April 7, 2020

Getting Started with Woodworking Tools

So you're interested in getting started with woodworking projects but you're not sure what tools you'll need? You've come to the right place.

My love for woodworking came when I was a child. My dad had always done small projects around the house for my mom. Things like shelves, stools and display pieces. This love grew when I had to take woodshop in middle school.

Fast forward into my thirties where I have the extra money to take on this hobby. These are the woodworking tools(in no specific order) that I started with and some tools that I regret buying as a beginner.

Since this is only my hobby and my time is limited, I bought mostly power tools. There are a few wood working hand tools that I use versus their electrical counterparts.

must have woodworking tools

Must Haves Woodworking Tools:


  • Eye Protection (Goggles) - Safety is important. You wouldn't want sawdust or wood chips to fly into your eyes. Wear safety goggles at all times to prevent accidents. I've actually had a piece of steel fall into my miter saw as it was running. It was like a grenade went off as I was splattered with shards of metal. Luckily, I had eye protection on. My arms were not so lucky.
  • Respirator - Wood dust is very harmful to your health. Invest in a good respirator. It doubles as a COVID-19 mask.
  • Hearing Protection - Wood working can be very loud. Especially when it comes to the bigger power tools. Hearing loss is highly possible if you don't choose to wear protection. Homedepot
wood working safety gear

Power Tools

  • Power Drill - This is pretty self-explanatory. You need to drill a hole into the wood and you're most likely not going to do it by hand. HD
  • Impact Driver - See I listed this separately for a reason. Growing up my dad had always switched drill bits and screw bits in between the power drill. When I discovered the power and convenience of the impact driver, I never looked back. Make the holes with the power drill and drive the screw in with the impact It makes the job a lot easier and much faster. HD
  • Circular Saw - If you can't afford a table saw or miter saw right off the bat, a circular saw is a good option. Although it's much harder to control straight cuts, there are techniques to help you can learn. The 7 1/4 size should be able to handle most jobs. HD
  • Table Saw - If you are considering a table saw vs miter saw and can only afford one, get the table saw. You can make different jigs to perform various types of cuts including miter corners. The guide is linked below. A table can make ripping down large pieces of wood much easier than a circular saw. Especially on narrower width wood where you cannot clamp down a guide. HD
  • Orbital Sander - Use it to sand or flatten wood. Best for finishing projects. If you're on a limited budget, get the orbital sander first. Get a belt sander or drum sander down the line. HD
  • Vacuum - As a beginner, you probably won't invest in a dust collection system just yet. You'll need a shop vac around to clean up the wood dust and chips. HD

Hand Tools

  • Japanese Pull Saw - I use this tool more than I expected to. This is perfect for making small precise cuts or tight areas where a power tool might not work.
  • Hand Planer - No. 5 plane is the jack of all trades. It's the hand planer essential if you were only to buy one. Of course, depending on the type of projects you want to take on, you might need a variety. HD
  • Speed Square - Used for making square cuts, miter cuts, checking square corners and much more. Unseemly, the speed square is a very powerful wood working tool. I linked a video below on how useful a speed square is. HD
  • Tape Measure - Do I need to explain this one? HD

Misc Tools

  • Pocket Hole Jig - I can't tell you how many projects I've had that required wood joinery. A pocket hole jig allows you to join pieces of wood together. The many uses include combining joints together, connecting flat pieces of wood, etc. See the platform for my DIY cat tree here. HD
  • Clamps - There are so many different types of clamps for different uses. If you plan on gluing anything together, you'll need clamps to hold them in place while the glue dries. Clamps can also be that extra helping hand when you need to hold something in place to while you work on your project. Clamps are important. There's no such thing as too many clamps.
    • Quick Release Clamps - I find myself using quick release clamps more often than other clamps. I'm able to clamp down tables, platforms, and box corners using a quick-release clamp. HD
    • Ratcheting Clamps - Same thing as above except you can do it with one hand. Conveniently squeeze the trigger to tighten. HD
    • Bar Clamps - Used for gluing up wide tables or surfaces. It's flat so you can lay your project in between the clamp ends. HD
    • Pipe Clamps - Much like the bar clamps for setting projects on top of. But unlike the bar clamps, pipe clamps can be as long as the pipe you buy or you can cut them down to size. This is used for big projects. Pipe clamps are also much heavier duty in case your project is very heavy. Pipe sold separately. HD
    • Spring Clamps - I specifically used 2" spring clamps to clamp together pieces of plywood together to make thicker pieces. HD
    • Toggle Clamps - Screw it down to your work area and you'll have a second hand helping you hold down your projects. HD

