Woodworking Tools For Beginners
Many homeowners would love to tackle a few more advanced DIY projects but they don’t know where to start. And most likely they don’t have the tools. If you fall into that category then this article is for you. We’ll list the top woodworking tools for beginners with some of our best tips and tricks.
We deal with homeowners every day who ask us about a variety of DIY projects around the house. They want to know what’s safe to do by themselves, where to go for instructions, how hard certain projects are and what tools they need. Most of them have no idea how to get started. Some even try and tackle large scale projects by themselves without even the most basic woodworking tools. Believe me, even jobs that seam simple can be very difficult if you don’t have the right tools. Just about everything we do, from building million dollar custom homes, built ins, custom trim, woodworking and even very simple repairs require at least some basic woodworking tools. If your someone that’s just getting started with woodworking and wondering which power tools you need to buy first, then you’ve come to the right place
Many beginning woodworkers feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of tools available on the market. It’s easy for you to spend thousands of dollars on expensive woodworking tools that you may not even need. Most tools for beginner woodworkers don’t have to be elaborate or cost a fortune. Beginners should start with the basic tools so you can learn and build skill as you go.
Here’s our list of the essential woodworking tools for beginners. With the right tools you’ll be ready to take on just about any project inside or outside the house.
Essential Woodworking Tools For Beginners: Batteries
Before we gets started listing specific tools I thought I’d talk a little bit about basic woodworking tools in general.
Almost every beginner level power tool sold these days tends to be battery operated. Although most tools also have a corded version, the cordless designs are generally better for beginners. Unless you need something with a ton of power the added convenience of cordless tools is a huge plus. We’re a professional home builder and woodworking company and even we use cordless tools for just about everything. We highly recommend buying just about every tool on our list in the cordless version.
Power tool batteries are not universal between brands but they are within the same brand. This means that a Dewalt battery won’t work with Ryobi tools but it’ll work with just about every other Dewalt tool. As long as the battery type is the same.
Batteries come in different types. Make sure when you buy your tools that you buy all matching batteries. Or better yet just buy a kit that comes with everything. It’s a huge advantage when all your batteries match with all your other tools. Some batteries slid in place and some go into a socket. It’s easy to check that your tools all match.
Some power tools include the battery and some don’t It’s one of the benefits of buying all the same brand tools. If you have 5 tools you don’t need 5 batteries since you can easily swap them between tools. Generally we just use 2. One in the tools and one charging. Batteries are expensive so buying a tool without one saves quite a bit of money.
#1. Power Drill A.K.A. A Screw Gun
A cordless power drill is one of the few essential tools we carry on every job we do.
You can do so many things with it which is why it’s so important to have. They’re a must have for everyone from beginner woodworkers to master craftsmen. A good power drill will be a beginning woodworker’s best friend. Electric power drills are used so often on the job we can’t begin to name all their uses. Because they’re not just for drilling holes or driving in screws. You can buy all sorts of attachments to turn your electric drill into other tools, too.
Power Drills Are Essential Woodworking Tools For Beginners
- Power drills replace your screwdriver. While you should still have a screwdriver just in case, for most things you’ll use a power tool. You can buy dozens of different bits so they’ll work on just about anything. Great for small screws found in an outlet to large framing screws.
- You can drill holes with them. Drilling a pilot hole is essential for all sorts of projects from building a deck to repairing furniture.
- They’re great for installing bolts. Heads called nut setters are sold that drive in bolts.
- You can even buff or polish a car with them. Polishing heads attach to the front of the drill and are used for all sorts of projects.
- Sanding is easy with a screw gun. Just attach a sanding head.
If you’re a beginner level woodworker then we recommend a cordless drill. Pros all use cordless models. We still carry a corded model in the truck just in case but hardly ever use it.
Cordless drills are rated in voltage. Buy the most powerful drill you can afford. Most beginner level drills don’t have much power and you’ll regret not having it when you need it.
Power drills are also rated by their chuck size. 3/8” Chucks are the common medium size, and heavy-duty chucks are 1/2”. Buy one that’s 3/8″. The 1/2″ model is rarely needed.
