Which woodworking tools should you buy first: First 7 tools & essentials

As a beginner woodworker, you may be wondering what tools do I need to get started. Do not be tempted to buy unnecessary specialty tools or do what I did, and go the cheap route with everything I bought. Doing so, for me resulted in me paying for it in the future and getting more quality tools.


  1. What to do before buying your first woodworking tool
  2. Which woodworking tools should I buy first
  3. Essentials to every beginners woodworkers workshop

What to do before buying your first woodworking tool

First you need to decide what you want to build and how you want to build it. Will you be building large furniture, smaller decorations, or finer items? Will you be using mainly hand tools or power tools?

Miter saw

Once you have figured this out, now we can determine which tools you need to get started.

I strongly advise against getting “specialty tools” before getting experience with woodworking. For example, a miter saw is designed to accurately cut miters and bevels. You can however, do the same thing with a hand saw, table saw, or circular saw. It will just take more time to setup and may not be as precise.

Once you gain experience and know that you will really benefit from the specialty tool, then you should purchase it.

I have made the mistake of believing that I need a specialty tool when I didn’t. However, when you use the basic tools, you will know which specialty tools you would benefit from.

For example, I joint wood using a router for almost all of my furniture. It would be very beneficial to get a jointer, which is a specialty tool. I may invest in it soon, but at least I know that I would benefit from it.

Which woodworking tools should I buy first

With woodworking, you do not need much to get started. Every woodworker will need these tools to start their first project.

These are the first tools for the power tool user

  1. Circular saw
  2. Drill
  3. Sander or Sanding block
  4. Combination square
  5. Clamps
  6. Mallet
  7. Pocket hole set

These are the first tools for the hand tool user

  1. Hand saw
  2. Chisel set
  3. Marking Gauge
  4. Planar
  5. Mallet
  6. Chisel set
  7. Spokeshave/Wood carving kit
  8. Sharpening stone or paper
  9. File
  10. Store-bought or handmade jigs

Below, I will go over each tool and why it is useful.

First woodworking tools for the power tool user

Circular Saw
  1. Circular saw
    • A circular saw a good saw for a beginner woodworker. It is portable and very versatile saw that can do cross cuts, rip cuts, and miter cuts. Additionally, It is not as expensive as some of the other specialty saws that are not as versatile.
    • It creates cleaner and straighter cuts than a jig saw and you are able to cut through thicker pieces of wood
  2. Drill
    • A drill is necessary if you want to use screws to join your wood pieces.
    • You may not need a drill to begin with if you want to use more traditional methods of hand joinery. The only downside to this is that there is a steep learning curve and it can be very difficult for beginners.
  3. Sander or Sanding block
    • You will need to use a sander or sanding block to smooth out your wood piece.
    • You could get away with hand sanding, but I would not recommend it since your fingers are not a flat surface
    • You can get a sanding block for less than 5 dollars and a budget sander for less than 60 dollars. So if you are running on a budget, then I would definitely recommend that you at least get a sanding block. However, If you are working on larger pieces, you would really thank the hard work of a sander
  4. Combination square
    • A combination square is used to draw lines at different angels, with the most common being at 90 degrees
    • You can also use a combination square to check if your wood corners are at 90 degrees. This is important when joining and cutting wood
      • I purchased a speed square for this, but a combination square is more than enough to get started
  5. Clamps
    • You will need to have an array of clamps to hold your piece together as the glue dries.
    • You will need different clamps depending on the project that you are doing. But for the general woodworker, I would recommend..
      1. 2 small 4″ bar clamps
        • For finer projects
      2. 4 medium 6″ bar clamps
        • For medium sized projects
        • Can also be used clamp the wood to the workbench so that you can cut it with a circular saw
      3. 3 large 24″ bar clamps
        • Larger pieces of wood, like the sides of boxes
      4. 2 extra-large 36 – 60″ bar clamps
        • For side gluing very large pieces of wood like table tops
      5. at least 1 90 degree angle clamp
        • For clamping corners at a 90 degree angle
        • You can also use a speed square for this
    • I’ve gotten frustrated so many times when I didn’t have the clamp for the project and I had to make another trip to the store.
    • You can buy small, medium, and large bar clamps in a pack, but the extra large clamps will likely be sold separately.
  6. Mallet
    • A mallet will be used to join your wood together without destroying your project in the process. If you joinery is a tight fit, then you will want to use a mallet to bind the wood together.
    • Additionally, mallets are commonly used to hit the back side of the chisel. A hammer would cause too much vibration and potentially split or damage the wood.
  7. Pocket hole set
    • A pocket hole jig and drill are both essential if you are working with plywood.
    • You cannot use traditional joinery methods with plywood because the interior of the wood are wood grains and not solid wood. As a result, you will need to use pocket holes to join plywood together directly

