Whether you have been working with wood all your life or just getting started, having the proper tools is a must to do the job right.
Even those who are just beginning will benefit from having the proper hand tools for the job.
The advantage of many hand tools is that they have come down from prehistoric times, so their design has been refined over thousands of years.
As the Stone Age gave way to the Bronze Age, Iron Age, and ultimately to our modern times, stronger materials were introduced to make the hand tools better, more durable, and effective at their job.
In this article we will cover:
- Must Have Woodworking Hand Tools
- Why Choose Hand Tools over Power Tools?
- Consider These Accessories to Complement Your Tool Box
- How to Clean and Maintain Your Old Hand Tools for Longevity?
Must Have Woodworking Hand Tools
With so many hand tools available, it may seem rather daunting to narrow the selection to just the most essential for beginners.
However, the following tools are the right place to get started.
If you need more tools, that will become apparent as you gain experience in working with wood.
Until then, you can start with the nine tools on this list.
The chisel is used to chip and remove pieces or layers of wood.
The flat chisel is the most common and arguably the most versatile.
Chisels are strong, durable, and often made to be used with mallets.
You will need to be careful and wear safety goggles to prevent the chips from the wood from getting in your eyes.
The clamp is designed to hold materials in place. This includes materials that need to be secured for all types of woodworking.
Clamps come in all different sizes from tiny ones used by surgeons to massive ones used by lumberjacks.
The clamps that you are most likely to see are temporary or permanent.
There are also many different types of clamps used for different types of jobs.
Perhaps the most recognizable and one of the more versatile tools on this list, the hammer is primarily used to drive nails, pull the nails out from the walls if they have a claw feature, and break apart materials for different uses.
There are different types of hammers, so you will need the right one for the task at hand.
But a typical claw hammer is a good place to start.
The mallet may have the same basic function as a hammer, which is to break apart materials.
However, a Wooden Joiner’s Mallet is a must-have for your traditional woodworking shop.
It can do several tasks, most notably being used with chisels to cut joints into the wood.
The different types of joints include dovetail, chipping mortises, and the like.
Mallets are normally crafted out of hardwood, such as beech wood, maple, or oak.
The mallet you purchase should have a good balance and be easy to swing and direct.
Remember that a metal hammer is no substitute for a wooden mallet, especially when striking chisels.
Pliers provide a solid grip when your hands are not small enough or strong enough to do the job.
Essentially, the pliers multiply the force that your hand provides.
Pliers are used to bend metal and wires, pull out stuck bolts, and hold nuts in place.
Most pliers are constructed from two pieces of high carbon or alloy steel for greater strength.
Today, most saws are powered by electricity. However, hand saws still have their places in the shop.
This is most common with hacksaws as using them by hand is easier and often more efficient.
Using a backsaw with a miter box is also quite popular for cutting angles into the wood.
Plus, hand saws are inexpensive compared to their powered counterparts.
You use a screwdriver to drive screws into the wood or other material, hence the name.
Of course, many people use screwdrivers for chisels and other tools that they are not designed to do.
While there are many different shapes to the heads of screwdrivers, the two most common are flat and Philips, which is a cross-shaped head.
8- Tape Measure
The tape measure has taken the place of the folding rule thanks to its compact design and ease of use.
However, folding rules can be used as a guide when cutting boards.
You can also use a ruler if you desire, a 24” one is perfect for most wood measuring jobs.
Called a spanner in the UK, the wrench is used to tighten bolts and nuts along with holding items in place while being turned.
There are open-ended and closed-ended or ring wrenches along with combination wrenches which are quite common.
In addition to the nine tools on the list, you should also have a utility knife and scissors which are quite handy when working with wood.
10- Smoothing Plane
The smoothing plane is an essential woodworking tool for beginners that can help with all the planing tasks.
When you require to sand hard the surface, using a smoothing plane (like low angle jack plane or block plane) can be a time savior and an easier option.
You can also use these beginners hand tools for jobs such as:
- smoothing the boards
- trim end grain
- trim your joints
- rough stock removal
- jointing board edges
Especially for beginners, it’s not worth investing in a power planer or joiner. It not only costs more but will also consume lots of space.
Plus, for a beginner who is just learning/starting with the craft and woodworking, it will be a waste of time without first knowing how to operate and use a hand-held smoothing plane.
