10 Tools That Your Woodworking Tool Box Needs

Woodworking hand tools hung in neat rows on a shop wallWhenever you start a new hobby or project, there’s a learning curve. It takes time to figure out the tools and supplies you need and how to use them.

Woodworking is no different. If you’re just getting started, you might feel overwhelmed searching Google for tools or wandering the aisles of your local home improvement store. Which tools are essential? What are their uses?

That’s why we’ve created a list of 10 tools that your woodworking tool box needs—curated from hobbyists and DIY woodworkers who’ve gone before you.

Of course, your purpose will affect the exact tools you need, but we’ve tried to provide you with the most basic hand tools and power tools to make your project a success.

Without further ado…

Here are 10 tools that your woodworking tool box needs:

  1. Various saws
  2. Hand plane
  3. Chisel and mallet
  4. Router
  5. Hand file
  6. Triangle-shaped speed square
  7. Sanding tool
  8. Power drill
  9. Level
  10. Clamps

Plus, we’ll talk about a bonus tool that can help you eliminate the majority of wood-related problems.

Keep in mind that this list assumes you already have some basic tools on hand, such as a screwdriver, claw hammer, pliers, and a tape measure.

So say goodbye to all the confusion and get ready to build up your tool set.

1. Saws

Let’s look at a couple of common saws you’ll run across. Keep in mind that you don’t need to have all these right away. You can grow your collection over time as you broaden your woodworking horizons.

Hand saw

A handsaw with gray handle and a crosscut bladeWhen it comes to buying hand tools for woodworking, a hand saw is important. Even if you have an electric saw, it’s still good to have one of these around—just in case.

A hand saw can have at least three different types of blades:

  • A rip saw blade—This one has teeth that cut with the length of the wood.
  • A crosscut blade—This one has teeth that cut across the grain of the wood.
  • A combination blade—This one has teeth that can do both rip cuts and crosscuts. Many beginner woodworkers choose this one over the other two.

Whatever hand saw you buy, make sure you get one that’s durable and has a good quality handle.

Circular saw

A circular saw lying near a stack of woodA circular saw is a power tool—either handheld or table-mounted—with a round blade that can make various types of cuts. It works not only for wood but also for other materials.

It’s particularly useful for making straight cuts in larger pieces of wood. Just be sure that you have the right blade for the type of cut you want.

Different blades will have different numbers of teeth per inch (TPI). The greater the TPI, the smoother and higher quality the end result will be, though it will take longer to cut. A 24-tooth blade is recommended for construction work, while a 40-tooth blade will give a much cleaner cut. A combination blade will fall somewhere between the two.

Table saw

If you’re a woodworker, a table saw is a must. Though a circular saw has many capabilities, a table saw is better for making precise cuts when building furniture or cabinets. It can cut special types of edges and joints, depending on the type of blade and jig (guide or template) used.

Table saws have rip blades, crosscut blades, and combination blades, just like hand saws. The most common are combination blades with anywhere from 24 TPI to 80 TPI.

Multi-tool saw

If you expect a lot of variety in your DIY projects, the multi-tool saw will be your friend! It is a cordless saw that comes with attachments and allows you to cut various materials, such as wood, metal, stone, mortar, etc. It can replace a hand saw and do some of the work of the other electric saws, including making smaller cuts.

And it even has an attachment that allows you to use it for sanding. No more sanding by hand!

Now that you’ve got an idea of some basic saws, let’s look at other necessities for successful woodworking projects.

2. Hand plane

A black hand plane sitting on a workbench with wood shavingsA hand plane is one of the first tools you’ll use as you begin to even out the surface of a piece of wood or create a curve in it. It includes a feature that allows you to adjust how much wood you want to shave off (usually up to 1/16” at a time).

There are three main types of hand planes:

  • Block planes—for cleaning up and trimming small areas of wood
  • Bench planes—for general smoothing of wood
  • Specialty planes—for smoothing out and shaping specific kinds of joints

We’ll focus on bench planes. The main difference between the different bench planes is their length, which determines what kind of details they will smooth and shape best. The longest type of bench plane, known as the jointer plane, will do better with smoothing out larger surfaces, such as a table.

A medium-sized bench plane is the jack plane, which can be 12″ to 17” in length. It is multi-purpose and can take the place of the other bench planes, though perhaps without the same level of precision.

There are three types of jack planes:

  • The #5 which has a 2” blade
  • The #5-¼ which has a 1 ¾” blade
  • The #5-½ which has a 2 ⅜” blade

The #5 jack plane is the most popular among woodworkers.

3. Chisel and mallet

An assortment of chisels mounted in a row on a wallA chisel is a long piece of steel that is attached to a handle and used to shape and cut detailed parts in a piece of wood, particularly joints and saw cuts.

For example, if you were building a bed, you would use a chisel to form a socket for inserting another piece of wood. Or when constructing a door, you would route the striker plate into the doorjamb with a chisel.

There are different types of chisels, but a bench chisel will do most of your woodworking jobs. Its most common sizes are ¼”, ½”, ¾”, and 1”. It will usually have a beveled edge. This means that the edge is slanted at 20 or 25 degrees, which will help with shaping and cleaning out corners.

Chisels are made to be pounded on by a mallet. Don’t use a hammer as this may damage the material you’re working on.

4. Router

A router is a power tool with a bit that spins and smoothes out the edges of a piece of wood. In fact, it can make a surface so smooth that sanding is not even necessary.

The router is also useful for cutting joints or rounding and hollowing out wood, such as when making a bowl. You can make decorative edges and designs with it too. This is common in cabinetry and furniture-making.

