How to Build a Workshop for Under $1,000

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Getting started in woodworking can be a real challenge, especially financially. When we’re at the starting gate, we see all the tools available in the marketplace, looking like there’s no way we’ll afford them. I get it. I look at some of the other guys and their multi-thousand-dollar tools, thinking there’s no way I could ever afford to buy the tools that they use.

Fortunately, you can plan, make use of what you have, and curate a workshop for under 1000 bucks. Want to know where to start? I’ll show you what you need to know in this guide.

What You Need and How Good You Need

First of all, there are two interrelated factors to consider here. The first one is figuring out just what you need. The second is figuring out just how good you need. When you look at those videos with their Festool power hand tools and massive stationary machines, the dollar signs climb faster than you can keep track of. 

But as a beginning woodworker, you don’t need those high-dollar tools. You’re a hobbyist; not someone trying to do production work. If you look around my shop (in the videos), you’re not going to see any of those high-dollar tools. I use what I can afford as a hobbyist woodworker. Those are the tools I’m using—not something that some big company has set up to look good on camera.

It also looks like I have a lot of tools—and I must admit—I do. But keep in mind, I’ve been collecting tools for 50 years. Some of those tools are fairly new, but there are a few that I’ve had since I was a teenager. I also have tools for working on my cars, and one whole toolbox stack full of engineering and machinists hardware from my engineering days.

Rich showing the items and tools in his workshop

When my wife and I bought this house, one of the requirements I put on our list was space for a workshop. I knew there were going to be a lot of projects for me to do—the house itself, repairing antique furniture she had, and other things we wanted that needed to be made. 

This house came with a two-car garage, although one garage door had been closed off and replaced with a personnel door. It leads directly to a handicapped ramp, which we decided to keep. So, my workshop is 22 feet square, less the space taken by that ramp.

My Assumptions

For this article, I’m going to make two assumptions about you setting up your workshop. The first is that you’re going to set it up in a corner of your garage. That seems to be the most common place to start out—a place where we can make sawdust without messing up the living areas of the house.

My dad never had more than a corner of his garage for his workshop and he made great woodworking projects, including some which were quite large. He’d pull his Ford Bronco out when he needed to work so that he could get to his table saw and have room to maneuver the material. Besides the table saw, everything was in, on, or under his bench, which was six feet long.

The second assumption I’m going to make is that you have some basic tools. I’m not talking about woodworking tools, but common tools, like a hammer, some screwdrivers, and a pair of pliers. So, I’m not going to include those tools in the budget I’m about to lay out. If I missed you on that, sorry; but it’s really only a minor expense.

Here’s the List

Rich showing his Ryobi tools

I’ve created this list based on priority, from what I feel you need most and are going to be able to make good use of the most. These are what I consider to be your most important acquisitions. 

Are there other things you could make good use of? Of course, there are. But those will vary from woodworker to woodworker, depending on the projects they are making and their way of working. You will discover what those are as you go.

First Item – A Workbench

You’ve got to have someplace to work. That means a workbench. The workbench I have now—the one you see in the videos—is the first real woodworker’s bench I’ve ever owned and I built it only three years ago. During the years before that, I used whatever I had. 

That might have been an old door laid across sawhorses or a plastic folding table. For many years, my workbench was one of those roll-around carts that science teachers used to perform experiments on. I still have it and it is now my repair bench for tools and household appliances that need attention.

For your starter workbench, I’d recommend making one with a 2 x 4 frame and a plywood top. I have a couple of these in the annex (a large shed, out back, which I use as additional workshop space). This makes a sturdy bench, without a lot of investment. The wood should cost you about $75.00. Add a six-inch metal woodworking vice and you’ve got a budget of $100 for a workbench.

Rich showing his workbench

Most Important Tool – A Table Saw

The most important and versatile tool to have in a workshop is a table saw. With the various sleds and jigs people are making today, you can do a lot of things with a table saw that wasn’t even imaginable back when I started. 

Crosscutting with the saw’s miter gauge was risky at best, especially if you needed accuracy. But with a crosscut sled, you can make crosscuts that you know are a perfect 90 degrees. With a miter sled, you can make picture frames that come out perfect every time. Between the two, you can just about eliminate the need for a miter saw.

If I had a bigger budget, I’d say that the miter saw would be the second major power tool to buy; but that’s not the parameters of what we’re doing here. So, between the two, a table saw is a more versatile and useful choice to make.

I’ve budgeted between $200 and $400 for a table saw, which takes up the biggest chunk of this project. You can choose from several different models of contractor’s portable table saws available in this price range. 

The Evolution table saw that I use was on sale for $379 when I did the review on it. I don’t know if the price will remain the same during sales, but it’s worth checking out. It’s an excellent saw and will probably give you a little more than others in that price range, considering the fact that its regular price is $499.

Rich's woodshop

Before making your final selection, be sure to take a look at Facebook Marketplace. I’ve seen a number of used table saws on there in the $50 to $150 range, including several saws that look just like my dad’s old Craftsman that I learned on. 

Just make sure the motor runs, the blade turns, and the fence is intact. Don’t be surprised if the table is a bit rusty. If it is cast, you can clean that up and make it as good as new.

Your Other Power Tools

Most of us today think of ourselves as “power-tool woodworkers” rather than “hand-tool woodworkers.” Oh, we might use hand tools from time to time; but for the majority of our work, we prefer power tools. These tools are considerably faster and easier, allowing us to get more done. 

There is also a category of woodworkers who specialize in hand-tool woodworking, but they are a breed all their own. Their tools are extremely expensive too. And while those tools are incredibly accurate, they take more skill on the part of the woodworker.

