Essential Toolkit

Even if you intend to do most of your woodworking with machines, you will still need a certain number of hand and power tools. It pays to buy the best tools you can afford, but this does not mean you have to buy everything at once. Buy as and when you need a particular tool.

Measuring and Marking Tools

2H pencils Used for drawing precise lines. Marks from harder grades will be difficult to see and those from softer grades too wide. Traditional carpenter’s pencils are too thick for fine woodwork.

Marking gauge One with brass inserts in the stock will last much longer than a cheaper version without. Marking knife For scribing shoulder lines of joints. A knife may be ground and sharpened on one face or both. Only the tip is used.

Sliding bevel Used for measuring angles other than 45 or 90 degrees.

Steel rule Essential for accurate marking out, this should be 300 mm (12 in) in length and of good quality. A hole in one end enables you to hang it up close to the bench.

Steel straightedge An excellent engineer’s tool for drawing, cutting veneer and checking timber surfaces when planing.

Tape measure Minimum length 5 m (16 ft). Shorter tapes have narrower blades, which are flimsy. Try square A blade length of about 230 mm (9 in) is best, preferably with brass facing to the stock to reduce wear. A small engineer’s square can be indispensable for fine work.


Coping saw For making curved cuts in timber and sheet materials.

Gents saw For finer cutting work, this is a smaller version of the dovetail saw.

Handsaw For cutting both sheet materials and solid timber, this can either be the traditional type that can be re-sharpened or hardpoint. Crosscut teeth are preferable for general sawing work.

Tenon saw For cutting joints, a blade length of 254 mm (10 in) will be sufficient. Alternatively, use a large dovetail saw.


Block plane For trimming end grain, applying chamfers and other fine planing work.

Jack plane The best all round bench plane in terms of size, this is used for preparing rough-sawn timber or working edges of sheet materials.

Edge Tools

Bevel-edge chisels A set of four initially: 6 mm

(¼ in), 12 mm (½ in), 19 mm (¾ in) and 25 mm (1 in). Handles may be hardwood or plastic.

Cabinet scraper Often provides the best way to finish timber with wild or interlocking grain.

General tools

Centre punch To mark hole positions before drilling. Cork sanding block For use with abrasive paper when sanding by hand.

Cramps For gluing work and holding it down on the bench, traditional G-cramps are sturdy and hard to beat. You will need at least four: two at 203 mm (8 in) and two at 254 mm (10 in).

Cross pein hammer A heavier claw hammer will be useful for general maintenance and carpentry work.

Files for metal Flat, half-round and circular patterns are useful. Hacksaw With 305 mm (12 in) blade. Even though working with wood, it is surprising how often you may also need to cut metal. Honing guide To help you get a perfect edge when sharpening. Mallet For striking chisels and assembling projects, this can be made in the workshop.

Nail punch For driving nails below a surface, ready for filling. Pin hammer For driving panel pins and tacks.

Rasp Used for shaping wood.

Sash cramps Use at least two for gluing up panels and boards. Screwdrivers For both slotted and cross-headed screws, you will need at least two sizes of each type.

Sharpening stone For honing chisels and plane blades.

Power Tools

Cordless drill More convenient than a mains-powered tool, this is essential for boring holes, unless you choose a hand drill. A set of lip-and-spur bits is the best choice for wood, although flat bits are good for larger holes where accuracy is not crucial.

Jigsaw Ideal for cutting sheet materials down to size and for crosscutting solid timber.

Random orbit sander A good all-round finishing tool, this will save hours of tedious sanding by hand.

Router A small, lightweight 6 mm (X in) collet machine is indispensable for moulding edges, making joints and lots more. A basic set of router bits will get you started.

Follow up Toolkit

Sooner or later you will probably want to add one or two more specialist tools to the basic kit. These are the most useful hand tools: Cutting gauge With a knife blade, this is particularly useful for dovetail shoulders.

Mitre square For marking and checking 45-degree angles. Mortise gauge Although you may only need a marking gauge initially (with one pin), a mortise gauge (with three pins) can be used for both scribing tasks.

Smoothing plane For finishing a timber surface.

Spokeshaves For forming curves in timber. Both a convex and a concave sole are necessary.

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