A good screw gun is an essential beginner woodworking tool that you’ll be happy to have on just about every project. If you’ll be doing DIY projects at home and can only have one tool then this is the one I’d recommend. Just don’t forget to buy all the attachments you’ll need too.
#2 Circular Saw
A circular saw is the most basic cutting tool you’ll need in woodworking. Eventually you’ll have to make a cut and this is the best tool to do it with. That’s why it’s our #2 woodworking tool for beginners. If there’s one power saw that needs to be in every beginner’s box, it’s a circular saw. They feature a round or circular blade full of sharp teeth that cut through wood. All circular saws are electric and come in a variety of power ratings.
You can buy either a corded or cordless saw but we recommend going cordless. They don’t have as much power as a corded model but it’s more than enough for most DIY projects. Even as a professional we use a cordless circular saw for everything except heavy framing work.
Some see a circular saw as more of a rough woodworking tool than a finish one but that’s not the case. Circular saws cut straight, clean lines as long as you take your time or buy a saw with a guide. And a lot depends on the blade you use. Some even include a laser to help you cut straight.
Circular saw blades come in a bunch of varieties but we recommend to following for beginner woodworkers:
- Combination Blades: For cutting across or parallel to the wood grain. Great for use as an all purpose wood cutting blade. This is the best blade for a beginner because it’s general use. You can use it for the majority of woodworking applications.
- Fine Tooth Blades: Great for making fine cuts. If your doing finish work then having one of these is important. You don’t want to cut a fine edge with a combination blade.
- Paneling Blade: These are great if you have to cut paneling, veneer, plywood, laminates and plastics. You can use other blades for this but a paneling blade comes in handy.
The difference between blades is their teeth design. We recommend buying a good quality combination blade fitted with carbide teeth to start out and then buying other designs as needed. There’s no one sized fits all blade that’s best for everything. The type of blade will be written on the side of the blade that faces outward once installed. This makes it easy to pick up a saw and know what kind of blade your cutting with. It’ll also say how many teeth per inch there are.
We should also talk a little bit about blade diameters. They come in a variety of sizes. Start out with the 7 1/4″. It’s the standard and most popular size. If you’ve ever seen a circular saw laying around someones shop it was probably a 7 1/4″ model.
Circular Saws Are An Essential Basic Woodworking Tool
You can use a circular saw to cut just about anything required for beginner level woodworking. Either rough or finish cuts. No matter what you have to cut or how you want to cut it, there’s probably a blade for you. And best of all the blades are easy to change and not that expensive. Start with a basic blade and then buy specialty ones as needed.
Cordless circular saws don’t have as much power as a corded model so buy one that’s as strong as you can afford. The more powerful the saw the more it’ll cost. If you use a saw that doesn’t have enough power then it could stop working in the middle of the cut. Also buy as big a battery as you can. When batteries run low the saw loses a lot of power.
Circular saws are very easy and safe to use. Every circular saw comes with a guard that protects your hand from getting cut. But be very careful when using one. Any power saw is dangerous.
Make sure to use safety goggles when cutting. If you don’t then you will eventually get chips of whatever your cutting shooting up and into your eyes.
#3 Nail Guns
If your building or repairing something made out of wood then a nail gun is one of the most essential woodworking tools for beginners.
A nail gun takes the place of a hammer. It’s an electrically powered gun that shoots in nails of varying sizes. There are large nail guns designed for framing and very small ones meant for delicate trim work. The smallest nail gun is called a brad nailer. It shoots tiny nails called brads that are small enough to build a doll house or install the trim on a clock.
Instead of having to pound in each nail by hand, all you do is pull a trigger.
Owning a nail gun is invaluable for so many common DIY projects. Things like trim work, shiplap, wall paneling, crown molding, built ins, cabinets or furniture repair. A good nail gun is an essential basic woodworking tool for beginners and the highest level expert craftsmen.
The size of the gun is measured by the gauge of nail it shoots. We have one in just about every size because of the wide variety of work we do but we’d recommend a beginning woodworker buy a 15 gauge gun. It’ll work for the largest variety of DIY projects like trim work. That’s why a 15 gauge nailer is commonly called a trim nail gun.
