Top 18 Must-Have Woodworking Tools
1. Circular Saw
Excellent for beginners and irreplaceable for pros, the circular saw is one of the first woodworking tools one would add to their workshop. It doesn’t matter which brand you go for, the circular saw has a pronounced common feature – large circular blade.
Most circular saws are corded tools and not battery-powered, but there are cordless models available. They work by the woodworker feeding the blade through the wood or other material.
A circular saw is a versatile and important tool that can tackle various materials ranging from soft plastics to tough metals. However, to make sure your circular saw is equipped to handle everything, you need to examine the blade.
The sharp protrusions on the side of the blades are called teeth. The teeth dictate exactly what the saw can handle. Some beginners may associate the circular saw with rough woodworking jobs for more extensive materials rather than delicate tasks that require a more refined work. However, this isn’t true because it all depends on the blade.
Our experts break down circular saw blades into three categories: ripping, combination, and crosscut blades. Each of these blades is meant for a specific cutting, and you will notice the most significant discrepancy between each type is the tooth count and layout.
Ripping blades are best for rip cuts, which go along the grain of the wood. Crosscut blades are for cutting boards across the grain on the flat surface of the wood, and combination blades are meant for both.
You can also find varying sized blades suited for a range of scales of work from 7.5-inches to 10, which are the most common up to 12.
Our professional team breaks down circular saws into the worm drive category and the direct drive. You will see the latter with the blade mounted on the arbor. Direct drive circular saws are the more common and cheaper option. Worm drive circular saws are pricier but possess increased power. For simple straight lines, our team says direct drive models will suffice.
2. Table Saw
A table saw is another must-have woodworking tool that every carpenter and woodworker needs. The table saw resembles a circular saw in many ways, as they also feature a circular blade.
What sets the two types of saws apart is the application.
For the table saws, the height of the blade can be easily adjusted for various depths and cut capacities. Whether you are a beginner or a professional, a table saw is an important tool to have. Our testers have split the table saw into three sub-categories: contractor, benchtop/tabletop, and cabinet.
If your projects revolve around the table saw, then our team recommends cabinet table saws. It is a stationary and heavier option that creates a great centerpiece. There is also plenty of onboard storage to hold your accessories.
A benchtop or tabletop saw is a good addition to your wood shop if you plan on moving it around. A benchtop table saw is a lighter and more compact option, too.
Then there is the contractor version of table saws, they offer portability. They are built to be mobile, and ideal for both beginners and pros.
Jigsaws are classified as hand tools featuring a reciprocating blade. Our team covered larger tools making broader cuts across materials. The jigsaw including the powerful Porter Cable PCE345 is suited for more intricate and complex cuts.
Due to the type of blade and application, jigsaws can move up and down or backward and forwards. They are also smaller hand tools that are easier to maneuver and can make an excellent one-handed tool.
The tooth count on a jigsaw will also vary to work on different materials, but they are mainly suited for softer materials.
Jigsaws are the best option for plunge cuts, circular and serpentine cuts. If you ever need to cut smaller pieces out of larger lumber, then our team suggests adding a jigsaw to your wood shop.
4. Compound Miter Saw
A compound miter saw is an upgrade from a regular circular saw. If a circular saw has been a trusted part of your workspace and does the job fine, then you may not need a compound miter saw.
Also referred to as a chop box, our carpenters say miter saws can offer more precise straight cuts. They can create crosscuts, rip cuts, and compound cuts and they even use the same blades.
The compound miter saw is very functional given that they almost rendered the standard radial arm saw obsolete. Many tool reviews out there place equal importance on the compound miter saw, and our woodworking team agrees.
Aside from the improved accuracy, the compound miter saw can also do miter cuts, compound cuts, and cuts at multiple angles.
Next up is the bandsaw, a more stationary and heavy-duty version of a jigsaw. They too have a reciprocating blade that orbits on a loop. They are meant for intricate cuts like the jigsaw, but due to their immobile nature and the application by feeding the material through the blade, they offer better precision.
The depth capacity and the throat depth of the bandsaw will determine the wood stock you can work with. Bandsaw models will only differ in size, so our experts say the best way to decide on the right one for you is to look at the projects you are contracted to carry out.
(If you are looking for affordability, we listed the powerful budget bandsaws here)
6. Orbital Sander
Now that we have some cutting tools out of the way, our expert craftsmen are moving on to finishing tools. The first one on the list is the orbital sander. This handy tool beats out regular sandpaper thanks to its electrical power and fast operation. Unlike belt sanders, the orbital sander moves in circles. Unfortunately, for some woodworkers, the orbital marks they leave on the wood aren’t desirable.
If you want to avoid those circular imprints, our team recommends a random orbital sander, which does not rotate. A random orbital sander is random, so the sand paper pad won’t leave any marks and give you a smooth finish.
