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Must Have Tools for Woodworking

Okay, so I just got back from the Kansas City Renaissance Fair. I saw this post here for a topic of must-have tools for woodworking. Instead of going into the modern-day hammer, drill and such I’ve decided to go a bit old school. What are some must-have woodworking tools for old-style woodworking projects or even for beginners like these? After doing a bit of research this list Things haven’t changed too much from the middle ages. The basic tools are the same as some of the basic tools used today.

Before one must work with the tools, one must find and measure the piece being used. While finding the piece isn’t difficult, with the use of the eyes, a little bit of thinking, and simply going and finding the piece you want to use, it must be measured and cut down. To measure the device, the first tool that is most important when working with wood is the measuring tape. In mid-evil times they would most often use a bit of string cut to where they wanted to. Now today’s standards are a bit different with the use of actual measuring tape with numbers on them.

List of important tools

  • Square – One tool that is also handy to have is a square. This tool allows for accuracy and measuring both especially when making tables, chairs, etc. This tool can find the corners of your project, or allow you to draw straight lines with the base of your project as a reference point. This can greatly improve the accuracy of your projects.
  • Carving Knife – One of the basic tools utilized now, as well as back in the Renaissance is the carving knife. The carving knife usually has one edge that is straight and is generally 8 to 15 inches in length. This puts them longer than a basic kitchen knife you would find at home. This basic instrument has a wide range of uses within woodworking. The carving knife has been used for ages for both starting and finishing a project. The fine details you see on handcrafted art or furniture pieces are most likely done with the use of carving knives.
  • Saw – The next item that is a must for woodworking is the saw. The saw is a classic item used for a multitude of things. The saw is used to cut the wood from the tree, clean off the excess branches, it is even used to make those major changes to one’s project. Saws come in many different sizes and shapes. The Bow Saw is similar to the metal-framed bow saws of today, except the metal frame is replaced with a strong wooden frame. The bow saw is a toothed blade connected between two long narrow handles, also called “cheeks” they are supported by a stretcher in the middle, a narrow piece of wood making an H shaped tool. A string runs between the cheeks and tension on the blade is kept by twisting the cord with the use of a turnbuckle.
  • Drawing Knife – A drawing knife is an old tool that finds its way into the renaissance period. Websters Revised and Unabridged Dictionary defines the draw knife as “A woodworker’s and joiner’s tool having a blade with a handle at each end, used to shave off surfaces, by drawing it toward one.” After bracing the project on a vice or shave horse you position the piece of wood between you and pull the shave horse towards you to cut. This tool is used in many pieces of furniture and is similar to the handheld plane of today. The more pressure you apply to the tool the more material you will remove.
  • Lathe and Chisel – Another tool that finds its use is a lathe and chisel. Now in the medieval time, the lathe didn’t have a motor, but merely by pressing your foot down on a wooden step the mechanism of string and wood would turn the project in its cradle allowing the craftsman to work on his project just as a lathe of today does. At the Kansas City Renaissance Festival, I saw crafts of all kinds utilizing this tool, from pens, arrows, to flutes and vases a vast array of tools can be used.
  • Shave Horse – the last tool that is in my list for you all, is one that finds it’s home in the renaissance but today has somewhat lost its use for metal clamps and vises. This tool is made of wood and allows for the user to sit across it, press one foot against the foothold to apply pressure to the piece of wood they are working on. Many variations of this tool exist to help different types of woodworkers. Many items are made from this, and talking with the craftsman at the Kansas City Renaissance Fair, they mentioned that they can make bows for archery, walking staff, chair legs, tabletops.
  • Extension Leads – Every workshop needs extension leads. Power tools are sold with short leads so extension leads allow for greater flexibility.
  • Vernier – A vernier or caliper allows for greater accuracy and precision when measuring thicknesses and diameters than using a ruler or tape measure.
  • Chisels – A variety of chisels are always handy. Beveled-edged chisels allow the user to work closely with corners and edges. The butt chisel is used for mortising door hinges and the mortise chisel is used for making mortise and tenon joints, for example, in window sashes.
  • Gimlet/Bradawl – A gimlet is a screw-tipped tool that is useful for starting the screw and nail holes, particularly if they are in awkward areas. A bradawl can also be used for starting nail and screw holes but can also be used as a pencil by scratching marking lines in the wood surface.
  • Nail punch – A nail or pin punch allows you to set or recess the heads of nails or brads by tapping it with a hammer. You are then able to stop up the opening with filler to hide the nailed surface.
  • Clamps – Clamps are a versatile accessory that can’t be neglected. They are used to secure tools or workpieces to benchtops in readiness for work. They are used to hold firm, pieces that are being glued together, such as a right-angle clamp that is designed to keep corners at 90 degrees while being glued, and are also used as temporary fasteners. Clamps come in a variety of shapes and styles that can be used for many applications.
  • Hammers – Every woodworker must have a hammer or two. A claw hammer drives nails in easily and has the capability of pulling them out if needed also. A smaller tack hammer is useful for delicate work with small pins, upholstery, and hammering in difficult spaces.
  • Sanding block – A sanding block is usually made from a tough rubber or is rubber-faced. The block then is wrapped in sandpaper to hand-sand flat surfaces. Sanding blocks also come in a softer foam type which makes it easier for hand-sanding curves.
  • Spirit levels – Spirit levels come in an assortment of sizes and are vital for checking the accuracy of vertical and horizontal surfaces.
  • Miter box – A miter box is a jig that allows you to saw an accurate 45 degree and 90-degree angles accurately. It is great for cutting moldings and is best used with a tenon saw.
  • Filing knives – Filing knives make the job easier for you to smooth filler or stopping into cracks and holes in your timber. It is best to have a narrow and a wider version.
  • Plane – For the traditional woodworker, a plane is one of the most important hand tools. It is ideal for smoothing, straightening, beveling and generally finishing off many odd jobs at the workbench. Just remember to keep it sharp.
  • Tape measure – A retractable steel measuring tape is vital for measuring lengths and widths accurately. They come in a range of lengths and also in imperial and metric measurements.
  • Scale ruler – At times woodworking patterns are scaled down for the convenience of handling. This tool will help determine the scale of the drawing. Often woodworking drawing is scaled to 1/2″ = 1″ or smaller.
  • Shop Vacuum – Every woodworking shop must have a portable industrial-strength vacuum cleaner to suck up the remaining debris after every job. It will help keep the workplace clean and safe.
  • Toolbox – A toolbox will help protect and keep your tools tidy and makes it easier for transportation if you need to take tools with you.

