Woodworking tools for beginners – Where to start

So, you’ve decided to try your hand at woodworking. Congratulations! It’s a great hobby and an even greater profession. Making things out of wood is not only going to give you hours and hours of fun but also provide you with some awesome products of your own labor.

However, if you didn’t inherit an entire workshop filled with tools from your grandpa, you are going to have to start buying some. And everybody seems to have their own idea about the best woodworking tools for beginners.

In this article I’m going to try and give you my own list of tools that I think give you the best bang for your buck. Please keep in mind that this is my own opinion based on my own experience and preferences. But before we start dissecting them one by one, let’s talk a little about some general concepts so that you can decide what YOU need on your own.

The tools you need are decided by what YOU want to build

Sorry for capitalizing “you” once again, but I want you to understand that this is a personal choice and anyone who tells you that “you need this very specific list of things” is either a stubborn killjoy or is trying to sell you something without any care for your needs.

Think about what you want to make for a second:

  • Outdoor furniture out of 2x4s
  • Wood toys for your kids
  • Framing projects like a shed, deck or a gazebo
  • Cup coasters

You get the idea. There are a lot of directions you can take in woodworking and all of them will require a different set of tools. Now of course, it’s not like all of those sets will be completely different. On the contrary, there will be a big overlap.

Another thing to consider is your personal preference when it comes to tools. Some people love using power tools whenever they can as they are faster and sometime require less skill to get the job done. Others live and die by traditional hand tools as they are less dangerous, make less noise and less dust. I think the combination of both is ideal but I must admit I gravitate towards power tools. Vroom, vroom!

Last thing to note before we start discussing specific tools. The list below is not a shopping list. You shouldn’t get all of the tools I’m gonna list and as a matter of fact, I think some of them are a bad choice for a beginner. I’m only listing those so that you can get a feeling of what options are out there and how they relate to each other. Go through the list and decide what you need for what you plan to do.

With that being said, let dive into a list of tools you will probably need as a novice woodworker

Basic hand tools


I don’t want to spend too much of your time talking about these so I’m just gonna put them all here. You are gonna need some basic tools like:

  • Hammer
  • Screwdriver
  • Tape measure
  • Pliers
  • Wrenches
  • Utility knife

These are not necessarily “woodworking tools” as they are pretty much general household tools. Luckily, you probably already have most of them lying around your house. If not, these are not that expensive to buy. I remember buying an entire toolbox with something like 50+ tools in it for around $50 about 7 years ago and I still use it daily.

Saw of some kind

Cutting wood is the at the core of woodworking. Therefore, you are gonna need a saw to do that. Depending on what you want to do you are gonna need one of these:

Hand saw

Hand saw
Hand saw and friends

If one tool was to be chosen as a symbol of woodworking, I’m pretty sure hand saw would reach the finals. It is such a recognizable, almost cartoonish tool.

It is a great tool and should be a part of every woodworker’s tool collection. I’m not going to bore you with all the different kinds of hand saws there are. For now let’s just mention some of its advantages:

  • They are cheap
  • They can be found in almost any hardware store
  • No electricity required
  • Doesn’t make a lot of noise
  • Doesn’t make a huge mess
  • Great for toning your arms



This is a nice little tool that offers a lot of value. You should get a jigsaw if you plan to cut custom (not straight) shapes out of wood. With its flexible blade, a jigsaw is able to turn left or right as you cut, enabling you to cut the shape you want.

Another use for a jigsaw is to make interior cuts. For example, let’s say you want to cut a hole in the middle of a board. You would simply drill a pilot hole and start cutting from there.

The downside of a jigsaw is that because of their flexible blade they don’t make cuts that are nice and flush. And if you try to push it forward the blade will start to bend and cut at an angle. Therefore, apply only a light pressure, just enough to keep it moving forward and let the blade to the work. And be prepared for some sanding and fine-tuning after you make your cuts.

Circular saw

Circular saw
Circular saw

A circular saw is the table saw’s little brother, so to say. It is handheld tool that uses a revolving blade to make cuts. They are a must have for anyone that wants to do framing, or make stuff out of structural lumber such as 2x4s.

