Last Updated on 2021-02-23 by Harry Masterton
The complete essential woodworking tools for beginners 30 plus hand and power tool list and mega beginners buying guide. Everything you need to get started.
So, you have decided to enter into the woodworking hobby, now what? For many novices, discovering the essential woodworking tools for beginners is a great place to start.
A simple glance at the isles of your local big-box store is not going to answer, “What tools do I need to get started in woodworking?” You will be overwhelmed by the selection of hand tools, corded power tools, and even battery-powered tools for sale.
Essential Woodworking Tools For Beginners – Getting Started
Woodworking, like other hobbies, will require an investment of time, energy, and money. Luckily, the essential woodworking tools for beginners does not include everything that manufacturers or retailers suggest. Many projects, including simple ones intended for novices, usually require a handful of simple tools.
Essential woodworking tools for beginners that you will purchase fall into categories based on:
- Your Budget
- The brand
- Tool types
Money May Not Buy Happiness, But It Does Buy Your Tools
It should be no surprise that your budget affects the answer to, “What tools do I need to get started in woodworking?” Most hobbyists have limited resources when they first start woodworking. Even if money is not an issue, you might not want to spend a lot until you are sure that woodworking is right for you.
Your budget will determine how you approach buying tools. If you have the money, stocking your workshop with all of the tools you will potentially need can provide access to projects you might not consider otherwise. A well-stocked tool chest can also save you time, helping you to complete a task more quickly.
Many of us start with limited funds, meaning that we get tools as we need them. The advantage here is that you get only the tools you truly need, and you learn how to become creative when using them. Most basic woodworking tools are purchased this way.
Just Like In The Old West, Branding Can Indicate Quality
It will not take you long to see that some brands have a reputation for quality, while others are known as budget-friendly tools. You want to stock your shop with the best woodworking tools that your money can buy, but it might be hard to pass up on a bargain.
Brand names catering to big-box chains like Husky and Pittsburgh provide simple designs that will not break the bank. The smaller price tag allows you to build up your tool collection quickly. The tradeoff is that many bargain brands use shortcuts in materials and designs that affect a tool's function or durability.
When possible, shop for top brand names like Bosch, DeWalt, Milwaukee, and others. The larger price tag includes well-built designs with greater power and versatility (which can save you money in the long-run).
Using Your Hands, Batteries, And Outlets To Power Your Tools
Traditional hand-held tools often come with small price tags, and they offer excellent control. It takes time to master them, though, and hand tools are slower.
Corded power tools are a popular selection for beginners. These tools get a job done quickly and are easy to master. They require cords and may be limited to where they work.
Cordless tools have come a long way, and many of today's models provide ample power that you can use almost anywhere. You will spend more on battery-powered products, especially if they are your first ones.
Beginner Woodworking Tool Set – Hand Tools
For many, the essential woodworking tools for beginners are hand tools. Many traditional tool designs for today's woodworking market cater to both amateur and professionals. You can find hand tools out of production (or are hard to find in certain areas).
A beginner woodworking tool set requires items that can:
Making Marks Accurately
All woodworking projects require you to measure materials, mark points for cutting and drilling, as well as marking surface conditions. Pencils and pens are the choices for most rough work. However, many traditional woodworkers prefer the accuracy provided by a marking knife.
A straight-edge, ruler, or square will help you produce straight lines across the lumber and locate distances. A tape measure can also be useful, but most projects will not challenge its maximum length (although it is good to use around the house).
Sawing For Success
Most standard saws allow you to crosscut and rip cut your board. More traditional designs may specialize in either cut. Smaller hand saws also specialize in cuts, as a tenon saw or dovetail saw.
Twisting The Night Away
It was not that long ago that your grandparents were turning drill bits by hand. Traditional “eggbeater” drills use a crank to twist bits, while an auger drill uses the entire shaft to turn larger spade bits through the wood.
