Does Woodworking Really Save You Money?

Does Woodworking Really Save You Money

It all depends on the application, the tools you already have, and the time spent.

Woodworking is a detail-oriented and meticulous craft that starts out as a hobby, and turns into a mastery.

Yes, you can absolutely save money with woodworking. There are plenty of talented folks who can make excellent furniture with minimal upfront costs.

Most woodworking costs are attributed to the lumber itself, and sometimes supplies like paint and finisher.

If you already have your tools and workbench/lathe, then the cost isn’t going to be overwhelming.

Let’s break down each category of your woodworking cost from start to finish.

Woodworking Cost Breakdown

Woodwork cost varies from piece to piece, but it also depends on your starting tools.

Let’s go over everything you’re going to need, starting with tools. With patience and an increasing skill set, you’ll be able to achieve more with less.

Circular Saw

Circular Saw Close Up

This is essential for just about everything you’ll build with woodworking.

A decent circular saw will start at around $120.00, though you can find some basic models for slightly cheaper.

Good quality brands are Dewalt, Milwaukee, and Makita, which all hover around the previously discussed price.

Replacement blades are around $4.00 each (purchased in packs), and do not need to be specifically from the brand of the saw.

Irwin blades usually fit most circular saws, just be sure to look at measurements. One pack of blades will last you for a year or so, depending on how often you woodwork.

Jigsaw

Jigsaws are used for detailing as well as cutting thinner wood (4” or so, depending on how strong/durable your jigsaw is).

They come in handy in more than just woodworking projects, and are a good idea to have around the house anyway.

You can expect to pay around $80.00 for a quality one. Top brands include Dewalt, Porter-Cable, Bosch, and Ryobi.

Power Jointer (Planer)

Whether you’re fitting a new door or cabinets, a planer is an absolute must. You can find power jointer benches, but the most cost-effective are benchtop of hand units.

For handheld units, you can expect to pay between $45.00 and $175.00. Quality brands include Dewalt, Wen, and Cutech.

For bench models, you can expect to pay around $350.00 to $450.00. Quality brands include Delta, Cutech, Jet, and Grizzly Industrial.

Power Drill

Two Cordless Power Drills

Everyone knows what a power drill is, but not everyone has the necessary screw heads. You’ll be using this to put holes for knobs, drive screws, and attach pieces of wood.

Getting a drill with a good battery life and inclusive drill bits will be around $60.00 to $100.00. Quality brands include Black + Decker, Dewalt, Avid, and Bosch.

Chisel and Mallet

You can usually find these two items paired together in a simple set. They range from $45.00 to $90.00, and include a handful of different sized chisels, and one or two mallets.

These are used to split and trim wood, and come in handy in a variety of niche situations.

Quality brands include Kseibi, Tekton, and Gunpla, though just about any brand will work for woodworking.

Hammer

Driving nails into wood, gently knocking dove joints together; whatever you can think of. It’s important to have a good hammer around.

Any brand will work, so long as you have a sturdy grip and even weight distribution in the handle.

Hardwood

Exotic Lumber

Here’s where it gets tricky: the materials. Softwood is not good for woodworking, but hardwood is.

Hardwood derives from deciduous trees, the ones that lose leaves during the season change in fall.

There are approximately two-hundred different types of hardwood that you can use in your projects.

All things considered, that’s not a lot; you have a lot of projects ahead, and only so many variables to work into play.

There are also only a few grades of hardwood that you get to choose from. Grading is determined by the number of defects in the wood, also known as its density.

This is a lot to take in, but it all comes down to pricing. The wood type (cherry, oak, etc.) will impact the price, as well as the grade and board size.

There are also four different grade types to consider with different board thicknesses. Those are:

Grade Board Size Usable Material
First and Seconds (FAS) 6” x 8” minimum size 83% usable material
Select (Sel) 4” x 6” minimum size 83% usable material
#1 Common (#1 Com) 3” x 4” minimum size 66% usable material
#2 Common (#2 Com) 3” x 4” minimum size 50% usable material

Thickness corresponds to grades. Grades are determined through usable material, or imperfections in the wood.