You can also consider a belt sander, which moves back and forth. We recommend the belt sander for a smooth finish without any patterns and for larger volumes. For very small handheld pieces, our team of experts says good old-fashioned sandpaper still works just as well.
(If you want a tougher and more heavy-duty sander, you can also check our list of top-tier drum sander here)
A router is a rounding tool that can also create inlays, plunge cuts, and flatten and smooth rough surfaces. It can also cut dadoes. However, routers are not to be taken lightly. They are fast-moving tools that can snag your sleeves or gloves if you aren’t wearing the proper gear.
Consider a router table for more versatility as it will allow a plain router to work from different directions.
A jointer is a type of wood plane that is used to shave off layers of the wood’s surface. A beginning woodworker would fare better with sanders rather than a jointer for smoothing the wood. This is because jointers have a greater margin of error.
Jointers are used to smoothen surfaces and join pieces together. Other types of hand planes include the jack plane, which is used to remove more material from the surface in a single motion. Block planes are better for smaller pieces. There is also the thickness planer that can restore a warped board back to a smooth surface.
9. Power Drill
A power drill or electric drill are important tools for woodworking and basic household renovations. A power drill can come in cordless and corded options. A cordless drill will provide a range of motion but a corded option has all the power.
Not only can a power drill create holes, but it’s also a hand tool that can turn other woodworking accessories into drilling heads. Even if you aren’t a woodworker, a power drill is a very efficient tool for your toolbox.
If you want a fixed tool that can drill, choose the drill press. A drill press can produce the same holes a power drill can, but with more power, efficiency and force. There is also a working table where you can place the material and clamps it securely as the drill head is being fed into it.
10. Woodworking Squares
Now our expert team is making their way into measuring tools, with the first one being woodworking squares. The right measurements are necessary for creating gorgeous things from furniture to decorations. For more accurate measurements, our carpentry team turns to various measuring squares.
The most common and useful woodworking squares to have in your arsenal include framing squares, which are best for larger materials and try squares for smaller ones. There is also the combination square, which offers versatility in determining distance and angles.
An essential tool but more expensive that can be used for checking 45 and 90-degree angles is the speed square. It gives you a quick reading. We also have miter and sliding bevel squares that can create the same existing angle continuously.
11. Tape Measure
A tape measure is not only useful for a woodworking project but also a staple for measuring dimensions around the house. Flexible tape measures can conform to curved surfaces and give you a very accurate reading. The metal steel measuring tapes that can retract are essential tools for measuring straight surfaces.
Some members of our woodworking team prefer yardsticks for straight edge surfaces, but they all agree that having both retractable steel tape and a soft reel tape is your best bet for all measurements.
As an extra tip, our craftsman recommends keeping them on your belt. Not only will you have easy access to the tape this way, but it also allows a one-handed operation for the retractable steel measuring tapes.
12. Work Bench
A high-quality workbench is necessary to support all your future woodworking projects. Unfortunately, many workers forget that woodworking tools aren’t only hand tools or stationary machines but also the surface you work on. If you’re a beginner, our carpenters suggest purchasing a well-made one, but you can attempt to create one of your own if you have the experience.
What constitutes a high-quality workbench?
Our experts say that it should be stable and solid at the same time. Adjustable heights, various vices, built-in stops, and onboard storage space will prove to be very practical down the line.
Place your workbench somewhere with adequate lighting. Hopefully, your woodshop is well-lit during the night and has enough natural light during the day.
Like the spring clamp, the quick-grip clamp is simple to use and has become standard tools for security. They are suited for various applications and allow for some adjustments, although our experts suggest quick grip clamps for only thinner materials.
There are plenty of other clamps that can come in handy. Your use for clamps will vary depending on your skills – a standard woodworker, a carpenter, or a cabinet maker. The best way to find your must-have woodworking tool is to look at your projects and materials.
Don’t underestimate the importance of something as simple as a hammer. There aren’t specific hammers used for just woodworking, so ones that you have around the house can carry out the same job.
Hammers can function to hammer a surface and pry materials. The ends of the hammerhead are used to tackle different roles. Of course, hammers aren’t all created equal, so our experts will outline how to use a hammer properly.
There are various types of hammers, ones used for finishing, others used for gripping, and more. First, smooth hammerheads are used for finishing and will not leave a mark. Then we have the gripping hammers that feature grooves.
The size of the hammer depends on the task you have. For example, hammering tiny nails will not require an oversized design. Aside from the size, our team also cautions about the weight of the hand tool. Heavier models will have a lot of weight behind each application, but can cause fatigue.
On the other hand, the handle of the hammer affects your working time. You want to find a soft and comfortable grip over the steel or wooden handle. The material of the hammer will affect the weight, but although wood and steel are heavier than composite and plastic, they are the more reliable and sturdy options.
