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All the Essential Tools a Beginner Needs For Woodworking

The pandemic turned remote work, once the domain of a tiny percentage of workers, into a full-time reality for around a third of all workers. It was a change that came with growing pains, but also with benefits. One of those benefits was more free time for things like home improvement.

It was an opportunity that around 78% of adults used to hone their home improvement skills. While not all home improvement involves woodworking, a surprising amount of it does.

Of course, that begs the question of what tools for woodworking are essential for beginners. Keep reading for our list of woodworking essentials you should get or put on your Christmas list.



Basic Handtools

The easiest place for most people to start is with some basic hand tools. Let's take a quick look at some key hand tools.

Claw Hammer
A claw hammer is one of the most basic tools and is particularly useful for what you might call primitive DIY woodworking. Those are projects where you mostly need something functional.

Tape Measure
You will check and recheck measurements on your wood over and over again. The go-to tool for that job is the venerable tape measure.

Pro tip: don't ever switch tape measures mid-woodworking project. Each tape measure will prove ever so slightly different from the next, which can throw off your whole project.

Screwdriver Set
You'll want a set of screwdrivers. Ideally, you'll get a set with both flat-head and Phillips-head screwdrivers in it.

Combination Square
A combination square is great for checking that the corners of something are actually square. You'll also end up using it all the time to mark cut lines.

Wood Chisels
You'll discover that woodworking requires a surprising amount of chiseling. They're particularly useful for cleaning up mortises and shaping tenons.

Clamps
You will never run out of use for clamps, which makes it difficult to have too many of them. When in doubt, grab some F clamps, pipe clamps, parallel clamps, and spring clamps. Those will cover most of your clamping needs.

Saws

Woodcrafting calls for a lot of cutting. So, most woodworkers end up with a number of saws. Let's look at the most important ones for beginners.

Jigsaw
At heart, the jigsaw sits in the middle ground between scroll saws and bandsaws. Its primary function is to cut curves, although you can also achieve straight cuts with a steady enough hand.

Circular Saw
If you need a general-purpose saw that doesn't take up too much room, the circular saw is your best option. You can crosscut or rip cut with it, assuming you have the right kind of blade. If you need to make long, straight cuts, you can get a dedicated track saw or get cutting tracks for your circular saw.

Table Saw
A table saw is often the saw beginners want most, yet is also the saw beginners need the least. Unless you plan on making projects like this dining room table that require a lot of repeated, precision rip cuts, you won't get your money out of the saw. Plus, they take up a lot of room.

Hold off on the table saw until you know you'll stick with woodworking and have a shop space with enough room.

Other saws you may eventually want include scroll saws, band saws, and even Japanese handsaws. They all provide unique benefits, but aren't crucial for true beginners.

Drill/Driver

Something else you'll spend a lot of time doing as part of woodcraft is drilling holes and driving in screws. Just as importantly, you'll get a lot of use for a drill beyond woodworking. It's probably one of the most-used tools in all of home improvement.

You may see drill/driver combo kits, which include a drill and an impact driver. An impact driver generally has more power than a beginner needs.

Look for a good drill to start with.

Random Orbit Sander

Ask woodworkers what their least favorite part of any project is and a shockingly high percentage will tell you they hate sanding. It's repetitive, time-consuming, and also very important. The quality of your sanding job will often decide how good or bad your finish looks.

In terms of all-around utility, a random orbit sander is your best bet. It can handle most of the sanding jobs that a beginner woodworker will need.

Router

Another tool that doesn't get as much press but that beginning woodworkers should invest in is a router. You can use routers for a lot of things, including cutting dados, putting on decorative edges, recessing hinges, and cutting patterns or designs.

You can start with a handheld router to get a feel for how they work and what they can do, but you'll probably want to step up to a full-size or plunge router eventually.

Saw Horses

Saw horses are a more common sight on construction sites than in woodworking shops, but they're a godsend for beginners. Why? You can use two saw horses and a piece of sturdy plywood as a stand-in for a traditional woodworking bench.

You get a large, flat working surface, but it's one that you can disassemble and put into a corner when you're done. If you're working in a garage or small outbuilding, it may prove to be the only way you can have a bench.

If you do get serious about woodworking down the road, though, you will want to invest in a traditional workbench.

Essential Woodworking Tools and You

One of the most important things you should remember about buying woodworking tools is that you don't need them all right now. Start with the hand tools and a few power tools, like a circular saw and drill.

After that, slowly start adding to your collection as you discover that you need them. For example, you probably won't need a router right away. Wait to get that until you need to put a nice edge on something.

Craftisian focuses on woodworking inspiration and woodcrafting tips. If you're looking to take your woodworking up a notch, check out Craftisian Academy.