I will cover the most important equipment for your shop in this extensive guide about tools every woodworker needs, or carpenters and general builders for that matter. Or to carry around on the building site.
I have established this list by asking carpenters and contractors as well as using my own experience from doing renovations or other home improvement projects.
If you plan to dive into the world of woodworking, I have handpicked 53 of the essential tools divided into two sections – power tools and hand tools.
Don’t wait and begin reading this comprehensive guide.
Power Tools Every Woodworker Needs
Power tools are driven by 110 volts or 220 volts, either with batteries or outlets. These come as portable hand-held designs or stationery tools which provide greater accuracy and more power.
Each of these is designed to give you better results in less time for your home improvement projects, like rearranging your kitchen or a master bedroom do-over. And, there is nothing much intimidating about these tools. So, if you aim to be a full-on woodworker or carpenter, I reckon 80 percent of the tools listed are a must.
Table saws come in two different types – portable and stationary. Each type is further divided into three more types.
Portable Saws: Mostly made from aluminum and steel, the average weight of portable saws is 50 lbs. You can move them anywhere in the house or on the job site. They further are divided into Jobsite, Compact, and Benchtop.
Stationary Saws: Stationary saws are heavier when compared to portable ones. This heaviness is for the sake of them being more accurate and powerful. That is to say, you can easily make them cut through large sheets with perfection. The three types of stationary saws include Cabinet, Hybrid, and Contractor.
The choice of the table saw depends upon the location and the work you will do.
Jigsaws have saber-like, reciprocating blades. Hence, they are also known as saber saws. It’s a very interesting tool that can make intricate cuts like serpentine, curved, or straight.
Do not confuse them with circular saws. They do not have revolving blades. They cut plastic, metal, or wood with up and down or back and forth motion. The teeth of these blades come in different compositions and numbers. The coarse-tooth blades can let you do fast and rough work. However, you can use the fine-tooth blades for saw veneers.
I would suggest you use the thickness planer if you want to have a uniform thickness.
In this power tool, the cutter head is hidden inside the machine. So, it is very safe to use. It is available in different models varying in its features, capacity, power, and support.
For small spaces, you can try the combination of jointer and planer. This will best work if you don’t want to plane boards wider than the jointer boards.
Also known as a nail gun or a framing gun. I feel a framing nailer is one of the most important tools for a woodworker. No matter which nail you want to use, framing nailers can help you nail metal, concrete, and wood.
Two of the widely used types include cordless and pneumatic. While the cordless nailer takes time to activate, the power generation is limited. On the other hand, the pneumatic nailer is quite faster and powerful due to the use of air pressure. For small jobs, cordless nailers are better. Pick the pneumatic ones for big projects.
Want to make cuts from different angles? One of the handiest tools, the miter saw, can get you the most accurate 90-degree crosscuts. It is also known as an indispensable precision cutter. That is because it can offer perfectly angled miter cuts. It comes with a heavy body, and the blades are affixed on the sturdy arm.
I would also like to highlight that the miter saw has sliding arms. This extends the reach of the cuts. However, since most lumber stock is long, you may need support at the wood’s end while cutting.
A circular saw is not just a long blade that slices metals or boards. It can cut random odd shapes, a slab to size, or a sheet of plywood with its toothed blade. They are very portable and lightweight. So, you can conveniently carry their power tool anywhere at any time. While choosing one, check for their brake system, size, and power.
If you want to panel or mask in wood trim, brad nailers can be the go-to tool. I like this nail gun as it is designed for detailed woodwork. This tool is definitely my go-to tool from trim work to molding or giving final touches to the projects. You can use it to gauge nails for binding lightweight wood trims. The electric power makes this tool generate enough force to penetrate the thinnest nails in the wood trim.
Workbench may look simple, but they are of utmost importance in carpentry. Try to find one with strong hardwood construction. The base should be adjustable for accurate leveling. I recommend having a large working surface that would also offer good built-in stops. Get 360-degree access with freestanding and drawers at the bottom to store tools.
(Random) Orbital Sanders
Orbital sanders are very simple but quite effective. Whether it is toy manufacturing or staircase building, you cannot beat a power sander.
The regular orbital sanders spin the sandpaper disk in a circle. They seem to do their work of removing the material very fast. But, leave swirl marks that you cannot get rid of easily. Thus, I would ask you to rely on a random orbital sander. They oscillate and do not circulate in any random way. So, you get a mark-free, silky smooth wood surface.
