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Like many hobbies, it’s hard to dabble in woodworking without investing in a few essential tools. Advanced woodworkers may own dozens of pieces of equipment ranging from small drill bits to industrial-size table saws, and this collection of devices can fill up a garage-sized woodworking shop on its own.

But when you’re putting together a basic woodworking starter kit, you can get by with a much more modest collection of tools. Beginners only need the equipment needed to complete basic tasks and feel out whether they want to continue developing their woodworking skills.

This basic equipment for a workshop toolkit falls into five basic categories:

  • Measuring
  • Cutting
  • Shaping
  • Joining
  • (as well as) Safety Gear.

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Measuring Tools

Basic measuring tools will help you lay out the cuts you will make in your wood pieces. These measurements need to be accurate and at the proper angles — especially if you will be joining wood pieces together later on. Combination squares (pictured) and framing squares are useful, as well as a sliding bevel, marking gauge and a folding ruler. A compass and steel tape measure can help you measure angles and lengths accurately.

Cutting Tools

You need more than a basic saw if you plan on cutting complex shapes in your wood. In general, the more saws you have, the more versatile you will be and the more projects you can complete. A saw for crosscutting is essential, a back saw and/or coping saw (pictured) can also expand your options. A hack saw may prove useful, but since it’s primarily used with metal and other hard materials, it’s not essential. You may also need slip-joint and needle-nose pliers, and you should have a pair of diagonal cutters on hand, as well.

Shaping Tools

Shaping tools are important in almost any woodworking situation, whether you’re working with one single block of wood or joining together several different pieces. A smooth plane is almost always important, and wood chisels (pictured) are needed to give the wood detail.  Hand scrapers – a bonus. You will probably need a low-angle block plane and both round and flat rasps.  A utility knife too often comes in handy.

Joining Tools

Depending on your project, you may not need any of these. But if you are forming projects from multiple pieces, it’s inevitable that some of these will come in handy. C-clamps are almost always useful even when they aren’t necessary.  Who could imagine perform tasks without claw and finish hammers, wooden mallets and/or a screwdriver or two? A bench vise (pictured) can help you join wood pieces tightly, and a nail set and doweling jig may be important depending on the way you secure a joint. You might also want to invest in bar and pipe clamps.

Safety Equipment


With woodworking you will want to wear a face shield or safety glasses to protect your eyes and face from sawdust and other particulates or flying objects that could cause serious damage.  If you are working with loud devices, you should wear ear plugs or other hearing protection, and if you are creating large amounts of dust, wear a dust mask to protect your respiratory system.

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If you start woodworking often, you may want to make other investments to improve your workspace and make life easier on yourself.  Large radial saws can help you work with larger material.  A separate washing machine for your woodworking clothes can protect other clothes from the sawdust. You may also want to try to improve the ventilation in your work area to help keep the air clean as you go.

For more, Building Moxie provides a list of Ten Essential Tools for Homeowners in an article under the same name. For more information about Setting up your workshop, see this article from Cool Tools Building Workshops.

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