I’d be willing to bet that if I gave a bunch of cheap, flimsy tools to guys like Louis Sauzedde, Graham McKay, Jon Stuart, or Dan Shea, and then went out and spent $100k on the best of the best tools for me, those guys would still build a boat that would steal my boat’s ball and send it home crying to its mother.
The tools do not make the carpenter. Sure, a $2000 Jet table saw is a beautiful thing, but I once met a family in Indonesia that built beautiful furniture in their house and shipped it to stores all over the world. Their table saw was a sheet of plywood with a huge rusty blade sticking out of the middle. The blade got its propulsion from a rigged up motorcycle engine. Nice tools are great to have, and can sometimes make the job a little easier, but they are in no way a requirement.
For materials, I always advise folks to buy the best they can afford. If you can only afford cheap plywood, then build it out of cheap plywood. Just keep that in mind before you take it out for an overnight trip in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. If you can afford Mahogany and Teak, then get Mahogany and Teak. Build the best boat you can afford.
I recently joined a conversation on the Duckworks Magazine Forum regarding the building of a small dinghy. The builder lives on a boat, has only a handful of basic tools, and wanted to get our opinion on building a Deckster dinghy. He would basically be building it on his boat or at borrowed parking lot spaced when he is docked. It is conversations like these that really put things in perspective and make me appreciate people’s passion for boat building.