If you think that you can use a power drill only for drilling holes, then think again. You can turn the electric drill into other tools with various attachments. Drills running on 110-120V current offer more longevity. They provide more torque than their cordless counterparts. While I do not like the wire coming in the way, I cannot have a weak charge.
If you are a profound DIYer, you can pick the 18V cordless drill. That’s a wise choice. You can also choose it based on its chuck size.
Belt sanders are the sanding industry’s big monsters. Few tools may save you as much time as quickly as they can destroy your project. Belt sanders find their application in sanding very rough surfaces and trimming to a scribed line.
Freehand rounding, shaping, and leveling surfaces are other uses of belt sanders. They have high power and the ability to handle coarse grits. Hence, they excel at the rapid removal of wood.
A biscuit joiner is unbeatable when it comes to easy and quick woodworking joints. They help in the strengthening of a joint over a larger area. The process is as effortless as milling slots in the mating pieces. Then, applying adhesive, slipping biscuits in place, assembling, and clamping them.
It only takes a minute for the joint to align properly. They’re useful for joining drawer corners, picture frames, and other common woodworking joints.
Bandsaws come in many sizes. The choice depends on the stock size and the intricacy of the cuts. There are two key bandsaw characteristics to be mindful of, one is depth capacity, and the other is throat depth. The depth capacity governs the thickness of your material capacity. In contrast, the throat depth dictates your stock’s width. Making curved cuts where work needs turning on the table is easy with a deep throat capacity.
The lock mortiser machine is capable of mortising doors or other elements. It is more quick, efficient, and precise than hand-mortising. Also, it’s more affordable and portable than CNC.
A portable lock mortiser is the ideal option for any type of door. Its unique fixing system allows for hanging the door mortise without damaging the surface. It has a quick adjustment system to center the machine. The ability to work horizontally is another plus point of the lock mortiser.
A reciprocating saw isn’t a good tool for crafting. Rather, it is a workhorse. The exposed blade allows you to direct it into tight spaces. I like how this feature enables you to use it in settings where other saws would be too sluggish, impractical, or dangerous.
It’s a “gateway tool” for cutting through various materials, including wood, metal, PVC, and nails. Cut and toss walls, windows, doors, plumbing, and more.
I was very anxious to use the router tool the first time. That is because it isn’t a tool to take lightly because of its high speed.
However, I realized they are easy to master. Simply remove the gloves and put on the spectacles.
A router isn’t just great for rounding table edges. It finds usage in an unlimited number of tasks like cutting inlays or sliding dovetails and dados. But, keep it away from debris and sawdust as it can lead to overheating, accelerated brush wear, or switch failure.
A jointer is an essential tool. I have heard from many people that a planer can perform the task of a jointer. But, personally, I feel that it might not always be true. They are used for two different things. Planers can create parallel surfaces and ensure consistent thickness. However, jointers can flatten a single face or even accurately square a single edge.
If you’re shopping for a 6″ or larger stand-up jointer, I recommend going for the used ones. However, setting up some used jointer beds correctly can be challenging. It is advisable first to buy a planer and create a jointing jig for it.
The rotary tool is a portable and versatile power tool. It has a fast-spinning motor tip. You can use it for sanding, grinding, polishing, and honing metals. It is a staple in many toolboxes as they come with a wide range of attachments. The most common of this tool type is Dremel.
Dovetail Cutting Jig
Dovetail cutting jigs allow you to create precise and strong dovetail joints for drawers, boxes, and furniture. So, with this, you do not have to use fasteners. The best dovetail jigs clamp the work stock in place.
Further, you may also use it to run a router along with a template. This results in an intertwined joint that resembles a chain of bird’s tails. A dovetail junction is a robust, sturdy joint having a lot of space for gluing.
A drill press is a power machine. Its function is to drill precise holes in wooden or metallic surfaces. Fix the drill in a rotating spindle to feed it into the workpiece.
Drill presses are primarily of two types – Benchtop and Stationary. Benchtop variants are more compact, lightweight, and portable. Floor models (Stationary) are heavier and more sturdy, making them difficult to move. They do, however, have more power, features, and capacity.
Tools Every Woodworker Needs: Drawer Slide Jig
This simple jig keeps slides in place while drilling mounting holes in the cabinet. It secures drawer boxes in place while attaching slides to the drawer. The jig works with epoxy-coated, ball-bearing, and under-mount slides. This makes the positioning even more perfect.
Jigs ease out the drawer installation process. They have built-in tabs for easy and precise alignment of the slides. This power tool ensures that each drawer fits correctly and runs smoothly.
