blades translate into an ability to handle thicker stock, and 10 inches is more or less the default size. Table tops come in all sorts of different sizes. Larger tables are more useful and flexible, but you have to buy the tool that's going to fit in your shop and in your budget.
The Drill Press
When you get right down to it, a drill press is little more than a vertical jig for a hand drill. In fact, you can buy just this sort of jig to stand in for a drill press. No matter how much you spend on the equipment required, you'll find that fixing your drill in place for vertical use adds an incredible amount of precision to it.
Drill presses are sold in both tabletop and free-standing versions. Most basic presses rely on muscle power to move their drill bits down, but the upward return motion is typically handled by a spring. The drill press is basically defined by two measurements: the depth and the throat. The depth is the distance between the drill bit at its highest extension and the table which supports your workpiece. It's fairly easy to adjust the depth to accommodate thicker pieces. The throat is the distance between the axis of the drill and the press's support column. It dictates how far from the border of a piece you can drill.
Look for a drill press that delivers some useful extra features. A movable table makes depth adjustments easy, and a depth gauge is useful for making the press even more precise. Shop around for press attachments that will make it capable of other jobs besides pure drilling. With a few quick modifications, a good press can also handle grooving, mortising, and sanding work in otherwise hard-to-reach spaces.
The is one of the tools woodworkers might or might not find indispensable depending on their individual focus. If you intend to do a lot of work that involves turned cylindrical components (e.g. balusters, furniture legs, etc), then a lathe is an absolute necessity. If your interests run more towards joinery and cabinetry, you may be able to do without a lathe for quite a while.
A lathe is a relatively simple tool; the most difficult part of adding one to your workshop is finding sufficient space for it. The lathe is powered by an electric motor in its headstock. This is one of the two attachment points used for workpieces. The adjustable end is called the tailstock. Pieces are clamped between them and spun at high speed; material can be cut away with a variety of different chisels and gouges.
Most lathes have an adjustable tool rest that can be positioned very close to the workpiece when the tool is in use. If you intend to turn hollow pieces like bowls, make sure you get a lathe that works for face-plate turning. This is turning without the tailstock, where the piece is screwed directly to the headstock.
The three tools described here are of course far from the only ones that play a useful role in your wood working shop. With each of these tools wood working tasks of certain types definitely become much easier, though. This means that you'll almost certainly be interested in adding them to your shop sooner or later.