You’ll find that plywood commonly falls under #1 Com and #2 Com, while oak and cherry fall under the FAS category.

The more exotic (hard-to-obtain) the wood is, the more expensive it will be. The higher the grade and percentage of usable material, the more expensive it will be.

Board thickness defines price since you often need thicker pieces to make furniture.

We can’t give you exact prices on wood since it fluctuates so often, but this information will help you know what to expect during the purchase process.

Finishers

Varnishing Wooden Table

This will come down to a per-project basis, but it’s safe to assume that you’ll at least be using some sort of finish such as polyurethane or varnish to protect your furniture.

This chart shows the cost for different finishes and protectors for woodworking projects.

It is no way meant to represent every product out there, this is simply an average based on product research and prices at the time of writing this article.

Finish Type Minimum Cost Maximum Cost
Polyurethane $0.52 per ounce (bulk) $0.73 per ounce
Varnish $0.54 per ounce $0.99 per ounce
Shellac $0.37 per ounce (bulk) $1.14 per ounce
Lacquer $0.55 per ounce $0.64 per ounce

Is It Cheaper to Build Your Own Furniture?

Making Wooden Stool

There are a few ways to look at this.

For one, if you have excellent woodworking skills, then you can create something that looks high-end without having to spend ridiculous amounts of money.

You could build furniture that rivals Pier 1 Imports and Ikea, so long as you apply a proper finish.

If you prefer high-end looking furniture that resembles those styles, then building your own is almost definitely cheaper than those sky-high price tags.

But that’s going to take time, and you have to think about how your time could be spent.

If the dining table that you want costs $1,200, and you’re using your woodworking skills to create a replica or custom-made table that looks similar, then you have to think about how long that’s going to take.

Let’s say you spend $600 on materials and finishes. Is that remaining $600 dollars that you save going to be worth more than the time you spent making the table?

Quality woodworking isn’t simple, so it could reasonably take you 10-20 hours to create it.

Compare the time spent to how much you could have made at your normal wage, and that will tell you if it’s cheaper.

However, if you’re all about functionality and you’re not in this for aesthetic high-end looking furniture, it is definitely cheaper to build it yourself.

You can skip painting and finishes, which will save you money, and spend less time during construction.

The thing is, if you’re going to build your own furniture, you’d might as well put your skills to the test.

Anything worth doing is worth overdoing. It can be cheaper, but we both know that you’re going to put time and dedication into it (as you should), which could offset the costs.

Can You Save Money During a Flip or Remodel?

Illustration Of Home Renovation

Now this is where the savings comes into play. One of the most expensive parts of any remodel is the kitchen (if not the most expensive part).

Kitchen cabinets cost a pretty penny, and sometimes can even reach into the five-figure range. Nobody needs to pay that.

You can build your own kitchen cabinets for about 35-60% of the total cost, depending on what you spend on the tools, and what type of wood you want.

If you’re going to try and build something permanent or semi-permanent (kitchen cabinets, built-ins, counters) out of high quality wood, like maple or cherry, then you need to have sufficient experience beforehand.

The last thing you want to do is split or ruin a piece of expensive wood, especially if you’re putting intricate designs into each cabinet door or table leg.

Woodworking will save you money during a remodel, but it is timely.

The woodworking cost will vary per project; nobody can tell you exactly how much it’s going to cost until it comes close to purchase time.

Wood prices fluctuate on a daily basis, and your location will also come into play (shipping costs to more remote areas with less sales of raw lumber, etc.).

If you’re getting a bulk order of wood to remodel your home, whether it’s making your own hardwood flooring or furniture, consider buying it all at once.

You might be able to get a lumber delivery directly to your home and save money.

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