Reciprocating Spindle Sander
A reciprocating (oscillating) spindle sander is a benchtop or floor-standing woodworking machine. Its purpose is to sand the boards’ edges. It resolves the problem of heat that a sanding drum produces while sanding curved workpieces.
An oscillating spindle sander moves the sanding drum up and down. This action exposes different areas of the drum’s surface to the workpiece. As a result, the heat generated evens out. So, the workpiece will have a smoother, burn-free edge.
I believe this is one of the best investments a woodworker can make. Benchtop Mortiser, unlike a chisel or router, will throw away the waste. It will cut the squares or rectangular holes on a workpiece in a smooth and fluid process. As a result, you’ll have ends that are a perfect match for your tenons. A dedicated mortiser will provide you with unmatched performance during the woodworking process.
Tools Every Woodworker Needs: Drum Sander
A drum floor sander is the only and sure-shot solution to solve all your hardwood floor’s major issues. The problems can be deep discoloration, deformations, pits, and grooves. A continuous loop of sandpaper runs around the drum in a drum sander. This sandpaper shreds the wood down to your desired thickness. If you need a drum sander, I recommend renting rather than buying one because it is quite expensive.
Tools Every Woodworker Needs: Beam Cutter
There are two types of beam cutters. It can be a device that attaches to a circular saw. This allows it to cut through beams or big pieces of wood while guaranteeing that the cuts are accurate, inclined, or straight.
A beam cutter can also be an attachment to a saw. This can transform a round wood into a flat-sided beam.
A beam cutter is very often used. Yet, it does not need regular replacement.
Never miss out on this tool! We always think about getting the tools that make sawdust. But what about picking this dust up?
Yeah, collecting dust is a dull and nasty task. But vacuum can make that work easy. It will capture all the irritant dirt without you having to touch it.
I like a clutter-free area. It helps me balance my mental and physical health. So, I ensure that I have this one with me always.
Wood moisture meter
Wood moisture meters help to know the wood’s moisture content. Some even have pins that penetrate the surface of the high-density wood.
Your best moisture meter should have all the settings on it to count for various wood types. Like, for example, ebony has a harder density, but oak is a simple hardwood.
You can have square holes cut into pieces of wood with a chain mortiser. It creates grooves in mortise and tenon joints. They often function as drill bits. Besides, they can remove a significant amount of material quickly. The chain rolls around a bar, like a chainsaw, but mostly on a smaller scale.
For larger jobs, chain mortisers are the best choice over others. And, you can choose between its two types – portable machines and stationary machines.
Tools Every Woodworker Needs: Center Scriber
Having difficulty determining the center of the board to cut it evenly? Well, I have a solution for you. And, that is a Center Scriber.
The multi-function scribe marks the center of the sheet up to 64 mm thickness. You can draw 1/16″ 3/16″ 5/16″ 7/16″ 1/8″ 1/4″ 3/8″ 1/2″ edges.
Attach the locator to the iron’s surface, pencil in the foot’s hole after using it, and your job is done!
And, this center scriber is environmentally friendly. It is durable due to its ABC plastic constituents.
The Multi-Mark is an incredibly handy, multi-purpose measuring and marking power tool. This tool comes at the top of my list as it is perfect for a wide variety of household and job site uses. It features a reveal gauge, a built-in level, three distinct scale arrangements, and much more.
You don’t have to invest in various tools for arranging mitered edges or project parts. Multi-mark can help you out in every way to fulfill your job. This can uncoil the project parts too.
This machine tool is primarily invented for woodworking use. It cuts, polishes, drills, bends and twists wooden workpieces. Wood lathes are run by flaunting a spinning workpiece to a fixed cutting tool.
A standard pulley system regulates the lathe’s speed. If you want to have an effective tool for shaping your timber workpieces, then this is the one I would suggest.
Tools Every Woodworker Needs: Power Hand Saw
Powered saws are essential in every woodworker’s toolkit. That’s because it makes the work easier. They are safer than hand saws, making them suitable for cabinet makers and house enthusiasts like you and me.
Every activity requires a different type of power saw. Thus, you can choose from a variety of them, suiting any wallet. The electric saws are the easiest pick. They are simple to use and affordable than the rest.
A standard screwdriver is a basic tool that every house possesses. However, a powered screw gun not only can make the process simpler but faster.
Before you confuse yourself imagining a power drill as a screw gun, let me tell you one basic difference. Though they appear similar, a screw gun has a nose rather than a chuck. Woodworkers use screw guns to put hexagonal or six-sided nut shanks into drills. This eliminates the possibility of sliding as well.