Putting It All Together
Your beginner woodworking tool set would not be complete without essential items like the hammer. It can drive fasteners into your timber, and many designs include tail sections for removing existing nails or other objects from below the surface.
Smoothing It Out
Finally, your beginner woodworking toolset should contain sanding blocks or sticks, along with applicators for stains and protective coatings. You will improve the look of your projects by mastering these simple finishing tools.
Must Have Woodworking Tools For Beginners
You should start with essential woodworking tools for beginners that will cover your needs for simple projects that match your current skill level. The nice thing is, the following tools will still be handy to use as you improve with more complex builds:
- Bench or Portable Workbench
- Measuring tape/folding rule
- Marking gauge
- Hand saw
- Miter block
- Drill and bits
- Hand plane
- Sharpening materials
You will find it impossible to complete many woodworking projects without a work surface. One of the must have woodworking tools for beginners will be a woodworking bench.
If you have limited funds and space, a portable bench comes with a smaller price tag and can break down when not being used. Many styles are available that provide adequate weight support and stability.
A full-sized bench is a centerpiece for most shops, and it is a tool that can serve you for the life of your hobby. It handles almost anything that you can cut, drill, or fasten on it.
A bench will hold objects and free you up to safely use your tools.
If you’re starting out with a portable workbench and that would fit with the space and budget you have right now then take a look at our portable workbench reviews
Measuring Tape And Folding ruler
If you are building a collection of essential woodworking tools for beginners, you will need a tool that measures lengths to mark cut or hole locations.
The folding rule is more compact and easy to use with one hand. It has a much shorter measuring range, but it will be adequate for all but the longest of boards.
A tape measure marks points on longer boards, and today's spring-loaded tapes are easy to use in the shop. You may find it useful outside of the shop as well, using it to measure gaps and spaces around your home.
You can find our complete rundown and measuring tapes and folding ruler review here
A woodworking square is one of those tools that you did not know you needed until you use it. It allows you to draw lines at an angle from an edge, including perpendicular cut lines. Using a T-square, carpenter's square, or a combination square accurately marks 90-degree angles from an edge of your lumber.
Combination squares and adjustable squares will allow you to make angled marks from an edge, including 45-degree angles used with beginner projects like picture frames.
Many starting woodworkers find a combination square the best, to begin with, as it provides accurate 45 and 90-degree angles.
Woodworking Marking Gauge
If you are new to woodworking, the marking gauge is an essential tool for accurate layout when you start to make woodworking joints and those first tentative cuts.
The woodworking marking gauge allows you to marks lines on the wood's surface using a blade or needle. A guide provides consistent distance from the marking edge by butting up to it as you move the tool.
Many traditional woodworkers use a marking gauge to place a cut line in the wood grain. These reference lines can indicate a depth for planning or function as a saw blade guide for cuts.
It is easier to use across the grain than it is with it, as the needle or blade wants to follow the grain instead of the reference edge.
Woodworking marking gauges are also available with two marking pins to enable you to mark out parallel lines for applications like mortice and tenon joints.
Woodworking Hand Saw
Another must have woodworking tools for a beginner is a woodworking hand saw. Most modern designs are disposable, providing a cheap way to begin cutting that does not require sharpening or other maintenance.
Older hand saws, or some modern designs, can be re-sharpened. They are often designated as a crosscut saw or as a rip saw. These are usually more expensive, but they will last a lifetime (or more).
A tenon saw for your beginning tool collection is a must. Projects like boxes, chests, and cabinets can make use of tenon joinery. The tenon saw is more compact and works well for making these repeated cuts quickly and accurately.
Miter Box or Miter Block
A tool that you may overlook when you’re starting out in woodworking is the miter box. It provides accuracy when making cuts into thin stock, like building lumber or crown molding. These are popular materials to use when making picture frames, boxes, and shop jigs.
Most designs provide support for 45 and 90-degree cuts. Commercial products are available, but a miter block is one of the more popular woodworking shop aids that beginners can make.
Choosing to buy a miter box and saw which combines a tenon saw and miter box together is a great budget first purchase as a beginner woodworker.
