7 Essential Power Tools for Beginning Woodworkers

  • December 6, 2018

If you’re looking to set up a woodshop as a hobby or as a potential career, then you need to get the right equipment. While you could spend thousands of dollars equipping your shop with every possible tool, it’s more important to get the tools that will give you the most flexibility. You don’t have to spend a ton of money to get your shop up and running, but you want to make sure that you spend it on the right tools.

We’ve compiled this list of power tools that are indispensable to starting up a new shop, as they all can be used in different ways, giving you a lot of potential projects to do.

Power Drill

If you don’t already own a power drill, what are you doing? Almost everyone already owns one of these because they’re great to have around the house, as they take tasks that would take minutes with screwdrivers and reduce them down to seconds.

Power drills are going to be indispensable in your shop, and you really can’t believe how often you’ll use them when assembling or disassembling the pieces you craft. Furthermore, drills can come in handy when putting other tools together, which means that you’ll want to get one of these first. You can also get different drill bits that allow you to drill holes in your pieces, not just sink screws. Overall, this is one of the most versatile tools you can have in your shop.

Circular Saw

Circular Saws are great for cutting large pieces of plywood but also work well for cutting boards such as 2x4s. You can also invest in additional blades that can cut materials like concrete and metal, which means that you shouldn’t be stuck cutting just wood with one of these devices.

The circular saw is great at making center cuts on plywood, something that many table saw models will struggle with, especially if the plywood is large. Circular saws are also far more portable than table saws, so you’ll be able to work outside or go on the road with it.

Table Saw

Table saws are one of the woodworker’s staple tools. They’re extremely versatile, and if you get a good model, you’ll find yourself using it all the time. The table saw is great for cutting smaller boards and plywood, and it can also be used to cut decorative and functional grooves into a piece.

table saw

Image credit: Gikü, Wikimedia

While you can do similar cuts with a circular saw, the table saw is often regarded as the easier tool to use, especially when making angled rips, and you can use a miter gauge and rip fence to ensure that your cuts remain straight. With this saw, you’re relying less on the steadiness of your hands and more on the table itself, which leads to the same quality of cuts by an easier process.

Compound Miter Saw

The compound miter saw is the king of angled cuts. Sure, most models of circular table saws provide some angled cuts, but the miter saw has them beat in three key areas. First, the angle cuts on a miter saw are going to be more accurate, since that’s one of its primary features. Second, it’s easier to set up angled cuts on a compound miter saw than either a table or a circular saw. Third, you won’t have to remember to reset your table or circular saw after use.

While you should always be double-checking your tools before use, mistakes happen, and if you’re doing most of your angled rips on your miter saw, then you’re going to have fewer opportunities for mistakes with your other tools. The compound miter saw’s capacity is more limited than a circular saw or table saws, so you’ll still need those other two for larger rips.

Jigsaw

Jigsaws are one of the more straightforward power tools. You point the blade where you want to cut and pull the trigger, moving the tool through the wood. While that might sound a bit redundant at this point, jigsaws can do something that the other saws on this list can’t: cut curves.

If you’re serious about woodworking, whether as a hobby or as a career, you’re going to need to cut curves at some point. While this usually isn’t necessary for structural parts, you’ll use curves on all kinds of decorative pieces. Jigsaws, then, are more about making things look good than about cutting lots of wood. You have other tools for that.

Router

Routers are another tool that often gets used in the finishing or decorative stages of woodworking, rather than the structural construction. They’re great for cutting grooves into a piece, as well as forming edges and creating dovetails. Plunge routers can even be used to create grooves or pits in a piece that don’t begin at the edges.

That’s not to say that they’re only used for decoration. You can use a router to put a hole through a piece that will have wires running through it, for instance. If you have to do a lot of these in a short amount of time, the router will be better at this than your power drill will be, and get it done much faster.

Random Orbital Sander

There are a ton of sanders on the market: handheld belt sanders, stationary belt sanders, random orbit sanders, or if you’re feeling like doing a ton of work, you could use sandpaper. However, there’s one model that tends to be the best general-purpose sander, and that’s the random orbital sander.

It features a round disc that randomly spins and rotates, which helps you get an especially fine and even finish when you need one but also makes the tool good for doing first passes. Belt sanders are better with rough wood, and orbital sanders are better with fine-sanding, but the random orbital sander does almost as well in both categories, and with some practice, you’ll be able to do just as well with this tool as you would with the others.

Conclusion

While this list doesn’t contain every power tool that you’ll eventually need in a shop, these seven tools are a great place to start if you’re looking to start from scratch. They give you the versatility to do most projects and to do them well, and they can be learned quickly and used safely, even by total amateurs. Furthermore, the lessons you learn with these power tools will apply to new tools that you pick up later down the line, making them a great place to start.

About the Author Adam Harris

Hi there! My name is Adam and I write for HealthyHandyman. I have a great passion for writing about everything related to tools, home improvement, and DIY. In my spare time, I'm either fishing, playing the guitar, or spending quality time with my beloved wife. You'll also often find me in my workshop working on some new project!