Nail guns won’t completely replace your hammer but it’s an important tool to have in bag.
Nail Guns Are An Important Woodworking Tool For Beginners
While there’s no one size fits all nail gun for every situation, a good all around trim gun is an important tool to have. It’ll work on a wide variety of common DIY projects. They’re very easy to use and reload.
What we recommend you buy is an electric nail gun run off of a battery. There are pneumatic varieties that fire off an air compressor but that’s probably a lot more than you’ll need. If your framing a house or shingling a roof then a pneumatic gun is required but for DIY wood projects a battery powered gun is best. They’re light, easy to work with and have more than enough power.
A common problem with battery powered nail guns is power. Every once in a while you’ll get a nail that doesn’t go all the way in. This is true for pneumatic trim guns too. So we recommend carrying a nail set and hammer just in case. If you get a nail that’s sticking up over the surface of the wood a little bit then bang it in with the nail set.
Buy a gun with as big a battery as possible. The bigger the battery the more nails you can fire between recharges.
Trim gun batteries are interchangeable with other tools if you buy within the same brand and battery type. We always recommend every woodworking beginner buy tools in a set. It’s so much easier having a universal battery.
#4 Miter Saw
Miter saws, also referred to as compound miter saws or chop saws, are the fastest and easiest way to cut wood boards. They can cut straight, on an angle, or multiple angles which is called a compound cut. This is essential if your woodworking project involves crown molding. They’re a must have for cutting any piece of trim. Baseboard, casement, crown, wall paneling etc. To make precise cuts you should own a miter saw.
They take the same variety of blades as a circular saw does because they work in almost the exact same way. And the blades are very easy to change. However, a miter saw blade is fixed by an arm that swings the blade up and down. The arm is mounted to a base. All a miter saw does is cut up and down. You can adjust the cutting angles but it still just cuts up and down along the angle you set. They’re very precise tools that are used for rough and finish work.
We recommend buying a plug in miter saw rather than a battery powered one unless your working somewhere without electric. This isn’t a tool you’ll be moving around much so it’s easier to just set it up on sawhorses and plug it in.
Miter Saws Are A Must have Tool For Basic Trim Work
For even the most basic trim work a miter saw is important. That’s why it made our list of essential woodworking tools for beginners. The cuts are super precise and very easy to make. It’s not like working with a circular saw that can run off your line. As long as you line up the blade where you want it then the cut will be perfect every time. Some models even come with a laser that tells you exactly where the blade will land on the wood. And all the angles are marked on the base so it’s super easy to make a cut at just about any angle you want.
Miter saws come with a guard attached that helps prevent accidents. These are very powerful saws that can cause a sever injury to work carefully. Wear goggles anyway because wood chips can fly around the guard.
Some larger sized miter saws come with a sliding arm that let’s you cut wider lumber.
The saw head can tilt to the side allowing for a combination of miter and bevel cuts. Practically any angle you need can be cut with a compound miter saw.
The size of the blade will dictate the size of wood you can cut. Any size can cut up to a 2×6 but for 2×8 and up you’ll need a bigger blade. You’ll also need a bigger saw to cut thicker crown moldings with a compound cut. These are more advanced cuts but even a woodworking beginner can make them with a good miter saw.
The best part of a miter saw is how repeatable the cuts are. Once you lock in the correct angle you can make 100 cuts and they’ll all be perfect. It’s the only way to do a large trim job. If we had to reset the angle with every cut then trimming even a small house would take 10x as long.
#5 Orbital Sander
Have you ever had to sand down a piece of furniture or cabinetry by hand. It’s a lot of work and a waste of time. If you’re going to buy just one electric wood finishing tool then make it an orbital sander.
They can sand any wood surface completely smooth in a fraction of the time and with very little effort. You can load them with a huge variety of sandpaper grits depending on the finish you want. Generally we do a rough sand, a medium and then a light finish sanding by hand. The by hand one is just so we can feel the wood and it’s really just a light rub with very little pressure. All the real work is done by the sander.
These are also referred to as hand or palm sanders.
