woodworker in shop

Common Power Tools for Woodworking

Dipping your toes into some woodworking might just be what’s missing from your personal skill set. The ability to mold and change natural materials into a beautiful piece of art or functional object like a table or even a set of stairs goes a long way. Not to mention the satisfaction of having accomplished something after a hard day’s work.

That being said, being an expert woodworker is much easier said than done. What kind of knowledge do you need? And what tools will you need to even apply that knowledge in the first place? Learning to become an expert level carpenter is a long road that will require lots of forethought and adequate planning skills, but the rewards are worth it.

A quote that can be attributed to Saint Berna goes a little like this:

“You will find something more in woods than in books. Trees and stones will teach you that which you can never learn from masters.”

In essence, the quote is about increasing your mastery of the natural world around you.

This post will concern itself explicitly with the matter of which woodworking power tools need to be in your tool box if you expect to make anything you’ll be proud of one day. Experienced wood workers all consider these the mainstays of their crafts, and even The Wood Whisperer has chosen a lot of these tools as well in his roundup of the basics.

From cabinetry to carpentry, here’s the tools that’ll help get your projects done:

Essential Tools

Power Drill

A drill does a lot more than just put some conveniently placed holes in things. A versatile laborer knows that with a quick bit swap that drill just became a powered screwdriver. Efficient use of time is what the drill helps provide to your job site, if you consider just how much you use it and just how much time you end up saving it’s a no brainer. Corded drills will have more power & possible uses, while cordless is best for those who need portability.

Circular Saw

The next worthwhile addition to your tool chest is none other than the circular saw. Whenever you need to freehand cut plywood or even some slightly more dense materials, the trusty circular saw will be your best friend. A staple of any woodworker’s basic set, it’s a pain free way to make an angled cut. Make sure to clamp down the wood firmly before you go to town so there aren’t any surprises mid cut, it’ll also make your work a lot cleaner.

Orbital Sander

orbital sander

Faith is necessary during the earlier parts of any woodworking job. Faith in what, specifically? Faith that everything will come together beautifully by the end of the day. The orbital sander gets rid of any roughness or imperfections that would make your newly built item gritty and worse for wear. A random orbital sander is ideal since there won’t be an obvious sanding pattern visible on any of your work.

Table Saw

Get one of these once you’ve settled in past the fundamentals of woodworking. The blacksmith has the anvil, the fisherman has the rod, and the woodworker has the table saw. Slicing through planks with ease to get all of your main components made will be how the table saw shows itself off to the world. Chances are in any bigger project the table saw will be your first step before using your other tools as fine adjustment.

Click here to check out our Top 7 Table Saws for 2019.

Compound Miter Saw

I bring up this one next because it’s how you’ll get your angled work in after using a table saw. After a bit of a learning curve, you’ll be able to miter and bevel to your heart’s content. For jobs that require more precision and diligent work than free handing a circular saw, the compound miter saw has your bases covered. Now your tool collection is starting to get pretty large and there’s very few woodworking jobs you can’t at least take a shot at.


Now is when things are starting to get a little fancy, the router is a tool that is best described as a bit that rotates extremely quickly to allow it to cut through wood like butter, perfect for hollowing out wood. Performs well drilling in some perfect touches or working away to finalize the shape of the wood, a router makes for some stunning work. A router lets you use a lot more of your imagination to make a uniquely cut piece.


Fairly obviously named, the planer works to create a perfectly consistent plane across a piece of wood. The tops of railways, staircases, and even some channels that run through wider pieces of wood are all the dominion of the planer. It’s a tool best chosen for accessory work, primarily to add more cosmetic appeal or help two pieces of wood be completely flush with one another.


A jointer works to help mitigate the difficulties caused by warped wood by allowing for careful reconfiguring of each side of any given plank. If used properly, even the most warped of wood can be brought back to a familiar perfectly rectangular shape throughout so there’s no wasted wood no matter what ends up happening.

