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Top 25 Essential Woodworking Tools

Basic Woodworking Tools

Getting started in woodworking does not have to be complicated or expensive… unless you prefer to make it that way. Don’t overthink things or make it harder than it needs to be. It’s pretty simple and straightforward. And, as you will soon learn, it’s not as expensive as you might think.

To get going you’ll need the right set of tools and, of course, some wood. To help you start off on the right foot in your new hobby (or even your new career) we’ve compiled a list of the tools we believe you absolutely must have in your toolbox.

Below is our recommended list of the tools you’ll need in order to be a successful woodworker. They are broken down into these categories: Basic Tools, Hand Tools, and Power Tools.

We hope you find this list both helpful and insightful. And, if you think we’ve left anything important off our list please let us know by posting a comment at the bottom of the page.

Basic Tools

Pencil & Paper: The ultimate basic woodworking tools. Good ‘ole pencil and paper come in handy when you need to sketch out a project or calculate dimensions. These are two essentials that no woodworker should ever be without.

Carpenter Pencils: Rugged & sturdy, the carpenter pencil can be used to draw thick or thin lines, even for high precision markings. Use with a straight edge to make marks that are clear and easy to follow with a saw blade. Carpenter pencils are typically sharpened with a knife.

Tape Measure: When you need to measure size or distance turn to your handy tape measure. This tool contains a flexible strip of metal with (typically in the U.S.) markings for inches and feet. It’s useful for tackling any kind of woodworking job you decide to take on.

Glue: To tightly bond pieces of wood together be sure to have a good wood glue on hand. To strengthen the bond, you’ll also want to make sure that you clamp the wood pieces together. We recommend Elmer’s Woodworking Glue (PVA) and Titebond (Type 1 PVA glue).

Clamps: To temporarily secure objects while working on them, or to permanently prevent separation, be sure to have a good supply of clamps on hand. Clamps are designed to provide inward pressure to prevent movement and are very useful for securing woods that have been glued together.

Workbench: Investing in a quality workbench is an absolute must for any woodworker. For most of your projects you’ll need to have a sturdy surface to hold your work in place. The workbench you choose should have some way of holding your wood in place while you work and it should be tall enough to make working there comfortable for you.

Hand Tools

Claw Hammer: The claw hammer is already a common staple in many households so it’s likely that you already have one. You’ll use the head of the hammer for driving nails into your woodworking projects and the V-shaped claw of the hammer to extract nails from the wood when needed.

Hand Saw: Hand saws are used to cut wood into pieces and also for cutting pieces of wood into various shapes. There are two common types of hand saws that you want to become familiar with – the rip saw and the cross-cut saw. Which one you choose depends mostly on which direction you’ll be cutting the wood.

Rasp & File: Use a rasp for shaping and a file for smoothing. These tools will also save you some time and effort when sanding. You won’t have to work as hard!

Mallet: The use of a wooden mallet in woodworking is essential for preventing damage to your project and other tools (like you’d see if using a hammer for instance). It offers a reduction in force when used with a chisel to cut or carve wood. A wooden mallet will typically have a handle made of wood, plastic, or even metal.

Chisels: Chisels are used to cut and carve wood and they’re great tools to have in your toolbox when needed. There are chisels made specifically for woodworking and you can find them in sizes from small to large. Large chisels are meant for prying away big chunks of wood whereas small chilsels are used to carve out the details.

Sand Paper: Sand paper is useful for smoothing out your woodworking project but it can also be used to make the surface rough (for instance, when you need to glue other materials to the wood). There are different sizes, shapes, and grits available and the one(s) you choose will depend on what your project calls for.

Block Plane: A block plan is designed to cut end grain and do touchup & finish work. They typically range in length from 3 to 7 inches and the most common block planes come with the blade angled at about 20°. You’ll find others with the blade angled at 12° to the direction of travel.

Framing Square: As a woodworker you’ll often need to create structures that are square, meaning, they have 90° degree right angles in their design. The framing square consists of a long arm (the blade) and a short arm (the tongue) and is your go-to tool for ensuring your projects are constructed with perfect squares.

Try Square: A try square is an essential woodworking tool used for marking and checking 90° angles on pieces of wood. The square in the name refers to the 90° angle. A try square is made of two key parts, the blade and the stock, which are fixed together at 90° to form an ‘L’ shape. A typical try square is 6 to 8 inches in length.

Speed Square: This type of square serves multiple purposes. It’s functions include many of those found in a framing square, try square, and combination square. For instance, you can use a speed square for making basic measurements and as a saw guide for 45° and 90° angles.

Combination Square: A combination square is a multi-purpose measuring and marking tool used in woodworking and other various trades. It basically consists of a metal rule that can accommodate various types of interchangeable heads. The most common types of heads available are the Standard, Protractor, and Center Finder heads.

Torpedo Level: Shaped a bit like a “torpedo” this level is about 9″ long and useful for working in small, tight spaces. It usually comes with 2 or 3 fluid-filled spirit tubes and can be carried easily in a tool belt or pants pocket.

Plumb Bob: A plumb bob, which is simply a weight suspended from a string, is useful for establishing a vertical reference line. When mounted on a scale they can be used to calculate angles to a vertical data point. When your project calls for vertical precision turn to your plumb bob to get the job done.

Power Tools

Electric Drill: Unless you enjoy the slow pace of work and wrist pain associated with manually turning screws with a screwdriver you’ll want to make sure you make the electric drill part of your toolset. Be sure to have multiple batteries on hand and/or a charging station nearby.

Handheld Circular Saw: Designed for quickly cutting through wood, the handheld circular saw can accommodate a variety of blades designed for specific types of material. In woodworking, you’ll of course want to make sure you equip your circular saw with blades designed to cut wood.

Compound Miter Saw: Miter saws are basically just a circular saw mounted to a swinging arm that allows the blade to be moved to the left and right. A compound miter saw is a miter saw with the added benefit of being able to tilt your blade to make beveled cuts. If you need to cut angles and bevels then the compound miter saw is for you.

Jig Saw: For cutting circles, curves, and any other lines that aren’t straight you will want to use a jigsaw. This tool is a power saw that has a reciprocating blade that can cut into many different types of materials. Choose a blade that is designed for cutting wood.

Router: Investing in a good router will help you create amazing woodworking projects. They are designed for hollowing out precise holes, creating decorative finished edges, cutting, trimming, and shaping different types of materials (including wood), and creating dadoes, rabbets, and other types of joinery.

Random Orbital Sander: The random orbital sander makes it easy to sand your masterpiece. It produces a finer finish than that of a standard orbital finishing sander and won’t leave swirl marks on the wood. They use sandpaper disks attached to the sander and some also come with integrated dust collectors to help keep your work area clean.

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