If you are like most woodworkers, you will end up with a few large machine tools, some smaller ones and a collection of much-needed hand tools. However, the tools you should have in your wood shop (especially if you are starting afresh) depends a lot on the kind of woodwork you will make, the amount of space you have and the amount of money you will spend at the moment.
You can adjust the woodwork you do according to the tools you have, or buy the tools according to the kind of work you do.
“When it comes to operating a wood shop for business and profit, it’s best to figure out the jobs you will be starting with. The fact is that you can make a great woodworking income from small crafts just the same as you can from large projects.”
It’s likely that large projects are better handled with large machine tools, where as smaller projects can be made just as well with hand tools and some small power tools. We have written a post here on how to save loads of money if you are in the market for buying tools and other woodworking accessories.
In this post we are going to talk about the important tools in the workshop and their function. We will also help you decide which ones are most important and most required as per your needs.
The best way to do this is to figure out what you are going to make and then see the tools recommended for the project.
If you are using ready-made professional woodworking plans, you will learn about everything you need to make the project, including the tools.
Before You Spend On More Woodworking Tools
A couple of things to do before you spend money on new woodworking tools. Don’t believe that you need a particular tool without good reason.
Take Stock Of Your Existing Tools And Their Functionality.
There are many ways to do the same job, and for another, your existing tools are capable of doing more than you think. It’s simply a question of knowing the techniques. For example, you can make a dovetail joint quickly with the router and a special bit. But you can just as easily make a jig for it and do the same joints pretty quickly by hand.
- Before you go and buy a shiny new tool, take stock of the tools you already have in your wood shop.
- Figure out if they are sufficient to do the job. Of course, we say this with the perspective of avoiding unnecessary expense. “But for some woodworkers, specially the professionals, the ability to do the job easily and and more quickly takes precedence over spending money. And specially if it’s an investment that’s going to be itself back over your next few projects.”
Read The Tool Reviews
There are many versions and variations of the same woodworking tool. The features and fringes on the tool can vary and so can the price. And since new models keep showing up frequently, it can get difficult to choose the right woodworking tool.
The first deciding factor is the price bracket. The second source of assistance comes from woodworking tools reviews which are written by professionals who have used these tools personally and put them through all kinds of tests.
The recommendations made in these professional reviews can help you in sorting out your choices. You can read reviews for the woodworking tools in magazines as well as online.
Woodworking magazines are a very good source of information on tools and much more. You should definitely subscribe to a couple of them at least till the time you are in the market for buying more tools.
We recommend staying subscribed afterwards as well. These are the names of some of the recognised and popular woodworking magazines that come highly endorsed.
Right, let’s get down to the list of tools you are going to need.
29 Essential Tools For A Woodworking Business
A backsaw is a hand tool. It is like a regular hand saw but characterised by a stiffened band running along the edge opposite edge. This makes the entire blade stiff so that it stays straight during cutting. While this makes cutting with a backsaw easier and faster, the stiff band restricts the depth the blade can cut. However, this is a must have saw in your wood shop. You will find yourself reaching for it on many occasions and also discover that just as many times it does the job quicker than it takes for you to set up your table saw.
Woodworking clamps are essential when building a project. They hold the components together while assembling them together, gluing them, during measuring, cutting et cetera. Be generous with the number of clamps you purchase because you will always need more than you think, and it gets difficult to assemble the project if you do not have enough clamps.
3. Carpenter’s square.
This is a cheap and a much needed tool. It allows you to make right angle corners with ease on any wood project like bookcases, tables etc.
4. Circular saw.
One of the most versatile saws that you can have around the shop. It’s portable and allows you to use it in many different ways. It’s particularly useful in cutting up large boards to size before moving them around the shop.
5. Portable hand drill.
One of the first drills that you’ll want to have is a simple and portable hand drill. One simple but sturdy drill can take you a long way before you buy bigger and more advanced models. You also get these in wireless, battery operated and rechargeable models. However, there is usually a tradeoff between convenience and power.
6. Orbital sander.
This is a cheaper alternative to a belt sander. Its also slower and doesn’t take off wood just as fast, which on many occasions is a good thing. There are much more chances of spoiling a surface with a belt sander if you aren’t careful enough. This is why an orbital sander is good if you are just starting out with woodworking.
7. Plunge router.
I believe that a router is one of the most versatile tools you can have in a wood shop. Just buy a regular one that is powerful enough and you will be amazed at the number of things you can do with it from cutting to making joints. There are dozens of different types of router bits that do different things. Get a set and your router will be one of the tools you use most frequently for your projects. Buy the best router that you can afford at this point. It should be of good quality and powerful.
