8 Woodworking Tools for Beginners (Only Essential Tools)

Last Updated on September 5, 2023 by Barry Gray

If you are new to woodworking, then I know it can be not easy to even know where to start regarding tools. After all, if you spend some time checking out this site, you will see how I discuss all sorts of tools, and I understand how it could make the prospect of woodworking extremely daunting.

But don’t worry. You see, getting started with woodworking is actually a whole lot easier than you think. It’s all a matter of getting some level of understanding of the best tools that you need to really kickstart so many projects.

And that is where I intend to help.

What I have done is I have taken myself back to my early days of woodworking and thought about the tools I wish I had had in my workshop when I started. I know the issues and problems I encountered while learning the ropes, and I want to make life much easier for you.

As a result, you will find eight different woodworking tools that I feel any beginner should have in their workshop. Thanks to these tools, you will have the ability to take on a wide range of projects and know you have the means to get the job done.

I promise it’s going to make everything so much easier.

A Drill

cordless power drill

A drill is an absolute must-have tool for any individual, even if you plan to only dabble in woodworking for some time. Having a drill means you will find assembling projects a whole lot easier, thanks to the various bits that come with it. You can drill holes, switch to screwdriver heads to screw in nails, and so much more.

If you have never owned a drill before, then you should know you can change the drill bit size on the end, and even the style of the bit, depending on your needs. This involves a chuck, which is where the drill bit sits in the drill. 

But a word of advice. Look at the chuck size. You want something that is ½” in size, as it’s significantly easier to get various bits for a drill with that size. Anything else is a bit more of a specialized tool, and I’d stay away from it for now.

Also, there’s the power aspect. If you only intend to carry out some small tasks, then a 12V drill is perfect. However, if you think it will involve some extended use, then an 18V drill should be the minimum that you go for.

In addition, a cordless drill is great to own. Batteries with modern power tools are far superior to what they were like even a decade ago. So, don’t worry about running out of power in an instant. That just doesn’t happen to the same extent now. But if possible, do go for a better brand with a drill. It will last longer and have better capabilities thanks to more power and better speed.

I would go out and purchase a drill as the first tool. It just allows you to do so many things.

An Impact Driver

using cordless impact driver

I’m including an impact driver because even though drills have the option to change the bit for a screwdriver head, it doesn’t always work. An impact driver will drive home those screws without any problem, as that’s what the entire tool is designed to do.

It takes all of the power from the motor and uses it for screwing things into the wood. It has no other job apart from that. But the cool thing is it does mean you can screw things in with precision and in a fraction of the time. If you know you will be doing this regularly, then an impact driver is a tool you should not be without.

Also, an impact driver does not come with too many additional bits to contend with. That makes it very easy to use, and I always appreciate that with any power tool.

However, I should also point out that you do get combi-drills, where it combines a drill function with an impact driver. They do not have to be too expensive to get your hands on one, and it’s certainly something I think you should consider if you plan on getting serious with your hobby. It just means you have one tool doing the job of two.

A Circular Saw

using my dewalt circular saw

A circular saw is absolutely essential since there’s a good chance you will be cutting boards or wood at some point in your hobby. Personally, I think you should opt for a cordless version. It just saves you the hassle of always knowing where the cord is situated, and the freedom of movement makes it easier to get on with tasks.

A circular saw has the ability to perform several different cuts. It will rip through boards, contend with crosscuts, and even bevel cuts depending on the model you purchase. I do love the versatility of a power tool, and a circular saw is one of my favorites on that part alone.

But here is the key to owning the perfect circular saw. You must have the ability to change the cutting depth. This allows you to cut dados as well as the more common cuts.

In addition, I would always suggest purchasing a circular saw that allows you to make bevel and angle cuts. Once again, it just opens up a number of other possibilities, and the angle option is perhaps the most important of the two.

However, don’t stress about setting it up. The angles will tend to be clearly marked on the saw, allowing you to line things up with ease. 

I also suggest a circular saw with a blade around 6” or even 7”. The larger blade allows you to make cuts on thicker stock. However, it’s best if you already have some indication of what you are most likely to work on to ensure you get the right circular saw for those needs.

A Sander

sanding wood with orbital sander

When I started out working with wood, a sander was one of the first tools I bought, and for several reasons.

First, you need to think about how you finish off your projects, and smoothness to the touch is often one of those key considerations. A sander is a perfect tool for this, but I would always opt for a random orbital sander.

The reason why this is best is simply that a random orbital sander does not leave the same scuff marks as other tools. After all, what would be the point of using a sander to get everything smooth when it then makes the surface rougher than you expect?

I also appreciate when they make it easy to change the paper. You need different grit to do different things. The rougher the grit, the rougher the end result. Most brands use a hook-and-loop system to attach the paper, and it then gives you more opportunities to use the sander to achieve a variety of results.

Also, if you worry about maintaining control, then get a sander that sits comfortably in your hand. It means you can guide it to wherever you want rather than feeling it will just run away from you.

