Joshua gives some very good advice and I don’t intend to argue against his personal choices on the tools to acquire. The tools he lists and the order he indicated in his article are valid for him and I respect that, but I have different thoughts on the subject. For instance, the first thing on his list is a workbench. A little research will show that much good work can be managed without a traditional bench, and in fact, some of the different variations of the wide world of woodworking do not require a “workbench” at all. In addition, considering the different types of “traditional” and “modern” workbenches, How does a beginner decide which type/features to invest those precious dollars in without having some experience in the craft? It is obvious that his suggestions are based on workbench-centered European and American style cabinet making work as he is used to performing it. What about the raw beginner who is interested in a different style of woodwork, woodworking product, doesn’t have enough resources to initially acquire a significant set of tools, or just wants to try some aspect of the hobby out to see how it fits them?
The choice of creating with wood, tools, heart, head, and hands should not be entered with the requirement of a large list of tools. That is the thinking of teachers that teach with the attitude of ” this is how you should do it” instead of “this is one way to do it” and the attitude of woodworking tool manufacturers and dealers. Creating is as much a self discovery process as it is a work process. There are at least three different ways to achieve a desired result and a woodworker should endeavor to understand each, choosing the method and associated tools and techniques they deem best given their resources and talents. While it is important and efficient to draw upon the experience of other people, it is even more important to create your own experience and learn from it. Craft is more about the growth as a craftsman than it is the products produced.
One other thing I should have mentioned in my first reply to the original poster is to learn the restoration skills for used tools. All tools require some maintenance. Learning to restore the old stuff will teach you about tool design, history, and the techniques for using them while saving money in the bargain. It also helps you understand the differences between a good tool and an expensive one. Another good habit to get into is building tools and accessories. They make excellent practice and helps to reduce costs.
Many a beginning woodworker has been chased away from the interest by the pressure to spend large sums on those “must-have” tools. It does make it easier to build “stuff” if you can afford to buy all of the goodies, but if that is all you do you will never fully understand the beauty of this relationship mankind has developed with this wonderful material.
We live in a world determined to tear us away from nature, tradition, and, thousands of years of the culture that has made us who and what we are. Forces are at work that create artificial environments, artificial tribes, and artificial thoughts. In this new world we all seek that which we know to be real and solid anchors to help us defend those parts of ourselves that seems to be at risk, to remind ourselves that in spite of the fluid nature of this modern world, some things we hold dear remain true and steadfast. Is it any wonder that people gravitate to the security of some self sufficiency, of being able to take basic materials and create things of beauty and utility without dependency on modern institutions? Craft is an expression of what it means to be human and in that is more valuable than the objects it produces. With that in mind, encourage any craftsperson because it helps keep our humanity alive.