Woodworking is the process of cutting wood accurately in order to assemble the pieces for a good and tight fit.
This means there are three stages to a finished project.
- Laying out, which requires squares, rulers, marking gauges, etc.
- Cutting, using chisels, saws, planes, etc.
- Assembling, using clamps, jigs, glue and/or screws and nails.
Woodworkers have the choice of between hand tolls, power tools, or a combination of the two.
Power tools are expensive, require a lot of space to set up, often require an extensive dust extraction system, and can cause loss of limbs. They are also very fast to use and thus convenient for larger scale production or people who make furniture or other objects for a living.
The two most useful power tools are the table saw and the planer. These two tools can accomplish in minutes what could take hours with hand tools, namely ripping and squaring boards.
Hand tools are comparably cheaper, require less space, do not generate dust, and it is hard to cause major injuries to yourself, usually mostly nicks and cuts. They are also very slow to use.
Quality reigns supreme. From an ERE perspective, quality tools have two benefits. First, life is too short for the kinds of hand tools commonly found in department stores. Second, quality tools are nearly collectible. It would not be unusual to be able to buy such a tool used and be able to sell it for more than what was paid for it 5 years later simply due to inflation.
In terms of price level, prepare to be surprised. It would not be considered unusual for a bench plane to cost upwards of $300 (2011) or about as much as a cheap computer. Furthermore, you'll likely need several of such priced instruments. With $2000 in hand tools, you will be able to do most forms of cabinetmaking from small boxes to furniture. $1000 should be enough to start with.
Considering that hand tools ultimately reduce to blades that are arranged to cut at specific angles, the more tools one has, the easier it gets. This is one case, where minimalism works against you. The lack of a specific tool, e.g. an expensive filister must be compensated for with time and skill when using a simpler tool combination, here a chisel, marking gauge, and a saw.