Essential Hand Tools List — Basic Tools for Your Shop and Home

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A filled and complete set of tool kits will greatly help you with many everyday repairs and major fixes at home and at work. However, the real key lies in knowing which tools are best for each job. 

That’s why I’ve put together an essential list of hand tools, drawing on my woodworking expertise, to help you round out your own toolkit.

List of Hand Tools and Their Uses

Measuring, Marking, and Layout Tools

Different measurement tools and marking gauges are important for any job. Unfortunately, some of these marking tools are more often than not overlooked. 

Here is a list of hand tools that help create precision, especially when handling woodworking projects or fixing issues. 

1. Tape Measure

Tape Measure

A tape measure is an excellent tool when measuring. It is an effective and flexible tool for identifying the measurements of different materials.

Purchasing a sturdy and long-lasting tape measure with a mobile hook will help you measure when you are alone. I highly recommend getting a 25-foot tape measure as it’s long enough to measure most materials.

Also Read: How to Read a Measuring Tape

2. Ruler

Ruler

The humble ruler is a versatile measuring tool. It measures lengths and widths and can double as a device for making straight lines.

3. Folding Rule

folding rule

True to its name, a folding rule can be unfolded multiple times depending on the length necessary.  You are free to fold sections that are not in use. It is handy when measuring short and long distances. 

4. Combination Square

combination square

This is a modular tool that is a multifunctional instrument. It is easily used in metalworking, woodworking, and stonemasonry. 

Combination squares are mainly used for maintaining 45 to 90-degree angles and measuring the center of a circular material. 

5. Speed Square

speed square

A speed square is an ingenious item that combines different tools in one. It is commonly used to create marks, determine different angles, and make square cuts on different boards. 

You can use it as a miter square or even as a protractor. It is very handy and very affordable.  

6. Level

Level

A level is an important instrument that allows the user to determine whether a surface is horizontal or vertical. Determining this on a surface is difficult from observation only. Thus, a level comes in handy. 

It will assure you that surfaces are perpendicular to certain reference points. A level is inexpensive and available in major hardware or power tool establishments

7. Protractor

Protractor

A protractor is a simple tool that is often overlooked. It helps in the construction of planes and angles. This tool is very affordable and available in most stores. 

8. Compass

Compass

A compass is a crucial tool for layouting. It proves highly useful, particularly when creating precise circles using a radius or a diameter. Additionally, this tool excels in efficiently and accurately bisecting angles and dividing lines in half.

9. Bevel Gauge

bevel gauge

A bevel gauge is an indispensable tool which guides users to measure the sharpening angle of the cutting edge of a chisel or plane iron. 

A bevel gauge is one of the recommended ways to maintain and set angles in place when grinding. 

10. Marking Gauge

marking gauge

A marking gauge is also known as a scratch gauge, one of the beginner woodworking hand tools you should have. The marking gauge is commonly used to create mark lines to guide cutting and other necessary operations. It scribes a line parallel to a reference edge. 

11. Pressure Gauge

Pressure Gauge

A pressure gauge can measure the amount of pressure inside a certain system. It can measure and monitor the pressure in fluids and steam, among others. 

However, a pressure gauge is used less often. It is a tool that comes in handy once in a while. 

12. Caliper

Caliper

A caliper is a simple device that can provide precise measurements between two points. This device has an outward point that allows accuracy in measuring points. 

You are free to use other kinds of measuring tools, but a caliper can afford a more accurate one.

13. Laser Measure

laser measure

Laser measure allows users to calculate items that are too oversized and are difficult for the usual hand tools. Furthermore, it provides accurate measurements of distances and areas, among others.

The laser spot of the unit can easily measure distances to a target. It can usually measure up to 50 feet.  

14. Bubble Inclinometer

Bubble Inclinometer

A bubble inclinometer is similar to a level. However, instead of leveling and keeping surfaces proportional, it allows you to identify a particular incline. 

Place the bubble inclinometer near the joint you wish to be measured to use this instrument. 

15. Awl

awl

A scratch awl [1] is a common tool for drafting woodworking layouts and point-making. Plus, an awl is handy for creating small openings for core pins.

While it might not be as essential as some other tools, it’s good to keep one around, especially if you’re a woodworker like I am.

16. Pencil

pencil

Pencils are very useful for many drafters and builders. Pencils are suitable for making marks on rough surfaces, which include but are not limited to concrete or stone. 

