When we first started out in our woodworking journey it was, like for many people, with second-hand tools and whatever cheap tools we could afford at the time. An old belt sander, the cheapest drill from a big box store, a hand me down circular saw. Luckily, they still got the job done and helped me along as I grew as a woodworker. As my woodworking has progressed though I have started upgrading to the best woodworking tools I can afford.
Why Buy the Best Woodworking Tools?
Buying quality tools can make for a safer time in the shop, increased precision, increased capabilities with size and power, and overall a more enjoyable woodworking experience. While I still, for example, use an old $150 Grizzly jointer it is finicky enough that I seem to spend more time tuning it than actually using it.
With limited time in the shop due to being a full-time stay at home dad, this means it cuts into my woodworking time and income from preparing Etsy sales.
Buying the best woodworking tools also doesn’t always mean you have to break the bank. For most of us, woodworking is a lifetime hobby and upgrading tools means one or two purchases a year.
Heck, we haven’t bought a new tool, other than an air filtration unit, in almost two years now!
The last tools we bought before that were new Carter and Sons woodturning gouges and scrapers. After a few years of turning on a hand-me-down set of chisels and a lone gouge I had purchased new, it was finally time to upgrade to some of the best woodturning tools on the market.
Overall, they have been a huge upgrade to our turning productivity but certainly weren’t a necessity when first getting started.
Weighing Quality Versus Price with New Tools
Buying the best woodworking tools doesn’t have to mean buying the most expensive or the biggest tools. The best will always be a subjective answer based on your specific woodworking needs, budget, and shop space.
In my shop I purchased a new bandsaw a few years ago that I felt was the best bandsaw…for me!
While a bandsaw – like this one – may be the “best” bandsaw on the market due to its power, size, and quality. It certainly isn’t the best for me as it is:
- unaffordable for me
- doesn’t fit in my shop
- draws too much power for my shop
In the end, I ended up going with the Laguna 14bx which is an incredible bandsaw and does everything I need it to do. And it checked the good price, works well and fits in my shop sections of the diagram.
With all that said we can still recommend some of the best woodworking tools that we feel fit within all of those categories for most woodworkers.
If you’re new to woodworking feel free to check out our post on the best tools to get started with for a new woodworker
Our Recommendations for the Best Woodworking Tools
These cover all the tools that make up the foundation of a well-outfitted woodworking shop. We feel they offer the best combination of price, size, and capabilities. Some tools, like the jointer, we feel are well worth upgrading to a near top of the line model. While others we are more than happy with the mid-level options as the upgrades to the next level are not necessarily worth the cost. Especially for a hobbyist-level woodworker.
There isn’t much to say about Sawstop table saws that most don’t already know. They are the only table saw available that will save your fingers if they come in contact with the blade yet they don’t compromise on quality. These saws are fully capable for the hobbyist woodworker up to large scale commercial shops. Our next tool upgrade will be for a Sawstop.
The Laguna 14bx is by far our most used tool in the shop and probably the best tool purchase we have ever made. The 14-12 and 14bx have a few small differences like 110v vs 220v, a foot brake on the 14bx, and a slightly different construction but overall they are the same size when it comes to cutting capacity. We chose the 14bx for the foot brake and larger, 220v motor but both are incredible band saws.
As I mentioned earlier I still use an old, cheap 6-inch Grizzly jointer in the shop and every time I use it I dream of upgrading to a larger helical head jointer. The Powermatic 8-inch jointer checks all the boxes. Helical head for a quieter operation and smoother finish, 8-inch capability, longer infeed and outfeed tables, and a quality made tool that will stay true.
This is one of those cases where, while I would love a Festool Kapex miter saw for my shop, there is no way I can justify an $1,100 dollar difference between that and the Dewalt. This saw is fully capable of cutting wider stock while still being extremely precise and is a must have for almost any woodworking shop.
This is another example where portability and price win out over tool capabilities. I have used this planer for years now in the shop and it has served its purpose 1000 times over. It is small enough to wheel beneath the wing of my table saw yet can more than handle almost anything I throw at it.
Like the Sawstop did for table saw safety – the Festool Domino revolutionized the idea of making woodworking joinery simple and accessible. There is simply nothing else on the market that makes joining two pieces of wood together this simple and elegant. While we don’t own a domino in our shop we have spent plenty of hours lusting over one. Until then it is back to the table saw and router jig for our mortise and tenons but the day for an upgrade is coming soon.
Powermatic offers a full line of bulletproof lathes that are a fit for almost any woodshop. In my current shop, I am pretty tight on space and have an eye out for a shorter bed lathe. My dream upgrade though is to this 4224B as it may very well be the best lathe on the market today. Its combination of weight, power, and size make for a lathe that will last a lifetime.
The first year after we finally had space to set up a woodworking shop I had zero dust collection. Most days that meant opening up the garage door, putting on a dust mask and setting up a fan to blow the dust outside. Luckily we didn’t have any super close neighbors but it still was not an ideal solution. Now that I’m in a smaller space dust collection is an absolute must and the Jet dust collector is a solid option. It has a small footprint, is easily movable around the shop, and has enough power to keep the dust to a manageable level. Paired with a hanging air filtration unit it keeps the dust in our garage to a minimum.
I’ll start off by saying I use Bosch sanders almost every day in the shop and I love them. The dust collection is great, they leave a clean finish and they are mostly bulletproof. This sander can be hooked up to a shop vac which makes a huge difference in the amount of dust produced while sanding.
A power drill was another tool where I relied on an underpowered, cheap version for way, way too long before upgrading. This Dewalt combo set can almost always be found on sale somewhere and was a massive upgrade when I picked it up a few years ago. The batteries seem to last forever and it has enough power for virtually any task.
The Bosch router set feels like one of those tools that you’ll find in almost any woodshop in the country. While palm routers have certainly taken off in popularity, and for good reason, a full-size plunge router is still a hugely useful tool. I have used mine to cut butterflies, chamfer and round over edges, and cut mortises and dados. It is hard to beat a tool that can do all of that for under $200!
It was a hard choice to make between the Narex chisel set and this one. Narex definitely gets the nod for the beginner woodworker but if we’re looking at the best woodworking tools for the money then the Two Cherries set gets the nod.
Clamps. The tool every woodworker has but always needs more of. While they are expensive these clamps are definitely worth the money if you’ll be doing any large glue-ups where maintaining a flat surface is important. We use these and small, 12-inch f-style clamps the most in the shop. These pipe clamps are another great addition if you have very occasional needs for extra-long clamps. We keep half a dozen sets around the shop just for these needs.
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.