Our carpentry and woodworking pros narrow down hammers into three types: finishing, framing, and tack hammers. As mentioned, finishing hammers are smooth but excellent as all-purpose tools. Framing hammers are the heavy-duty types with a lot of force and are heavier but could leave a mark. Not many members of our woodworking team use framing hammers for regular projects.
Then we have the tack hammers, which are the lightest of the three and best suited for smaller tasks.
Isn’t a mallet a hammer? Professional woodworkers will catch this error right away, but beginners may not understand the variance. Yes, both tools are used for pounding force, but they are meant to carry out different tasks. Compared to hammers, mallets are larger and a lot clunkier. On the other hand, the more cumbersome design makes them excellent for power if you choose larger heads.
There are also smaller mallets that are best used for tapping. They don’t usually leave marks and are great for assisting with mortise and tenon joints. The interchangeable heads for mallets also make them a diverse tool. They can also be used in tandem with specialty chisels and other smaller tools.
16. Chisel and Lathe
The next must-have woodworking tool on our list is the chisel and the lathe. Chisels are small hand tools that come in an assortment of options. Your best bet is to find ones for different purposes. For example, our team has ones for cleaning freshly cut joints and ones that are meant for carving.
Chisels are very versatile tools that come in varying shapes and sizes. We recommend ones that are crafted from durable steel with a hardwood grip. As for the size, our experts recommend those that differ at a quarter to half an inch increments.
Then look at the shape of the chisel. Standard chisels are beveled at every side, including the cutting edge. Specialty options may only be beveled on one side.
Before you decide to purchase a chisel, make sure you test it out. Grip it in your hand and feel the contour to make sure it fits comfortably. Our team reminds you to maintain the sharpness of the chisels for the best application.
Great wood lathes are multi-purpose tools that allow you to cut sand and drill pieces. However, they can do much more than that, and they mainly work by rotating the wood piece as you apply other tools to the surface. A lathe such as Grizzly G0766 the can come in many sizes and is best used for uniform cuts along an entire surface.
Calipers are another measuring tool that is more advanced than a measuring tape. A caliper is capable of measuring thickness and internal diameters that cannot be done with other tools. While a caliper may not be a tool every woodworker has in their arsenal, our pros keep it handy for very intricate and complex jobs requiring detailed measurements.
18. Shop Vac or Dust Collector
An accumulation of wood dust is detrimental to your health. If you don’t work with industrial-grade tools and take on large-scale projects, then PPE  and a small shop vac will do. However, most woodworkers, carpenters, and construction workers prefer adequate PPE and the protection of a dust collector.
Did you know that wood dust is deemed as a carcinogen by experts? This means it’s a substance that can alter our DNA, which can eventually lead to cancer. Not to mention, wood dust is also hazardous to our respiratory system.
Then there is the possibility of combustion. Wood dust is kindling waiting to ignite. With a single spark from your chop saw, your entire woodshop could be at serious risk. In more severe cases, the wood dust could cause an explosion if all the correct elements are present. The consequences of a woodshop explosion are unimaginable.
The type and size of a shop vac or dust collector depend on a few key factors – the amount of dust you have, how much you want to accumulate before disposal, where you place it, and how much room you have.
The cyclone dust collector is the coveted type for most woodworkers. It can also be pretty expensive, but there is no price tag on your health. This kind of dust collection system uses the centrifugal force of a cyclone shrunken down to a miniature size. A cyclone dust collector can also purify the air while the particles rotate inside the body.
The larger pieces will drop to the base, the filter will catch the smaller particles and fresh air is expelled.
Should you choose a shop vac or a dust collector? The answer will depend on the size of your shop and the scale of your jobs, but our experts will usually suggest a dust collection system if you can afford it and have a bigger space.
The shop vac provides focused applications and can be used for stationary tools that make clutter in your shop. However, a dust collection system not only removes the dust and debris but also recycles and purifies the air and whatever is floating around your shop. Basically, a dust collection system will do a much more thorough job.
There are many more tools that can be found in workshops, but our team has deemed the above choices to be ones that are great starters. These tools will continue to be vital as you hone your skills and become professionals.
What tools does every woodworker need?
Every woodworker needs power tools, hand tools, and measuring tools in their workshop. Circular saws, table saws, and compound miter saws are great to start with. Don’t forget the measuring squares, clamps, hammers, and chisels that can help you create masterpieces. The key to figuring out the tools you need is by assessing the types of projects you have and the materials you normally work with. But also consider the prices of every woodworking tool you use, so it fit to your set budget.
What you need for a woodworking shop?
Which woodworking tool is best?
The best woodworking tool is the table saw. However, circular saws and jigsaws are also must-have woodworking tools. Essential equipment for a workshop extends beyond power tools, including the chisels and hammers or even your workbench.
(Planning to renovate your shop? You can check out these three creative ways to upgrade your garage workshop)