Start building today with these 10 must-have woodworking tools for beginners! Learn what basic tools you need, why you need them, and what to buy first.
Must-Have Woodworking Tools for Beginners
Beginners often want to know “what tools should I buy for woodworking?” or “what tools should every woodworker have?” Today, I’m sharing the 10 essential tools that I use the most for my DIY projects and building DIY furniture.
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Table of Contents
- My Take on Buying Woodworking Tools
- Which Woodworking Tools Should I Buy First?
- 10 Must-Have Woodworking Tools for Beginners
- Where to Buy Woodworking Tools
- My Complete List of Woodworking Tools
- How to Organize Tools
- More Like This
My Take on Buying Woodworking Tools
I shared my thoughts on buying tools on the Start Here page. This is what I said:
I believe tools are an investment just like buying a house or investing in a 401k plan. We should invest in the best tools our budget will allow. But I’m not suggesting for you to max out your credit card.
What I am suggesting is, sometimes it’s best to save until you have the money to get the best tool that your budget will allow. Do research, read reviews, ask fellow DIYers for their recommendations and then weigh your options.
Think about it this way. Tool “A” is cheap, but the reviewers say it isn’t durable and won’t last very long. Tool “B” is a little more expensive but will last forever. For me, tool “A” is a waste of money, so I’m going to save and buy tool “B”.
I’ve been disappointed every time that I focused on the budget over quality. When my research told me I needed a more expensive tool, but I skimped saying to myself “this will do”, hands down I always regretted not going with the quality tool. The bottom line is to buy the best tool your budget will allow.
Which Woodworking Tools Should I Buy First?
One of the questions beginners often ask is “which tools should I buy first?” or “what order should I buy woodworking tools?” It’s a question I asked when I wanted to get into woodworking.
To answer this question I’m going to share with you the tools I use the most. I use many of them on every project that I build.
I put the list below in the order that I recommend buying the tools. I’ve included explanations about why I think you need the tool and a quick overview of how to use it. I’ve also included related links to posts with helpful tips and tricks about using the tool.
Wikipedia describes personal protective equipment or PPE as “protective clothing, helmets, goggles, or other garments or equipment designed to protect the wearer’s body from injury or infection.”
I’ve included personal protective equipment on my list of woodworking tools because we need to use it EVERY TIME we use a tool. No exceptions. No excuses.
Here’s the analogy I think about when it comes to personal protective equipment. When I took a training course to get my motorcycle license the instructor said: “If it’s too hot to wear safety gear then it’s too hot to ride!”
This statement has stuck with me for years. Here’s my advice to you. If you can’t be bothered to wear PPE then don’t bother DIYing!”
Using tools without PPE can be dangerous to our eyes, ears, and lungs. This means we need to protect our eyes with safety glasses, our ears with hearing protection and our lungs with a quality respirator.
2. Tape Measure
One of the basic tools every beginner needs is a tape measure. We’ll use the tape measure for everything from measuring the length, width, and thickness of a board to checking an assembly for square.
The Stanely FatMax is my go-to tape measure. It’s accurate and I like the way the rounded case fits in my hand.
The Kreg Multi-Mark is a handy must-have tool for beginners. I have two of them in my workshop. That’s how handy it is!
I use the Multi-Mark on nearly every furniture project I build. It’s great for making repetitive measurements, marking the locations for cuts, marking spots to drill pilot holes, setting the depth of a saw blade or router bit, plus much more.
4. Power Drill
A drill is a great starter power tool for beginners. We can use it for everything from home improvement projects to assembling DIY furniture. We’ll use it often to drill holes, drive screws and more.
Drills are available both cordless and corded. Cordless drills use batteries and corded drills need to be connected to an outlet.
I started with a cordless drill as a beginner, but later on, I added a corded drill to my woodworking tool collection.
Nothing beats the convenience of a cordless drill. It can be used just about anywhere because it’s not limited by the length of an electrical cord.
I use a DeWALT cordless drill to assemble all of my projects. It features an easy to use keyless chuck and it’s super durable. I can’t count the number of times I’ve dropped it on the floor and it’s still going. Right now I’m using the 18-volt version, but I would like to upgrade to this 20-volt version in the future.
Related: DIY Cordless Drill Storage Rack
5. Miter Saw
A miter saw is an essential tool for beginners. It’s an easy and accurate way for us to cut boards to length. I use my miter saw to cut the parts for every furniture project that I build.
Miter Saw Cuts
There are two common cuts we’ll make with our miter saw. Those are crosscuts and miter cuts. A crosscut is made at a 90-degree angle across the grain of the wood or across the width of a board. A miter cut is made at an angle across the grain of the wood or across the width of a board.
From time to time we’ll make bevel cuts and compound miter cuts. A bevel cut is an angled cut made on the edge of a board. A bevel cut changes the profile of the wood. A compound miter cut combines a miter cut and a bevel cut. Compound miter cuts are needed to install crown molding.
Types of Miter Saws
There are two types of miter saws. A compound miter saw and a sliding miter saw.
