For most beginners, one common question would be, what are the woodworking hand tools that you should buy first? It is easy to feel pressured and confused after visiting a shop or looking at a professional’s woodworking tools. However, you don’t have to jump the process in buying tools, make it one step at a time. So, we’ve listed down the 20 fundamental woodworking hand tools that you should start as you gain more experience in building different wooden projects.
You don’t have to feel confused anymore because we will give you all the woodworking hand tools that you need to start doing wooden projects. So, grab your paper and pen and start listing down these essential tools in woodworking.
20 Woodworking Hand Tools you Should Buy First
When shopping for your woodworking hand tools, make sure to include these 20 devices on your list. As a beginner, it is essential to build a solid foundation of experience to allow you to adapt and become versatile in woodworking. So, start with these fundamental woodworking tools for hands and start doing beautiful wooden projects.
Tool #1: A Solid Workbench
Where else would you build your projects, but on a workbench? It has always been the center of every traditional and modern woodworker’s shop. Whether you purchase one or build as your first project, you have to make sure that it is durable enough to withstand various woodworking activities. If you want to buy one, how can you choose the best workbench? Let us talk about some features that you should look for when purchasing or creating a woodworking workbench.
Stability and Sturdiness
Sturdiness and stability are among the essential features to look for in a workbench design. Hand planing and sawing on a cheap and flimsy workbench, as the workbench shifts and shakes around the room, can become stressful very soon.
Sheer mass and weight, along with dependable construction with good joinery, are usually the solution for a sturdy workbench. Often a workbench top of 3 to 4 inches thick gives you the mass you need. Many unique workbench designs offer sturdiness by design, which helps you get away with a smaller, compact workbench and a less massive slab top.
Vises are for clamping your workpiece onto the workbench to plane, see, or shape it in various ways. For a traditional workbench, two conventional wooden vises or metal vises with wood to protect your workpiece will suffice. Traditional vises fit into two categories. First, ‘Face Vises’ points to the furniture maker on the workbench’s face and ‘Tail Vises’ positions to the workbench’s end.
- Face Vise – Another very traditional type of workbench target is a face vise. Usually, this vise is the same thickness as the top of your workbench and clamps with either one or two screw arms against the top. It would be best if you also used a spacer to avoid “racking” of the vise.
- Tail Vise – A tail vise pushes a bench dog down the workbench’s length to lock a piece of work. The woodworker may also secure a vertical part in the opening through this sort of vise. This vise is a little bit harder to make, but the effort is worth it.
The type of vises you select is a matter of personal choice, and if possible, you can try out various types of clamps and see what you like the most. Check out the other kinds of workbench vises.
- Leg Vise – One of the most common traditional vises you will find on antique woodworking workbenches is a leg vise. This vise is usually on the front left leg and tightened with a screw and handle made of wood or metal.
- Cast Iron Vise – Such metal vises evolved during the industrial revolution’s period of mass production. Typically, you can bolt it to the bottom of a workbench top, and wood is usually added to the jaws to protect a piece of woodwork. To give it a smooth balance, you can attach the vise on top of the workbench. Although this is an excellent vise style, it doesn’t have a typical look many woodworkers favor when creating a classic workbench style.
- Auxiliary Vises – You can clamp it to your workbench top. This type of auxiliary comes with double-screws because the design was featured in the classic 1703 English Woodworking book “Mechanic Exercises” by Joseph Moxon.
- End Vise – An ending vise is like a face vise but attached to a workbench’s end. This type of clamp is useful as it allows you to tighten boards between dogs but also provides another area for dovetailing, and many.
With a workbench top that overhangs the legs, many cheaper commercial work benches have popped up. It will lead to frustration because, in your left vise, you will not be able to clamp a longboard or door and clamp the other end against the legs. So make sure the legs are flush to the front of the top of the workbench.
Correct Length, Width, And Height
The dimensions of a traditional workbench can be somewhat a matter of preference. However, a typical benchtop is more extensive than around 8 feet long because it will allow you to work even on longer pieces. A traditional workbench’s dimensions can be something of a preference. However, a typical benchtop is more comprehensive than about 8 feet long because it allows you to work even on longer pieces. Consider the space that you have, the projects you’re going to make and find your comfort in working.