8. Thickness planer.
A thickness planer is used to fix surfaces of imperfect wood. If you are picking up less than perfect wood from the lumberyard, wood with some surface defects, a planer will let you fix that wood in the quickest time. A thickness planer pays for itself quick as it allows you to buy cheaper wood that doesn’t have perfect surfaces and fix it yourself. Be careful though. You loose wood during planing. So the remaining amount of wood still has to be worth the price you paid for it.
Thanks to the comments by MD, I realised that this particular tool should definitely make the list for one of the first motorised woodworking tool is that one should I get for the workshop. A jointer is a very useful tool to have if you need to mill your own wood. Maybe this tool should make the list of the first basic tools that you should get depending on your source of wood.
Specially as a beginner, you can purchase your lumber already milled in S3S or S4S form (surfaced on three sides or surfaced on 4 sides). If you are sufficiently advanced in your woodworking, and are starting to use rough sawn lumber, say from a mill or your lumberyard, then a jointer will become essential.
Planer Vs. Jointer, what to buy first and the difference between the two.
One of the very common questions that gets asked very often here is what should you buy first planer or a jointer? Some are even confused between the difference in the two machine tools. Here is a great video where a seasoned woodworker shows how to use a planer to do the job of a jointer. Even though the process gets more elaborate, it gets the job done.
Difference between a Planer & Jointer
the difference between a planer and a jointer can get confusing for someone who hasn’t used the two machines. There is a reason why it is advised to get a jointer before you buy a planner for your workshop. A planer works bye making one surface of the word plane and level provided that the other side is already straight edged.
Jointer serves the same function as the jointer hand plane
A jointer works differently. This machine tool derives its name from a hand plane that goes by the same name and serve the same purpose. You can think of it as a motorised jointer hand plane that is in upside down position. Instead of moving the hand plane over the whole surface you move the wood over the blades of the jointer. It serves the same purpose of levelling the surface and giving you an absolutely straight edge.
It is possible to use a jointer hand plane to joint a wood surface as well. Most machine tools are motorised versions of the hand tools that give accurate and fast results. If you are seasoned user of hand planes you can get the same result, but at the cost of expending more energy and time.
You can use the jointer to joint both the surfaces of the wood or run it through a planer after you have jointed one surface.
10. A table saw.
This is probably the first large machine tool that you should get. It is versatile, powerful and fast. It does everything from cutting board sheets and wood to making joints. Look for a slightly advanced model with a cast iron table and wings. It should cost anywhere between $600 – $900.
11. Track Saw.
Another great suggestion by one of our readers in the comment section, Ross. A track saw is indeed a very versatile and accurate tool. Such is it’s functionality that much like the planer vs. jointer and which one to get first debate, there is a question of choice between a track saw and other saws, including a table saw.
It is a highly accurate tools and loved by woodworkers for its ability to make very long cuts that are absolutely accurate. It is a portable tools and unlike a table saw, can be easily carried to any location.
The table saw seems stronger and is able to cut thicker slabs of exotics and hardwoods. It’s designed to work for hours on end with very few breaks, and that’s where it excels. If your location is static, a table saw is what you should get first.
A table saw, once set according to requirements, also has the distinct advantage of cutting up identical repeat cuts, as most often happens when building most wood projects. A track saw will be cumbersome to use here, if not completely dysfunctional. It is also very difficult to cut small parts with a track saw or cutting deeper than a couple of inches.
A track saw is great for all the places where you would prefer to use a portable saw like a circular saw, but with absolute accuracy. Therefore, it excels at ripping boards, cutting trim, and getting splinter-free cuts across panels. The track saw serves wonderfully well as a plunge saw because you can set it to an accurate depth, such as when working on wooden flooring.
It might seem liked the obvious tool to have. But there is a difference between a good hammer and one that’s just alright. Hammers are inexpensive tools and you should buy the best one around. Good quality hammers will be stronger, have better grips, cause less fatigue and last you for a very long time.
13. Set Of chisels.
Another inexpensive tool but a versatile and much needed one. If you intend to do a lot of work by hand, chisels are irreplaceable. But even so, you will always be discovering new and wondrous uses for a chisel. A basic set shouldn’t cost much at all. Buy the best quality so that they are accurate and remain sharp for long.
A mallet is a wooden hammer. If you’re going to use a chisel you have to use it with a mallet. Using a regular hammer is a big no. Wooden projects such as furniture almost always require tapping to put things in place or to make them stronger. Using a regular hammer will most likely cause damage. Mallets are your only option. Get them is a few different sizes so they suit all your projects big and small.
