Beginner Woodworking Tools

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Curious about getting started in woodworking? When it comes to woodworking you can easily go over the deep end when it comes to tools. The market is thick with specialty tools, odd jigs and expert level solutions. If you have the cash laying around you can definitely throw money at every solution you come across. However, a more measured approach may be wiser. Not only will it be less expensive to start small, but having a limited selection of tools will help you develop some creative problem solving. Over time you will begin to learn what tools will be right for the projects you like to do. Here is our list of some beginner woodworking tools we use almost every day that will set you up with a good foundation. 

  1. Tape Measure – Sort of self evident, but a good tape measure  is vital. I prefer these Fastcap tape measures. Lots of features to it but there are two I like the most. First there are labeled markings down to 1/16th of an in. I prefer tapes that label the markings rather than just have the hash lines. It’s one less thing to think about when taking measurements. The second is the split units. This tape has inches on one side and millimeters on the other. Most things we do are in inches but occasionally we need to use millimeters and it is nice to have it on hand without having to find a different tape.
  2. Mechanical Pencil – Obviously you need a writing utensil. What some people don’t think about though is how much the thickness of the pencil can impact your measurements. If you are not careful you can end up being an 1/8th inch or more off of your line just by how sharp the pencil is. Using these fine point mechanical pencils makes it easier to get an accurate mark and not worry about how sharp your pencil is.
  3. Carpenter’s Square – When you are measuring for your cuts you need a square to mark your cut. You can use any square of course but these squares are quite handy. We find that having both sizes help with different size boards as well as having flexibility to check just about any joint for squareness. 
  4. Adjustable Square – The carpenter’s square is great for laying out your cuts but sometimes you want some adjustability. An adjustable square is great for when you need to mark a line at the same distance/depth across multiple boards. Using an adjustable square gives you a higher degree of accuracy and confidence that the marking line is the same over each piece you are marking
  5. Drill Driver set – You need something to help you drill holes and drive screws. Whether you are using screws to build your projects, or making jigs to make your life easier. An impact driver is not 100% necessary but it definitely makes life easier, and they are typically sold as a set. People have very strong loyalties when it comes to what brand of power tools are “best.” In reality it doesn’t really matter as long as it fits in your budget. I do recommend trying to stick to one battery system as it will make it easier as your tool collection grows to not have to buy new batteries all the time. My advice is to find the best deal you can and stick with that brand. When I was buying tools there was a good deal on the Makita Drill / Driver combo and I have been very happy with the Makita brand ever since.
  6. Circular Saw – You need a way to make straight cuts and a circular saw is the simplest way to do that. Making your cuts square takes practice but this is the simplest tool for the job.
  7. JigSaw – You may also need a way to make curved cuts. The thin blade of a jigsaw will let you cut along curves or circles. You can make straight cuts with a jigsaw but it is even more difficult than using a circular saw.  
  8. Wood Glue – There are more wood glues on the market than I will ever be aware of. Try not to get too into the weeds on where to start. The most important part of using any adhesive is following the directions on setup and cure times. We have been using this Gorilla Glue wood glue for quite some time now and has become the main glue in our shop. It is easy to work with, sets up quickly and has plenty of strength. 
  9. Random Orbit Sander – Regardless of what your plan for finishing is (Stain, Clear Coat, paint, natural oils). You will need a clean smooth finish. Whether you dread it or are able to find some zen in it, sanding is a necessary part of woodworking that you will quickly become familiar with. Most if not all of your sanding can be done with a random orbit sander. The head of the sander will spin in alternate (random) directions to help prevent leaving marks on your piece as you are sanding it. 
  10. “Mouse” Sander – While the bulk of your sanding will be done by a powered sander, sometimes you need to hand sand. Maybe you need to soften the corners of boards so they are not sharp, or sand a small space that the powered sander won’t be able to reach. This mouse sander is very helpful for getting a nice finish on the entire piece.

If you are interested in getting started in woodworking the best advice is to start with the basics and add to your tool collection as you grow your skills. You never know what form your woodworking will take. You could start out making signs and end up building cabinetry, or musical instruments, or decks. Each area of woodworking has its own specialty tools that will make what you’re building easier and more accurate and those specialized tools are not always universal. These beginner woodworking tools will be helpful down almost every path your woodworking will take and you can purchase everything on this list for about $600.