So you are interested in woodworking, but don’t quite know how to get started? This multi-part series will help you to choose the right equipment and will show you how to get the skills you’ll need to be successful in this fun and exciting hobby.
In part 1 of our series, we’ll cover the basic tools you need to have before you can begin your first project. While there are many types of tools available at all different price points, this article will help you to understand the essential tools that you must have to get started. Later, as your skills improve, you may want to expand your inventory of tools, but these are the ones that you’ll definitely need to begin with.
Where to Buy Tools
Before we start describing tools that you’ll need, let’s discuss the best place to find tools. For the most part, the best place to get tools is the place that you have access to. If you are lucky enough to live in an area where there are many home improvement stores, hardware stores and/or woodworking supply shops, then you’ll want to choose the one that provides the most help for you. If your local home improvement center is staffed with knowledgeable and helpful people, then that is a great place to start with your tool selection. While you may pay a little more for a tool at a specialty woodworking store, the staff there are usually woodworking experts and the knowledge they provide can more than make up for any additional cost of the equipment.
If you have access to a local hardware store, start there when choosing your tools. A local resource can be invaluable when you have questions or get stuck on a project. If you don’t have a huge variety of stores close to you, don’t worry, you can get a ton of helpful information (and purchase tools) from the Internet. From your favorite search engine start with searching for “woodworking tools”. I found over 2,000,000 results when I searched that term. There are great online woodworking stores such as WoodCraft, Rockler, Micro-Mark and Highland Woodworking. Through the Internet you can also access the home improvement warehouses such as Lowe’s and Home Depot.
Now that you have a good idea of where to purchase your first tools, let’s cover which ones you should start with. If you’ve ever watched a professional woodworker or seen a woodworking television program, you’ve likely seen all kinds of fancy (and expensive) power tools. Although these types of tools are very useful and can help make short work of a woodworking project, they are not required when getting started.
When you first start out, you’ll need to be able to do some basic things… measure, cut and attach. Let’s review some small power tools and hand tool options that can assist us with these tasks:
- Tape Measure – When measuring wood a simple tape measure is our first essential tool. Tape measures come in many sizes, shapes and colors. When choosing a tape measure, find one that fits your work style. For example, make sure it has a belt clip or can fit in your tool belt.
- Combination Square – At some point, you’ll need to measure angles. A combination square is a great choice here. A combination square has a ruled blade (ruler) attached to an angled head. Typically this head is used to mark 45 or 90 degree angles. There are many types of combination squares, so choose the one that has the features that you think you’ll want. Some include a protractor for measuring additional angles and a level for approximating level surfaces.
- Circular Saw – A simple circular saw is used to cut straight lines. Choose one that fits your budget. Some offer a cutting guide to help you cut perfectly straight lines.
- Jig Saw – Eventually you’ll need to cut something other than a straight line. For this purpose a jig saw is great. It allows you to cut curves quickly and easily. Again, choose the model that fits your budget best.
- Router – A router is a tool that is infinitely useful, but not absolutely essential when getting started. A router is a versatile power tool. It uses interchangeable bits and can be used to cut, shape and finish wood pieces. If you don’t start with a router, you’ll soon see that getting one will make your life much easier.
- Block Plane – Once wood is cut, you’ll likely want to shape and smooth it. Sandpaper works well for this purpose, but a block plane typically is a better choice. A block plane can take sharp edges off of a cut piece or it can help level a piece of wood. This inexpensive tool is a great way to make your wood look professionally finished.
Attaching / Assembling
Now that you’ve cut your wood pieces, you’ll need to put them together. There are many ways to assemble wood and each has it’s place. At a minimum, you’ll want the following:
- Cordless Drill – A cordless drill is a universally useful tool. It is used for screwing things together and for drilling holes of all sizes. You’ll find that you reach for your cordless drill over and over again during your woodworking projects. There are various sizes and strengths of cordless drill available. Look for an 18-volt drill as they have more power and the batteries typically last longer. Consider purchasing an extra battery so you can always have a spare charged and ready.
- Clamps – When assembling wood, you’ll typically use glue to hold pieces together. While the glue is drying, clamps are essential to hold pieces firmly together at the correct angles. You’ll want to get 6-10 clamps of varying sizes to get started.
- Glue – When joining wood together, glue is a terrific way to hold joints tightly together. Choose a bottle of yellow woodworkers glue for this purpose.
- Sanding Block or Sander – A sanding block is a manual tool use to smooth wood. It works well, but can be a real drain of your energy. Consider an electric sander to help you finish your pieces to a smooth finish. Orbital sanders are inexpensive and work very well.
- Hammer – A basic hammer is very useful. While you won’t nail many pieces together, this tool will come in handy more often than you think. Choose a 16 oz claw hammer to get started.
- Screw Driver Set – You’ll need a basic set of Phillips and flat-head screwdrivers. Many projects involve screwing pieces together. Just a basic screwdriver set will be fine for most woodworkers.
Take your time and choose these tools for your workshop. Picking good quality tools will make your woodworking projects more enjoyable, safer and more fun. As your skills develop, you may want to expand your tool collection, but you’ll be able to build many, many projects with just the tools listed in this article.