Making stuff doesn’t have to be an expensive hobby. A lot of the time, you can get good quality gear for not a lot of money. Below you’ll see some of my recommendations, divided by category. Some of these are products I use. Others are newer versions of products I use or have used in the past. Nothing here is a blind endorsement — if it’s on this page, I have used it and like it.
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3M Virtua Safety Glasses – I beat up my safety glasses all the time, so I buy cheap ones and replace them often. When I have a chance, I do paint the sides red so I can see them more easily in the shop.
Howard Leight Folding Earmuff – Lightweight folding ear protection that doesn’t interfere with a face shield, respirator, or glasses.
North 7700 Series Half Mask – Dust is a long-term shop hazard and will really mess you up over time. This North mask is similar to what my wife used when she worked in a trace analysis lab, and it takes very high-quality filters. You can paint, varnish, and cut with this mask on and none of that junk will make it into your lungs. Especially helpful whenever you work with really stinky solvents, acids, et cetera. NOTE: if you want it to fit correctly, lose the beard. Sorry, beardos.
Sperian Face Shield – Working with a lathe or a grinder? Wear a face shield if you enjoy having eyes. This is the one I use. You can replace the polycarbonate shield when it gets too beat up and the fitting mechanism is very nice (similar to what they use in better quality hard hats).
Makita 12V Lithium-Ion Cordless 2-Piece Combo Kit – Unless you’re framing houses or doing professional work, you probably don’t need an 18V drill and driver. I have this 12V set and it is more than powerful enough for workshop use.
Makita 12V 3-3/8″ Circular Saw – If you don’t own a truck or a trailer, you can’t get plywood home without cutting it up. They’ll usually cut it for you at the home center, but they tend to have crappy plywood. On the other hand, my hardwood dealer won’t cut sheet goods, but they carry much better plywood. So I buy the good plywood and then rip it to size in the parking lot using this little saw.
Freud 1/4″ Spiral Upcut Router Bit – Cleaner cuts and less tear-out than straight bits. Solid carbide. It’ll wear out eventually, but it’s well worth the money if you do any significant amount of router work.
Mirka Gold 5-Inch Sanding Disks, 10 Each of 5 Grits – Mirka makes excellent sandpaper. It seems to last quite a bit longer than the stuff I can get at the home center. I’ve been using this for a few months now and I’m completely satisfied.
Mirka Gold 5-Inch Hook and Loop Sanding Discs, 400 Grit – Did I mention that Mirka makes sanding discs in 400 grit? Because they do! This is great stuff for light sanding between finish coats, especially if your random orbit sander has adjustable speed controls.
Porter-Cable Brad Nailer Combo Kit – This compressor isn’t powerful enough to run any serious air tools, but it’s great if you need to run a brad nailer. The included nail gun is high quality, too.
Longevity MIGWeld 140 – Inexpensive welding machine for beginners and hobbyists like me. Can handle both GMAW (gas-shielded, aka MIG) and FCAW (flux-core) wire. Continuously variable power and wire feed controls. Please be aware that you will also need a helmet, gloves, welding jacket (or at least a long-sleeved shirt), gas bottle, and some other odds and ends before you can get cracking.
Antra Auto-Darkening Welding Helmet – Inexpensive welding helmet with adjustable sensitivity and replaceable polycarbonate shields both inside and outside. Includes a mount for a “cheater lens” magnifier inside for old people like me. Includes several spare filters. Fully adjustable head mount system is comfortable and easy to use.
Tillman 50L MIG Welding Gloves – Thick leather keeps your hands comfortable and cool while you melt metal with the power of electricity. These are what I use — super comfy and not expensive at all. Also available in extra large.
Olympus Digital Voice Recorder – Most cameras have crappy onboard microphones. For better sound quality, record your audio separately. I use one of these. You can also use your phone.
Olympus ME-15 Microphone – Self explanatory, but: it’s a lapel mic for the recorder. It helps.
Astak CM-7500Pro – Cheap enough that you don’t have to worry about breaking it. I film most of my videos with this little thing. It comes with a bunch of mounts and brackets to help you get those weird camera angles. Of course, if you’ve got the scratch, you can also buy a real GoPro:
Samsung NX1000 – When I wanted something a little higher quality than the Astak, I switched over to this. APS-C sensor (the same size found in most DSLR cameras), decent lens, not terribly expensive. So far, I’m very happy with it.
Blue Snowball iCE Condenser Microphone – Have you ever tried to record a voiceover using your computer’s onboard microphone or the headset that came with your phone? It doesn’t sound great. For $50, this microphone makes every word you say sound smarter and sexier. It uses USB, so you don’t need an external XLR interface. Probably the most affordable way to get really good sound into your videos. Warning: may lead to “NPR Voice.” Consult your doctor.
NEEWER Microphone boom stand – After you get a good microphone, the next step is to reduce vibration as much as possible. This cheap little boom arm will do that for you. It’s not super high-quality gear, but it gets the job done.
Can’t work up the energy to get stuff done? Check these out.