Tip the economic scales in your favor with these money-saving ideas.

You can't do much about gas prices or the national debt. But you can cut your woodworking costs while still spending more time in the shop by following these strategies.

Save some green on tools and accessories

1. Make machines do multiple jobs.
No need to buy a $150 spindle sander for smoothing curved cuts. Instead, chuck a $10 sanding drum in your drill press. Likewise, skip the mitersaw. The vast majority of crosscuts are 45° or 90°, and can be made with a circular saw guided by a rafter square, or by using a tablesaw sled.

A vacuum bag may be seldom used, but when you need to apply veneer, especially around curved surfaces, it's nice to have. Share its cost and use with others.

2. Form a tool cooperative.
Perhaps you'd like to try dovetails and veneering, but you can't bring yourself to pay full price for a dovetail jig or vacuum press that will spend most of its life on a shelf. Instead, pool money with a buddy or two, and share the expense of specialty tools and accessories.


3. Deliver deals to your inbox.
Visit the Web sites and Facebook pages of your favorite catalog companies, retailers, and tool manufacturers, and sign up for their mailing lists and e-newsletters. These often include exclusive offers, discounts, free project plans, and other great information.

Time spent making accessories, like this pushstick or featherboard, helps hone your skills while adding convenience to your shop.

4. Build your jigs and accessories.
This gets you in the shop and saves money compared with buying ready-made fixtures. For example, make your own pushsticks and featherboards. Build custom tool stands or a router table and fence. (Search for a specific jig or browse our free and for-sale plans.)

Bonus Tip: Experiment on shop projects to learn and refine techniques you can then use on a "real" project. For example, add hand-cut dovetails on the drawers for a shop cabinet. Or try a new finishing technique on your next jig.

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A little elbow grease can transform a garage-sale discard into a well-tuned tool. Check tools carefully for missing or broken parts.

5. Give used tools a second look.
Pre-owned tools often offer the same functionality of new ones at a fraction of the price.

Watch for garage, moving, or estate sales. Look through auction listings, both real-world and online. To keep tabs on specific Web sites, such as ebay or craigslist, around the clock, create a Google alert. (See Search while you sleep, below.) Then research market prices online so you don't overpay.

Portable power tools returned to retailers typically get sent back to the manufacturer for factory reconditioning. They're as good as new, but cost less, and often include warranties.

Search while you sleep

A Google alert compiles search results (from a specific Web site, if desired) and emails a summary to you. Here's how to set up an alert to watch for sale listings for a particular tool.

Go to google.com/alerts. If you have a Google account, sign in. If you don't, you need not create one, but save the confirmation email you receive so you can delete the alert when you finish with it.

In the "Search Terms" box, type the item you want to find; for example, "14 inch bandsaw." This search will cover the entire Web. To restrict the search to a specific Web site, add "site:ebay.com", substituting the site you want to monitor for the italicized letters.

Choose your preferences in the next three boxes, click the "Preview results" link, and see what the alert finds today. Type in your email address and click "Create Alert." Search results will be emailed to you as often as you specify.