You can use the conventional pencil, but most carpenters use rectangular pencils due to their ergonomic design.

Hammers and Screwdrivers

Hammers and screwdrivers are also tools that should be a part of your arsenal. 

Here is another list of essential hand tools that generally helps shape the job toward its assembly.

17. Claw Hammer

claw hammer

A simple claw hammer is an important device in any workshop. It’s designed with a round head for driving nails. It also has a claw end that is useful for prying, tearing down drywall, and splitting wood. 

18. Ball Peen Hammer

ball peen hammer

This is a very useful tool. This instrument is good for tasks involving peening and punching materials to shape them. Designed specifically for its job, one end of the hammer has a ball-shaped head, while the other is flat, perfect for driving.

19. Sledgehammer

sledgehammer

A sledgehammer is also known as a maul or simply a sledge. It is a good tool for various demolition jobs. It can efficiently break through drywall and masonry walls. The sheer force and the sledgehammer can knock out concrete and shatter words. 

20. Specialty Hammer

specialty hammer

Specialty hammers are uniquely designed to accomplish specialized tasks. Specialty hammers include a mason’s hammer, a drywall hammer, and an upholster or tack hammer. 

21. Mallet

mallet

Mallets are seldom overlooked but are important tools to add to your collection. A wooden mallet is used in carpentry to knock pieces of wood together or act as a striking device for dowels and chisels. 

Mallets have the advantage of giving control. Also, it does not deform the end of the metal, no matter the force applied. 

22. Phillips-Head Screwdriver

phillips-head screwdriver

A Phillips-Head screwdriver is another important hand tool. The shallow cruciform slot on the screw is designed to fit screws with Philip’s head. This specific screwdriver comes in different sizes. 

23. Star Screwdriver

star screwdriver

A star screwdriver is also known as a torx screwdriver. This type of screwdriver is used when fixing issues concerning computer systems, motorcycles, and other consumer electronics and vehicles. 

The star-shaped head makes it more secure compared to other screwdrivers. It allows higher torque transmission to tighten screws and bolts more securely. 

24. Slotted Screwdriver

slotted screwdriver

A slotted screwdriver is also known as a standard slot-head, flat-tip, or flat-head screwdriver. It is used to apply torque to screws using a flat tip. There are two types of slotted screwdrivers: keystone and cabinet.

25. Multi-Head Screwdriver

multi-head screwdriver

Screwdrivers are important instruments when tightening bolts and screws. A multi-head screwdriver is designed to have an interchangeable head which allows you to change and fit different screw sizes and types. This is ideal for different assemblies and repairs.  

Saws

In woodworking, having a variety of saws is essential. A saw is essentially a thin strip of metal with one edge lined with teeth.

Users rely on these tools to effectively cut solid wood pieces to achieve their desired lengths and shapes.

26. Hand Saw

Irwin Universal 15-inch Handsaw

Hand saws are also known as panel saws. A hand saw can cut wood pieces into preferred sizes effectively and efficiently. A quality saw can help perform jobs such as crosscutting moldings and cleaning out pegs, dowels, and dovetails. 

27. Dovetail Saw

dovetail saw

A dovetail saw, as its name implies, is a saw for making dovetails. Aside from making dovetails, it can also use other tasks such as notching a wood shelf. Generally, dovetail saws are useful when small and precise cuts are required. 

A dovetail saw is very versatile. It can be used in DIY projects and large-scale ones. 

28. Tenon Saw

tenon saw

 A tenon saw is another important hand tool. Large back saws are commonly used to create deep, accurate cuts for future joinery. 

It is also used to make short, accurate cuts, especially in projects that demand precision. Its name comes from its function of cutting smaller and more intricate pieces. 

29. Carcass Saw

carcass saw

A carcass saw is another tool for making precise cuts across the grain. This saw is a backsaw that has crosscut teeth. The steel atop the saw is referred to as a backsaw due to the steel atop the saw. 

A carcass saw can also cut tenon shoulders and define edges. Fortunately, this type of saw can be used on hard and softwood. 

30. Coping Saw

coping saw

Coping saws are a bow saw type of saw. It is commonly used to cut intricate external shapes, interior cutouts, and accurate curves. However, a coping saw is not designed to cut through all materials. 

Furthermore, a coping saw is commonly used to cut moldings to create coped joints rather than miter ones.