They make straight cuts and can’t do custom shapes like a jigsaw. With a help of a guide, such as a speed square, a straight board or a circular saw track, they can be a good substitute for a table saw.

Another great feature is that most circular saws can cut at an angle by adjusting the angle of the footplate.

I’ve seen people do some really cool projects where they make custom table that resembles a table saw and then attach a circular saw to it. This way you can get a pretty similar tool but with less money. However, I would not recommend this for beginners. It is a complex thing to do, and power tools can hurt you really bad if you mistreat them.

Table saw

Table saw
Table saw blade

Not my recommendation for beginners. Mostly because of their price. You can get 4-5 different handheld tools in the same grade for the price of a table saw. With that being said, a table saw is the corner stone of a good workshop. I’ve heard woodworkers say that they make 80% of their cuts on the table saw. But that depends on what kind of work you do.

Table saws have lot of similarities with circular saws like:

  • Revolving blade
  • Straight cuts
  • Cutting at an angle

However, they offer a lot more. Almost all modern woodworking table saws come equipped with a fence and mitre tracks. The fence allows you to make nice straight rip-cuts (cutting along the grain). Mitre tracks are indented for mounting a mitre gauge which allows you to make cross-cuts (cutting perpendicular to the grain) and angled cuts. However, mitre tracks also unlock the whole new world of table saw sleds which have so much potential that they require an article of their own.

Miter saw

Mitre saw
Mitre saw

Not my recommendation for beginners. These are great machines as well but save the money and buy them later.

They are basically circular saws attached to a fancy arm standing on a fancy base that allows you to cut fancy angles. Really cool, totally awesome but not just yet. You can achieve this with a circular saw and a DIY jig.

Band saw

Band saw
Band saw

Not my recommendation for beginners. And mostly for the same reason as the table saw. They are large, expensive stationary machines. Function wise, they are jigsaws big brother. They allow for custom shaped cuts as they also have a flexible blade. But because they have a table that you rest the wood on, they allow for more precision.

Another useful feature of a band saw is resawing lumber. Basically it’s making thinner boards out of thicker ones. But that is out of scope of this article.

Tools for sanding

Woodworkers like to make a joke about how woodworking is mostly sanding. And it’s funny because it’s true. Unless you are planning on only doing framing or you want all the products of your labor to be rough, splintery torture devices get ready for some (a lot) sanding.

If you want to stick with the no-power-tools-crew, you are pretty much stuck with sandpaper and sanding blocks. And be prepared for hours of arms workout. At least you can cancel your gym membership.

All jokes aside, there is nothing wrong with sanding with your hands. To each their own.

Now, let’s get to some power tools that can help speed up the process. First, a list of tools I do not recommend for beginners:

  • Disc sander
  • Spindle sander
  • Bench sander / table sander / stationary belt sander

Those are all nice, useful and expensive tools. You don’t need them until you get older.

Two sanders I would recommend you get are:

Random orbital sander

Orbital sander
Orbital sander

Another nice little handheld tool to add to your list. They are not difficult to use and greatly speed up the sanding process. Great thing about them is that they are relatively cheap, so you can probably get one at the beginning of your woodworking journey.

The “random” in its name refers to the way it works. You know how the Moon spins around the Earth and Earth spins around the Sun. Using that analogy if the base of the random orbital sander is the Sun, then the sanding pad (the sandpaper-like thing you attach to the bottom) is the Moon.

Because of this wiggly pattern it moves around in, it creates pretty random paths as you move the sander across the wood. As a result of this, it doesn’t create those ugly scratch marks on the wood. At least not as much…

Handheld belt sander

Belt sander
Belt sander

Unlike its stationary sibling, I would recommend this tool for beginners. It won’t create nicely sanded surface in the same way random orbital sander will, but that’s not the reason you should get this tool.

This tool is great when it comes to removing paint, lacquer or other finish from wood. It will come in handy for re-finishing wood. But did you know it can also save you money? How? Glad you asked… Wood can be expensive as you probably already know. But if you find old wood that people don’t need anymore, you can get it a fraction of the price. And you guessed it – it will often have some kind of finish on it. So, by putting in a little effort, you can not only pay less but also help the environment by repurposing resources.