To get the best deal on the other power tools you need, I’d recommend buying one of the sets or “kits” that the various power tool companies offer. These usually come in a duffel and will contain three, four, or even five tools, along with a couple of batteries and a charger. You can get a lot of value for your money that way. 

Rich showing his workshop power tools

I’d recommend starting with Ryobi, as they provide the best value for the new woodworker. I’ve done a separate video talking about Ryobi tools and why they are a good choice for new woodworkers.

I took a look on Amazon and noticed that they had several different Ryobi tool sets available, all for about $300. So, the key is to pick out a set with as much as possible of what you’ll need, without the things you won’t need.

To give you an idea, your top priorities should be a drill/driver and a circular saw. Those are the tools you’ll use the most. The drill/driver is a very versatile tool, allowing you to both drill holes and drive screws. The circular saw is a good tool, in addition to the table saw, for breaking down full sheets of plywood before taking them to the table saw for final cuts.

After those two must-have tools, the question you may ask is “What else?” I’d look for the following tools:

Impact Driver

This will allow you to drive screws more easily, especially long screws. This tool will eliminate the need to switch bits on your drill/driver as often.

Palm Sander

Sanding is a big part of woodworking, and a quarter-sheet palm sander will make a very versatile sanding tool. Some people prefer a random orbital sander, but while those are good too, a palm sander is a more versatile option. It will also take material off faster when needed.

Rich using a palm sander

Trim Router

The router is probably the second most versatile tool in the workshop, after the table saw; especially if you can mount it in a router table (which can easily be homemade). Today’s trim routers are much more powerful than earlier ones, allowing them to do many tasks that used to be limited to full-sized routers. The only complaint I’d have is that mine is a battery hog.

There are also a couple of power tools that are common in these kits, which you should probably try to avoid, as they are for construction, rather than woodworking. If your intent is to do home remodeling projects, you might want them. They include the reciprocating saw (otherwise known as a “Sawzall”) and the vibratory or oscillating cutter often called a “multitool”).

Measurement Tools

You’re going to need at least a few measurement tools to start with. After all, if you don’t measure before you cut, how are you going to measure twice? And if you don’t measure twice, how will you know you’re cutting the right length?

There are a large variety of excellent measurement tools out there, some of which I’m sure you’re going to eventually want to add to your collection. But when you’re just dipping your toes in the craft, there are really only three tools you have to have:

Rich with power tools from different brands

You should be able to buy all of these for about $50. In reality, I found all three on Amazon for $40. You might want to consider taking the extra $10 and buying the cheapest moisture meter you can find. It may not be great; but “not great” is better than nothing. Being able to check the moisture content of your wood could save you a lot of headaches.

Hand Tools

We could go crazy on hand tools and spend a lot of money, but I’m trying to stick to priorities here. With this perspective, and taking into account that you probably already have some basic hand tools, there are only a few things that you’ll actually need.


The first of these is a mallet. A mallet is useful when you’re trying to beat pieces of a project together. You could do this with a hammer, but it’s going to mar the wood, hence the need for a mallet. If you have to use a hammer for this, place a scrap block of wood over whatever you’re beating to protect it.


You should also have at least one chisel. I’d recommend a ¾” wide one, as that will prove to be the most useful size. Eventually, you might want a full set; but you can do an awful lot with just ¼” and a ¾” chisels, saving yourself the money.


Finally, clamps. Whatever money is left from the original $1,000, spend it on clamps. Every woodworker I’ve ever met, in person or online, complains about not having enough clamps. But just what sort of clamps should you buy?

Cutting plywood using the Hychika Mini Circular Saw

I’d recommend just buying bar clamps; the kind with a screw handle, rather than the pistol grip “quick-clamps.” They’ll give you more pressure and pressure is what they’re all about. You can spend a lot of money on clamps, especially when you start looking at the newer parallel action clamps. 

But if you’re starting out, I’d recommend picking some up from Harbor Freight. No, they aren’t the best; but their price is. I have a number of their clamps and they’ve served me well. I’ve also had a few break from overuse. Oh well, you win some, you lose some.

Don’t bother buying real long clamps, unless you have a wide clamp-up in your immediate plans. I’d recommend sticking with clamps that are about 24” long. Longer than that just adds to the price and they are harder to work with if you don’t need all that length.


So, there we are; our entire workshop for $1,000. Is this everything I’d want? No, it isn’t. But I will say that I could start with this collection and make many of the projects I’ve made through the years. I simply tried to give you a starting point with a reasonable price tag on it. I expect that anyone who will start with this list of tools will soon be adding more to them as they work on more projects.

I generally try to attach my tool purchases to specific projects, as a way of justifying their expense. Last year, I was rebuilding a room for my mother-in-law, because termites had destroyed the floor and structure. Two of the tools I ended up buying for that project were a belt sander and a power plane. 

I should only have had to buy the plane, but my old belt sander picked that moment to die, adding itself to the buying list. I’ve since used both tools for other projects, but the justification for buying them was that I needed them to get that project done.

I don’t know if that will work for you or not, but it has worked well for me not only in justifying it to my wife, but in justifying it in my own mind. I could look at the purchase as a necessity, rather than just buying myself a new toy.

Rich Profile Pic

Rich is a second-generation woodworker, having grown up in his dad’s workshop, “making sawdust.” Fifty years later, he’s still studying and working on improving his own woodworking skills, while also helping new woodworkers “catch the bug” for the smell of fresh sawdust. While Rich has done some custom woodworking projects, his greatest thrill is helping the next generation of woodworkers along, regardless of their age. His background as an engineer and a writer just adds to his ability to teach his true passion, woodworking.

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