Hand Tools Every Woodworker Needs incl. Accessories
Hand tools help you give small touch-ups that are difficult to achieve with a machine. But I love using these as they offer finished quality, giving people-powered tools an intrinsic feel.
Pocket hole jigs
Pocket-hole jigs come under my essential woodworking tool checklist. You can use your ordinary electric drill to drill holes at an angle. Yet, those holes will be uneven in size, and the edges will be less exact. To repair it, you can toenail the two parts. But while doing all of this, you might waste a lot of time.
However, pocket-hole jigs can make it faster. They drill holes very neatly and at a perfect angle.
Woodworking hammers perform two activities – press and scrape. They are of two types – finishing hammers and framing hammers. Finishing harmers are convenient and versatile. In comparison, framing ones are sturdy with a straightener edge. If you are a new woodworker, then a wooden or composite hammer handle is a must. There’s less shock to the hand while hitting.
Right angle clamp
A right-angle clamp comes in handy when you have to join two pieces of materials. For instance, you can have wood and metal together at a ninety-degree angle. It is a tool that frees both of your hands so that you can use glue or fasteners to stick the two pieces together. However, remember the factors that can influence your pick for the perfect right angle clamp. Check for its clamping range, accuracy, and durability.
It always took me hours to measure the edges of the pieces. The ruler has to be very much parallel to the stock. And, it does not even allow you to make a tick mark. You need to maintain the accuracy in measurements and need a hand free to mark the points. This tested my patience until I found the woodpecker’s Edge Ruler.
Edge Rule helps me in achieving the perfect accuracy and freehand movements. The measurements are accurately aligned both on the edges as well faces which eases your task the most. In this way, you can focus more on your creativity and work rather than fussing about accurate measurements.
Nail and Screw Set
Nails and screws are the backbones of a house. You need them to hang your decorative pieces, paintings, medals, and other indispensable household items. They need to be firm. And, they shouldn’t cause much damage to the walls.
I personally never liked any nail making even the slightest extra cut to the wall. So, I always use a nail set that practically solves all of your problems. It also has durable nails that can swiftly go inside walls. They are in different sizes for different needs. The shaft and the tip both need to be sleek so that they don’t bend or break.
Basic Tools for Woodworkers: Modern Clamps
Modern Clamps come in handy whenever you are trying to attach two or more things. You need your hand to be freed to apply glue while the materials are held together firmly. It is difficult to do so in person, that’s why you need modern clamps.
They come in various types, and you can pick whichever you like depending upon your need. A few types of modern clamps include hand screw, C or G, bench, spring, web, power, sash, and spine.
Basic Tools for Woodworkers: Multi-Angle Measuring Ruler
Measuring can be a daunting task when it comes to woodworking or metalworking. Frankly, I am always meticulous about accuracy. It consumes a lot of time. However, it is something that nobody can ever do away with.
A Multi-Angle Measuring Ruler or foldable ruler can make this task of measuring lengths and angles so much easier that you forget how hard it used to be. You can duplicate your pieces so easily and save time and effort. All this without compromising on accuracy and perfection.
Hand Saws are a crucial investment if you are a woodworker or carpenter. You should be careful about the blades and blade teeth as they make a huge difference in woodcutting. A shard blade and sharp teeth can give the same result as an electric saw.
There are many types of hand saws available in the market. A few hand saws that I have come across include coping, carcass, dovetail, and backsaws. You must pick one according to your need and budget.
Basic Tools for Woodworking: Hand planer
Hand planers help in sanding and shaping wood. They scrape off the fiber of the wood and give the piece the desired shape. A good planer should be sharp and leave a smooth surface.
Hand planers come in many varieties. A few to name are block planes, joining planes, spokeshaves, rabbit planes, etc.
Some of them are used only for shaving the wood, but others have special purposes. Also, your budget and needs should be kept in mind while purchasing.
Basic Tools for Woodworking: Sliding Bevel
Sliding Bevel is used for crafting out different angles in woodwork. Due to its special purpose, it is built differently with special blades. The two ends of a blade are different, one is rounded off, and the other is cut at a 45-degree angle. The blade is allowed to rotate full 360 degrees to create different angles. The handle is attached via a thumbscrew, wing nut, or is molded.
Basic Tools for Woodworking: Wood or Iron Files
It’s time to replace your dull files! Your choices are these:
Rasps have coarse teeth and rough edges. You can use it to remove huge amounts of wood and create space for finer files.