Look for a router that has at least 2 horsepower and variable speeds. With these features, you’ll be able to effectively work with hardwoods, which require larger bits that operate at slower speeds to prevent burning the bits or the wood.

5. Hand file

A hand file is a long piece of steel with a bunch of small teeth on it that is used for smoothing surfaces.

There are different types of hand files based on the orientation of the teeth:

  • Single cut—the teeth point in one direction
  • Double cut—the teeth criss-cross each other in opposite directions

Hand files also vary based on how close the teeth are to each other. The closer they are, the smoother the finish will be.

For example, a smooth hand file will have teeth that are very close together. In contrast, a coarse hand file will not make as smooth of a surface but will allow for faster wood removal.

A half-round bastard file works well for many woodworking projects because it allows for medium-fast wood removal and has both a flat and rounded side.

6. Triangle-shaped speed square

An assortment of measuring tools for woodworking, including a triangle-shaped speed squareEvery woodworker needs a way to measure and mark angles for cutting. A triangle-shaped speed square will do the job! It is a ruler that is shaped like a triangle and has a ridge on one side that allows you to bring it alongside a board. It is particularly useful when making furniture.

The triangle-shaped speed square can take the place of at least three other tools: a regular square, try square, and framing square—a great benefit for minimalist woodworkers!

It comes in two sizes: 7” and 12”. The one you choose will depend on the size of lumber you’re working with. Look for one that is metal, rather than plastic, so that it will be durable.

7. Sanding tool

Sanding may be one of the least favorite jobs of a woodworker—but a necessary one if you want a smooth, beautiful look to your project! And having the right sanding tool makes all the difference!

If you’re just starting, you’ll probably opt for basic grit sandpaper, which is categorized based on the number of grits of sand per square inch, ranging from 120 to 3000. While 120 would provide a very coarse finish, 3000 would give a very fine finish. An all-purpose woodworker would have at least 120, 200, and 500 on hand.

A woodworker smoothing a piece of wood with sandpaper

For those who prefer a power tool and want to simplify the process of sanding, a random orbital sander is a great option.

8. Power drill

Here’s a versatile staple you won’t want to leave out of your tool set: a power drill. Aside from drilling holes, many drills come with other attachments and tips that allow for putting in screws, sanding, and even sawing.

When you buy one, you can decide whether to get a corded or cordless drill. Some prefer one with a cord so they don’t have to worry about batteries running low. But others feel that a cordless drill is safer—one less thing to trip over in the workshop!

A woodworker using a cordless power drill to screw two pieces of wood together

Power drill batteries can have various amounts of voltage. The greater the voltage, the more power the drill will have and the longer it will last. Generally, a 20-volt drill is sufficient.

9. Level

A level is a tool that measures how level (horizontal) or plum (vertical) a surface is. This is indicated by a small compartment of liquid that has a bubble in it. The bubble will be in the middle between the two lines when the surface is level or plumb.

A level comes in many different sizes and lengths, though an 8” torpedo level is one of the more common ones for building. A larger one, such as a 24” or 48”, is useful for installing doors and cabinets.

10. Clamps for your workbench

You’ll want to get a variety of clamps (including pipe clamps, bar clamps, and C clamps) to use with your workbench or work surface. They’re great for when you need that extra pair of hands to keep something steady. Or you might need a way to hold two pieces of wood together while glue dries.

We’ve looked at 10 important tools for your tool set as a woodworker. But there’s one tool that could mean the difference between success and failure in woodworking.

Enter the wood moisture meter.

Bonus tool: a wood moisture meter

A wood moisture meter measures the moisture content of a piece of wood, helping woodworkers make sure their wood is at an appropriate moisture level so that damage doesn’t occur.

But why is a wood moisture meter so important in your tool set?

Turns out, roughly 80% of damage to wood projects comes from moisture-related issues, such as cracking, splitting, swelling, and warping. Moisture-related damage might look like a wood floor that has gaps between its boards. Or a drawer that won’t close because the wood has expanded in size.

black pin meter with red buttonsThe reason for these issues is that wood absorbs and releases moisture based on its environment. If kept in an environment with a constant temperature and relative humidity, the wood will eventually reach a certain moisture content, known as its equilibrium moisture content (EMC).

Your goal, then, is to make sure that the wood has reached its required moisture content for its final destination—before beginning the project. A quality wood moisture meter will help you do just that!

When it comes to moisture meters, you have two main types to choose from:

  • A pin meter. This meter has two pins that are inserted into the wood. Then, it measures the amount of electrical resistance between the two pins to determine the moisture content.

A pin meter with insulated pins works well when you need accurate readings that won’t be affected by surface moisture. A pin meter also works great for getting the moisture content of wood that has an uneven surface.

  • A pinless meter. This meter uses electromagnetic waves to measure moisture content. All you have to do is firmly press it against the wood and you’ll have a reading in seconds.

A woodworker using a Bessemeter pinless moisture meter to measure the moisture content of a piece of wood

This type of meter is more suitable than a pin meter for large quantities of wood. Or when you want to avoid the unsightly holes that pin meters create, as is the case when installing wood flooring or constructing furniture.

Ready to build up your woodworking tool set?

The excitement is mounting—you’re already imagining all the woodworking projects you want to accomplish!

So what are you waiting for?

Take these tips for basic woodworking tools and use them as a guide for your purchases. Though you may be tempted to buy the cheapest items available, remember to look for quality tools that will last. They’ll save you money in the long run.

And for your wood moisture meter needs? We’ve got you covered at the Bessemeter shop! Find a high-quality meter that will meet the needs of your DIY woodworking projects.