That's it for my list of the must-haves wood working tools for beginners. It should be enough for you to complete most projects.

nice to have wood working tools

Nice to Haves Woodworking Tools:

Power Tools

  • Miter saw - Obviously, it's great if you plan on making a bunch of miter cuts. It's also great for making repeated cuts. E.g. if you needed to cut a bunch of wood into the same length. You can set a stop block and make the cuts without needing to take measurements before every cut. I prefer the 12" blade with slide. This allows for a longer cut capacity. HD
  • Wood Planer - Great for flattening up pieces of wood for your project. If you plan on making tables and shelves, a wood planer is good to have around. Alternatively, you can pay extra at your wood mill to purchase perfectly cut and planed wood. HD
  • Domino or Biscuit Joiner - Use a domino or biscuit joiner for projects that involve joining wood together. This might be a table or cutting board where pocket holes would be unsightly. *I also have a dowel jig, but it's much harder to line up compared to a domino or biscuit joiner.* HD
  • Jigsaw - If you need to make rounded cuts or small cuts where a bigger saw won't fit. Check out jigsaw videos on YouTube for wood working wizardry. HD
  • Belt Sander - Compared to the orbital sander listed above, the belt sander is built to sand and flatten wood much faster. Great for taking layers off at a time. HD
  • Brad Nailer - This tool is so convenient for box making. I used a brad nailer to make drawers and my DIY speaker. HD

Hand Tools

  • Digital Angle Finder - This is a nice tool if you need to make a specific degree miter cut. Or you can use it as a protractor to check the angle degree of something existing. HD
  • Saw Horses - Set your workpiece down on something standing level where you can work without breaking your back. HD
  • Chisels - Great for cleanup work after cuts or glue-ups. Although a professional carpenter can use a chisel to perform much more intricate wood working tasks; I am not one of them. HD
  • Wood Vise - Used to clamp down wood that you are working on. HD

Purchased But Didn't Really Use:

Disclaimer: Before anyone gets upset with these listed tools, realize that this is from my own experience and the type of projects that I like to work on. I'm not a professional carpenter by any means. This is merely a hobby.

  • Router and Router Table - I'm going to get flamed for this one but I bought a router thinking I would make a lot of rounded corners and rabbits. This barely happened. I only suggest buying a router and router table if you absolutely need it. HD
  • Drill Press - I rarely used my drill press as most of my projects allowed me to make holes freehand. I did use my drill press often when I did metalworking or gunsmithing. HD

Brand Loyalty? Nah.

I'm not the type of person that sticks to a specific color brand. For cordless tools, I recommend that the weekend wood workers start with cheaper tools like Ryobi. If you plan on using the tools more often outside of woodworking, my brand of choice would be Dewalt.

For the most part, sticking to a brand means using the same battery for your tools. This is not only convenient when changing and charging batteries, but it's also easier to swap around. *Do not use battery converters*

With that said, if I were to buy corded tools, then I would go for whatever makes sense in terms of price and performance.

Tool Deals - Buy Once, Cry Once

Tools sold in kits are usually much cheaper than buying individual tools. You will typically see tool deals around the holidays, especially father's day. Ryobi has deal weeks annually called Ryobi Days.

Buy tools when it's on sale, not when you need it. If you need something immediately, it'll be much more expensive. There are tool deal websites like struggleville where you can see daily tool deals. This is how I slowly built up my tool collection, not just for woodworking tools but for other hobbies as well.

Don't be afraid to buy used tools. Craigslist and OfferUp are great sources for finding used tools. Brands like Dewalt, Milwaukee, or Mikita can last decades before failure. Just make sure to test them first before exchanging money.

Tools for rent

Your local hardware store will probably have a tool rental section. This may make sense for some but in the long run, it's very expensive. If you're limited on room and need a tool for a project, renting may be the way to go.

Safety First

This should go without saying but for the idiots in the back; please read the manual if you've never used the tool before. Some of the listed woodworking tools can cause harm to your health or can be deadly. Please take the time to read over the manuals to make sure you don't have a really bad day. I don't want to hear about missing fingers!

Woodworking Courses

There should be low-cost woodworking courses at your local community colleges as well. Taking a woodworking course can help introduce you to tools that you didn't know you needed.

In Conclusion

This is by no means a definitive list. I got by with these tools to make the projects that interested me. My ultimate suggestion would be to see what tools you need for your project and go from there.

Additional Resources

Essential Planes
Power tools vs hand tools
Speed Square Basics
Making straight cuts with a circular saw
Jigsaw wizardry
Table saw jigs

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