31. Crosscut Saw

crosscut saw

A crosscut saw allows you to cut small pieces of wood. It’s particularly efficient for cutting across the wood grain. The teeth are angled backward with a beveled edge, which makes it unique. I sometimes pair it with a saw hook for better results.

Moreover, it’s a lifesaver when used for repairing or manufacturing furniture.

32. Dozuki Saw

dozuki saw

Originating from Japan, a Dozuki saw is thin and flexible. This kind of saw can be very useful for certain woodworking projects, especially one that involves softer woods. Due to its design, a Dozuki saw can help create precise cuts.  

33. Drywall Saw

drywall saw

A drywall saw is also known as wallboard saw. It is characterized as a long and narrow saw. It is a precision tool that does not pull large pieces from drywall. 

It is typically used for cutting various building and construction materials. Owing to its sharp tip, a drywall saw can be used to create holes for utility plugs, piping, and electrical outlets.  

34. Ripping Saw

ripping saw

A ripping saw is also known as a tooth saw. It is a versatile tool for woodworking when making various cuts, especially rough lumber. The teeth of a ripping saw alternate between the left and right side. 

35. Hacksaw

hack saw

A hacksaw is another hand-powered tool that can be used to cut hard materials. Hacksaws are intended to cut metal, rods, and brackets, so when I’m working with these materials, I typically have one on hand. It’s not meant for wood, so avoid using it for that.

The hacksaw has a U-shaped frame with a handle at one end and small pins at both ends. Overall, it’s a good and versatile staple to have in your toolkit.

36. Pruning Saw

pruning saw

A pruning saw is characterized by having a curved blade. This blade holds the saw in place. 

A pruning saw can cut through a wide range of large and different thicknesses of wood. It is recommended for wood that is 1.5 inches thick or more.

Shovels and Bars

Shovels and bars are frequently used in various carpentry jobs. They come in handy when the need arises.

37. Crowbar

crowbar

A crowbar is also known as a lever. It is characterized as a metal bar tool with flattened tools at both ends. 

It can easily help you pry open items apart. It is rather very useful when opening nailed wooden boxes.  

38. Pry Bar

pry bar

Pry bars are also known as a lever. However, compared to a crowbar, this bar is flatter and thinner. 

Whenever I need to pry something open, like nailed wooden boxes, the crowbar is my go-to. It’s incredibly handy in those situations.

39. Drain Spade

drain spade

Drain spades are physically characterized as narrow shovels. They are considered one essential tool, especially when performing accurate digging. Drain spades are strong, lightweight, and highly efficient.  

A drain spade is one of those implements that can help make planning landscapes easier.  

40. Shovel

shovel

Many people overlook the importance of a shovel, but I’ve found it invaluable in my work. While it’s primarily used to dig and move loose materials like soil, its utility extends beyond that. With its flat edge and slightly concave blade, it’s designed to efficiently break through surfaces or scoop up materials.

Bench Planers and Joinery

Benchwork or bench planes are very convenient stations that allow certain woodworking operations. Good bench planes allow users to create excellent finishes and achieve a degree of accuracy, especially when dealing with joinery planes. 

Here is another list of essential hand tools under the bench planer and joinery category.

41. Jack Plane

jack plane

A jack plane is known as a woodworking bench plane for various purposes. It is used to cut timber to a prescribed size in preparation for processing, such as edge joining. It is one of the initial planes used when dealing with rough stock.  

42. Smoothing Plane

smoothing plane

When I’m at the post-processing stage of my project, I often turn to my trusty smoothing plane. It’s smaller in size, making it ideal for tighter spaces.

Before the widespread use of sandpaper, this was the traditional tool for achieving those perfectly smooth surfaces. However, it’s a testament to its effectiveness that it’s still in use today.

43. Jointer Plane

jointer plane

A jointer plane is also known as a try plane or a trying plane. This is another hand-powered tool among the different types of planers for wood. It can also straighten the edges of rough boards and flatten their faces. 

44. Rabbet Plane

rabbet plane

A rabbet plane is also known as a rebate plane is designed to make and turn rabbets. It is specifically designed to cut rabbets. 

Rabbets are referred to as grooves that are cut into the edge of a wood. The creation of a groove is necessary for the preparation of creating a joint. 

45. Low-Angle Block Plane

low-angle block plane

A low-angle block plane is used to clean up the end grain. It can be used for general-purpose work. This is done post-cutting a board. The low-angle block plane removes the arris, shapes outside curves, and cutting angles.

