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In The Toolbox

The 'Essential Tool Kit'

There are any number of suggested 'Essential Tool Kit' lists around. The truth is, what you want to do as a woodworker will determine your basic tool kit. Additional tools will speed-up or improve your results, and/or expand your capabilities. Therefore, the following are purely a guide, and not shopping lists.

I like the idea of trying woodworking:

A small selection of tools that can be sourced cheaply, yet will allow you to get a feel for working wood. There are enough tools here to build a small basic box, amongst other things.
  • Saw(s): A small tenon saw, or a dovetail saw, and a small panel saw
  • Chisel(s): A ½" bevel edge chisel (or preferably a set of ¼", ½" and 1", or similar)
  • Plane: A 'No.4' equivalent bench plane, or a block plane
  • Steel Ruler: 12"/300mm with etched graduations
  • Try-Square: About 5", preferably an 'engineers' (all metal)
  • Marking Gauge: To gauge lines from a straight edge.
  • Knife: Stiff blade, preferably with a single bevel
  • Pencil(s): A hard pencil, and preferably a soft one too
Estimated cost of GBP 35-60  /  USD 45-80  /  Euro 55-90
(Based on buying lower cost items until commitment is assured. You could easily triple these figues for 'known' good brands, and triple again for 'premium' brands)

I enjoyed trying it, now I want to do more:

Additional tools, that will extend your capabilities to basic furniture, etc., making strong joints, and including curves. This is where you can choose to go hand tool, power tool, of a combination of both.

Hand Tools:
  • Drill: Hand twist drill, and/or brace, and bits
  • Saws: Medium panel saws for ripping and cross cut (or a combination panel saw). Coping saw for curves.
  • Chisels: Bevel edge chisels from 1/8" up to 1½". Mortise chisels from ¼" to ¾" 
  • Planes: A No.5 for preparing components. A N0.4 or block plane to compliment what you already have. Flat and curved sole spokeshaves for curved work. Medium shoulder plane.
  • Straight edge: 24"/600mm
  • Steel Ruler: 36"/1m
  • Mitre Square: For accurate 45 degree marking out
  • Dovetail Marker: For dovetail joints
  • Mortise Gauge: For marking mortises and tenons
  • Dividers: For laying out joints
  • Marking Knife: Stiff single bevel, and long fine (e.g. scalpel)
  • Hammer or Mallet: To suit chisels (most 'through tang' or 'socket' chisels can be struck with a hammer)

Power Tools:
  • Drill: Mains or re-chargeable hand drill and bits. Preferably with a vertical stand.
  • Saws: Circular saw with a combination blade. Jigsaw with selection of blades
  • Router: With a selection of straight cutting, dovetail, and rebate bits. Preferably with a table as well.
  • Power Planer
  • Belt Sander: With a range of belts.
Having made the commitment to woodworking, then I would advise you read reviews first, and spend what you can afford to invest in better tools. Not necessarily 'premium', as the performance improvements are often small, and can be achieved with moderate 'tuning' of decent tools. Second hand tools can often be a reasonable way to good performance at lower cost - but be sure you know what to look for before you buy.

The next level

You'll be surprised what you can achieve with just the tools I've listed so far. However, to more easily and quickly turn a pile of lumber into a showpiece heirloom, the list of additional tools available is almost endless. Stationary machines take the grunt out of a lot of tasks, and can mass produce components and joints at quite a rate. There are planes for all number of specific tasks. So here are just a few of the more common and useful items around

Hand Tools:
Gimlets, Draw bore pins, Scratch stocks, Doweling jigs, Gouges, Scrapers, Travishers...

Power Tools:
Biscuit jointers, Domino jointers, Random orbit sanders, Brad nailers...

Band saws, Table saws, Pillar drills, Scroll saws, Planers, Thicknessers, Lathes...

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