Getting started with woodworking can take a lot of different paths. Your skill levels, interests, space, and time all play an important role in determining your woodworking journey. Growing up we always had a woodshop in our home and I was particularly attracted to the wood lathe. I knew woodturning was always something I would be interested in but it took quite a while until I had space for a lathe. In the meantime, I still dabbled in woodworking and began building out a collection of beginner woodworking tools.
Like many people I started with the basic four power beginner woodworking tools: a jigsaw, circular saw, drill, and orbital sander. These tools allowed me to make circular cuts, straight cuts, and drill holes. While my first projects with these tools wouldn’t necessarily always qualify as fine woodworking they did get me started building some small projects in the backyard.
Choosing Beginner Woodworking Tools for Projects
I’m a huge believer in, when you’re first starting out, acquiring tools for projects as you need them.
When we moved to a home where we had space for a dedicated shop the first tool I bought was a table saw.
We were redoing our kitchen cabinets in this home by removing the old doors, painting the frames, and installing new shaker style doors. I used this project as an excuse to purchase my first major power tool knowing I could build out all the doors with it.
By purchasing all S4S lumber (wood that has been surfaced and planed on all 4 sides) I was able to get away with not needing a jointer or planer to do any milling work.
My next big project was to build a dining table from a live edge slab. The slab we chose had some cracks running through it so I purchased a route to cut out butterfly keys. I also built the base out of wood and this time I needed to be able to mill the wood myself so I bought a used 6-inch jointer and the trusty Dewalt 13-inch planer.
At this point, I had enough tools in the shop where I could tackle all kinds of new projects. Over the next couple of years, I have slowly expanded the shop with a bandsaw, lathe, and numerous hand tools and other accessories.
With all that in mind here are some of my recommendations for the best basic woodworking tools to get started with.
Basic Woodworking Tools for a Brand New Woodworker
If you are brand new to woodworking and just want a few tools to get started with here are my recommendations.
Dewalt Circular Saw
The circular saw, which was my first power tool, is a great multifunctional tool to get started woodworking. With a few added accessories it is also incredibly versatile. A saw track allows you to make long straight cuts on sheet goods and a combination square lets you easily make square or angled cuts on boards.
Jigsaws have come a long way in their quality and power which makes them a great, lower price option to start making curved cuts in wood. We still use ours frequently even though we have a bandsaw as some products, like our pizza peels, are too large to cut on the bandsaw.
Makita Random Orbit Sander
A quality rand orbit sander makes finishing your work a quick and easy process. We have used this sander for years now and it has just kept on doing its job.
Dewalt Cordless Drill
Combining a drill and a pocket hole jig opens up a world of joinery options for you as a new woodworker. We have used ours to build shop cabinets, a bed frame, and picture frames just to name a few projects. This drill can frequently be found on sale and we love ours.
Other Woodworking Accessories You’ll Probably Need
Intermediate Woodworking Tools
Once you have started to pick up some woodworking skills and are comfortable with expanding your woodworking capabilities it is time to begin looking at upgrading to some larger tools. When purchasing tools in this category also think about quality and capabilities and not just price. These are tools you may own for 10 – 20 years and purchasing quality now may save you from having to upgrade in a few years when you realize you need something bigger, more accurate, etc.
We own versions of all the tools on this list in our small shop and it allows us to make almost anything we can imagine.
The table saw serves as the anchor for most woodworking shops. Virtually every project will pass over the table saw and its footprint makes for a great anchor to plan around.
I put off purchasing a bandsaw for quite a while and, now that we have one, really regret waiting so long. Between preparing blanks for woodturning, breaking down rough lumber, resawing wood for Etsy products, and sawing pieces to their final shapes I use this tool more than any other in the shop.
The planer and jointer are a necessity if you want to begin milling your own rough lumber. Owning these tools have really opened up a world of possibilities in what I can make in the shop. Rough lumber is also far cheaper than s4s so there are some realized savings there as well.