But one final thing to know about a sander. The shape of the end of the sander determines how close it can get to the edge of the material. Imagine you are sanding something where the sides come up off the base. Some sanders have an overlap between the end of the paper, and the actual end of the sander. That means a strip remains untouched.

A sander does not have to cost a fortune, but it’s one tool you cannot be without. Try to own a version with a variable speed, as I always believe having as much control as possible over how it works is key.

A Table Saw

a table saw

Now, I do admit that a table saw is pushing things a bit for a beginner, but even a benchtop model could prove highly useful thanks to the ease with which you can cut through quite sizeable boards. 

If you want to get one on a budget, then aim for a table saw that comes with 1 1/2HP. That will be powerful enough for basic jobs, and yet it will not cost you a fortune either.

A table saw allows you to make large cuts of boards, but be aware that the machine’s size directly correlates to the size of the panels it can cut. So, if space is an issue, then a table saw may be out of the question.

But I recommend you try to get a table saw if you can. The speed at which you can chop through boards and cut them down to size is impressive. However, be aware of the limitations regarding cutting depth. 

In addition, be aware that you can use different jigs on table saws to change how they operate. That means the one tool can end up producing a variety of cuts, including crosscuts, producing tenon joints, and so much more. However, I would first focus on making quick and easy cuts.

A Jigsaw

using corded jigsaw

I know I appear to be mentioning a number of saws, but they form an integral part of any woodworking workshop. Let’s face it, you need to constantly cut and shape wood to get it how you want or need it, and electric saws remain the easiest way to achieve this.

A jigsaw is a perfect tool for making intricate cuts. Also, a jigsaw will make a huge difference if you need to cut curves. But there’s one other thing about jigsaws you should not forget, and that’s the way they can also cut metal. However, you do need a special blade, but it’s something that’s worth remembering.

But I love using my jigsaw. It’s just so easy to control and move around. Also, they come with a variable speed option, and that does help when starting off or even making the more delicate cuts.

But I have a word of advice. Only purchase a jigsaw that uses a T-shank blade. That means it’s quick and easy to change the blade as everything is toolless. The other option is a U-shank, but you then need to break out your screwdriver to change the blade. I find that annoying and tiresome, so I suggest avoiding it.

Also, try to buy a cordless jigsaw. Aside from offering you the ability to move around, it does mean you are free from looking out for that cord all the time. I just find it easier and safer this way.

A Router

smaller and bigger wood router

I admit that a router is slightly more advanced, but it will quickly become one of your favorite tools once you get a handle on what it can do.

I find a router to be highly flexible in what it offers a woodworker. From chamfering edges to cutting grooves, and even plunging down into the middle of a board, if you own a plunge router, it is perfect for shaping wood to specific requirements.

You have a plunge router and a fixed base router. Be aware that a fixed base can only start on the wood’s edge and nowhere else. A plunge router can be moved all over the wood before you then plunge the bit down and allow it to do its thing.

I see a plunge router as being the more versatile option, but they are also more expensive. However, if your budget allows you to stretch to this, then that’s the option I would go for.

A Miter Saw

dewalt miter saw

The final tool is yet another saw, and this time it’s a miter saw I’ve chosen. You will see this on job sites all the time. It comes with a large saw blade, sometimes 12” in size, and a handle above the blade. You have a metal base with markings to allow you to line up your cuts before you fire up the saw and plunge the blade down through the wood.

But while a miter saw gives you the ability to make angular cuts on wood, it also tends to come with a bevel option. Now, this will always go up to at least a 45-degree angle, but some go beyond that. I wouldn’t worry too much about this angle at first, but if you can get one that pushes up to over 55 degrees, then go for it.

Yet it would help if you were careful when it comes to choosing a miter saw to purchase. The smaller the blade, the smaller the price. However, it also makes a difference when it comes to the material it can cut. 

I would never drop below 10” blades with a miter saw. It’s just not worth the hassle as the range of wood you can cut becomes very limited. Yet there’s something else you need to consider with a miter saw, and that’s to get a sliding version.

A stationary miter saw limits your ability to work with wood of different sizes. A sliding version removes that problem, and the price difference is not always that great either. 

A miter saw will make short work of cutting thick material to size. It’s very easy to line up cuts thanks to models containing a series of indents with markings on the base. Also, you may find a model that comes with a laser to give you some added guidance on where you will be cutting.

Overall Conclusion

And that’s my list of the eight different woodworking tools that any beginner should have in their workshop. As you can see, I’ve covered everything possible without giving you too many options to think about.

I feel that someone new to woodworking needs everything to remain simple. That is the only way you can really get into this hobby. As soon as it becomes complicated, then it’s very easy to turn off woodworking if you overthink the need for various blades, bits, and tools.

Hopefully now you will have some insight into what you need and can then get to work putting together this set of tools. Once you become familiar with them, I guarantee you will be amazed at the range of projects you can work on and continue to do so until you become more confident in your own ability.

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Barry Gray

Hi, I’m Barry. I’ve loved woodworking and bringing things back to life for more years than I care to remember. I hope my passion for tools comes across loud and clear in everything you read here on The Tool Square.

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