Tool #2: Hand Planes
What’s a hand plane? A hand plane is essentially a sharp chisel held at an angle, in a wooden or metal frame, enabling you to flatten, smooth, or form a board for making furniture. Handplanes come in various shapes, sizes, and materials. Comprehension of which hand planes you need can be confusing, but it’s all about understanding what you need for your project. Let’s start with understanding the different types of hand planes.
- Bench Planes – Bench planes usually “sit on the bench” and suitable for flattening, dimensioning, and smoothing wood.
- Joinery Planes – Hand planes for joinery are for building or finishing joints.
- Molding Planes – It is a wood plane used for cutting decorative profiles on a board.
- Jack Planes – It is a middle-sized bench plane used for removing rough stock, jointing board edges, and smoothing boards. It is one of the most versatile hand planes that you can buy.
- Block Plane – It is one of the most common hand planes in every woodworker’s shop. You can use it for trimming joins, putting chamfers on board edges, and trimming end grain.
Tool #3: Panel Saws: Rips Saws And Cross Cut Saws
Panel Saws or Hand Saws are long and thin saws that come with a comfortable wooden handle. These tools are essential for rough dimensioning of your lumber. Panel saws come into two configurations. First, the Rip Saws that cut along the grain like a chisel. Second, Cross Cut Saws that can cut across the grain like a knife. You need both saws if you want to be a versatile woodworker.
Understanding Tooth Shapes Of Saws
Hand saw blades are usually sharpened to two different dental configurations, “Rip” and “Cross Cut.” Using saw sharpening tools, you can change the tooth shape of any saw. There is also a hybrid hand-sawed tooth configuration that is between a Rip and Cross-cut shape, called a “Sash” tooth configuration, which is useful if you can afford only one hand-saw, but it is not as skilled either in ripping or cross-cutting.
Rip Saw’s teeth can cut along the length of the board’s grain, like a “ripping” action. Each tooth is like a woodworking chisel edge that pushes through the wood for every cut. On the other hand, Cross-Cut teeth can cut across the grain and have the same blade as a knife. As a result, you can cut cleanly against the wood grain, just like a knife.
Understanding Tooth Count Of Saws
Another critical factor in choosing a hand saw for a given purpose is the number of saw teeth per inch (or “points per inch”). Large hand sighted teeth will cut through the wood quickly, but leave a rough surface. Small hand saw teeth can cut finely and precisely, but are not practical to cut long lengths or widths. The “Rip” teeth are typically more massive than the “Cross Cut” teeth when dealing with regular hand saws or frame saws.
Tool #4: Buy 1 to 3 Kinds Of Back Saws
In contrast to panel saws, “back saws” are essential when making wooden joints, like dovetail joints, for excellent precision work. The thin metal saw plates are made stiff with “backs” of steel or brass, which run along the top of the saw plate. If you’re on a tight budget, just a dovetail saw can help you get by for a while. If you do have the means, though, then buying three backsaws is ideal. These three saws are useful in various projects.
- Dovetail Saw with beautiful rip teeth. It is ideal for cutting joinery along the grain.
- Carcass saw with fine cross-cut teeth. It is suitable for cutting across the grain.
- Larger Tenon Saw. It is ideal for cutting deeper cuts, like those you can do with a mortise and tenon.
Tool #5: Miter Box and Miter Saw
A right box of miters & miter saw will allow you to cut your wood at accurate angles to exact lengths. It will especially save you a lot of time trying to square the ends of your board. The long miter observed gliding back and forth through a rigid frame of sight. The structure’s angles can be modified to allow you to cut perfect miter joints and many other joints.
Tool #6: Coping Saw
You can use a very cheap coping saw in the board for rough cutting shapes, but especially to extract waste from the dovetail joints. An inexpensive coping saw and a pack of inexpensive replacement blades would fit just fine.
Tool #7: A Bench Chisel Set
A high-quality bevel edge bench chisel will last you for many years and will be useful for any project. You can use some decent, affordable plastic handle bench chisels, but buying lighter wooden handle chisels with high-grade steel is ideal. A good set of 5 to 7 bench chisels will immediately get you going.