Like we said above these tools are indespensible for milling rought lumber but if we had to choose one or the other as a must have it would be the planer. If you have a tablesaw then there are jigs you can build to replicate what you can do on a jointer.
While the miter saw may be our least used power tool in the shop it still is a tool we couldn’t live without. For breaking down lumber, making complex angled cuts and cutting finished pieces to size it really is irreplaceable for these tasks.
Although we don’t use the router much for the woodworking business side of things, although if I had room for a router table that would definitely change, I definitely use it a lot when building furniture. Being able to add a roundover to the edges of finished pieces and cut mortises make life so much easier.
Beginner Woodworking Hand Tools
Most of our woodworking focus over the years has been with power tools but we have still managed to acquire a decent set of beginner hand tools as well. A few years ago I visited the shop of a gentleman who was selling a bunch of wood as he was moving soon. We got to talking and he offered up his old tool chest that he no longer needed.
Well, lucky for me, it was completely full of old block planes, chisels, eggbeater drills, saws, etc. Nothing name brand or all that valuable but still everything I would need to dabble in woodworking with hand tools.
Hand tool woodworking is a great option for those with smaller spaces or where dust/noise is of a bigger concern. It is also just an enjoyable process to undertake as the woodworking process begins to rely more on look and feel rather than hard and fast measurements.
If you’re interested in getting started, or just want to compliment your power tool shop as we did, then here are some great beginner woodworking hand tools to get started with.
A good set of chisels are really a necessity for any woodworking shop. We use them all the time for cleaning up edges of tenons, glue lines, etc. We own this set of chisels and they are great for a new woodworker and come very highly recommended.
Hand planes are a world unto their own with the number of options available and people’s opinions of which are most “essential.” Well, our vote goes, for a beginner at least, to the No. 5 Jack plane and a block plane. The jack plane serves as a workhorse to remove material and flatten large surfaces while the block plane serves to fine-tune the finished piece.
Panel saws are going to be your replacement for what a miter or table saw can do. Ripping or cross-cutting large pieces of wood down to rough dimensions. Panel saws come in two different tooth configurations meant for either ripping (cutting with the grain) or cross-cutting (cutting across the grain).
While some old tools, like hand planes, have become collectors items and often sell for a premium on ebay or at flea markets. Hand saws can often be found for dirt cheap and if you are comfortable learning how to sharpen a saw yourself this can save a ton of money in the end.
Back saws are used for detailed work like cutting tenons or dovetails. Their rigid design and fine tooth pattern make these excellent for this type of work. These saws are typically broken down into three categories: dovetail, tenon and carcass saws but you can easily get away with just a dovetail saw in the beginning.
We are huge fans of these Japanese style saws as they are inexpensive and do the job well. We own a number of them for different tasks around the shop.
Coping saws may not be a necessity on the workbench but they are so cheap that why not pick one up. They are great for cutting curves or hogging out material in between dovetails.
Eggbeater Drill and Bits
Eggbeater drills are a surprisingly efficient and accurate way to drill holes in your work pieces. Many power tool workers will actually turn to a hand drill if they need to drill holes in a finished piece to attached screws as they tend to cut a cleaner hole and cut straighter than power drills.
These drills are another item that can be easily purchased for extremely low prices on eBay or at garage sales, tool swaps, etc.
Other Hand Tools Accessories You’ll Probably Need
- Combination, Try, and Bevel Squares
- Marking Knife
- Marking Gauge
- Sharpening Stones
- Mallet (or make your own!)
Final Thoughts on What Tools a Beginner Woodworker Needs to Get Started
We hope this post is helpful towards making a decision as to what tools you need to get started woodworking. Luckily woodworking is different for everyone and each person’s shop is tailored to their specific needs and passions. Start small, take on some new projects, find what you enjoy working on and start building out your tool collection from there.
What was your first woodworking tool? Drop a comment below. We’d love to hear how you got started.
Derek grew up woodworking in his father’s shop and has since gone on to start up a successful woodworking business on Etsy. In his spare time, you can find him mountain biking, skiing, or writing.