If you are looking into using hand tools, then you will need:

  1. Marking Gauge
    • A marking gauge is essential for all hand joinery methods. You will use it to get a precise measurements on how deep you will need to saw or chisel your piece.
  2. Hand saw
    • If you only want to use hand tools, then you will need a hand saw to cut the wood. Hand saws are used to cut the wood down to its rough size.
    • There are many different types of saw. The first saw that I recommend are hacksaws and Japanese saws.
    • If you are a hand tool user, then you will likely need saws for different tasks.
    • To learn more about saws, check out my article “Safest saw for DIYers“.
  3. Chisel set
    • You will need to have a chisel set to create joinery like dovetail, mortise and tenon, and dado joints.
    • A chisel is a easy way to carve and shape the wood how you want.
    • Every woodworker should have 1/8″ to 1 1/2″ chisels.
  4. Marking Gauge
    • A marking gauge is essential for all hand joinery methods. You will use it to get a precise measurements on how deep you will need to saw or chisel your piece.
  5. Planar
    • Planars can be used to get the wood to a desired thickness, smooth wood, and flatten wood. The first planar that I recommend is the ….
    • To learn more about different types of planars and which ones to get, you should check out my article “Wood planars“.
  6. Mallet
    • A mallet can be used to strike the back of a chisel for chiseling and to assemble tight fitting joinery.
  7. Spokeshave/Wood carving kit
    • If you want to create curves and shapes in wood, they you would need to use a spokeshave or wood carving chisels. Spokeshaves can be used to create many different items like handles, guitars, and chair legs.
    • Wood carving chisels can be used to create curves and designs in wood.
  8. Sharpening stone or paper
    • You will need a sharpening stone or paper to sharpen chisels and planars. A dull planar or chisel will not only be more difficult to use, but can also lead to chips and defects in the wood.
  9. File
    • Files are used to sharpen saws to keep them in pristine condition.
  10. Store-bought or handmade jigs
    • If you want to make joinery easier or quicker then you will need a few jigs. You can either buy or handmake, since you are a woodworker, jigs.
    • You can almost find a jig for any kind of joinery that you want.
    • Using a dovetail guide, for example, can make creating dovetails by hand a simpler. But, there are jigs for joinery like mortise and tenon, box joints, and even for cutting accurate angles
Link to amazon product

Essentials to every beginners woodworkers workshop

Next, I am going to go over all of the essential items that you need to have in your woodwork workshop. When I first started off, I got frustrated because I had to take 4 additional trips to the store just to get one project done. I forgot to buy measuring tape, safety glasses, and glue. I will go over all of the things that you may forget to grab or that you may forget that you need.

