See all of the essential tools you need to get started with woodworking – and how to save money.
Most new woodworkers radically over-buy when it comes to tools.
That’s mainly because they don’t know which projects they may want to start on first.
You’d be amazed at how few tools you actually need.
And, you’ll want to know which combos to look for, plus which ones to avoid.
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ALWAYS keep safety top of mind when you are in the shop.
You’ll want to protect all the holes in your head too!
That includes your ears, eyes, and nose.
I like ear muffs even more than ear plugins.
Single ear plugs get lost. And the ones with the string around your neck can fall into things when you bend over.
Plus, all ear plugs can get ear wax on them, and then saw dust can stick to them, and then you’re putting that into your ear. Yuck!
And that’s one more reason I like ear muffs better.
But get the one that best suits your needs.
Safety Glasses or Googles
Even if you wear glasses, you still need more protection than they give you.
Wood chips can fly in from the top and the sides.
And you want something to protect your expensive lenses too.
Safety glasses should cover you all the way around your eyes.
But if you have trouble wearing two sets of glasses, maybe try goggles.
This is not an essential piece of safety gear, but I really like it better than anything else when I’m throwing a lot of saw dust – like when I’m cutting plywood on the floor.
It keeps all the dust off my face and neck, and from going down my shirt too!
We all know it’s not good for our sinuses or our lungs to breath in saw dust.
But breathing in toxic dust is even worse.
Any type of engineered wood material is going to have toxic substances.
The worst are:
- Particle board
- Pressure treated
Wear a dust mask any time you are cutting!!
A 3M mask will keep out most of it.
But an RZ mask has micron filters that will keep it all out. And I hear they don’t fog up your glasses either.
Measure and Mark
THE most common things you will do on ALL woodworking projects is measure and mark.
Don’t skimp on these tools.
Get a good one.
Ensure the tape is wide and has a good bow to it.
That will ensure it lays flat over longer distances.
Ensure it has a super spring to recoil itself.
And consider getting a bright color so you can easily find it.
These things are practically indestructible.
And the lead makes a nice dark, thick line that you can easily see.
They are super easy to sharpen with just a few strokes from a utility knife.
When you need to do more than draw a mark, then you’ll want to ensure you have a straight line.
That’s one of the most common uses of a speed square.
It has a lip on it so you can anchor one side to the edge of your wood piece and draw a straight, perpendicular line, or a quick 45 degree line.
A speed square also makes a super guide for doing straight cuts with a circular saw, like cross cutting a 2×4.
You’ll definitely find the little ones the most handy.
Less expensive ones are made of hard plastic.
But metal ones will last longer and stay true to square.
Pocket Hole Joinery
Pocket holes are a super secure way to join boards.
And the Kreg jigs make it easy to create them.
For folks new to woodworking, you’ll find LOTS of tutorials and plans that call for pocket holes.
You’ll want a K4 or K5 for sure.
You may also want to get a K3, instead of taking your K4 apart, so that you can easily place pocket holes in larger pieces with ease.
READ: Kreg Jig K3 and K4 How To, Cheat Sheet, and Tips for details on getting started with Kreg Jigs.
And you’ll also need a Kreg clamp to secure it to your bench.
Those clamps come in both short and long arm.
There are plenty of starter screw kits.
But you’re not likely to use most of the screws in it.
The two Kreg screws you’ll use the most are:
I buy those in tubs of 50 or 100.
Look for a combo starter kit, and then purchase what else you may need as you need it.
At the very least, get a K4 and a clamp and the two screw sizes mentioned above and you’ll be good to go.
There is no such thing as too many clamps.
How many ever you have, you’ll want 2 more!
I really like the Irwin Quick Grip Clamps.
They make it so easy for me to clamp things with just one hand.
Start out with a 4 pack of 2 short and 2 long.
If you can get 2 of these 4 packs, all the better.
Following are the must-have power tools every woodworker needs.
These come in 2 sizes:
The 5-1/2” saw is much lighter.
I love mine and mainly use it to safely cut plywood.
A 2×4 is about the max thickness a 5-1/2” saw can handle. So, if you’ll be cutting 4×4 posts, then this may not be the saw for you.
There are plenty of different blades for the 5-1/2” saw, but you may not be able to find them at your local hardware store. Be sure to look online for them.
The 7-1/4” saw is more powerful and can make deeper cuts.
But, it also uses up more battery power doing it. You really do need a heftier battery to keep the motor revved up when you’re cutting through thick plywood, or for cutting very long.
And you’ll likely find plenty of different blades available at your local hardware store.
I prefer having two drills.
It’s so much easier than constantly changing out bits to do things like drill pocket hole screws then drive them in. Or drill a pilot hole and then drive a screw.
The impact driver shown above is not one of the starter tools I think you need right away, just shown so you can recognize the difference.
Power Tool Combos
It will be cheaper for you to get a combo with at least a circular saw and drill. (You’ll save even more if you get more tools in the combo.)
But be sure to check the size of the circular saw and ensure it fits your cutting needs.
Also be careful to check that you have two drills instead of a drill and an impact driver.
I love my impact driver, but the better buy would be two drills. Or a combo that only has one drill and then buy a separate drill later.
You can also buy just a tool without a battery and charger and that will be cheaper.
Be sure to check online, as many hardware stores don’t carry just the tool alone.
You’ll want to do a little research and see which type of sander will work best for you.
I find a palm sander (that just vibrates) to be the best all-around choice.
An orbital sander will take off a little more surface at a time, but it could also leave swirl marks.
But, an orbital sander is the best for buffing a finished surface.
Following are the extra things you’ll need to get going in your shop.
When looking at power tool combos, also check how many batteries and chargers that combo comes with.
There will likely be either one less battery than tools, or one less charger than batteries.
If you have to buy an additional battery, get a 4ah type for your circular saw.
It has more power and lasts longer.
A small set of standard/common drill bit sizes will do you for getting started.
Get a good set – like steel or carbide.
They will keep their cutting edge longer.
You’ll need to make pilot holes now and then, especially for construction screws.
Now, my Impact Driver will sink a construction screw into pine without the need to make a countersink.
Put you don’t always want to use that much driving force.
A good countersink bit will last you years.
READ: Pilot Holes: Why to Use the Right Drill Bit and Countersink for more details on why this is so important.
Following are the driver bits I use the most.
I have a variety of lengths, but find those that are 4”-5” are the most useful.
- Straight/Phillips driver bit (one on each end)
- Or just a Phillips driver bit
- Square driver bit for Kreg pocket hole screws
- Star driver bit for construction screws (these screws are WAY better than regular wood screws for building things like benches)
My Makita 10” Sliding, Compound Mitre Saw is the workhorse in my shop.
I had a cheap mitre saw once. It was a complete waste of money.
It was hard to make square and keep it that way.
And honestly, if a mitre saw does not cut squarely, it’s useless.
The Makita 10” saw can cut 12” boards. That’s great for making shelving. Most 10” mitre saws can’t cut that width.
It also bevels, so I can make any type of angle cut I need, including compound angles, like a 60 degree cut that has an inside bevel. You need that to make cuts for a hexagon. And you need a compound cut for making stars and such too.
This saw does it all.
I have a table saw but rarely use it because I can cut just about anything I need with this mitre saw and my circular saw.
Go Get Woodworking!
With these essential shop tools, you should be set to build all kinds of things!
Visit my Shop Tools page to see all of the tools I use and recommend.