These come in real handy for sanding the cut edge of a trim board before you install it. The little burrs that can happen if your cutting without a brand new blade.
As with all the other tools on this list, hand sanders come in corded and battery varieties. We recommend using a battery powered model. Being able to sand wherever you need without lugging a cord around or worrying about finding an outlet is a big plus. The bigger the battery the battery the longer your sander will last between recharges and the more sanding power it’ll have. We recommend buying the strongest one you can afford. Most models come with variable speeds so you can turn it down if your sanding something delicate or set it to max power for a large project.
Changing sandpaper sheets is super easy and very fast. They come in packs and only cost around 5 bucks.
Hand sanders aren’t a very expensive tool, you can pick one up for less than 50 bucks. They’re one of the essential woodworking tools for beginners. Especially if your doing any type of wood finish work.
A jigsaw will come in handy any time you have to make a circular cut. We don’t need one very often, however when you do, a jigsaw in invaluable since it’s the only power saw that can make the cut. Have you ever had to cut a hole or other shape out of a sheet of plywood or decking. Then you’ll know how important owning a jigsaw can be.
Every beginning woodworker should own a good jigsaw. I’m sure everyone reading this has seen one before. They’re the saws with the small reciprocating, saber like blade. The blade jabs back and forth really fast to cut wood. They’re designed to make intricate cuts that can be straight, curved or any other shape. Picture the lines in a jigsaw puzzle, that’s what a jigsaw can do
Jigsaws work completely different than circular saws. Instead of using a revolving blade, jigsaw blades cut with a back and forth or up and down motion. Blades vary just like a circular saw ranging from rough to super fine. And just like a circular saw, what makes a blade different are the teeth. A rough blade has a few large teeth while a finish blade has lots of small teeth that are very close together.
Fine tooth blades are used for sawing delicate work like veneer, while coarse tooth blades are for rough cuts and faster work.
Jigsaws are easy to operated with one hand. Hold on to your work with one hand and cut with the other. Cut small, intricate pieces in any shape you need. One of the best uses for a jigsaw are interior cuts, like cutting the inside of a cabinet to let pipes through. You simply drill a pilot hole and then insert the jigsaw blade.
Jigsaws come in either battery or corded versions. We recommend the battery version.
Most jigsaws have variable speeds and blade depths so you can adjust them to your specific needs from job to job.
#7 Table Saw
Most beginning woodworkers would benefit from owning a table saw. Table saws can make cuts that are hard to do with other hand saws. They’re basically just an upside down circular saw where the saw is fixed below a table. You slide the wood through the stationary blade rather than sliding the blade along the wood. Blade depth and angles are easily adjusted for precision cuts which is much harder when using a circular saw.
We recommend buying a medium sized unit that’s light enough to carry around. Some even have stands with wheels so you can easily move them around the job site where you need. There are a few huge benefits to owning a table saw.
- Table saws are great for paneling work. If your building cabinets then you’ll have some large flat panels to cut.
- They’re great for trim work. Especially if you have to rip a board.
- You can rip boards with a circular saw too but doing it with a table saw is easier and more accurate.
- The guide can bet set to an exact measurement so each cut is perfect.
- Once you set the guide you don’t have to mark the wood. Each cut will be the same.
- They’re great for cutting grooves in wood.
Table Saws Are One Of The Best Woodworking Tools For Beginners
Although table saws serve the same basic function as a circular saw, they’re much better when you need a perfectly straight line or when you have to cut a bunch of boards in the exact same way. If you have to rip a dozen boards with a circular saw you’ll need to mark each one and then rip them all by hand. With a table saw you just set the guide and push the wood through. Each one will come perfect. It’s so much faster and easier to do.
They’re also great for when you have to cut a groove in your wood. This comes in handy when you want a slot for another board to fit into. It’s great for cabinet making because the slot makes a super clean finish.
You can also use the saw to make lots of small pieces. For example, let’s say you needed a bunch of 12″ pieces of decking for a design. You could set the guide to 12″ and then just slide the boards through. Once the guides set you can cut 100 pieces and they’ll all be perfect. Otherwise you have to measure and cut each piece one at a time.