15. Measuring tape.
A regular metal measuring tape costs about $10. This serves the purpose for most projects. However also consider getting a woodworker’s ruler and measuring square for more accurate measurements.
16. Saw horses.
Saw horses are stands that have multiple uses in a wood shop. You can use them to cut large pieces of wood boards or convert then into table tops for doing other kinds of woodwork. You can also use them as a feed in and feed out support for the table saw as long as they are the same height as the saw.
17. Work bench.
You might get by by using a saw horse as your work bench for a while but believe us when we tell you that you need a dedicated sturdy work bench for doing your woodwork. You can buy one, or like many woodworker, make one yourself. You can make your own workbench for under $200. There are plenty of free videos and guides online that will show you how. Just type your search in a search engine.
18. Vacuum cleaner.
A wet and dry model is preferred. Dust collection is very important from the aspect of your safety and health while working in the wood shop. If you are working in an enclosed space, dust collection and removal is a must. While we recommend getting a dust collector, you can start with a good wet and dry vacuum cleaner.
It will help you keep your work area clean while working on a project , as well as clean up the place at the end of the day.This is the initial list of tools that we think a woodshop should start with. However, as we have mentioned, a lot depends on the kind of work you are going to do. Therefore, which tool is more important to buy first depends on the kind of projects you intend to handle.
More Advanced Woodworking Tools…
The list of tools above is quiet sufficient to get you started comfortably. However, there will come a time when you want expand the capabilities and comfort of your wood shop. You will probably keep saving up in the “tools fund” just for this eventuality. The following are tools that you should aspire to get next.
- Air Cleaner. Woodworking produces a lot of dust. The smaller dust particles are just as much a bother as the larger ones. We recommended a wet and dry vacuum cleaner in list above. But to take care of the air borne particles you need an air filter. Trust us when we tell you that you will work more comfortably and do better work when you can breathe easy. Get an air cleaner installed in your wood shop as soon as you can.
- Band Saw. A band saw cuts uniformly and more smoothly. You will find it easier to rip and cut with this tool.
- Belt Sander. A belt sander is more powerful. It takes of the wood faster and easier. You want this tool to reduce the effort in sanding. You also need to be more careful using it, for the same reasons.
- Compound Mitre Saw. A compound mitre saw is a versatile saw. It can cut at precise angles and depth. It just makes evert cutting job easier. It’s not an essential because you can you can do the same work with a table and circular saw. It just makes the work more accurate with a greater degree of ease. Get this saw if you want to speed up your precision cutting work.
- Drill Press. A drill press is used to drill to more precise drilling. You can get the angles and the depth just right with minimal effort. You can get a table model or a floor standing model.
- Dust Collector. A dust collector works at the source of creation. It’s main purpose is to collect the dust right from the place you are cutting the wood. A lot of power tools come with a dust collector extension which allows the dust collector to be attached to them directly. This means a lot less cleaning up for you to do. Dust collectors come in two types, single bag and double bag. Single bag ones are more common.
- Router. Till now you have had a hand held router. Now its time to get a three horse power, table top router. This adds stability, power and a lot more functionality.Just like a drill press, when your router gets stabilised on its own platform, meaning that you do not have to wield it in your hands manually, you can work more comfortably with it. You can also make more precise adjustments, and do much more.
More Sophisticated Woodworking Tools
These woodworking tools have been listed last and may even be considered a luxury by many. However, it all depends on your needs.
If you are making making a old style furniture or small crafts like wooden bowl, a lathe is an absolute essential and comes right at top of the list of tools you need to buy.
- Air Compressor And Nailer. This tool really speeds things up. If you are making a lot of bookcases and shelves, this is a great tool to have. It’s not very expensive. You can get a combination of an air compressor and nailer for a couple of hundred.
- Bench-top Mortiser. A dedicated tool for making mortise and tenon joints. You only need this if you make a lot of these joints. If you do, this tool comes high on your priority list. Mortise and tenon joints take time and work if you make them by hand. This machine makes them super quickly and effortlessly.
- Lathe. A lathe is a very cool woodworking tool and make equally cook wood crafts. If you are making old style furniture like tables and chairs with curved, spindle shaped legs, or crafts like wooden bowls, this tool jumps right on to the ‘essential tools’ list. You cannot do without it.
- Sanding Station. A sanding station is a combination of belt and disc sander. It is very helpful in sanding pieces before assembling. If you do a lot of sanding work, the sanding station can take a lot of fatigue out of the work.