There are few hobbies that are more fun and rewarding than building something out of wood. Not to mention you can create furniture and other wood products that have value in your home. Many times you can even save some significant money buy doing woodworking projects yourself. Before you get started with this great hobby you will need to have a well-rounded set of woodworking tools.
We will start by introducing you to the more affordable basic handheld tools that are essential to the woodworking craft. After that we will discuss a few power tools that will speed up your woodworking projects if you can afford them.
Essential Woodworking Hand Tools List
People have been building furniture and other wood items for thousands of years without the benefit of having power tools. There is absolutely no reason you can’t do it too.
Here is a list of hand tools that we feel are absolutely necessary if you want your woodworking projects to come out looking great
When you are working with wood it helps if everything is measured and marked precisely. The word ‘precision’ is the key to everything that you do when you are woodworking. You will hear it used a lot as we describe what different woodworking tools do. Proper measuring, lay out and cutting are hugely important when you are doing any woodworking project.
1. High quality tape measure
We said we were not going to put obvious tools that most everyone already has in their toolbox on this list. So why did we put a tape measure on here. It is because it’s a point of emphasis that you have a good tape measure when you are doing woodworking. Precision measurements and cuts are the key as to whether your woodworking project goes smoothly or has you pulling your hair out in frustration.
Here are some tips and tricks that will help you make better use of your tape measure:
2. Scribing knife (marking knife)/Scratch awl
These are woodworking tools that help you when you are laying out your wood to be cut. These are important because they help you scratch lines in your wood to identify areas that need to be cut out or shaped. These woodworking layout tools allow you to work freehand so you have a lot of design flexibility in your shapes.
Scratch awls are preferred for use when going with the grain and scribing knives are used when marking against the grain.
This is a good video on why it is handy to have a marking knife when doing woodworking projects:
3. Combination square
This tool may not look like much but it is actually one of the most important woodworking tools you will own. It is a very valuable friend when it comes to doing the layout of your woodworking project.
The main purpose for this toll is to mark and check 45 degree and 90 degree angles. You will most likely not find a woodworking project that does not find these types of angle cuts on some of the wood used to make it. Get ready to use this tool a lot because it is that important to the ease in which your wood pieces fit together.
A combination square will also help you find the center of a circle, check depth and comes in handy for taking quick short measurements too.
Here is a video that describes the uses of a combination square in more detail:
4. Try square
A try square is a simple tool that is just used for marking and checking the square on a piece of wood. Unlike the combination square it always remains in a fixed position. This means it is only useful for measuring and checking ninety degree angles. They are great for marking precision cut lines in pieces of wood too.
Try squares can get ‘out of square’ at times so it is important to check them often. A try square that is even just hair out of square can give you fits when you are trying to put two pieces of wood together that were cut wrong because of it. Check this often.
Here is some more useful information on how to use a try square and check it to make sure it’s still square:
5. Marking gauge (scratch gauge)
There are some cuts you do in woodworking that would be very hard to accomplish without this tool. A marking gauge is primarily used to mark out lines on a piece of wood as to wear it needs to be cut. More specifically it is used to make a marking line that is parallel to one of the straight surfaces on the piece of wood you are working with.
A marking gauge consists of a piece of flat wooden stock that has a stem that it slides over. At one end of the stem is what is called a spur or pin. You slide the wooden stock so the spur is your desired length from the straight edge of a board. Once this is dine you move the entire marking gauge along that straight edge and it will mark the wood in a parallel line as you move it.
Here is a little bit more information on how to buy and use a marking gauge:
6. Sliding bevel (bevel gauge, false square)
This is an odd looking tool to say the least but it is very useful I woodworking. It is hard to describe exactly what it does but once you use it a few times you will find it very simple to use.
It is a tool that is used for marking angles on a piece of wood that needs to be cut. Unlike some of the other squares it can be used to mark out angles that need to be cut in wood that are not straightforward. You can measure and cut just about any degree angle with this device.
It’s an especially valuable tool to have if you like to use dovetail joints on your woodworking projects.
