When I started woodworking as a youngster, I had three tools, a hammer, a chisel and small saw. With these tools I made all sorts of very remedial toys like boats and planes and even little trucks. I thought they were fabulous, and maybe they were for a pre-schooler, but I had the advantage of having real tools and small bits of wood to build things with and has served me with a lifetime of enjoyment and passion.
I am very frequently asked, "what tools should I be getting as a newcomer to woodworking?", and to be honest, that's a really hard question to answer because there are so many different kinds of woodworking there can be quite a different choice in tools required. For example a friend of mine, when he started woodworking, he choose carving, so he started off with quite a different set of tools than what I did. Another friend tool wood turning for novices and when he started buying tools, he too had very different tools than what I would have selected ... so in this video and article I am talking only about the tools that I find useful and that I would select if I were starting out in woodworking today in making furniture and similar type items.
Some hand tools when I purchased them, I scrimped on price because I didn't know any better and there was no one around to ask or coach me. I made some very poor choices in squares for example which turned out to be very frustrating when joints and sides do no line up properly. When I purchased a couple of the squares I used, it never occurred to me that they would not be square and when you square is off, nothing aligns ... ever. It took another woodworker's help for me to realize my problem, but it opened a whole new world for me when I realized that sometimes buying cheap tools is a waste of money because you can't do anything with them except throw them away and and re-buy better ones so you can do your work.
I have also found that I can purchase good quality tools on the used market .. BUT, I need to know my prices and quality because you can make bad choices in this area too, especially if you listen to some sellers, who, themselves don't know good from bad, or some that do, don't care and all they want to do is sell you something. You always need to be on alert and not take everything you hear as fact.
Sart off with a good quality measuring tape and for me, a LEFT HAND version so the numbers aren't upside down when I read the tape. Good quality all steel squares (nothing with fancy wood in it) a couple of larger 6 or 8 inch clamps will come in very handy as well, and you will need a small selection of screwdrivers, a couple of chisels and a hand saw and with that you will have what I started with. (well, maybe a hammer too) I would also put a hand plane on this list and hand planes are another tool you do not want to cheap-out on. You are better not buying one, than getting one you are going to fight to get to work. This is one time I do recommend purchasing a quality item from a known source for these items such as Lie Nielsen, Lee Valley and a number of others.
Moving on to power tools is a whole new exercise in choosing brands and selecting types of tools. For some of the most basic power tools my choices for tools that I use most frequently are circular saw, power hand drill and random orbital sander. Not very exciting but super useful. All of these tools are available either corded or battery operated. The good news is that now almost all batteries are Lithium, so you can expect a good life from them. Again, these three items, I expect you would use quite a bit so the best quality you can afford would be my suggested guideline. If you were doing a few home renos, I might suggest you could get away with less expensive tools because they would be used less frequently but as a woodworker, you could be using these tools repeatedly and ongoing so quality and warranty will be more important.
I do use hand tools freqently, like hand saws, chisels and planes, but because I do a different style of woodworking that uses more woodworking machinery like table saws, jointers, planers and mitre saws, I use a more mechanized kind of woodworking. Of these tools, I believe the table saw is easily the most useful tool and probably the most useful tool in the workshop ... if you get one that has a decent quality fence and preferably one with a good blade guard and splitter. The table saw fence is one of the most critical elements of the saw. I should be strong and accurate and able to be easily and accurately adjusted. The fence needs to give you repeatable accurate results with out having to re-align it each time. You may need to spend as much time evaluating fence systems as the whole rest of the saw.
I have been asked if the some of the new saws with braking sensors to minimize injury are worth the money and my response is yes, if they are within your budget. Like all things, these saw have their pros and cons and it's wise to look at all aspects of the market before you make your choice.
Nothing will server you better than research and knowledge.
The next most useful tool would be the jointer. Even if you are purchasing planed lumber, you will still need a jointer. I have not had the best luck using the smaller 4 inch jointers, but I currently have a 6 inch jointer that I have owned and used for 15 years and it has served be very well. Sure I would love an 8 or 10 inch jointer, but a 6 inch works fine and does almost everything I need.
Next on my list would be a thickness planer, only because I purchase a lot of rough sawn lumber direct from saw mills. For those people who purchase planed lumber from lumber yards and other suppliers, a planer may not be an item that is critical to your woodworking. Remember too, you cannot purchase a larger jointer and say you are going to use is as a planer too, jointers and thickness planers have different functions and planing wood to have an even thickness from side to side and end to end is important.
Last on my list of the most useful tools in the workshop would be the chop or mitre saw, or even better the sliding mitre saw. The sole purpose or this saw is to cross cut wood (which can also be done on a table saw). I can do this at various angles, but in most cases, almost all the cutting is is at 90 degrees so you will want to make sure you get a saw that can and will make nice even, repeatable cross cuts (and other featues the saw has may be helpful too).
These are, to me, the basic tools for woodworking. There are many more tools that I have and use, but many of the other tools only speed up the work because they make it more convenient or easier to use, but in most cases the basic woodworking can be done with the above tools and with some excellent results, and all you have to do confirm this is look at all the amazing furniture that was produced 100 and more years ago that is as good today as it was was when it was made.
Many of the products I use or are very similar I have hand picked on my Amazon Store - Check it out Here
Copyright Colin Knecht