  1. Wood Glue
  2. Screws
  3. Drill bits and driver set
  4. Sandpaper
  5. Clamps
  6. Measuring tape
  7. Combination square
  8. Safety glasses
  9. Hearing protection
  10. Respirator

10 Essential items for woodworking

  1. Wood Glue
    • You will definitely need wood glue if you plan on joining any pieces of wood together
    • Regular glue will not hold work
  2. Screws
    • You will need the right screws for the job
    • If you do not already have a collection of screw sizes, it is best to buy them after your blueprint. You will need to get screws for the right thickness, material, and use (interior or exterior projects).
  3. Drill bits and driver set
    • If you plan on using screws and a drill, then you will need a driver bit and driver set
  4. Sandpaper
    • Regardless if you want to use a sander or sanding block, you will need sandpaper to get your piece as smooth as you like it.
    • You will need to get the right sand paper grit for the job. For sanding raw wood to a smooth finish, you will need to start at 80 and work your way up to 100 or 120 grit
    • You will also need the correct type of sand paper for the piece of equipment that you are using
  5. Clamps
    • As stated before, you will need an array of clamps, ranging from bar clamps, to pipe clams, and 90 degree angle clamps of varying sizes
  6. Measuring tape
    • Measuring tape is essential and easily forgotten. I forgot it my first day.
  7. Combination square
    • Combination square is essential to drawing lines at varying angles, but most commonly 90 degrees
  8. Safety glasses
    • Safety glasses is a must when working with machinery. You may think that you can hold off on them, but trust me, you do not want to take that chance
    • I’ve had a piece of wood kick back at me and hit me right in my glasses. I could have damaged or impaired vision today if it wasn’t for my glasses
  9. Hearing protection
    • Hearing protection is also a necessity when using heavy machinery. If you are not using a circular saw or sander, then you will not need hearing protection because everything else on this list doesn’t require it.
  10. Respirator
    • You will need a respirator if you are sanding, cutting, drilling, or painting. Fine wood chips can damage your lungs and many paints have toxic chemicals in them

Bonus: Features to look for in your first woodworking tools

Like I mentioned earlier, when looking for your first woodworking tools, you do not need to go and buy the heavy specialty equipment that you may see others using. However, do not make the mistake that I made, and try to budget everything that you get. I got cheap tools that I regretted. These are the features that you need to look for in your first woodworking tools.

  1. Variable speed sander and drill
    • Do not buy a sander or drill that is not variable speed. I’m begging you, It will save you a lot of heart ache in the long run.
    • I still have my original drill that has one setting on it. The downside to this drill is that I have split so much wood in the process of using this drill. Some projects that were almost finished and then completely ruined.
    • A variable speed drill allow you to effectively work on all types of projects. It will save you money as well because you will have to get one regardless.
    • A variable speed sander is essential to not ruin fine wood pieces and to smoothen wood edges
  2. Dust bags on all equipment
    • I thought a dust bag was an accessory that I did not have to waste money on. Now I regret it. I still have larger pieces of equipment without dust bags and I look like I rolled around in wood shavings by the time I’m finished with my project.
    • I need to buy a lot of new equipment and I see a lot of videos of woodworkers who have dust bags on their equipment, and I am so envious of them.
  3. Cordless
    • Cordless is not a necessity for everyone. I should have gotten more cordless tools since I do a lot of my woodworking outside
    • If you do go cordless, get the same brand for all of your tools so that you can use the batteries interchangeably
  4. Quality clamps
    • I got the cheapest bar clamps that I could find, and they lasted for about two months. The little ridges where you snap the clamp in place are all smooth out.
    • Buy quality clamps so that you don’t have to buy them again
  5. Random orbit sander
    • A random orbit sander is essential in sanding in-between coats. A regular sander can easily eat through your paint if you are not careful.
    • A random orbit sander vibrates as it rotates to prevent too much sanding in one spot


In this article, we learned about what to do before buying your first woodworking tool, the first woodworking tools that you should get, the other essentials that every woodworker should have in their workshop, and features to look for in your first woodworking tool.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this article and I wish you luck on your woodworking journeys!


My name is Rachel Blanding and I am a woodworker. I started woodworking at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. I mainly create and refurbish furniture and create art. In this site I will share with you the knowledge I have gained over the years, and what worked for me and what didn't.

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