46. Large Router Plane

large router plane

A router plane is an excellent hand plane tool when working with mortises, trimming tenon, inlay, or any project that requires a cut with precise depth. Furthermore, it is used to smooth out sunken panels and other depressions found below the surface.  

47. Large Shoulder Plane

large shoulder plane

A large shoulder plane is used to trim breadboard tenons, pare tenon cheeks, and adjust shoulders. Due to its magnitude, it allows precision for larger woodwork projects. 

48. Plow Plane

plow plane

A plow plane is also known as a plough plane or a grooving plane. It is used for making grooves that are parallel to an edge. It is one of the easiest planes for joinery, and one the excellent planers for beginners

How to Select the Right Plane for the Job

You can purchase a shoulder plane if you have no idea what plane to purchase and use. Both tools will refine and perfect cuts of wood. Also, you may need to maintain the sharpness of your tool. Read this guide on how to sharpen plane iron to ensure smooth and accurate cuts. 

Interesting Topic: List of the Best Electric Hand Planers 

Clamps, Pliers, and Wrenches

I can’t stress enough the importance of clamps, pliers, and wrenches. They secure the workpiece, holding it firmly in place for a while, which gives woodworkers the freedom to make multiple adjustments and improvements with ease.

49. C-Clamp

c-clamp

A C-clamp is also known as a G-clamp or G-cramp. A C-clamp is a tool that can hold a wood or metal down. It can effectively hold wood pieces steady while working on them.  

50. Spring Clamp

spring clamp

Spring clamps are quick and easy to use. They are particularly appropriate for projects requiring light pressure and temporarily holding down items. Spring clamps are wonderful for fast and easy clamping and gluing wood projects. 

51. Parallel-Jaw Clamp

parallel-jaw clamp

A parallel-jaw clamp is a very big clamp. Its jaw is fixed at a 90-degree angle. It is very useful when assembling squares or materials required to be straight. It allows large openings by holding it in place. 

It can withstand extreme loads and pressure. A parallel-jaw clamp is very useful for big projects.  

52. Diagonal Pliers

diagonal pliers

Diagonal cutting pliers are often used to cut wire. It accomplishes this by indenting and wedging the cable apart. Furthermore, diagonal pliers are more suited for smaller and more delicate cutting operations. 

53. Vise-Grips grips

Vise-Grips

Vise-grips are used for a lot of tasks. These grips can be used to hold down the straight edges of the plywood for easy mark-making. 

A vise-grip can be used to remove stripped bolt heads once they are too tight. 

54. Needle Nose Pliers

needle nose pliers

These specific sets of pliers are wonderful for small and little materials for certain woodworking projects. The jaws are designed with a knurled surface and side cutters. It can bend wires, hold fittings, and place fasteners. 

These are also lifesavers when working in tight spaces. They are also particularly useful for fishing out screws and other small items from small narrow spaces.

55. Self-Adjusting Pliers

self-adjusting pliers

Self-adjusting pliers are a particular tool that is very convenient when it comes to various woodworking projects. It has a spring-loaded design that adjusts and locks the plier’s jaws into position.

Self-adjusting pliers allow a convenient way of securing a grip every single time. These are very reliable sets of pliers.

56. Combination Pliers

combination pliers

Combination pliers are named due to their different functions. They are usually made up of steel alloys and additives such as vanadium. Combination pliers are generally used for bending, gripping, cutting, and twisting. 

57. Hex Key Set

hex key set

A hex key set is also known as Allen wrenches. It is usually used to fix and assemble pieces of furniture and adjust specific tools, among others. 

A hex key set offers a unique function by fitting into hexagonal-shaped holes. It is handy since it folds and can fit inside a drawer or a pocket. 

58. Adjustable Wrench

adjustable wrenches

An adjustable wrench is also known as an adjustable spanner. An adjustable wrench is one tool used to tighten and loosen nuts and bolts on a project. 

Its moveable jaw allows this function. Furthermore, it can accommodate different sizes of nuts and bolts you are working with. 

59. Socket Set

socket set

A socket set is a hand-held apparatus that is used for tightening or removing nuts and other fasteners. Furthermore, it gives the users the flexibility to get grips with fasteners of different sizes. 

60. Combination Wrench

combination wrench

A set of combination wrenches is also highly recommended as a part of your toolbox. The design of a combination wrench is quite clever, with a closed loop on one end and an open U-shape on the other. 