11- Sharpening Stones
To make your plane, chisel hand saw, and other sharpened tools work well, you will need to keep them in a good sharpened condition.
Not only will it make your woodworking task easier but also fast and precise.
Keeping the right sharpening stones is therefore most essential in your toolbox.
There are two basic types of sharpening stones you can consider buying for woodworking.
These include whetstones (or water stones) and diamond plates.
Water stones are available in different grit levels and can help sharpen your tools with only water.
However, the downside is as you use them, they will get abraded.
You will either need to flatten them from the center or completely replace the piece.
Diamond plates on the other hand are more expensive but are worth buying if you need to sharpen more tools more frequently.
I will rather recommend keeping both of them if you can afford them.
Why Choose Hand Tools over Power Tools?
Given the sheer number of power tools available, it may seem strange to start with only hand tools.
But there are good reasons why beginners should purchase some high-quality hand tools for their woodworking needs.
Some of these I think are:
- Simple to use
- Cost effective to maintain
- Durable & Long Lasting
In addition, for the times in which getting electricity is not practical, having hand tools around can be quite fortuitous.
And depending on the type of work you are doing a powered tool may be a waste of money.
Unless you are churning out large projects on a regular basis, hand tools will most likely be the primary tools used for the job.
Consider These Accessories to Complement Your Tool Box
Now that you have your tools, you should get also a toolbox to contain them.
As you expand the number of tools you own, you can purchase a tool belt or caddy to hold the essential tools on your person.
It can be quite easy to get carried away and purchase tools you do not need or only rarely use.
For example, a conduit bender is quite handy when you need to bend a conduit.
But if that doesn’t happen often, then consider renting tools which is much cheaper than purchasing something that will not be used again.
How to Clean and Maintain Your Old Hand Tools for Longevity?
Old tools have a near-infinite lifespan so long as you’re willing to care for them.
When in use, the effects of age are kept at bay.
It’s only when they are shoved in the back of some drawer that rust begins to take over, turning them into what seems like trash.
Don’t be fooled, though.
Refurbishing old tools is exactly what’s needed to breathe life back into these treasures, no matter how degraded they look.
When you start restoring these tools, make sure you do so in an environment that is both dry and warm.
The reason for this is that the metal, typically steel, remains warmer than a cooler location, causing condensation to form.
With the condensation now on the metal and not being wicked away rust forms.
In that same vein, once you’re done restoring the tool, make sure you have a container made of wood or lined with a nice material that absorbs moisture to keep any further water damage minimal at most.
The first step in any good restoration project is taking apart the tool.
Because each different material requires a little different work, there’s no way to do it all at once and expect the wood and metal to come out looking fabulous.
Disassembly also alerts you to any replacement parts you’ll need.
Are there stripped screws? Is the wood rotten? Can the different parts even pull apart, or do you need some more muscle?
The most important part to tackle first is the metal since this end is what does the work.
For rust, that means submerging the various heads into a white vinegar solution for about four hours.
Following this, a bit of steel wool works great to take off the loose bits of rust.
If there are still more stubborn spots, leave the metal in vinegar overnight and wipe away the rest in the morning with the wool.
Once all the rust is gone, run the metal under water to wash away vinegar traces and dry thoroughly.
For any pits or scratches, gently sand the exposed metal down until it is smooth.
Wipe it with mineral spirits, coat it with a metal primer and paint it with a gloss.
Only after all of that is done should you piece it back together or add a new handle.
Not all tools are as general as hammers. Some are used for extremely precise jobs and can’t be restored through some general process.
Again, disassemble all of the parts. However, instead of soaking in vinegar, you’ll want to avoid its extreme corrosive power in favor of a wire brush, rubbing the metal down until the rust comes off.
Following this, it’s all about sharpening what needs to be sharpened and then piecing it back together after covering it in a nice coat of anti-rust primer.
Using the right tool for the job is arguably the best advice that can be given.
However, by limiting the number of hand tools you own, you can get the most out of them and save money in the process.
Hi, I am Mark Garner a professional carpenter, woodworker, and DIY painter. I live in the small city of Peoria, Arizona as a semi-retired woodworker. I have started this blog with a simple motive to help you with my wood experience in this sector. If you like to know more about what I love doing and how it all got started, you can check more about me here.