A question that always comes up from anyone starting out woodworking is ‘What are the most essential woodworking hand tools for beginners?’. As anyone with even a small selection of woodworking tools will tell you, they are not cheap, so any purchase has to be carefully considered. It is also very likely that you will own and use these tools for many years to come so what should you spend your hard-earned cash on?
Here are some suggestions and recommendations for essential woodworking hand tools which will allow you to begin creating and hopefully catch the woodworking bug. Please bear in mind this list is compiled to get you started while also attempting to keep the initial cost down so I’ve pared it down to a nice round dozen. Okay, it’s actually 13 because everybody needs a workbench!
I am assuming you will already own some general tools like screwdrivers and a tape measure so my apologies if this is not the case. You may also be the owner of some power tools too but I haven’t covered any here as I wanted to concentrate on hand tools first. I will cover power tools in a later blog so please watch this space.
Make A List
Before we look at my recommendations, let’s get your woodworking juices flowing by covering some ideas for building up your woodworking tools kit.
The first thing to do is make a list of the tools you will ‘need to have’ to begin crafting those beautiful pieces you’ve imagined. Then add some tools that would be ‘good to have’ which could be hand tools or power tools, depending on what items you want to make in the future.
And finally, add a few tools that you ‘want to have’ later when you have really caught the woodworking bug. That could be anything from high quality hand tools right up to a piece of serious workshop machinery, it’s entirely up to you.
We are only going to look at the ‘Need to Have’ list here but adding the ‘Good’ and ‘Want’ to your list gives you something to work towards and will keep you motivated to improve and hone your craft. It’s always good to visualise where you want your hobby to take you and the kind of things you want to make and of course, the tool inventory you would like to have
Suggested Starter List (but by no means exhaustive)
- Safety Equipment – safety glasses and a dust mask are a must!
- Back Saw (or Tenon Saw) – for precise cutting including dovetails, mortises and tenons
- Coping Saw – to provide clean, controlled cuts in any direction needed
- Bench Plane – for straightening, smoothing and removing wood
- Block Plane – single handed plane for all kinds of finishing work such as cleaning up marks, beveling edges or smoothing end grain
- Claw Hammer – for driving nails into and pulling nails out of wood
- Combination Square – for squaring, measuring, marking and levelling
- Sliding Bevel – fully adjustable and used for setting, marking and transferring angles
- Bevel Edge Chisels (3 or 4 of various sizes) – for rough and fine work including cleaning of joints such as mortise & tenon and dovetails
- Wooden Mallet – to drive chisels and assist in assembly by seating joints, dowels, etc
- Nail Set – to drive nail heads below the surface of the wood
- Hand Drill (or Manual Drill) – for drilling holes and countersinking screw heads
- Workbench with Vice – for holding your work piece firmly and many other woodworking needs
Shop Around To Find The Best Value
Sounds obvious I know but if you are buying to a budget this is a very important point. If you put in the effort now you may well find that you can afford a more comprehensive set of tools (by that I mean you can ‘tick off’ more of the tools on your list) simply by finding the best deals available and making your money go further. So utilise all the resources available to you including Google, eBay and any of your local hardware stores and classified ad sites. With your list in front of you the whole ‘search’ for tools can be fun and you may well find a few bargains out there.
Add More Tools As And When You Can
The fun part is when you start to accumulate the tools and begin using them. Ticking off the items on your list then putting the tools to use is the best part of it.
As you progress with your woodworking you can gradually add more tools to your inventory. Each tool will increase your enjoyment and allow you to try new and interesting things. If, like me, you find tools a pleasure to own and work with you may well find yourself stopping in the middle of your project and popping down to your local hardware or DIY store to pick up that ‘must have’ tool.
Care For Your Tools
Personally I am a bit OCD so caring for my tools is a bit of an obsession with me. But one thing is for sure, if you want your tools to last then it is definitely worthwhile taking good care of them from the outset.
They can be considered an extension of your limbs and will serve you well for many years if you treat them with respect and that means maintaining them in top condition. Keeping blades sharp is a necessity and is something you should be doing on a regular basis. However, cleaning and oiling your tools is also a task you should get into the habit of performing.
It’s not essential to do this after every use but it is certainly something that you should add to your woodworking routine. It is generally a very simple and quick job that you can do any time, before, after or even during your woodworking.
Let’s Get Woodworking!
Now that you have assembled your essential woodworking hand tools for beginners you can begin the pleasurable hobby of woodworking. There really is no limit to what you can accomplish and you will be constantly delighted by what you create with, what I believe, is one of natures most amazing gifts.
As always I would love to hear your comments on this article and please let me know if you have any questions or suggestions.