You will eventually add some specialty chisels, such as paring chisels, and fishtail chisels down the road. But bench chisels are going to work for just about everything. More importantly, read this wood chisel safety guide to ensure that you are free from any injury when using this tool.
Tool #8: Mortise Chisel
You only need a 1⁄4-inch or 3⁄8-inch mortise chisel to start it off. You don’t need a whole set of chisels for the mortise. To accept the insertion of a tenon, mortise chisels are essential for chopping mortises into your board’s side.
Tool #9: A 6-inch Combination Square
A perfect and precise 6-inch combination square in any woodworker’s workshop is helpful for so many tasks. It involves testing boards’ squareness when planing it to the final length, scribing dovetail joints, calculating mortise width, and much more. Be careful when purchasing combination squares “at an affordable price.” Many are often machined inaccurately, or “out of square,” and less precise.
The Combination Squares is a more modern metal square style. The square bar slides back and forth to give you different lengths to measure your boards and mark them out. The square’s bearing surface lets you scribe both a 90-degree line and a 45-degree line.
Tool #10: Buy or Build a Try Square
To square your workpieces for precision fitting joints, a try square is useful. If you’re not yet confident enough to build your square try, you should buy a right square between 9 and 12 inches of metal try. You can use it to scribe square lines around your boards’ faces and edges, like a line for where to cut with your saw.
Most try squares are not a perfect 90 degree, or “square,” but you can use a file to get it back to square. If you’re looking for a more traditional approach, a Try Square might be an excellent option. On the antique market, metal try squares are trendy but sometimes need a lot of filing to get them back into a square.
Tool #11: A Sliding Bevel Square
A sliding bevel square is useful to scribe angles on your piece of work. When you set it right, a right sliding bevel square should replicate the angle several times when you lay down dovetails on the face of the board. Not all sliding bevel squares are good at holding that angle, so make sure to get the right one with better quality.
Tool #12: A Pair of Dividers Or Compasses
Dividers or compasses are useful for repeating and taking measurements on a piece of work repeatedly. Traditional woodworkers rarely take measurements when doing excellent joinery work with a tape measure. Instead, choose a size with dividers then transfer that arbitrary measurement to another piece of work. It does away with a degree of inaccuracy.
Also, dividers are essential for arc scripting and much more. It would be best if you had at least one divider “pair” somewhere between 6-inch and 9-inch size. It’s also good to have a small pair of splits at around 3 inches.
Tool #13: Marking Gauge
Marking gauges, like dividers, are used to transfer measurement and repeat it over and over again. A locking mechanism prevents the measurement instrument from slipping and losing it. Without at least one decent durable marking gage, you can not build furniture successfully. But watch out for the cheaply-made marking gauges. It can be a waste of your time and pointless.
Tool #14: A Folding Rule Or Tape Measure
A “folding rule” is a precursor to a tape measure, not a ruler. When cutting boards, it allows you to take measurements and others. If you’re on a tight budget, you can use a small tape measure for the same work, usually for a rough estimation. An excellent 24-inch vintage wooden rule is so handy to have, as it slips into your pocket or apron and gives you fast measurements. They’re pretty cheap, so you need to know what to look for, and you’re not feeling disappointed.
Tool #15: Marking Knife
A marking knife is used with your saws and chisels to mark where you will be cutting. You need just the right marking knife to get into tight spots and make very precise lines, which is vital for tightly fitting joints. Marking knives can be costly, but with good quality, you can find some cheap value.
Tool #16: Buy Sharpening Supplies
One of the most critical aspects of proper traditional woodworking with hand-held tools is using very sharp implements. Many beginners think they stink at woodworking, but they usually apply only dull hand tools. You’ll save money by eliminating devices that don’t perform and buying premium sharpening materials to sharpen and fine-tune your chisels.
Tool #17: Wooden Joiner’s Mallet
For traditional woodworking, an excellent wooden mallet is essential. For most tasks, the lighter carver mallets aren’t going to be heavy-duty enough, especially chopping on a mortise chisel. When cutting joints, you may use wooden mallets to hit your chisels. Never hit a chisel with a metal hammer, though. Create or buy a briefcase made of relative hardwood such as maple, oak, or beech wood. It will feel well balanced in your hand, and that gives you enough weight to chop with your chisels.