The closed loop is used to loosen difficult hexagonal or square nuts. The open end is used to unscrew it fully. Overall, it’s a tool that has proven indispensable time and again.

Sharpening Tools

Sharpening tools come in different shapes and sizes. These items sharpen other tools toward their accurate performance. 

61. Vise

vise

A vise allows you to grab and hold nearly anything in a steady position. However, the vise’s jaws have a machined face and can disfigure the wood.  

62. Chisels

chisel

A chisel is a hand tool primarily used for cutting, shaping, and carving. Chisels can be used on stone, wood, and metal. It is one of the most popular tools for shaping materials.

63. Scissors

scissors

Scissors are small, handy, and reliable tools that are mainly used to cut items. 

64. Anvils

anvil

Anvils are used for various tasks. It can be used to straighten hardware, reform tools, or reinforce depressions on surfaces. 

65. Waterstones

Waterstones

Waterstones are used to sharpen other items. It has a flattened surface that is soaked in water which allows it to file and sharpen sharp tools. 

66. Honing guide

Honing guide

A honing guide holds chisels and plane irons in positions. This allows the creation of a square edge on tools. 

Other Tools and Miscellaneous

Beyond the tools I’ve mentioned above, I’d suggest considering these accessories and checking their utility. You never know when they might come in handy during a job!

67. Ladder

ladder

A ladder provides access to areas that are at a higher elevation. It is not used directly as a work platform.

68. Flashlight

flashlights

A flashlight can effectively illuminate a room. It is a mobile and handy light source that can help you light up tight, narrow, and hard to reach. If you’re looking to purchasing one, I recommend a high-quality LED light for your workshop. 

69. Utility Knife

utility knife

A premium utility knife is useful when handling various woodworking projects and issues. A good quality knife can help open boxes and bags and trim textiles. 

70. Extension Cord

extension cord

Most of what’s covered in this list of hand tools do not require any power sources. Despite this, an extension cord may come in handy once in a while, especially when using power tools. It is a handy item in any workshop to provide power. 

71. Staple Gun

staple gun

A staple gun can come in handy once in a while. At one point in your first projects, you will need to staple an item unto a surface.

If your budget allows it, I recommend purchasing one of these, as they can make certain operations easier. 

72. Caulking Gun

caulking gun

A caulking gun is a device with a tube filled with a sealant for fixing gaps in your home and projects. 

It can effectively be used in a myriad of materials. Many, if not most of the gaps and spaces can be sealed using a caulking gun. 

73. Sawhorses

sawhorse

Sawhorses owing to their wide top, are very good support and can be used as a bench plane or a field workbench. It is very convenient to have one when cutting pieces of wood. It is wonderful to have one in your workshop, and it is affordable too. 

74. Stud Finder

stud finder

A stud finder is a good tool to help you find framing studs behind a surface or a wall. It helps you avoid studs while drilling or nailing. 

A stud finder can is also available as an affordable magnetic unit or a professional unit. You’ll likely to find one that fits your budget. 

75. Tools For Curves

curve measuring tool

There are different tools for drawing, cutting, and measuring curves. These tools would include a marking knife, drawknives, rasps, and scrapers.

How to Organize Your Tools

Organizing your hand tools is easy. You can organize the tools you picked from this list by keeping them in a toolbox. 

Usually these toolboxes depend on the tool’s uses and categories, as reflected in this list. 

How to Store The Tools

Make sure to keep your tools organized. Keep them away from moisture and heat to avoid rust and exposure. You can also use magnetic strips to organize tools. 

How to Keep Your Tools in Good Condition

After picking out the tools from this list, make sure you have enough space for them. Without proper organization and room, your workshop can quickly become crowded and chaotic. Proper storage is as essential as the tools themselves.

woodworking cabinet for tools

Best Place to Buy These Tools

These hand and power tools can be purchased at your local physical hardware store or a lumber yard. 

With the advent of the internet and technology, you can also purchase these tools online. However, it’s best to go to a physical store to inspect these items before purchasing them. 

Conclusion

As you’ve seen in this essential hand tools list, there’s a wide array of products that cater to various needs. All the tools I’ve highlighted here are among the most critical for home, professional, and DIY projects.

But before diving in and buying everything on the list, I’d advise checking their specific uses. It’s always best to ensure you’re investing in tools you’ll use often, rather than letting them gather dust.

robert headshot

Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You’ve probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.

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