This is one tool that it really helps to see it work in order to understand exactly how it will help you when woodworking. Here is a video that should help with that:
7. Framing square
Here is another very handy square that is used for marking and making sure a piece of wood has a perfect 90 degree angle on it. It is much larger than the other squares on the list. One of the best things about it is it has measurements all along it. This is useful because you don’t have to keep switching back and forth between this tool and a measuring tape.
Here is a YouTube video that will describe exactly how this tool is used best as it pertains to woodworking.
Cutting and Shaping Hand Tools
1. Assorted hand planes
Long before power tools came along people where shaping and thinning pieces of wood with hand planes. Many carpenters and wood craftsman still consider them valuable tools. They are often used when smaller detail work needs to be done on a board or other type of wood item. A good example of this is a carpenter using one to trim the edge of a door slightly to get it to fit.
There are several different types of hand planes and each has a different purpose.
Here are the ones most commonly used when woodworking:
- Jack plane
- Fore plane
- Jointer plane
- Smoothing plane
Here is a very good video that describes the different hand planes and their uses for woodworking projects:
2. Assorted rasps/ Assorted files
Files have flat or round sandpaper like surfaces that are used to do such things as smooth rough edges. Rasps have very coarse edges and are used to quickly rough down an edge of a piece of wood so it can then be finely detailed. You will not find a woodworking shop that does not have at least a few files and rasps in it.
Here is an excellent video that describes how to use a rasp effectively when woodworking:
Here is another video that focuses on how to use files for woodworking:
3. Assorted chisels
Chisels are great for making grooves, carving decorations and a whole bunch of other woodworking tasks. If you have a good set of chisels handy you can shape the piece of wood you are working on just about any way you want. They are the catch all tools when it comes to working with wood.
Make sure one of the chisels you buy is what is known as a mortise chisel. These are used to help make a Mortise and Tenon joint which we talked about before. A Mortise chisel helps to carve out the female part of this joint (obviously also known as the Mortise).
Here is some more information on how to use different chisels:
4. Miter saw/Miter box
This is one of the most often used tools in woodworking. It is extremely valuable for making precision straight and angled cuts. It does come in both hand and power miter saw versions. The hand miter saws work great and is very budget friendly so we will just talk about that one for now.
In order to make precision cuts with a miter saw you will need to have a miter box that acts as a sawing guide too. This box already has slots cut into that will help you cut precision 45 degree angle cuts and straight cuts. With the miter saw and miter box setup you can easily make these cuts and do it accurately too.
This informational YouTube video will help you better understand how a miter saw and miter box combine to make precision cuts:
5. Tenon saw
One of the strongest joints you can make when joining two pieces of wood together is called a Mortise and Tenon joint. It has been popular for centuries in woodworking. This involves making a peg (the male part of the joint also known as the Tenon) stick out of one piece of wood and have a groove (the female part of the joint known as the Mortise) cut into the other piece of wood its being joined with.
A Tenon saw is the tool used to make the precision cut that is necessary to form the male end of the Mortise and Tenon joint.
Here is a demonstration on how to properly use a Tenon saw:
6. Dovetail saw
These saws are useful in making what is known as a precision dovetail joint. This is the type of interlocking ribbed joint you see on the wood pieces at the back of a dresser drawer. This is a particularly strong joint when it comes to woodworking items.
A dovetail saw is unique because its blade is totally square which is essential when making a precision dovetail joint. The teeth on a dovetail saw are fairly coarse. It is similar to a Tenon saw but usually shorter in length.
Here is some useful information on how to best use your dovetail saw:
7. Coping saw
A coping saw is a saw that is used for making very detailed cuts in wood. It features a very thin blade so it has a little flexibility and can get into hard to reach areas too. This blade is set in a u-shaped frame which helps to easily guide it wherever you need to cut. The blade fits much like a hacksaw blade in that it is set on pins and the blade tension can be adjusted.
This saw is excellent for cutting both intricate shapes and curves in wood.
Have a look at this YouTube video to see how these precision cutting saws work:
8. Wooden Joiner’s Mallet
When you first start doing woodworking projects your hands will probably hate you. It takes a while to learn many tricks of the trade. Most beginners will repeatedly do things like hitting their knuckles with a claw hammer because they missed hitting the edge of a chisel when they swung. All this can be avoided by purchasing a tool called a ‘joiners mallet’.
