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Home > Hand Tools

Tip: Basic Hand Tools for Setting Up Shop

Below I recommend several brands of tools. These are tools I own and have a lot of experience with or have used in the past and like. This doesn't mean that these brands are the only ones out there or are even the best. Ask around and find out what other people like and use. Ultimately you have to make your own decision on which tools are best for you and how you work.

Woodworking covers so many facets that it's difficult to come up with a tool list that covers the needs of every woodworker. Many tools are used for a very specific task, while others are more general tools that you find yourself using for most projects. The latter is what I'll concentrate on in this article. Just keep in mind that if you want to learn how to make guitars (a Luther), or build a canoe, etc...there will definitely be tools that you will need that won't be on this list. This is just to get you started. I've been working wood for over 10 years and trust me there are still many tools I would love to have. But just like I did you start with the basics and buy other tools as you find a need for them.

To list hand tools and power tools together would be too long, so I'll cover hand tools in this newsletter and power tools in the next newsletter.

Hand Tools

Machine tools: screwdrivers, Allen wrenches, set to wrenches, pliers, crescent wrench. These are things that most already have around the house, but it definitely doesn't hurt to have a set of these tools that are dedicated just to your shop so you don't have to hunt all over the house when you need a Phillips screwdriver. These can all be picked up at your local hardware store.

Set of bench chisels: 1/4" to 1". I've used a set of Marples chisels for years. Irwin has bought them so they may show up under their name now. The full set costs around $50.00 Cheaper chisels just won't hold an edge (meaning they dull too easily). The Marple chisels hold an edge ok. Home Depot and Lowes' used to carry them but they're not showing up on their websites now. Amazon.com has them for $50

Handplanes: A jack plane (sometimes referred to as a No. 5) and a low angle block plane. The jack plane gets it's name from being the "jack of all trades". It's a medium size plane and can be used for many tasks. I recommend buying a used one, specifically an old Stanley No. 5. Look at flea markets and garage sells or try ebay (this is where I got mine years ago). A block plane will be one of the most used tools in your shop, so buy a good one. If you can afford it Lie-Nielsen.com or Lee Valley.com both have excellent low angle blocks from $75 to $119 A cheaper alternative would be a Stanley 60 1/2 low angle block for around $40.

Handsaws: panel, or Japanese Ryoba and Dozuki. Western saws cut on the push stroke; Japanese saws cut on the pull stroke. My advice is to try out both and see which you like better. Each has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Personally, I like the Japanese saws for most jobs, but I still like a western type saw for cutting dovetails. Lowes and Home Depot both carry Japanese saws. Another good place to look is Japanwoodworker.com

Layout tools:tape measure, small and large size try squares, marking gauge, pencil compass, 6" and 12" rulers, bevel gauge, combination square.

Hammer: 16oz standard and a wooden or deadblow-style mallet for working with chisels and other tools.

Card scraper: an inexpensive tool that is indispensable in the shop (especially if you dislike sanding). These tools can take extremely thin shavings of wood and leave a very smooth surface. They can be tricky to sharpen though. We'll cover scrapers more indepth in a future article.

Rasps: a coarse and fine cabinetmaker's style. These are used to shape wood especially table legs.

There's my list of basic hand tools to get you started. Some, you will need from the very beginning. Some you can wait on. My advice is to figure out what you want to make with your woodworking and then start building. You'll figure out quickly the tools you really need and the ones you can wait to get. If you have any questions or would like to add to the list, drop me a note. Contact us. We'll cover portable power tools next month.