There are plenty of cheaper beginner woodworking chisel sets available that provide you with several sizes to get you started. You can also spend more on individual chisels. These usually hold a better edge that will last longer as you work.
Hammer and Mallet
Another essential woodworking tools for beginners is the hammer and a mallet. You will find an endless number of uses for hammers and mallets in your woodworking shop. Placing and removing fasteners or adjusting partially clamped boards are just a couple of shop examples.
A good mallet is essential when you’re using your chisels to make sure you don’t damage the handle. Your hammer can break down pallets or other scraps as well.
Woodworking Drill and Drill Bits
Many projects will require you to make holes in your wood. A drill can make pilot holes to prevent fasteners from splitting the wood as it penetrates. Many woodworkers drill holes for wood dowels to provide extra hold along joined edges.
Eggbeater drills use a handle that turns gears to rotate the bit. A brace drill uses a bent shaft that rotates along a handhold to provide the rotation for larger auger bits.
Hand-powered drills can be efficient and fast, but they do take some getting used to so that you can keep them straight and not blow-out on the backside of your board.
The hand planer has been around for centuries. They are used to adjust boards to a determined thickness and to smooth edges and faces on your woodworking projects.
There are cheap models available, but you will have to do some work to get the best out of a hand planer. You should spend money here to get a good hand planer that is easy to operate. Quality hand planers use blade sets that hold edges better and can adjust to the task at hand. An electric hand planer is also a great addition to your woodworking power tools list as you skills and project ambitions grow.
Diamond stones, water stones, or even mounted sandpaper can sharpen blades. Files are available to repair saw teeth also.
Later on as your skills and woodworking projects develop you will want to consider a bench grinder for woodworking to keep your chisels, plane knives and drill bits sharp and in tip top condition.
What Order Should I Buy Woodworking Tools
- Tape Measure/Folding Rule
- Marking Knife/Marking Gauge
- Hand Saw
- Corded Drill
- Jigsaw/Circular Saw
- Router Or Sander
- Benchtop Tools
- Specialty Tools/Tool Sets
You will use some of the essential woodworking tools for beginners more often than others.
Tape Measure and Folding Rule
No matter what you do in your woodworking shop, your measuring tools are necessary for each woodworking project. If you are unsure what order to buy woodworking tools in, your tape measure or folding rule is the place to start.
Marking Knife And Marking Gauge
A marking knife and marking gauge will also make your woodworking projects simpler and these essential woodworking tools for beginners should be an early purchase.
Cutting It All Up
A hand saw is an essential tool for beginner woodworkers and DIY’ers, and you should buy and get used to using a decent rip saw and tenon saw before buying a coded or cordless circular saw.
When you’re looking to make a quick cut across a board or panel a rip saw is the woodworking tool of choice.
For straight or angled cuts in smaller lumber and moldings then a tenon saw with your miter block will do a neat job.
Hammer It Home
A mallet is something that you need from the start. It provides power to drive fasteners or chisels. The mallet should not mark your wood, though.
Having a claw hammer is almost a must if you’re doing a lot of DIY. A metal design that includes a claw or other prying tail will add to its versatility.
Woodworking Power Tools – Corded Or Cordless?
A corded power drill or even a budget friendly cordless power drill is a logical first woodworking power tool purchase.
It is easy to use and faster than any hand-powered egg beater type drill. Models that use a 3/8-inch chuck are cheap, and the 1/2-inch chuck designs are not as expensive as you might think.
Your second power tool when deciding what order to buy woodworking tools in will likely be a saw. Jigsaws are a cutting tool that offers you a turning radius that you just cannot achieve with a hand saw.
Woodworkers who tend to work with construction lumber may find a circular saw worth buying at this time. Your skill and project interest will also justify buying a square now.