This tool resembles Thor’s hammer that you see in the movies except it’s made of wood. It is a big block of wood attached to a handle essentially. It is perfect to use when chiseling because you will seldom miss the end of the chisel with its oversized head.
It is also good to use when you need a little force to tap the joints of two pieces of wood together. It will not mark the wood like metal hammers will if you use them for the same purpose.
Many people like to make their own wood joiner’s mallet – here is how that is done:
The nice thing about all of these woodworking hand tools above is that they can be bought at a pretty affordable price. One of the great things about woodworking is you can make some amazingly beautiful wood products without spending a fortune on power tools.
Awesome Woodworking Power Tools
Woodworking power tools are certainly nice to have around too. There are several different power tools that are made with the wood craftsman in mind. These are very convenient to own if you can fit them in your budget.
Here are some power tools that are great to own if you want to speed up your woodworking process:
A jointer is a piece of woodworking equipment that consists of a long flat 6 inch wide table with a set of rolling blades in the middle of it. There is also a fence along the far long edge of the table.
A jointer really has two main purposes:
- It helps correct the imperfections on the faces of boards and makes them flatter and easier to work with. Once the board face is smooth and flat it makes it much easier to use during the rest of your project. It will also enhance the looks of your finished project.
- The other important function of a joiner is to make the edges of a board flat, square and smooth. This makes them easier to more precise to work with when you go to put two boards together (hence the reasoning for calling this tool a jointer). The fence is used a lot during this step to help keep all the edges of the board square as you are shaving them down.
Here is a handy YouTube video that will go into a little more detail about how a jointer can help you during your woodworking projects:
A planer is the perfect complimentary tool to the jointer. Once the jointer has finished making your board flat and square on the ends, the next step is often running it through a planer.
Most planers consist of a flat table similar to that if a jointer except they are a little wider. Planers’ are often 12 inches or more wide. Like the jointer the planer has rolling blades in it too. The big difference is that on a planer the blades are overhead and not in the center of the bottom of the table like a joiner.
A planer’s main purpose is to control the thickness of a board. It is designed to make any board that you run through it of equal thickness from end to end. When you slide the wood toward the rolling cutting blades the board will catch and the machine will then pull it through by itself. All the user has to do is keep the board straight as it is going through the planer.
This YouTube video is very informational on the basics of how electric planers work:
An electric router is a very handy tool for woodworking and can be a huge timesaver too. It can do woodworking tasks in seconds that might take you 30 or 40 minutes to by hand. So it is definitely a real timesaver.
There are two different types of woodworking routers. One is a tabletop model and the other is handheld. We like the handheld models best so that is the one we will discuss here.
What is a routers main function in woodworking? This is a really versatile to that has really has many useful purposes when it comes to woodworking. Its main function is to hollow out a section of wood. This can be done for such purposes as getting a board ready to be put together with another board that has a peg.
A router is also great at making rounded edges and decorating pieces of wood too. It is great for making decorative patterns in wood and artistically shaped edges too.
It is worth noting that handheld routers have interchangeable bits. That is so you can make a wide variety of different grooves and adjust the size of the groove you are making too.
This video will help you better understand exactly how a router functions:
A jigsaw is used for making irregular cuts in your wood. These are very handy power tools to have around. They are great for cutting out curved lines and other unusual shapes you need cut during your layout phase.
You will rarely see a woodworking shop that does not have one of these lying around because they are the catch all power tool when it comes to cutting wood. They are easy to use and if you take your time you can accurately cut out any line that you have etched into your wood.
Here is a video that will give you more of an overview on how a jigsaw is used:
You Now Have the Ingredients for the Perfect Beginners Woodworking Tool Collection
This is by no means a totally inclusive list when it comes to woodworking tools. There are literally thousands of tools you can by to help you with this craft. What this is for you is a great list to help get you started. These are the main tools that will help you complete most woodworking projects. You can add more tools as your woodworking