Hand Tools For The Beginning Woodworker

toolboxI normally don’t post too much on WooDesigner about things for beginners because the vast majority of this community has at least some intermediate if not advance skill. The bulk of us are 35 and older, so odds are you started out with woodworking some time ago.

But, just in case we do get some beginners that are visiting our site, here are a few tools that you will need to add to your arsenal when you are just getting started working with wood:

Just about everyone that is just starting their hobby of woodworking knows the basic power tools they need. A table saw, drills, drill press, router, etc.. But what about hand tools? Over time, a woodworker usually will collect quite a few hand tools.

So if you ask an experienced woodworker what hand tools are essential, he may open up 10 tool boxes and say “all of these.” But beginners don’t have to start out with 10 tool boxes full of hand tools. In fact, 10 hand tools are really what is needed to get a good start.

Here is the list that I have come up with:

1) HAMMER – Almost everyone has a hammer. But different hammers serve different purposes, so which hammer do you need? First off, make sure it has a claw that isn’t straight. These types of hammers are for framing and ripping, the straight claw doubling as a pry bar.

You want a curved claw so that you don’t have to put a ton of work into pulling a nail. Of course, most woodworking nails are smaller and somewhat short, so the claw doesn’t need to curve so much that it is a half circle.

Just as long as it is curved somewhat, that is enough. Look at the head of the hammer as well. You fare better when you have a polished head on your hammer than a waffled head. This type of hammer head is again, for framing.

The polished head will help to prevent marring up the wood you are working with. The size of the hammer is going to depend on several factors. I like a 16-20 ounce hammer for woodworking. But it all depends on how it feels to you.

You normally aren’t pounding the daylights out of a finishing nail, so the lighter weight hammer should be ok. There are times you will need different hammers for different projects, but the first one to get is a 16-20 ounce polished head hammer with a round head.

2) TAPE MEASURE – The tape measure that is chosen should have standard as well as metric markings. Many woodworkers will carry around 6 foot tape measures all the way up to 35 foot. But if you are only able to have one, a 25 foot tape is best.

The hook on the tape is better whenever it is loose, and this is because it will make for a more accurate measurement either pushing the tape against an inside corner or pulling it on an outside corner.

3) CHISEL SET – You will need to get a set of bevel edged chisels. The chisel heads need to be around 4-7 inches in length, with only one side being beveled. The other side needs to be flat. It is essential that you have something to sharpen the chisels, because keeping them sharp is a must for good woodworking.

4) COMBINATION SQUARE or LAYOUT SQUARE – This tool is one of the most important for anyone that is working with wood. Every carpenter – finishing or framing – has one, and this includes those that are in the woodworking field.

The markings on the combination square are used in determining the angle of a cut. Knowing the angle of your cut is important when you need to make a bevel or miter when using a compound miter or hand miter saw. The vast majority of these new come with an instruction booklet to help you use the tool.

5) NAIL SETS – The nail set is essential for finishing work. It will set the nail head below the wood surface, that way you can fill the hole above the head making the nail hole almost invisible once finished. These sets can range from ultra cheap to expensive, depending on different factors. I have had success with the cheap sets, so if that is all you can afford, they work fine.

6) T-BEVEL or SLIDING BEVEL – Usually the blades on the T Bevel are going to be of stainless steel, and the handle of wood. It is going to have a locking mechanism as well. These are used for making or transferring the same angled marks from one piece of stock to the next.

7) BLOCK PLANE – I consider this essential to the woodworker’s arsenal of tools because it is so versatile. It can curve, shape, clean up, flatten, and square up a piece of wood. It also can save you a ton of time in sanding whenever the wood is not consistent in thickness.

The block plane is a tool that will shave away small amounts of wood from a piece of stock. This will aid you in cleaning up rough edges for better fits. It isn’t for large planing jobs though, so don’t pull it out if the wood needs to be shaved 1/4 of an inch unless you want to be there a while.

8) UTILITY KNIFE (BOX CUTTER) – The utility knife can be used for so many different things when woodworking. From sharpening your pencil to cleaning up mortise and tenon joints, this tool is a must for everyone’s shop.

Though they aren’t necessary, a utility knife with an easy change blade mechanism is preferred. They aren’t much more expensive than a regular utility knife, and you don’t have the hassle of taking the knife apart to change the blade.

9) CLAMPS – It is hard to put clamps as “one” of the hand tools that you will need in a beginning woodworker’s shop. There are so many types of clamps and sizes, as well as brands that you will have to experiment with different ones over time to find which ones will work best for you.

You do well to have a few of each – bar clamps, spring clamps, pipe clamps, and parallel clamps. The bar clamps and parallel clamps should be 16 inches or longer to start, and in due time you will find out that the more clamps you have, and the larger variety of sizes that you have makes for a better shop.

10) SANDING BLOCKS – Whether you buy the sand blocks or make your own, it is going to be necessary to have a few. A final hand sanding is always what sets off a finishing job above the rest.

I would have a couple of different sizes around, as well as different ones for different grits of sandpaper. If you make your sanding blocks yourself, you can have a ton of them and not break the bank. They are very easy to make as well.

These are the top 10 hand tools that are on my list of “must have’s” for a beginning woodworker. Once you get going, you will add to this collection. Over time though, these will be the ones that you pull out and use the most.


DO YOU HAVE a woodworking project or tip that you would like to submit to WooDesigner and get it added to our site? Then go to the contact tab below OR at the top of this page and let me know. Just make sure you are able to give us step by step instructions on it, as well as images as you see here, and we will put it on this site just like you have read on this page! As long as it is clear and concise like you just saw, it will go up. Your name will be credited to the project, as where you live. (Please include that.) Also include the type of lumber you use for the design. We look forward to hearing from you! (Take note that the tip and images and instructions have to become ours. I do hate that so much but in today’s society so many will sue, and yes, you can sue for a lot of money over images.) The tips will need to include YOUR IMAGES that you take. They can’t be images from somewhere online. Remember, we have to go through these images and if they aren’t your own, we will not be able to use them. This is illegal and it won’t be tolerated and you will be banned from this community by being blocked. We can get sued for this, and just one bad apple can ruin our community.

Ted Leger –


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Updated: February 16, 2017 — 11:57 pm
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