10 Essential Hand Tools for Woodworking

10 hand tools for woodworking

When you think of woodworking it might conjure up the memories of building birdhouses in the backyard, or messing around in shop class. For me, it’s a fun opportunity to escape to the garage, play some tunes, and unwind. If this sounds like you, or you would like this to sound like you, we’re here to help. We compiled a list of our 10 Essential Hand Tools for Woodworking so you can take your woodworking skills to the next level.

Our 10 Essential Hand Tools for Woodworking

  1. Tape Measure
  2. Square
  3. Clamps
  4. Chisel
  5. Punch
  6. Planer
  7. Mallet
  8. Utility knife
  9. Moisture Meter
  10. Carpenter Pencils

The woodworking tools and accessories in this list are a great starter set for setting up your woodshop on the right foot.

Think you’re ready for more? Take a look at our 10 Essential Power Tools for Woodworking.

Our List of 10 Essential Hand Tools for Woodworking

1Tape Measure

“Measure twice, cut once” is a common (and important) expression across construction. Because of this, a tape measure is your most used tool in your workshop. Get a good, solid tape that has a wide blade, easy to lock, and the numbers are easy to read.

We’ve reviewed several tape measures over the years. Follow this LINK to read more about tape measures from brands like Milwaukee, Irwin, and Lufkin. If you need to purchase a tape measure Amazon has a great selection of these brands and more.

And here’s a unique style tape measure, GATORTAPE. This one is “top reading” as well as the usual tape reading. Check it out on our Instagram.

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You can’t have a good finished product if you’re not “squared up”.  Similar to a tape measure, a square keeps your measurements exact when finding angles, creating lines for cuts, and more. This is another important asset for your woodshop. I like Empire products and the industry-standard since 1925, the Swanson Speed Square.

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Clamps are a necessity for projects involving glue or when dry-fitting pieces together. Look for clamps that are strong but easy to work with, and it’s good to get a variety of sizes. Clamps aren’t cheap, but they are worth the investment. I really like this 8-Piece set from Irwin on Amazon. There is also a 12″ Clutch Lock Clamp and a 36″ Bar Clamp. You may not need these if you’re just getting into woodworking, but they could be considered “must-haves” for some larger projects down the road.

If you want to learn more, here’s a LINK to a list of clamps and vises we’ve reviewed over the years.

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Another must-have is a set of chisels.  For basic tools like chisels, it may be tempting to go with a cheap brand. However, that has only caused me frustration. Investing in decent-quality chisels has been worth every penny for me. You don’t have to break the bank, here are a few brands/sets I like and are a good value.

Keeping your chisels sharp is also very important. Here’s “How to Keep Cutting Tools Razor Sharp“.

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A punch is great for sinking a nail perfectly or making indentations to ensure precise drilling. A punch endures a lot of force. I prefer to invest in a punch that will hold up over time, and that’s why I prefer DeWALT.

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A planer is a nice tool to have in your arsenal because wood never seems to line up. You can sand all day if you want, but a planer is a better tool for getting boards to a uniform thickness.

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Sometimes wood is uncooperative. It’s going to resist going where you need it to go. For this, a mallet comes in handy to tap/force wood into place. It’s also inevitable that you’ll make a mistake and need to break something apart, or break off wood you glued to the table. It’s a real problem solver.

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8Utility Knife

A utility knife is an asset in any toolkit. We’ve looked at several brands and styles over the years. For woodworking, it can help shave away wood. And it has a lot of general uses as well. I use mine to open things, cut off tags, sharpen pencils, or even cut open my Uncrustable sandwich.

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9Moister Meter

Wood holds water and on certain projects you need to make sure your wood is ready to use. You don’t need to guess if the wood has acclimated to the environment. Just take a quick reading and you’ll know if your project is ready to go. I use this one from General all the time, but you have a lot of other budget-friendly choices on Amazon.

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10Carpenter Pencils

I already mentioned, “measure twice, cut once”. Well, it’s equally as important to mark those measurements. You can technically use any kind of pencil, pen, or marker. However, carpenter pencils write well on a variety of materials, and are designed not to roll away – that alone makes them worth it to me!

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Woodworking is a big trade, but it’s also a great hobby that can be enjoyed by anyone of any age or skill level. Personally, it’s a great pastime for me and a great set of skills to pass on to your kids. Whatever category you fit into, I hope these 10 Essential Hand Tools for Woodworkers are the beginning of an awesome woodshop.


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