I created these hand tool buyer’s guides to help beginners who feel overwhelmed when trying to understand which hand tools they need first. It’s frustrating! Below you’ll see my summary list of the 20 basic professional woodworking hand tools that you should start to accumulate in order to start building the most basic woodworking projects. When you’re ready, you can follow the yellow buttons to visit each of the buying guides for each type of hand tool, to get help with understanding hand tool features, brands, & models. At the bottom of this page is a handy full list of tools that is sorted by “urgent”, “semi-urgent”, and “not-urgent” to buy.
Being without machinery to dimension and dress rough timber myself I can definitely see the benefit, but I think the investment (both in money and space) in machinery like this is premature for ‘basic’ woodworking. Additionally, without some other machinery (table saw, bandsaw) you’re still going to have trouble dimensioning smaller timber for projects from large/rough stock (e.g. producing timber strips for case fronts, ripping to reduce thickness, etc).
Before you put any tool to your lumber, you will need to understand its proper orientation and what direction to plane the board. As trees grow, growth ring layers continue to build on one another and this produces beautiful grain that shows in our boards. This grain can make planing it trickier if we ignore the ideal direction to work. Working wood grain is kind of like petting a cat — if you go from tail to head, you will find the hair standing straight up and might get a hissing disapproval, but if you pet “with the grain” from head to tail, you’ll find the hairs lay down nice and smooth and purring will ensue.
The old saying "If only I knew then what I know now" certainly applies to buying woodworking tools . Like nearly every woodworker, I would love a large shop equipped with all the best tools. Like most woodworkers however, I have had to make choices due to finances, space, and what was available at the time of need. As I look back at the purchases I made over the last 30 years, I have few true regrets, but there are many things I would do differently. Here is how I would approach equipment selection today.
The owners, webmasters, administrators, authors and editors, expressly disclaim all and any liability to any person, whether a user of this website or not, in respect of anything and of the consequences of anything done or omitted to be done by any such person in reliance, whether whole or partial, upon the whole or any part of the contents of this website. Please exercise caution when working with any tools or machinery. Follow common safety rules and precautions as outlined in any manuals related to the equipment being used. If advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought.
This might be where the fist-to-cuffs start. Why a router table as my second choice? It’s so versatile. With the right fence set up, I can edge joint boards, like I could on a jointer. (No, you can’t face joint, but I’ll live with that for now.) I can make any number of joints, create doors, and profile edges. I can remove the router and use it hand-held for work at my bench. A good router table simply provides lots of bang for the buck.
The next important hand tool for the woodworker is an accurate tape measure. Get a retractable one that is at least 25 feet long. Any longer than that, and you start having problems getting it to roll back up. Since measurements on large scale projects can be very susceptible to even the most minute measurement variations, you’ll want to make sure the “hook” or tab at the end of the is firmly attached, with no give. When they get loose, you’ll have as much as 1/8” variation in your measurements. This can add up to some severe accuracy problems in the long run.