A compound miter saw can make crosscuts, miter cuts, bevel cuts, and compound cuts. Some compound miter saws are single compound, in other words, it only cuts a bevel in one direction. Other miter saws are dual compound and can cut bevels in both directions.
A sliding miter saw can make the same cuts as a compound miter saw. The difference between a compound miter saw and a sliding miter saw is the saw blade of a sliding miter saw is on rails which allows it to cut much wider widths of wood. A sliding miter saw is great for cutting large width boards like 1x12s.
My recommendation for beginners is to start with a compound miter saw. This way we can upgrade to a sliding miter saw as our skills increase. Then, our compound saw will become our secondary saw. It will be the saw we can use for outdoor projects and the saw we can take to a buddy’s house to help with home improvement projects.
6. Kreg Jig
A Kreg Jig or pocket hole jig is an easy way for both beginners and advanced DIYers to join pieces of wood together. I use my Kreg Jig for nearly every project I build. In fact, I created an entire directory for pocket hole joinery. It’s loaded with helpful posts about pocket hole jigs, pocket hole joints, and tips for troubleshooting pocket holes.
A Kreg Jig uses a guide block with preset holes to drill angled pocket holes into a workpiece. A pocket screw, specifically designed to be used with pocket holes draws the two workpieces together to form a strong joint.
My recommendation for beginners is to start with the Kreg Jig Mini or the Kreg Jig R3. The great thing about these pocket hole jigs is that they will grow with us. Even if we upgrade to a Kreg Jig K4 or a Kreg Jig K5 our Mini or R3 won’t get tossed aside. We’ll still use it for repairs. Or when we forget to drill a pocket hole and our project is already assembled.
Or maybe we’ll mount our Kreg Jig K4 or Kreg Jig K5 to our workbench and use our Mini or R3 for outdoor projects. We can also keep our Mini or R3 in our toolbox so we can take it with us when we’re helping a buddy with a DIY project.
The bottom line is the Mini or R3 are both good investments. We’ll still use them even if we upgrade to a new pocket hole jig in the future.
DIYers at any skill level need an assortment of clamps. Clamps are essential for assembling projects. They hold assemblies in place while the glue is drying. They also prevent boards from moving as we drive pocket screws.
It’s helpful to have an assortment of clamps in various lengths. I typically use clamps in pairs, so I usually buy two clamps at a time. The sizes I use the most are 6”, 16”, 24” and 36”.
Sanding smooths rough wood and prepares it for applying finishes like paint or stain. We can sand by hand but that is time-consuming. And it can be tough on our hands. A random orbital sander or ROS is a quick, easy way to smooth wood. I’ve had this Porter Cable sander for more than ten years and it’s still going strong!
9. Table Saw
I use my miter saw the most immediately followed by my table saw. The common types of cuts we make with our table saw are rip cuts and crosscuts. A rip cut is made with the grain of the wood or along the length of the board. A crosscut is made across the grain of the wood or across the width of the board.
A table saw it is a great tool if we want the width of a board to be narrower. Let’s look at a 1×6. A 1×6 actually measures ¾” thick and 5-½” wide. And let’s say we need a board that measures ¾” x 5”.
We can use our table saw to change the width of the board. All we have to do is adjust the rip fence of the table saw to 5” and rip the 1×6 so it was 5” wide.
Related: Beginner’s Guide to Table Saw Safety
10. Circular Saw
I don’t use my circular saw nearly as much as I use my miter saw and table saw. I’ve included it on the list of tools for beginners because it’s a useful saw to have on hand. It’s great for cutting large panels or sheets of plywood.
If we need to make some short crosscuts or miter cuts I recommend making this DIY circular saw crosscut guide. It’s a great little tool for making straight accurate cuts with a circular saw. I made mine with some pieces of scrap plywood. That means this project was quick, easy and free!
Right now I’m using an 18-volt DeWALT circular saw, but I would like to upgrade to this 20-volt version in the future.
Where to Buy Woodworking Tools
We can buy tools at our local big box home improvement store. We can also buy them online and have them shipped to our home. Used tools can be purchased from places like craigslist.
My Complete List of Woodworking Tools
I’m often asked what tools and products I use so I put together a list of things I use regularly in my workshop.
Most of the tools and products listed on the page are affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission if you purchase an item using one of these links. There is no cost to you for using these links. Thank you so much for your support!
Skate over to the Tools I Use page here.
How to Organize Tools
OK, we have our tools. Now what? Now it’s time to get our tools organized!
In the How to Organize Tools in a Small Workshop post, I’m sharing 5 simple steps to get your tools organized. We’ll look at ways to store hand and power tools and how to keep them organized once and for all.
Skate over to How to Organize Tools in a Small Workshop or watch this quick video!
Beginners often want to know “what tools should I buy for woodworking?” or “what tools should every woodworker have?” The 10 must-have woodworking tools I recommend for beginners are personal protective equipment, tape measure, Multi-Mark, power drill, miter saw, Kreg Jig, sander, clamps, table saw and a circular saw.
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