THE 30 Essential Woodworking Tools You Should Learn to Use

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  April 9, 2022
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Woodworking is an intense and elaborate job. It requires a lot of hard work, a lot of precision and of course some essential tools to help you through. If you can break down your job in some phases, you will need a different tool in each of your phases. This signifies the importance of choosing the perfect tool for your next woodworking job.

As you can already guess, there are a lot (and by ‘a lot’, I meant literally) of woodworking tools to aid your woodworking job. Obviously, you won’t need all of them for a certain job.

But if your work includes different types of woodworking with different types of woods, you will definitely need more than a few tools in your toolbox.


In this article, we will cover some of the most important woodworking tools that you would definitely want in your garage. For someone who is building a new garage or someone who is planning to extend an existing one, this article will definitely help.

Essential Woodworking Tools

1. Tape Measure

This is one of the most basic woodworking tools. The tape measure tool gives you the first degree of precision in cutting the required size. Of course, it is not as precise as the slide calipers or screw gauge, but it serves its purpose pretty well for basic length measurement. The tape is marked in inches, centimeters, and millimeters allowing you to be precise up to millimeters.

2. Moisture Meter

The quality of the wood you will work on depending a lot on its moisture content. You have to measure the moisture content of each species of wood you are using in your woodworking project to verify that they fit for manufacturing into your end product. That is why a wood moisture meter is a must have tool. It measures the moisture content of the wood and let you know if you can work with it or not.

3. Chisel

A wood chisel (these are the best) should be a part of every workshop. Chisels are not just for woodcarvers, they need wood carving toolset. They are needed to clean out joints and saw cuts. The chisels made of high-alloy carbon steel or chromium-vanadium alloyed steel are the most efficient ones. Hardwood grips with the metal caps on them can be a wise choice. The metal caps will keep the end of the handle from becoming malformed when you hammer on it.

4. Level

Levels are another important woodworking tool. Levels are used to indicate whether the surface you are working on is inclined or not. For basic woodworking, small sized like 48’’ levels are just fine. Sometimes, an 8’’ level, known as a torpedo level is very useful. Make sure to check the level and plum of your construction. Level means horizontal, and plumb is vertical.

5. Screwdrivers

No toolbox in the world is complete without a screwdriver. For woodworking, a long, heavy duty screwdriver with a square blade is the most useful. This gives you a lot of torque. Alongside the long one. you’ll also need a small and medium slot screwdriver too. Also, a thin screwdriver with a thin shank will be helpful for working on cabinets or tight places. You can also use them to reach screws that are inside of deep holes.

6. Nailer

A nail set is the next hand tool every woodworker. It comes in several sizes and you might need all of them. The nail set is used to drive nail heads into the wood so they are flush or right below the surface. This allows you to fill the holes and prepare for staining or painting. The surface of the nail setter is either convex or concave to grip the nail better and keep it from sliding off the wood.

Also read – Best finish nailer and best flooring nailer

7. Caliper

The calipers are the precise version of the tape measure. It can measure length up to fractions of millimeters. You can even get digital calipers now that leave no guesswork as to whether you were inside or outside the line. The calipers can be of either metal or plastic. The metal ones are solid in structure and they are always recommended over those made of plastic, even though the plastic ones are cheaper.

8. Clamp

Clamps are very important for a woodworking shop. Most woodworkers agree that you can’t have too many clamps. While they can get expensive, you don’t want to skimp in this area. Clamps are needed for 45 and 90-degree joints, and pipe clamps to reach for long stretches. You can easily make a really strong clamp to the size you need by just purchasing the pipe clamp fixtures and insert your own pipe into the fixtures.

9. Hand saw

A hand saw is one of the most common tools in a woodworking toolbox. Hand saws are the basic wood cutting tool. You don’t have to use a power saw on everything – in fact, you probably won’t want to. You need to be able to feel the wood’s response under the saw blade, and the saw blade’s response to the wood.

10. Circular saw

Circular saws (top choices here) are one of the most versatile tools that you can have in your toolbox. The versatility of a circular saw is often compared with that of a table saw, but you can use a circular saw for tasks that you could never attempt with a table saw.

Moreover, circular saws offer you the portability that you can wander around with a circular saw, that you cannot do with a table saw. So, ensure a high-quality circular saw in your shop.

There are different types of saw you could care about, but not all of them are not essential woodworking tools, but worm drive saw and the track saw something that useful.

11. Sabre saw

Every woodworker should have a saber saw. The sabre saw is alternately known as a jigsaw as it will allow you to cut curves and patterns in your stock materials. It can be either electrical or battery operated, making the latter one suitable for cutting thin woods. You need to find one that fits your hand. Too small, and you can’t grip it; too large, and you can’t control it. For thicker materials, you’ll need a band saw, which we’ll cover later.

12. Band saw

Band saws are another important saw to have in your workshop. The band saws are very popular for cutting rabbets and tenons. You can make your own laminate strips even you can rip small pieces of wood with a band saw. There are a few models available and among them, the free-standing models are usually bigger, sturdier and have more features. This model is very popular among professionals.

Also, read the best benchtop band saw

13. Table Saw

The table saw is considered the workhorse of your shop, so make sure you have a good one. Make sure to double check on the work surface which should be heavy duty to withstand the abuse it will take. Also, check on the power ratings as you’ll want your table saw to have enough power to cut through hardwood and make deep cuts.

14. Radial Arm Saw

The radial arm saw can be another addition to your workshop but they are expensive, bulky, and heavy. And, it’s absolutely indispensable to those who own one. If you choose to get one, just plan to have a permanent home for it, because it’s probably not going to travel to worksites with you. This saw is very popular for crosscuts. However, you can use a radial arm saw for other purposes like bevels and miters, dadoes, rabbets, moldings, and even as a router guide.

