I love working on my wood lathe. However, I often use other woodworking tools while working on a project. I believe that it would be a good time to go over some of the basic woodworking workshop tools, their uses as well as what it takes to get started.
In this article, I will outline a number of tools which I use on a regular basis. Although some of these may seem basic to most of you, those who are looking to get into the hobby are definitely looking for lists of tools they need to invest in. My goal is to go over even the basic items and slowly progress into power tools which are bulkier, more expensive and aren’t as common.
Basic Woodworking Tools & Getting Started for Beginners
In this section, I’m outlining the absolute basics of a workshop. These are items which I believe are essential to even consider your space a workshop and most of us have these tools handy.
The Tape Measure
A tape measure is an essential tool in your workshop. It allows you to make quick measurements, outline critical markings and draw straight lines. Short of working on extremely small projects, there is absolutely no way to avoid having this on hand.
Don’t fall into the trap of saving money on your tape measure. A reliable tool will last longer and be much more comfortable and pleasant to use. Furthermore, I would recommend avoiding a tape measure which is bulky or heavy. Make sure to read the reviews of current users and pay attention to what the flaws are.
A Reliable Knife
A good utility knife is needed quite frequently. You will be using it for tasks ranging from unboxing new materials and equipment to removing branches from raw logs. I personally have two distinct knives in my shop: one is the “disposable blade” kind and the other is more of a hunting knife. I use the first one for minor cuts such as cardboard, line, wiring, etc. The other one for heavier duty items such as finishing cuts, plastic, etc.
Once again, you can choose to buy a 2$ knife at the local dollar store or invest 10$ into a DeWALT utility knife. I can guarantee you that the DeWALT will outlast the 5 2$ knives. That being said, it has a much different design which takes time to get used to. Once you’re past that, you wouldn’t want to work with a cheap plastic knife.
A Metal Layout Square
A solid layout square doubles as a ruler for small measurements and a 90-degree marker. It is something which is needed especially when you are working with large pieces of wood where you need to cut straight angles. The layout square can also (less frequently) be used to trace reliable angles of other measurements by using the edges and slots provided. This technique is most frequently used in construction where angles play an important role: rafters and stairway stringers for example.
You will be presented with a choice of material for this tool often consisting of aluminum versus plastic. I would recommend avoiding plastic like the plague. They easily chip, break and bend leaving you with a completely unusable tool. The aluminum models on the other side are slightly pricier but will serve you for a very long time.
Cordless Hand Drill & Batteries
If you plant to work with any type of wood, you must have a reliable drill with spare batteries. It is extremely frustrating to have to stop in the middle of a project because you decided not to plan ahead and ran out of juice. A drill is versatile and is required for many projects including woodturning.
If you’re purchasing your first set of tools, I would probably advise getting a kit which consists of a drill, spare batteries as well as some drill bits. Once you have more experience and opinions (who doesn’t) on what works best for you, venture into buying separate items.
Hammer, Nails, Screwdrivers & Screws
There’s not much I can say about these. Some projects will require you to join two pieces of wood together. I would recommend reading a tutorial on how to accomplish that first, but you should have the above items handy in your shop.
Most Common Handheld Power Tools in a Woodworking Workshop
We’ve covered the basics. Now, it’s time to get into the power tools which are most frequently found in a wood workshop. Keep in mind that depending on your goals, you may not need all of these tools. Always outline what your requirements are before purchasing these tools.
Jigsaw vs Reciprocating Saw
There’s a lot of confusion when it comes to these two cutting tools. Essentially, a jigsaw is a type of a reciprocating saw. However, there is an important distinction which makes the jigsaw a much more preferable tool for home use.
In both tools, the cutting is performed by a vertical motion of the blade. It is pushed and pulled by a motor which results in the teeth to cut away at the material. That being said, the jigsaw is typically much smaller, has a large foot covering the blade area and allows for much more precise cuts. Furthermore, a jigsaw will often have a speed setting which allows the user to work with different materials. This is often a requirement as different materials will need a separate setting.
A reciprocating saw will usually feature a much smaller foot exposing the blade. It is also a much heavier tool designed for construction, demolition and other rough work. Although it serves its purpose in the construction industry, it makes it extremely difficult to achieve what’s needed in home woodworking.
Wood finishing is a big part of the hobby; no project is complete without a nice buff and shine. This is done with the aid of an orbital sander with replaceable sandpaper. It is a tool which accomplishes one job extremely well.
In the case of an orbital sander, you can save money by purchasing a lesser known brand. These usually have the same construction and rarely break unless you exert too much force. There’s no need to pay for branding here.
It’s not as common to see a router in a workshop, but they are quite fun to work with. A router will allow you to etch different profiles (based on your bits) onto wood edges.
Before you decide to purchase a router, you should become familiar with the kind of projects it will allow you to accomplish. Here’s an excellent video outlining some of the uses of a router as well as the basic techniques you want to be aware of.
Stationary and Large Power Tools
In the last section, I wanted to go over the larger tools which are commonly found in a wood workshop. I believe that these are essential to have, but at the same time require a financial investment as well as good understanding of the tool. Just like with the previous ones, I recommend knowing exactly what you are doing before venturing into the tools listed in this section.
I’ve covered wood lathes as well as projects all over the website. It is an incredible tool which is extremely satisfying to use. Currently, the wood lathe is the most used tool in my workshop. I enjoy turning new pieces every single week and see no end to the creativity I can express through it.
Depending on where you are in your woodworking career or hobby, I would definitely recommend looking into investing in a wood lathe.
You can read about some of the most popular lathes out there in a separate article by following the link below.
A drill press is essentially a stand which has a drill head mounted vertically. Through the use of a lever, one can lower and raise the drill bit into a piece positioned on the table of the press. This setup creates a unique scenario which allows one to make perfectly straight holes in objects with flat surfaces. In most cases, that is exactly what you are trying to achieve. Although it is possible to do the same with a hand drill, it’s much simpler and more precise to do this on a press.
I would definitely recommend investing in a drill press as I use mine quite frequently.
Keep in mind that there is a wide range of drill presses available on the market. The lower end ones will be table top while the more expansive ones come with a tall stand. I personally use the full-sized version, but the right descision should be based on your project needs.
Bench Grinder with Stone
A sharp tool is known to work safer, faster and make the work seem more enjoyable. A bench grinder is a small tool which allows one to quickly bring their tool in contact in order to get the blade sharpened. It can also be used for sanding (with appropriate disks) and polishing.
If you haven’t experienced working with dull tools, it’s not an experience worth living. Invest in a cheap bench grinder to make sure that your tools stay sharp and your productivity high.
A bench grinder will usually come with a set of attachments. However, if you’re looking to complete other tasks, you may need to do some research and purchase different ones. Here’s a good guide to get you started on that path: Bench Grinding Tips
A belt sander is a great tool. It allows you to polish a project or to remove unwanted sections. Depending on the type of belt sander, you may also use it to sharpen your tools instead of the bench grinder.
It typically comes at a higher price point as the motors need to be slightly more powerful than in a bench grinder for example. That being said, I’ve used my belt sander for anything and everything including fixing twisted flathead screwdriver bits!
Basic Woodworking Workshop Tools, Their Uses and Getting Started
The absolute best way to figure out what you need is to get started on a woodworking project. Begin by listing the outcomes of your project as well as the tools you will require to attain said goals. Once you’ve established that, begin researching the proper techniques required to work with those tools. Slowly, but surely, you will build an impressive inventory of tools which your friends will be jealous of.