Updated: Jul 5, 2022
Woodworking can quickly get expensive, especially for the weekend hobbyist. There are too many hand tools to count, so which ones are essential for someone starting out with woodworking. In this article, we'll assume you have a basic set of tools such as a tape measure, hammer, screwdrivers etc. and focus on the essential hand tools that you will need to get started with wood working.
What tools do you need to begin woodworking?
Square/Combination Square (jump to section)
Clamps (jump to section)
Chisels (jump to section)
Sanding Mouse (jump to section)
I call out the specific tools that I personally use and think highly of, but also include upgraded and more affordable alternatives. If you are planning on purchasing a new tool based on these recommendations, please support this page by using the links within the article. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. By making purchases through these links, you help support free content like this at no additional cost to you!
How to Use a Speed Square
With so much versatility, these are two measuring essentials that you cannot live without if you want to make accurate cuts, angles and measurements with ease and speed.
Aside from using a speed square to draw a straight 90° angle, by using the pivot point (green arrow) and rotating the square until the edge of your stock aligns with any angle marking on the long edge (red arrow). Draw a line along the pivot edge (along green arrow) to mark the stock at the given angle (35°).
Best Uses for a Combination Square
The 12" Combination Square is the go-to measuring tool. It comes with a sliding rule that can be locked in place for marking repeated measurements of the same length. You can use the combination square for so many tasks - not just measuring:
Set a saw blade or router bit at the appropriate height
Drag the body along the edge of your stock with a pencil against the rule to get a straight line any specific distance from that edge
Align project pieces a specific distance from the edge
Check if your stock is at a 45° or 90° angle
Use it to make sure your table saw blade is 45° or 90° from the table
Measure and lock in the depth of an offset or dado channel.
Your craftsmanship is only as accurate as your measuring tools.
Accurate but Pricey: Starrett (Amazon)
Affordable but reliable: Swanson (Amazon)
"You can never have too many clamps." You will hear this over and over again, and for good reason. There are many different kinds that help with a variety of clamping tasks. C-clamps, F-clamps, parallel clamps, ratchet clamps, spring clamps, pipe clamps...the list goes on, but what do you need to get started?
Make these your first purchase. They are relatively inexpensive and are the most versatile.
These are one of the few tools that I'm not afraid to purchase from Harbor Freight. In fact, I purchased a couple 24" and 18" from Harbor Freight (blue clamps pictured above) for less than $10 each.
If you want clamps that are more durable yet won't break the bank, check out Bessey. You can find these at Home Depot or get a set on Amazon for around $30
Ratchet clamps are a bit more expensive, but are well worth it. They are my go-to clamp that get used every day. Ratchet clamps make the clamp up and release process so much faster and easier than turning a knob to tighten/loosen.
Do yourself a favor and get a set of these. You can find several different kits here on Amazon.
Spring clamps (far right in picture above) come in handy and are very inexpensive ($1-3). Get a few of these, they'll come in handy.
A quality set of chisels are a must in woodworking and worth spending a little on.
The Stanley chisels I use are spectacular. They come razor sharp and keep their edge very well. However, like all chisels, they should be sharpened for best results.
If you want to save money for a different shop tool, you can get by with sanding by hand for a while. An inexpensive alternative is the sanding mouse (Amazon):
These come with the same hook and loop method to attach sandpaper as the orbital sander.
Even if you are purchasing an orbital sander, I recommend getting one of these (under $10) for final sanding.
The molded foam block makes hand sanding just a bit more bearable (if that is possible).