Another tool that you might already have in your house is a drill. If not, you should definitely get one. There are two main types that I recommend you get. Actually you might not need one of them, but we’ll get to that:


Drill driver

There are versatile tools that can accept both drills and screwdriver bits. Therefore, they can be used both for drilling and for screwing. This is definitely a tool you should own, even if you are not into woodworking.

Hammer drill

These are usually a bit more expensive, but still not truly expensive. Their main feature is that they have the ability to rock the drill back and forth while you are drilling and this allows them to drill into hard stuff like stone or concrete.

If you plan on drilling into walls or concrete floors to attach whatever you are making, this is a must have. Otherwise, you can skip this one.


Plunge router
Plunge router

For some reason, not many people recommend routers to beginners. But it’s one of the first power tools I bought. It might just be the wannabe luthier inside me, who knows…

The routers are actually pretty similar to drill mechanically even though they serve a different purpose. Instead of accepting drills, they accept router bits.

I must admit I had to stop and thing about all of the uses of a router, cause it provides so much it’s sometimes hard to believe. It can:

  • Cut grooves
  • Profile edges
  • Make exact copies using a template
  • Flatten wood like a planer (with a jig)
  • Cut perfect circles (with a jig)
  • Copy carving (with a duplicator)

The possibilities seem endless and that is why I think router is a tool that most woodworkers should have. If you decide to get one I have a few tips for you:

  1. Get a plunge router
  2. Make sure it can be attached to a router table
  3. Don’t spend all your money on the router itself. The real fun is in all the various router bits, so make sure you save enough money to get a decent set.

I did mention a router table but I don’t think you need right away. You can get one later or even make one when you feel proficient enough to take on such a task. It’s not really a project for beginners…

Various other non-power tools you will need

I think we covered all of the power tools a beginner needs and then some. If you think I missed some, make sure you let me know in the comments below.

Now we’ll discuss some of the non-power tools you are probably going to need.

Clamps, lots and lots of clamps


If there is one thing woodworkers like to hoard, it’s probably clamps. And it’s actually a smart thing to do. When you get to gluing two large, oddly shaped pieces of wood together you will understand why it is so.

There are quite a few types of clamps out there:

  • C-clamps
  • F-clamps
  • Pipe clamps
  • Bench clamps
  • Quick action clamps

And that’s not even half of the list. It could take an article of its own. But they all do the same thing – hold two pieces of wood together or hold a piece of wood from moving.

They are generally inexpensive and can be found at almost every hardware store.

Hand plane

Hand plane
Hand plane

This is a very useful woodworking tool but it requires a little practice to actually be useful. Therefore, I would not recommend it for beginners. However, if you are up for a challenge, don’t let me stop you.

They are used to flatten out the surface of the wood, mostly for when you want to glue two pieces of wood together.


Hand files
A set of files

Not files on your computer but a tool known as hand file. They come in various types but all of them are used to shape wood by hand. Get a few types, get some rougher ones and some finer ones and you will see how much fun they can provide.


A set of chisels

Another tool that hand tools lovers worship. Chisels also come in various shapes and sizes and their main use is to manually cut and carve wood.


Mallet and chisel
Mallet and a chisel

Whether you need to get a tight joint to fit, or you need something to hit those chisels with you will quickly find out that the palm of your hand is not the best tool for the job. Get a nice mallet and save yourself from pain.


As you can see, there are dozens and dozens of woodworking tools out there in the wild. This article actually lists only a fraction of them. As you progress with your woodworking journey you will constantly learn about new tools and types of the tools you already know about. You will also learn about additional uses for the tools you have, all the various types of jigs the will unlock new possibilities, etc.

However, do not let all of that intimidate you. Think about what you would like to build. Then think about what tools you will need to finish that project. And make sure you don’t overcomplicate it, try to do it with as little tools as possible.

Save your money by not getting more tools than you really need, and by not getting the most expensive tools there are. Get your feet wet before you dive in.

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