Drill Press

A corded drill will get you through a lot of things, but the ease of use and exact nature of the holes you end up drilling will make the drill press seem revolutionary. Perfectly solves the need for drilling multiple perfect holes through deep wood in quick succession for bigger jobs. They can also be used for sanding wood, it’s a versatile tool.

Things Beginners Should Know

Portable or Stationary?

Typically, the difference between when you’d want a stationary over a portable option is based entirely on your personal circumstances.

When working at a single location or you have the need for very precise work, you absolutely want to have stationary tools.

Someone that works at multiple job sites will want portable tools.

In general, we use our stationary tools in a shop and the portable tools on the job site.

Passion for Learning

Woodworking is a hobby as much as it can be a profession, so taking pride in your work and learning as much as you can from it will enrich your life.

There’s a video we like personally that is made by someone we think captures that passion perfectly and also has some good points for beginners: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hXjTXeXeTpI

The video touches on a lot of the practical aspects of woodworking but in really down to earth ways. It’s essentially a philosophy video, just woodwork themed to clear up a lot of things most beginners deal with. The end results of your woodworking don’t matter, functional or decorative, as said by Ana White, these tools can be used by anyone to great effect.

Safety Is Crucial

A botched project is one thing, actually hurting yourself is never worth it in the long run. Always employ good safety practices, you can always buy more material, don’t risk having to make a trip to the hospital. Understand that these power tools overpower humans easily, keep your hands as far away from any cutting surfaces you possibly can while maintaining control of the piece.

The Many Saws of Woodworking

Can’t expect us to work some wood without a saw now, do you? The first tool that wood ever got handled with was a saw when it was cut down, and although it is literally out of the woods, figuratively not so much. Woodworking saws come in many shapes and sizes, all with their ideal uses and environments.

Table Saw

When a huge amount of raw, unprocessed wood is sent to us we typically start out using a stationary table saw for easy and comfortable sawing of piece after piece of fresh material. The table saw is best for repeated, precise cuts to make the general shapes you’ll need later. The good people at Popular Woodworking say that the table saw should be calibrated every so often to avoid any frustration with burnt or uneven cuts, that’s just how much use these things end up getting.

Circular Saw

This portable saw is used much in the same way the table saw is, however there is the understanding that it probably won’t cut as straight as a table saw can. Still, for any job that doesn’t require exact millimeter precision the circular saw will be a staple. Plus, any minor adjustments you need to make while away from the table saw are easily served with this bad boy.


Those two saws got all of our straight-shooters out of the way, but what about curved pieces? We have the jigsaw for that, and we don’t know where we’d be without ours. It’s a light duty toy that’s not meant to cut through lots and lots of thick wood, it’s a bite sized saw for bite sized jobs.

Scroll Saw

A stationary tool that’s capable of extremely intricate angled cuts, the scroll saw makes use of a reciprocating blade, allowing for a huge new world of customization to be explored. It isn’t the biggest tabletop tool out there, making it indispensable in any size woodworking shop. Need dovetail joints? No worries, the scroll saw has you covered.

Compound Mitre Saw

For the uninitiated, the mitre saw gets its name for its utility in creating miter joints. This is when two different pieces of wood are beveled at a 45 degree angle at their ends in a complimentary manner to make a 90 angle in the wood. Picture frames, windowsills, even tricky baseboards all can use a little mitre action for that perfect look.

Reciprocating Saw

A close cousin of the jigsaw, the reciprocating saw sees a lot of work in blue collar carpentry type applications and other on-the-go style jobs where you can’t stop for twenty minutes to cut extremely intricately. Any remodel or demo has more than its fair share of reciprocating saws laying around.

Band Saw

What we like about the stationary band saw is one continuously looped blade, which makes it pull the sawdust down with it as it cuts. This makes for a much easier surface to work with as you watch the band saw make short work of anything you put through it. Some finer cuts to get two pieces to fit together nicely or even some nice, gentle curves to say the headboard of a bed are a band saw’s specialty.