Be very careful with a table saw. Even though they have a guard I personally know a bunch of woodworkers who have cut they’re hands on one of these. And wear goggles. the guard won’t block all the wood chunks flying at your face.
Although it’s not as sexy as a brand new power tool, a hammer may be the most widely used all around tool ever used for woodworking. There are so many uses and such a wide variety of designs that it’s hard not to need a hammer at some point. That’s why it’s on our list of the essential woodworking tools for beginners. And chances are you already own one since most people do.
There’s no such thing as a universal woodworking hammer. A standard run of the mill carpenter’s claw hammer is as close to a one size fits all basic woodworking tool as you can get. But there are dozens of different types, weights, lengths, designs, styles and even materials. Woodworking hammers are generally used for two basic tasks. To pound and pry. How well they do their job depends on a few things:
- Head design. Head sizes vary in size, weight and style.
- Claw design. Claws vary by not only the size and style but also the length and angle. Some are meant for plying and some for ripping wood.
- Handle construction. Most beginning woodworkers prefer an old fashioned wooden or composite hammer handle.
- Overall weight. Hammer weight is measured in ounces.
Hammers vary in purpose as well as design. Beginning woodworkers have a bunch of choices so it can be a confusing choice. We recommend buying a standard all around 16-20 oz. claw hammer. It’s the most popular hammer for a reason.
These are the three main types of basic woodworking hammers:
- Finishing hammers. These are a great all purpose hammer.
- Framing hammers. Framing hammers are heavy duty and an overkill for most DIY beginner woodworking projects.
- Tack hammers. They’re for light duty work and typically have two different head sizes with no claws. Most often these are used with furniture making.
#9 Tape Measures
I hesitated to put this on the list because just about everyone already has one but it’s such an essential woodworking tool for beginners that I had to include it. That goes not only for novice woodworkers but also every homeowner. Everyone should own a good tape measure. They’re cheap and come in handy for thousands of things. Even something as simple as hanging a picture frame level can be done with a tape measure. But in terms of woodworking and DIY projects, I wouldn’t do a thing without one.
Every woodworker of any skill level should have a measuring tape on their belt. But did you know they come in a variety of designs.
Here are the basic tape measures to consider:
- Retractable Steel Measuring Tapes: These are your typical measuring tape. They’re the most common measuring tool used in woodworking by far.
- Flexible Reel Tapes: You can get them in fabric or steel in lengths of over 100 feet.
- Folding Rules: These are rigid measuring sticks generally made out of wood. Most rules fold into multiple sections.
- Straight Edges: These are in the ruler family and come in handy when your cutting large flat pieces of wood like paneling or plywood.
All these measuring tools can come in handy but honestly all you need is a standard tape measure. We’d get a medium sized tape of around 20′. As far as basic woodworking tools for beginners go, this one’s essential.
While not a power tool, sawhorses are still consider a tool.
They’re one of the first tools a beginner woodworker should buy. They’re simple four legged supports that balance long length of lumber or large power tools like a chop saw or table saw. Sawhorses are usually used in pairs and that’s how they’re generally sold. Although most job sites have a dozen of them. You don’t want to be working on the ground or bending down all the tie for materials and supplies. One of the first things we do on any job site is set up the saw horses.
You can make your own sawhorses out of wood but we’d recommend buying a good composite set. They’re not that expensive and the composite ones fold up so they’re a lot easier to lug around. They’re also a lot lighter than wood ones.
There are also sawhorses made out of steel and fiberglass. Just make sure whatever material they’re made out of that they have a hinge. Being able to fold the sawhorses up helps a lot.
I’d say we use a sawhorse on just about every woodworking project we do. They’re not a sexy new power tool, but because of how often we use them they have to be on our list of the best woodworking tools for beginners.
#11 Paint Sprayer
If you ever do any painting then you’ll love owning a good paint sprayer. Honestly I don’t know why anyone paints without one. Sure you sometimes need a brush or roller too. But I wouldn’t do any paint jobs or DIY projects without one.
