There is nothing like the smell of sawdust and varnish to set a woodworker’s mind at ease. Anyone who works with lumber needs a few basic tools in the shop to create their next masterpiece. Whether for carpentry, wood carving, cabinetry or furniture projects, the best woodworking tools can take an amateur project to the next level.
The Best Woodworking Tools to Purchase
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the woodworking field to grow about 3% over the next eight years, so now is a great time to break into the industry. The foundation of the craft is having the right tools. Every woodworker — from beginners to experts — should include these essentials in their shop.
1. Power Miter Saw
The easiest way to make miters and crosscuts on a workpiece is to use a miter saw. The blades come in a variety of sizes to suit different needs. Also called a drop saw, a miter saw features a circular blade that rotates extremely fast to make defined, accurate cuts in a plank. Woodworkers can buy them in corded and cordless varieties.
2. Handheld Circular Saw
A circular saw uses the same type of round blade as a miter saw, but instead of being in a fixed position on a table, it is portable and handheld. It is perfect for making crosscuts or rip cuts. A circular saw is usually electric but may also be gas- or hydraulic-powered. Woodworkers can purchase right-handed or left-handed versions depending on which hand they favor.
These saws can cut irregular curves on a piece of wood. For example, jigsaw puzzle pieces get their trademark shape — and name — thanks to the fine precision of a jigsaw. This type of saw features an electric motor and reciprocating blade. The more teeth per inch (TPI) on the blade, the smoother the cut and the less sanding required to finish a piece. Woodworking jigsaws can handle wood, plywood and particleboard.
4. Reciprocating Saw
This handheld saw’s narrow blade makes rapid, in-and-out cuts suited for slicing through wood, nails and PVC. It is perfect for making minor cuts in hard-to-reach areas — such as between planks of wood — which is why it shines as a demolition tool. It is small and easy to manipulate around a workpiece. Carpenters commonly use reciprocating saws to trim window frames and doorways.
This electric power saw uses a long, continuous metal band with fine teeth to cut wood. The blade stretches between multiple wheels to anchor it in place. Because the blades can have different numbers of teeth per inch (TPI) and lengths to accommodate various projects, bandsaws are one of the best woodworking tools to have in the shop. Specifically, vertical bandsaws are used frequently to help achieve more intricate cuts. Horizontal bandsaws on the other hand, would be used when making straight cuts through materials.
6. Nail Gun
Rather than hammering nails into place manually, many carpenters use this tool to accurately and precisely fire nails into a workpiece. It can shoot tiny, barely noticeable nails into furniture without damaging the surrounding lumber or bending the nails in the process. It is also faster and less labor-intensive than using a hammer.
7. Hand Planer
This tool shaves fine pieces of wood off a plank to achieve a uniform thickness. It is especially useful for planing already-assembled furniture that is too large to pass through a thickness planer machine. Although power tools such as routers, belt sanders, power planers and jointers often relegate hand planers to the bottom of the toolbox, they are still indispensable for performing simple jobs in a pinch.
8. Power Drill
Cordless or corded, handheld power drills are one of the best woodworking tools because of their versatility. They are probably the most common tool in any shop. Aside from their obvious use of fixing two pieces of wood together with screws, they can also remove screws and make precise holes of various sizes and shapes.
9. Rotary Tool
Sometimes called a Dremel, this is actually the brand name of the most popular rotary tool company, not the official name for the implement. This handheld device can make small cuts or sand tiny areas on a piece of wood. It is also popular for engraving elaborate designs by hand, so it is an excellent choice for woodworkers who want to break into the wood carving or sculpting scene.
10. Drill Press
A drill press does more than just make holes — woodworkers can also use it to sand and polish wood by putting different attachments in the chuck. A drill press has a few advantages over a handheld drill, including clamping a workpiece to the table, drilling at a fixed angle and using less pressure to push the drill into the workpiece.
11. Palm Sander
Also known as a random orbital sander — though many construction workers and carpenters simply refer to it as an orbital sander — this handheld tool makes quick work of rough wood. It features a round sander to create smooth surfaces. The sanding discs are easy to swap out for different grit levels and may employ a hook-and-loop system or adhesives to adhere to the sander. Because it is smaller than a belt sander and moves in random rotations, a palm sander is easier to manipulate in several directions.
12. Wood Lathe
Carpenters and sculptors often use a wood lathe to make rounded pieces, such as furniture legs or bowls. This machine rotates wood pieces at a high speed and is one of the best machines for sculpting specific shapes and producing intricate carvings.
For hollowing out an area in a workpiece — a process known as routing — a router is the best power tool. It can also route edges, carve patterns and cut specific joints. This makes it one of the most versatile woodworking tools available. There are two varieties — those that are fixed in place and handheld types.
14. Digital Protractor
A digital protractor is the right device to quickly and accurately measure angles between two pieces of wood. It allows for precise saw and workpiece adjustment so woodworkers can make cuts at the perfect angle. Most protractors also serve as a ruler that measures in inches or centimeters. They are easy to lock into place at specific angles.
15. Straight Edge Clamp Guides
These are one of the most widely used accessories in woodworking shops. They function as guides for saws and routers and feature a built-in clamp for easy attachment to a table or workpiece. This minimizes the need for bulky clamps and ensures saws do not deviate from their intended path. Most straight-edge clamps are made of metal and will last for years, so woodworkers will not have to replace them often.
Invest in the Best Woodworking Tools
The best woodworking tools are not always the most complicated. Nearly anybody can learn to use simple hand planers, drills and various power saws, yet these devices are among the most important for a masterful carpentry job. Modern tools have enabled woodworking to be more accessible and enjoyable for anyone who wants to learn this time-honored craft.
Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized, an online magazine discussing the latest industry innovations and trends.