Last Updated on May 20, 2020
To build a decent starter workshop, you’ll need some basic woodworking tools, including a set of hand tools and power tools to give you the flexibility you need to be successful. If you’ve done some web searching, you’ve probably found more tools than you can shake a chisel at. But you don’t need to load up on tools to have a solid foundation for getting to work. We’ve made a list of the best must-have tools to get your workshop set up properly.
If your budget is tight, you can still get great quality out of economical hand tools. You’ll just have to put in some extra muscle to get the job done. But every workshop needs good hand tools, so we’ve put together the following list of essentials.
This may be the most basic woodworking tool you’ll need for any project. Consider both a claw hammer and a wood hammer or mallet. A claw hammer is essential if you need hard impact, but you may need the gentler face of a mallet for knocking into a chisel or leveling out a joint.
A sturdy nail set is essential for keeping your wood surfaces smooth, especially if you’re doing trim work. A nail set will hide those nail heads and get your wood ready for paint or stain.
Aim for a decent set of chisels to cover your bases. Varying sizes from ¼ inch to 1 ½ inches will keep you well equipped, and bevel-edged bench chisels will give you the most versatility of use. If you have a range of handle types to choose from, go for a wood handle with a metal cap. The wood handle will give you better balance and grip, and the metal cap will make sure your chisel can withstand the impact from a mallet.
Whatever you’re building or crafting, you’ll want to make sure it’s not lopsided. Keeping wood level and straight is essential. Bubble levels are the gold standard for woodworkers, but digital levels are gaining prominence, as well.
You’ll need a good speed square to help keep your angles right and your lines straight. Trying to cut a perfect right angle by hand can be a challenge without one.
From assessing and cutting to angling and positioning, a measuring tape is a must-have. Find a heavy-duty retractable model with a locking mechanism for best results.
The price tag will rack up quickly when you move into the power tools market, but the six tools below are a good starting point for every workshop. If you want to do quality work, you’ll need most of these sooner than later.
A table saw is the cornerstone of any workshop. You can’t do much woodworking unless you can make precision cuts, and the balanced, easy-maneuvering capacity of a table saw will rock your world. When choosing a saw, make sure you have enough space between the blade and the fence. You may get away with 20 inches for simple projects, but steer toward 24 inches for more heavy-duty work. Look for a soft-start motor and constant speed for safety and to reduce kickback.
When you need mobility and cutting capacity at the same time, a circular saw will come in handy. When it comes to saws, you don’t necessarily need to spend lots of money. Most of your performance will come from the blade. A carbide-tipped blade offers the best durability. Find a blade with more teeth for finer finish work, or use fewer teeth when rougher, quicker cuts will suffice. For the best value, look for a saw with an adjustable foot for changing the depth of your cuts, and an adjustable angle for making bevel cuts.
Not all your cuts are going to be straight. Nothing will get you precision curves and shaping like a jigsaw. Again, you don’t need to drop a fortune on a jigsaw. Your blades will do the work. You can find teeth that cut downward for finish work, but the standard upward-cutting blade will work for most projects. An adjustable foot will also allow you to get bevel cuts.
This is a must for finish work. A good orbit sander will smooth out wood and prep it for stain, soften splintered edges, or help you achieve that rejuvenated look for restoration work. The easily replaceable pads on an orbit sander will give you simple versatility in grit and finish. Look for variable speeds and a good grip for best results.
A power drill is a must-have for any home, garage, or workshop. A cordless, lithium-ion battery drill will last longer and give you better performance. Avoid a powerful hammering feature for woodworking, as it could split your wood. Focus instead on a drill with good balance, a comfortable grip, reversable rotation, and easy bit change.
A good router can be an essential woodworking tool, especially for creating customized cuts or creating notches in furniture building. A hand router can work well for simple projects, but a high-horsepower router with a plunge feature and changeable bases can give you the most versatility.
This is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to stocking your workshop, but the above tools will get you started, get your projects off the ground, and give you the versatility you need to be successful. Once you’re seasoned as a woodworker, you’ll undoubtedly start branching out into better tools, more power, and finding the right blades and tips for your work. Now get out there and get working!
Header image credit: Max Pixel
Ryan is a freelance writer from Arizona. When he's not blogging about his favorite hobbies, he's writing fiction, hiking or running in the great outdoors, and spending time with family.