We have a complete review of every woodworking power tool you could every want for your woodworking shop. There are links to in-depth reviews of each power tool category in both coded and cordless versions. You will find that comprehensive rundown here. Woodworking Power Tools feature article
The Woodworkers Bench
Your next purchase after these initial tools should be a good solid work surface. Buying a bench will allow you to move beyond simple projects, providing a stable work surface that you can clamp, cut, and drill on.
Once you have a bench, you should invest in some clamps or possibly a woodworking vise. Check that your clamps have protective grips so that they do not leave marks on your lumber as you work with them.
If you’re using a simple and sturdy bench or solid table without a vise or space is limited because you are setting up a small woodworking shop then consider the Sjobergs Portable Smart Vise or the Sjobergs Smart Workstation Pro.
One of the many excellent portable workbenches or folding portable work table is also a great alternative if space is an issue.
Stepping It Up – Expanding Your Woodworking Power Tools List
Investing in a hand router and sander after a bench will open up many joinery and finishing techniques.
Now that you have a work table or bench, you can consider stepping up to bigger items. Many benchtop designs are available for drills, planes, joiners, and other woodworking tools.
Finally, consider adding specialty tools after buying benchtop designs of tools that you will use regularly. Miter saws, scroll saws, table saws, and drill presses are worth adding to your wish list.
And what a wish list that can turn out to be!
Not only will they improve your enjoyment, quality of work and the type of woodworking but more advanced benchtop woodworking power tools will enable you to tackle more advanced projects as your skills grow.
You should also start to thinking about buying sets of essential woodworking tools for beginners, such as a collection of woodworking chisels and a couple of decent hand planes.
Beginners should start with a smoothing plane and a low angle jack plane. The number 4 smoothing plane is a really great place to start with a great combination of length and width for most beginner woodworking projects.
Woodworking Power Tools For Beginners
Power tools will make up most, if not all, of the items on your list of essential woodworking tools for beginners. Like hand tools, power tools for beginning woodworking come in a variety of designs that target:
There are two ways you can go when you’re planing your woodworking power tools list. You can go the budget route initially or future proof your purchases by buying higher quality woodworking power tools from the outset.
Buying budget woodworking power tools now will mean frustration as your skills grow and the additional cost of buying professional quality woodworking power tools later.
Future Proofing Your Woodworking Power Tools
It’s a mantra we often stress here at the Woodworking Hobby Shop which is stretch your budget now to buy the best possible woodworking power tools you can afford and they will last you for years to come and your desire to take more complex woodworking projects won’t outgrow the tools in your shop.
So having said that lets take a closer look at which budget woodworking power tools to buy.
Budget Woodworking Power Tools
Many of the woodworking power tools for beginners are budget-friendly. These essential woodworking tools for beginners use simple designs that lack lots of operating versatility and are made and designed to a price.
The tool housing will be made of cheaper materials that offer minimal protection. You have fewer adjustment capabilities with many of these designs. Most power tools for beginning woodworking lack add-ons like laser guides or work lights (although newer models are beginning to offer extras like these as well).
Upgrades are available within the same manufacturer's line up for some popular woodworking power tools, like power drills or circular saws. Top-tier brands such as DeWalt, Milwaukee, Bosch and Makita usually provide the best design elements in all of their power tool products.
Power is how most of the electric tools are rated. Essential woodworking tools for beginners often sell as compact designs with slightly smaller electronic motors. These motors are standard, but you can upgrade to brushless designs or proprietary models that offer increased Amperage due to their build.
Woodworking Power Tools For Beginners
Power tools for beginning woodworking perform specific tasks. For example, an entry-level miter saw provides you with a circular saw blade that can cut miters on the end of boards at various angles. Versatility is added to professional-grade tools by increased motion, such as providing a sliding bar or additional adjustments to make compound cuts at both left and right angles.
Woodworking power tools for beginners might include fewer adjustments for speed or other performance parameters. Single-speed motors work well for simple projects, but the ability to work at various speed settings allows more control when working with different board thickness, grain density, and blade or drill bit size.