Half-round files are curved on one face and a flat surface on the other. You can use these on both straight and curved surfaces.
In mill files, both the faces are flat. Generally, these have fine teeth on one side and coarse on the other sharp edges for tight spaces.
Rotary cutters are similar to hand files. The only difference is that rotary cutters are designed like electric drill bits. You put them in the drill chuck to remove the material. You can get these in various cutting grits and patterns.
Beginning woodworkers need to know that chisels aren’t meant for steel hammers. The shock from steel hammers results in the jabbing or stabbing of chisels in the wood. This leaves rough finishes. So, I would advise you to use a mallet for chisels.
Mallets have big leather or wooden heads with removable handles to use with different head sizes.
You can differentiate between mallets and hammers by their surface impression and striking shock. Hammers are harder than mallets. Mallets are your perfect choice to tap wood joints together because they leave the least striking marks.
Basic Tools for Woodworking: Squares
Squares that you may need to know:
- Framing Squares: Large tools with right angles for bigger work surfaces.
- Try Square: Right-angled, smaller hand tools for immediately verifying squareness.
- Combination Squares: For accurately checking distances and angles.
- Speed Squares: Quick checks for 45 and 90-degree angles.
- Miter Square: Perfect to set angled miter cuts.
- Bevel Squares: You can redesign an already present angle and change patterns.
There are innumerable tape measures. However, here are a few I would like you to check out:
- Retractable Steel Tapes: Most commonly used; 12 to 30 feet in length
- Flexible Reel Tapes: You get these in fabric/steel; over 100 feet in length
- Folding Rules: Rigid measuring sticks that offer a very strong accuracy.
- Yardsticks and Straight Edges: Easy to carry rulers that can be used for laying straight lines.
Basic Tools for Woodworking: Sawhorses
Sawhorses are hard frame supports made of metal, wood, or plastic. The plastic ones are adjustable, strong, and lightweight. It helps create a hard surface for your materials.
What I like about this tool is that you can easily fold them flat.
Tools for Woodworkers and Carpenters: Utility knife
I own two types of utility knives – retractable and folding.
The retractable blade type has a compartment to keep replacement blades. The folding style easily fits in your pocket. When I am wearing my tool belt, I usually take the retractable one. It is easy to grab. However, other times, I am comfortable using the folding one.
Tools for Woodworking: Chisel
You can use a chisel to clean out saw cuts and joints. I would rely on choosing chisels made up of chromium-vanadium alloyed steel or high-alloy carbon steel. Hardwood grips with metal caps are the best. This will prevent the handle from disfiguring.
Different sizes can work the best for different types.
- Smallest chisels: best for mortise work
- ¾” and 1”: best for door hinges
- 1 1/2”: awesome for chipping out
A quick tip: Always try to buy a chisel that has a comfortable grip. So not like the ones in my picture 😉
Tools Every Woodworker Needs: A Level
A level, also known as a spirit level, is a colored liquid in a small vial that helps you check if the surface is parallel. Since it has a bubble, you can also call it a bubble level.
A level gives maximum performance even in temperatures from -20 °F to 130 °F. So, that means the liquid will neither solidify nor evaporate. It offers +/- 0.5 mm accuracy.
How can I wrap the woodworking tools list without including the simplest but the most important tool? A screwdriver is used to either loosen or drive the screw into the wood. You will find these in a variety of shapes and sizes. I would recommend always choosing the exact screwdriver that can loosen or drive the screw seamlessly. Otherwise, it may damage the wood piece, the tip of the screwdriver, or the screw.
You get torque from a long screwdriver. A shorter shank gives you more driving force. The Crescent wrench gives you more torque.
Quick Tip: Keep a pry bar with your screwdrivers.
The digital protractor has made everything simpler. It digitally displays angles made by two legs. As a result, you don’t have to measure the angles. And it also increases the accuracy. These are best for general woodworking, furniture making, cabinet making, and carpentry.
Digital protractors are available in different lengths. You get more accurate results with the longer ones. However, long ones are difficult to carry. For furniture making, a protractor with short legs is more beneficial. Except for size, the other thing you need to consider is accuracy. Low-cost units are not secure. Sometimes, these low-cost units may have plastic legs instead of metal and can become inaccurate over the years.
So, that is it. However, there are hundreds of other tools, these count to be the most essential ones as per my experience. One last tip before you leave: Always invest in quality tools. The resistance to wear and durability are some other factors that you should always think about.
Get inspired: With these tools, you can conquer every project you have in mind! Read up on the articles below to get inspired or to stumble upon some nice tips.