Tool #18: Rabbet Plane
Rabbets are among the most common joints in the manufacture of furniture, so a hand plane that cuts a rabbet should be to the top of your tool list. A metal or wood-moving fillister plane is the most useful because it enables quick cutting of rabbits with the grain through the grain and cutting of panels.
Tool #19: Woodworking Clamps
Freshly glued joints are held together by woodworking clamps until the glue hardens. You can purchase at least one high-quality wood clamp like a couple of parallel or bar-type clamps. On the other hand, some new woodworkers can feel overwhelmed by the various wood clamps on the market and its price.
However, you don’t need to run out and buy a bunch of clamps to cover all future clamping contingencies. Buy clamps on a budget basis, and one project at a time. Plan what you want to build, then build it, and then figure out which clamps you need to clamp together enough furniture during the glue-up stage. Below are different types of clamps that you can use as a reference for identifying what you need.
- Handscrew Clamps – It allows you to hold smaller workpieces and get quick adjustability.
- Parallel Clamps – The enormous clamping strength, larger jaw size, non-marring padding, and flexibility make it more appealing to use the parallel clamps.
- F-Style Clamps – It features a simple design and is less expensive than Parallel Clamps. Instead of placing even pressure around the jaw, this clamp concentrates all the weight at the end jaw. It is where you can press the clamp pad against the piece of woodwork. If you need targeted clamping pressure, this kind of clamp is what you need.
- Pipe Clamps – These are very useful for gluing up furniture or a workbench that is too big. Also, pipe clamps are more affordable, because they come with only the clamp’s two jaws.
- C-Style Clamps – Metal C-clamps are a multi-purpose clamp with a lot of clamping pressure, which is ideal for every woodworker’s shop for myriad tasks. Depending on your project, you could buy from 3 to 8 inches. C-clamps are pretty simple clamps, but they can come with features such as a quick-release button, which is quite convenient.
- Ratcheting Clamps – The soft rubber pads on the clamp jaws are ideal for delicate work clamping, as the protected jaws protect the surface from indentations and marring. You can use it for glue-ups that don’t require a lot of pressure, for holding wood to the top of the workbench, and some ratcheting clamps cans be reversed to act as a spreader to give the pressure outwards.
- Spring Clamps – For woodworkers, spring clamps are very affordable but probably provide the least clamping pressure. It makes spring clamps unfit for all but exceptional circumstances, such as glue-ups requiring very light pressure, holding delicate objects, edge banding, and holding tools or random objects in place. Many spring clamps are used by guitar makers and other luthiers when forming their instruments’ delicate bodies.
- Specialty Clamps – You will find many other specialized clamps that are used occasionally for woodworking in your workshop. These may include different clamps for miter joints, clamping guides such as straight edges that clamp to a panel. It also provides tile clamps, strap clamps, dust extraction clamps for the hose, and others.
Tool #20: Buying a Dust Collection System
Some of the most significant investments a dust collection device can make in a workshop that uses woodworking power tools are. The fine dust that woodworking machinery creates can cause respiratory problems and cancer. A major priority should be protecting your lungs. Systems for dust management help reduce the amount of dust in your workspace.
If you use only small power tools, such as orbital sanders or routers, a shop vac will work. But you’ll need to upgrade to a decent dust collector for the large machines. The type of dust collector you are purchasing will depend on your budget and how many feet of ductwork you will need. The higher the cost, the more ductwork you need.
If you want to make your woodworking workshop dust-free, the best way to control it is by preventing both fine and coarse particles from escaping into the air. It means that you have to collect all debris from the woods as you cut it. Some power tools already have portable and built-in dust collecting systems to keep all wood dust in one place.
Dust collection units have come a long way, both in terms of efficiency and accessories such as automated blast gates and improved bag fabric and design. These are essential for better dust collection systems. If you’re going to buy power tools, make sure to look for these features to make your life a lot easier.
Woodworking should be straightforward, and it doesn’t have to be expensive. Believe it or not, several woodworking hand tools will help you build several wooden objects. Best of all, you can choose from affordable devices with good quality. However, you have to be a little bit picky when it comes to spending your hard-earned money. It is better to buy high-quality hand tools than choose something cheap but with poor grade performance.