You can sacrifice ergonomics, accessories, or tool coverage with woodworking power tools for beginners as well. Most of these things are unnecessary as you are first starting your woodworking and DIY journey.
Best Power Tools For Home DIY
The best power tools for home DIY focus on characteristics such as small form factor and lightweight. Power tools for DIY homeowners by brands such as Black & Decker, Craftsman, or Ryobi will offer compact designs that do not take up a lot of room and are ideal for the small woodworking shop.
These make great introductory tools and serve you well for projects outside of your woodshop around the home and yard.
The list of essential woodworking tools for beginners can take advantage of the lightweight tools, which many novice and the female woodworkers and DIY’ers amongst us will find more comfortable to operate versus robust designs intended for continuous use in shops or job sites.
Smaller cordless models also make some of the best power tools for home DIY projects. Advances in battery pack designs mean that the Lithium-Ion products sold today last longer than those sold even a couple of years ago.
That can be an advantage in your woodshop, where one charge can last you a day or more before having to swap batteries. There are few, if any, reasons for not going cordless with today's power tools for DIY homeowners.
Power Drill – Power Drill Driver – Corded or Cordless
The power drill will quickly make holes in your wood, and it makes the list of woodworking power tools for beginners as no other power tool performs this task other than the bench press drill.
A drill driver is worth considering if you plan to use lots of fasteners like screws on your projects. The driver provides ample torque control, allowing you to drive long-threaded screws while running at lower RPMs. Your increased control will help prevent splits and blowouts on the backside of your timber while keeping the fastener straight.
Got a deck of shed to build? Then the power drill/driver is an essential DIY power tool.
Corded models have the advantage of consistent power output, while the cordless models can be used almost anywhere without the need for an extension cord and outlet.
Circular Saw – Corded or Cordless
The circular is an upgrade to hand saws in both speed and efficiency. The rotating blade chews through material quickly, which is especially handy when making lots of rip cuts.
The tool's efficiency is why it makes the list of woodworking power tools for beginners. Circular saws can be adjusted to cut at angles, allowing you to create a bevel cut. Unlike hand saws, the saw blade will maintain the same bevel angle across the board's edge.
Corded designs are cheaper, and they can provide increased motor size with higher-end models. Many cordless models have a range that cuts through construction lumber, which is a material that most beginners will use.
Jigsaw – Corded or Cordless
The reciprocating action of the jigsaw makes it one of the better power tools for beginner woodworking. Its blade has a limited range of movement, making it safer to use for novices and younger woodworkers alike.
A stand out feature for the jigsaw is its turn radius. The jigsaw can cut curves, unlike the circular or table saws that cut straight. A thin blade and the perpendicular movement take up less room than a spinning circular blade design.
Corded jigsaws are often one of the cheapest power tools you will find. Battery-powered versions of the jigsaw can be small and lightweight, as the jigsaw is built for thinner cuts on wooden stock and paneling materials
Detail Sander – Corded or Cordless
You might be surprised to find the detail sander on the list of woodworking power tools for beginners. It does offer you the ability to sand surfaces that larger sanders cannot reach however.
The base, or foot, of a detail sander, can be swapped out with various shaped pads. They are smaller in size, which makes them ideal for corners and perpendicular seams between boards.
You can also work on uneven surfaces like chair spokes with this smaller design.
Corded and cordless detail sanders function about the same. The standard differences between the consistent output of corded products versus the battery-powered accessibility offered by cordless sanders being a personal preference or one based on needs.
Most lists highlighting power tools for beginners will skip over the portable workbench. That is a shame, as those new to the hobby do not realize how important a stable work table is until they are in the middle of a project.
If you are starting from nothing, a portable workbench allows you to “set up shop” anywhere. The design provides stability, preventing rocking back and forth or vertical surface movement as you work. A good portable workbench is also rated to hold heavier loads than most furniture like the kitchen table and won’t get you into trouble with you partner!.
Most portable benches come with accessories like T-slots for clamps and holes for bench dogs. These allow you to use the bench as a clamping surface, allowing you to use both hands to control your tools.