15. Metal Detector

You will need a metal detector in your workshop to prevent your important electronic tools from metal wastes. It is very important to keep metal out of your cutting surfaces unless you want to ruin your blades, bits, and knives on your tools. A quick scan is all it takes for a metal detector and you will know if there is a piece of screw or nail still lodged in your stock. You’ll find out anyway, it’s just nice to find out before you ruin your tools.

16. The Saw Horse

Sawhorses like these are another important tool that you will need in any woodworking shop or construction site. A typical sawhorse can hold weight more than 300 pounds if you can build you it properly. Also, they are fairly cheap to build. A sawhorse will serve you multiple purposes, from providing backup as you saw and drill to extending your work surface while using power saws.

17. The Workbench

Whether you are setting up your new workshop or extending an older one, you’ll need a woodworking workbench. The sawhorses can be patterned just like the sawhorses. The workbench can either be portable, retracting or locking casters, or it can be fixed. And about measurements, there aren’t any rules since workbenches are usually based on the amount of room you may have.

Also if you are a handyman enough you could make one for you.

18. Tool Storage System

For all the perfectionist craftsmen out there, good storage space is a mandatory requirement for your workspace. You won’t like to see your tools lying here and there.

You want them to be neat and tidy, just like you. It depends totally on your personal choice. You can allocate the place wherever you want, however you want. But make sure you have a nice spacious space for your tools.

Relevant Article: Best rolling toolbox

19. The Shop Vac

The shop vac is an important tool for a workshop. Some workers think that a shop vac is a luxury to have in small workshops. But it’s better to spend some extra bucks than getting blind from powdery wood dust.

Shop vacs are much like the home vacuums that have outlets in every room of the house. All you have to do is to take a hose with you from one room to the other, plug it in, and the vacuum does its job.

20. Bench Grinder

A bench grinder is not versatile of a tool than the previous ones that we discussed but once you get one of your own, you’ll be amazed at how much you’ll use a bench grinder. It will keep all of your chisels sharp and keep the burrs off of your screwdrivers, too. A grinder is usually cheap and the time and expense it saves you when you have dull tools will pay for itself in no time.

21. The Power Drill

A power drill is like the screwdrivers, you just have to keep one in your bag. People these days are getting used to cordless drills, but they’re more expensive, and they can’t do everything that an electric drill can do. Power drills are comparatively cheaper, and they’re more powerful than cordless drills.

22. The Palm Sander

 No job is perfect without a good finishing and that’s why palm sanders are very important for your workshop. A good palm sander uses 25% of a sheet of sanding paper and is small enough to get into tight places. However, the palm sanders move in a circular pattern, or back and forth. So, there’s a good chance they can leave swirls and streaks in your wood. So, take caution while moving it across the surface you are sanding so that you don’t sand grooves into your wood.

23. Random Orbital Sander

Now, the random orbital sanders are a quite upgraded version of the palm sanders. The disks of this sander move at random and help to avoid sanding patterns into your wood. However, it has some drawbacks as it needs you to make sure the hardware supply store around you has discs in stock in every grit. Otherwise, you can’t use your sander anymore once your disk gets old because you won’t find sanding pads for it.

24. Jig and Dado

A jig and dado will make your table saw much more versatile. A jig and dado are used for cutting grooves or removing large parts of the stock. The saw blades of if make the side of the groove straight and the chipper gets rid of the large part of the material between the saw blades. The width of the chipper can always be adjusted to get bigger cuts.

Relevant article – Best dowel jigs and best pocket hole jig

25. Compound Miter Saw

The compound miter saw has a bevel that has the ability to tilt the saw to compound the cut. It can easily replace the circular saws for beveled cuts and miters. It does all beveled and compound cuts with high precision. A compound miter saw can have a sliding arm function as a radial arm saw, but they’re pretty pricey.

26. Router

A wood router is another very essential tool for a workshop. Wood routers are used to shape the edges of your work. Routers come with a variety of bits, so the variety of shapes is endless. For beginners, a stationary base router will do almost everything you need. This will start and end the cut at the same depth that you set before you make the cut.

Also read – Best trim routers

27. Shaper

Shapers are somewhat identical to the routers but they offer much more power than the routers. The high power makes more complicated profile cutting than the low power ones. The good thing about it is you need only one pass to create a complicated profile. A router would require at least three passes for the same task. Shaper cutters are preferred for wide profiles like crown moldings and raised panels.

28. Drill Press

The importance of a drill press in your workshop is invaluable. It offers you to do precision drilling and deliver especially accurate large-diameter holes. A drill press provides you the flexibility to set the depth of the hole. This is especially useful when you have a number of holes you need to drill, all of the same depth.

29. Surface Planer

The surface planer is an important tool to make your woodwork have the right thickness. The surface planers just make your world much simpler by saving a lot of time. The complex construction of it has a table onto which you feed your stock. The table offers you a maximum width of stock that you can send through. It has a set of rotating blades as they cut through the wood as it is fed through.

30. Jointer

The jointer is an essential and one of the most reliable tools that will ensure you perfect square edges every time. It will let you choose it over surface planers as it yields flat surfaces that won’t go through the surface planers. Being positioned between two tables, the jointer uses a cutter head that rotates at high RPM.

Also, read – the best biscuit jointer


This Essential Woodworking Tools list can go on as we left out a lot of tools as they are more advanced. The suggestion would be, if your budget permits, buy as many tools as you can. Because, one way or another, someday, if not today, they will come in handy. But if you are just setting up a new workshop, start with what you have and try to extend it every day minding your ability. Good luck!

I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Tools Doctor, content marketer, and dad. I love trying out new equipment, and together with my team I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with tools & crafting tips.