I use a paint sprayer for just about everything because they make painting so much less annoying and I really don’t like to paint. But using a paint sprayer is fun and makes painting feel less like tedious work.
A paint sprayer is perfect for just about anything that can be painted.
We’d recommend buying a quality paint sprayer and not one of the really cheap ones. Every time we’ve ever used a cheap sprayer they spit paint. If you want a nice even coat then you need a good tool. We’re not saying go out and buy the most expensive sprayer on the market but don’t waste your money on junk either.
Keep your paint sprayer clean. They’ll be instructions included with the machine. If you don’t clean it then it’ll clog or start spitting paint.
Don’t over spray. there’s a tendency for beginners to spray heavy and try to do it all in one coat. Several thin coats works best.
Paint sprayers aren’t just for paint. You can spray stain or a finish coat too. They’re great for sealing wood projects.
You can spray furniture too. Paint sprayers aren’t just for painting walls. Build a beautiful cabinet or a new chair and then spray it with color and a good sealer.
Because woodworking isn’t just about building something out of wood but also making a beautiful finished product. And that product often needs paint, stain or sealer. That’s why paint sprayers make our list of essential woodworking tools for beginners.
It’s hard to make a list of essential woodworking tools for beginners without including a set of chisels. While some people would consider working with chisels a more advanced part of woodworking, the deals more with carving and furniture making. Both of which are more advanced forms of woodworking, but you have to start somewhere and we hope you’ll eventually try it. Furniture that rises to the level of artwork has been built with nothing but a wooded mallet, hand saws and a good set of chisels.
However, this article is about beginner level woodworking and there are some very basic uses for chisels. We carry a set on just about every job we do for all sorts of everyday uses.
A good chisel comes in handy when your installing hardwood flooring. If you’ve got a warped piece you can hammer the chisel into the floor and use it to pry the wood plank in tight. This same technique comes in handy when building a deck.
They’re also great for installing doors. You can chisel out sections for hinges, a strike plate or door knob.
We use chisels to notch out wood in all sorts of ways when stuff just won’t fit right. And they come in real handy for demo work.
If your laying flooring or decking and have a high joist then chisel it down so your boards lay flush.
Use a chisel to pry something up and install a shim. Comes in handy when installing cabinets.
There are just so many uses that’s it’d be near impossible to name them all here. And that’s just talking about basic uses, not the more advanced stuff we do when making custom furniture. It’s because of how versatile, and basic a hand tool they are that they’re on our list of the best woodworking tools for beginners.
If your looking for the best woodworking tools for beginners then consider buying a good quality tool set. They come in a variety of designs so you can buy just the tools you’ll actually need. The great thing about sets is all the batteries match. You won’t have to worry about buying tools with a universal battery because everything is interchangeable. While they won’t include every tool you you need the will have some of the most essential.
Another big plus when you buy a set is the price. Because your buying so much at once they give you a nice discount. Buying all these tools is a lot more expensive then buying them all at once. It’s a lot to spend all at once but if your gonna buy them all anyway you may as well get a discount.
The bag they come in is nice to have. Especially if you do this kind of work for a living. Tools scattered all over the truck is a pain and the plastic cases they come in always seam to take up too much space. It makes carrying tools around much easier if you have a bag big enough to fit them all. And the bags a good quality material that won’t rip easily.
While a tool set isn’t on our list of essential woodworking tools for beginners, most of the tools included are, so in my opinion they’re worth a look.
Summary: Woodworking Tools For Beginners?
Many woodworkers just starting out can feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of tools available when they start shopping. It’s easy to spend thousands of dollars on expensive woodworking tools that you may not even need. many of the best tools for beginners aren’t elaborate or cost a fortune. Beginners should start with the basic tools so you can learn the trade and build skill as you go. A good hammer, tape measure, chisels and sawhorses are just as important as that expensive nail gun and table saw. They may not be as sexy but they’ve been creating beautiful wood pieces for a thousand years.
I hope this list of essential woodworking tools for beginners was helpful. We use every tool on this list on all of our new homes and custom woodworking projects and are sure they’ll benefit you too.
If you have any questions or comments e-mail us any time. We’d love to hear from you.