If you’re looking for comprehensive portable workbench reviews check our 3 way shootout between the Keter portable work bench, the Worx Pegasus and the Black & Decker Workmate.
For detailed reviews on each portable workbench for your woodworking shop…
More Advanced Woodworking Power Tools For Beginners
Orbital Sander and Random Orbital Sander
Finishing your project makes an orbital sander or random orbital sander a must-have on the list of power tools for beginner woodworking. Anyone who has sanded by hand can appreciate the speed provided by this easy to use power tool.
It is designed to sand larger areas than the detail sander. The orbital motion takes away material quickly, and the random pattern of some sanders will reduce swirl marks in the wood's surface grains.
The tool does generate a lot of dust, so you need to use protective gear (and attach the sander to a shop vacuum when possible).
A miter saw excels at making crosscuts on woodworking materials. That makes it one of the power tools for DIY woodworking enthusiasts to consider. Framing lumber is a popular material for projects, and it is critical for many home improvement projects, remodeling and building extensions to your property.
If you work with lots of boards that require repetitive cuts, the miter saw will save you a huge amount of time in the shop. As a beginner you’ll probably want to look at a budget-friendly miter saw to supplement your tool collection. You can always upgrade to a more versatile or robust design as your interests and skill level dictate.
Next step above a miter saw is a compound sliding miter saw.
Ideally, you can use your portable workbench to mount the miter saw on. A pedestal, or even the ground, can be used if necessary although not ideal.
Reciprocating Saw For Woodworking
Another specialized entry on your list of power tools for DIY woodworking should be the reciprocating saw. The up and down stroke of the blade allows you to present it in confined spaces. It also uses aggressive blades that make it ideal for rough cutting, cutt5ing pipework and framing when you’re on a remodeling project.
In the shop, you can use this powerful tool to break down pallets or other scrap wood. It also allows you to rough out curves on pieces that your jigsaw would struggle cutting.
The tool is also valuable for projects around the home. You will appreciate its aggressive cutting outside when you are trimming things like branches. It also excels in a demolition role, making it valuable for home renovations.
A reciprocating saw can also be extremely useful around the yard as a great way to prune trees and branches. If you’re looking for the best reciprocating saw for pruning tress than a cordless reciprocating saw is the answer.
Nail Gun For DIY Projects
The last of the power tools for novices you should consider is the nail gun. It is unique on the power tools for DIY woodworking list as it is usually an air-powered device.
Nail guns allow you to assemble pieces quickly. In the shop, most woodworkers use smaller designs that shoot brads or pin nails. If you turn out lots of items, these nail guns help to maintain a good work pace.
It should not be overlooked as one of the power tools for DIY homeowners either. Carpenters and roofers use the nail gun for a reason. Once you learn to operate it, driving nails becomes easy, even when you are holding lumber or tiles in place.
Determine Which Essential Woodworking Tools For Beginners You Need
You don't need every essential woodworking tools for beginners suggestions covered here to start your journey. One thing that frustrates many hobbyists is spending money on tools that they do not use.
Woodworking power tools for beginners, and the hand tools you collect, should be purchased out of need. That will allow you to get a feel for the hobby and saves money for other tools or materials.
Essential woodworking tools for beginners need to balance function with price, power, and versatility. If your hand or power-tools are hard to operate, they will not get used very often.
Hand tools are an economical way to start a woodworking tool collection. They get you building right away, but they are often slower and take extra work. Power tools for beginner woodworking will speed up the process and save you from feeling frustrated when errors occur.
Your list of essential woodworking tools for beginners will usually consist of a combination of hand and electric power tools. As you progress in the hobby, you can consider upgrading to professional-grade fine woodworking hand tools or benchtop versions of woodshop tools.
Lastly, keep in mind that even today's budget and home cordless products have longer run times and adequate output, making them ideal essential woodworking tools for beginners like you who are just building their tool collection!