Oscillating Saw

The oscillating saw is a hand tool with a small blade that juts forward past the saw, and it moves side to side extremely quickly for its cutting action. This makes it perfect to do some more precise work in hard to reach areas as well as cut things off bit by bit when doing some rougher jobs.

Carpenter’s Basic Power Tools

As a discipline of woodworking, carpentry focuses exclusively on the creation and installation of building materials. These are the people that frame houses and turn wood into stunning buildings. Skilled carpenters have had a huge impact on human development. There’s some tools they’d never be caught dead without.

Circular Saw

During the typical day’s work, the carpenter will use the circular saw consistently to make much needed cuts that’ll fit in every nook and cranny for a put together final product. Chances are the wood didn’t come perfectly cut right off the truck, so a lot of sawin’ needs to go down.


Securing wood is an important part of woodworking, without screws and nails we wouldn’t have much of anything. A drill comes into play at around this time and that’s where the magic happens. Planks start becoming frames, and frames start becoming houses. All thanks to the drill.


Now the circular saw is used for the more general and large jobs, the jigsaw comes in whenever some more precise cuts need to be made to allow for some tight fits. The jigsaw comes out any time a cut needs to be made that isn’t straight, plain and simple.

Orbital Sander

The thing is about those angled cuts from the jigsaw is that they need a bit of rubbing down afterwards. The orbital sander will get the edges of any cut wood to a factory-cut look, plus it makes it much easier to fit where it was supposed to without any jagged edges. It’s simple due diligence, really.

Cabinetmaker’s Essential Power Tools

A cabinet maker is a skilled artisan, making beautiful work that is worthy of admiration. To accomplish this task, tools that aren’t limiting in how they can be applied end up being used the most. According to Graham Blackburn, the cabinet has always been revered for holding the most precious of items, creating a need for the cabinet itself to be precious and look dazzling to reflect the value of the items within.


Angle cuts are a frequent occurrence when making cabinets, mainly for the final details on pieces of wood before they all get put together. A bevel cut on the edges of the blanks can make for a flush look and many of the intricate shapes you’ll see on a well-made cabinet were due to a jigsaw.


The work of a router is a quick step between simple making a wooden box to hold stuff in and an exquisite cabinet that can be considered art. Any properly fitting cabinet had all of its edges perfectly shaped with a router as well as any details drilled right in. No cabinetmaker worth his salt would ever consider leaving the router at home.

Orbital Sander

Of course, all of that cutting and hacking away at the wood to reveal a stunningly well created cabinet is going to necessitate some finishing touches afterwards. Everything finally comes together and gets wrapped up in a nice bow once everything gets sanded down. After that, it’s just a stain and a lacquer away from completed project.



Well folks, that’s more or less all you’ll need to know for now when it comes to power tools and making some beautiful creations from wood. All the finer details about these tools are best learned with experience & time, some old timers we know would say that’s just about the only way to learn the expert-level stuff.

Don’t think that you can’t start your woodworking journey without any or even most of these tools, build your collection up bit by bit and only buy what you reasonably foresee yourself using. Start with the most basic tools on this list, it’ll be obvious what tools you’ll need to make your work a bit more professional looking.  By taking things slow and starting off with simple tasks like repairs around your house or say, a birdhouse, you’ll quickly know what your tool is and isn’t capable of. We recommend a circular saw and a drill as bare-minimum essential power tools, if you just had to pick one we’d definitely say the circular saw, you can figure out a few different ways to drill but not so many ways to cut through thick wood.

Woodworking is an art of patience, skill, and vision. What should be taken away from all this information is that the seer range of design options is practically unlimited tanks to the bevy of tools at our disposal. So long as you always make sure to stay safe and work under optimum conditions, there’s no telling what you’ll be able to bring into this world.

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