You have decided that you want to do a project on your own, after picking one from this list, but you need help in choosing and using measuring tools effectively. This can be overwhelming but don’t let an empty toolbox discourage you from woodworking. The bare necessities that you would use for measuring are your tape measure, squares, and compass or wing dividers. You can get these tools for reasonable prices at any hardware store or for practically nothing at a flea market or garage sale.

However, before you start any project, there is something else to consider before using the measuring tools. You need to lay it out first, when building a project of your design, you’ll need to draw up a detailed set of plans and figure a list of materials (be sure to account for stock types and sizes of available materials). Then your first working step would be measuring and marking materials where you will cut or shape them.

woodworking measuring tools

Basic Measuring Tools and Marking Methods

The most important factor in getting a project off on the right foot is careful measuring. For instance, tight-fitting joinery for your bookshelves or cabinets will demand to measure and cut to within proper measurements. For rough measuring, you can use a wooden yardstick or ruler; for more precise work, use a metal tape measure, a metal yardstick or a square’s blade. Whenever possible during construction, use one material to transfer measurements to another. No matter what measuring tools you are using, you should measure twice and cut only once.

When shopping for your tape measure can buy a compact, flexible steel tape one at a low cost. How do you choose one? Pick a tape container that measures exactly 2″ or 3″ along its base to make measuring between two surfaces easy. The tape’s end hook should be loosely riveted so that it will slide the distance of its thickness, adjusting that thickness for precise “inside” and “outside” measurements.

If you buy a tape that automatically recoils into its case, check to see if it can be locked in an extended position. (When using a recoiling tape, push the last few inches into the case, saving the end hook from slamming against the case.)

The squares are also an important measuring tool that you will be needed, the blade of a combination or framing square excels for making precise, short measurements; the versatility of these multiple-use tools offers several bonuses. If you don’t own a combination square, strongly consider buying one. It could be one of your most-used tools.

A simple, stiff schoolroom compass works for limited measuring jobs and draws circles or arcs. Wing dividers are more precise but cost more (they have a knurled screw that holds the legs in place). Use these measuring tools to transfer small measurements or to step off equal marks.

Marking your lines accurately

Laying out most projects will require drawing lines – some straight, some curved, some at a particular angle. The first measuring tool needed for this is a pointed scribe or a good sharp pencil. Ascribe marks a more precise line, but the scratch it leaves cannot be erased as can a pencil line. Some of the following tools may help guide your pencil or scribe in drawing straight, curved or angled lines.

Straight lines

Any straight tool can help you draw straight lines: a square, a level or a yardstick. A yardstick is especially handy for long lines, but only if it is straight and has a hard edge. Sight down its length to make sure it isn’t slightly warped or curved. Although many paint stores give yardsticks away, it’s wise to buy the more accurate metal ones.

Curved lines

To get good curved lines (easiest by a scroll saw), either wing dividers or a compass measuring tools can draw arcs or small circles. They also duplicate irregularities of one surface, like a wall or to another surface like a board that must fit flush. For drawing large-radius circles or curves, tack one end of a yardstick to the material.

Angles

The versatile combination square aids in marking several types of lines: a precise right angle ninety degrees, a miter (45 degrees) or a straight line. A sliding T-bevel will duplicate any angle.

For some projects, sophisticated measuring tools are necessary, the better the tools for woodworking, the easier the work. If you lack a particular tool but would rather not spend the money to buy it, perhaps you can borrow or lease it from local tool rental. If you need a costly tool for only a limited time, it’s worthwhile to rent it.

Hopefully, this list entertained you and helps you out. Any of the items here can be found online, as well as made from scratch. With the holiday season coming up any of these items would make a great Christmas gift or birthday gift for the craftsman in your life.

Robert

Robert Johnson is a woodworker who takes joy in sharing his passion for creating to the rest of the world. His brainchild, Sawinery, allowed him to do so as well as connect with other craftsmen and women. He has since built an enviable workshop for himself and an equally impressive online accomplishment: an extensive resource site serving old timers and novices alike.
Robert

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