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What’s in Your Toolbox – Hand Tools Edition

woodworkers toolbox

There are many woodworkers who believe that using hand tools and only hand tools is the way to make anything of lasting value and high quality.

From building birdhouses to furniture, only high quality hand tools will do for them.

Other craftsman will use a combination of hand tools and portable power tools and perhaps stand alone equipment like a table saw in order to get the project completed quickly while still maintaining a high level of quality in their work.

Hand tools give you a better feel for the project and help you connect with the wood on a different level than using machines to rip or cut the wood.

Here is a list of common hand tools you will need in your toolbox as you learn the woodworking craft. Learning to use each tool properly will help you build quality products that you can be proud of.


wood chisel set
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Always purchase a good set of wooden-handled bench chisels (¼ inch, ¾ inch, 1 inch) and a ¼ in mortise chisel. Wooden handles are more comfortable and more visually appealing than plastic and if they ever split or get chipped you can replace them with little effort. Western chisels are preferred to the Japanese chisels, which some say requires too much work, especially if you’re just getting started in woodworking. If you can afford it, buy a 2 inch wide bench chisel in addition to the smaller ones. Its extra-wide blade is ideal for paring tenons.

Sharpening Stones

oilstone sharpener
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Waterstones are cleaner than oilstones. They come in a variety of grits, 800-, 1,200-, 4,000- and 6,000- grit stones.

Combination Square

combination square
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Usually comes in 12 in. this tool will mark out stock at 90 and 45 degrees and can double as a ruler and a marking gauge. Buy the best you can afford because you will be using it the most.


claw hammer
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A good 16-oz, claw hammer is ideal for general cabinet work and is useful for installation work as well. They are inexpensive yet get the job done right the first time.

Carver’s Mallet

carvers mallet

This is useful for driving joints home and for chopping out mortises. A medium-sixed turned lignum vitae mallet is approximately $20-25.

Dovetail and Tenon Saws

dovetail saw
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Used for cutting small pieces, an 8 inch dovetail saw with a turned handle and 18 teeth per inch. A 10 inch brass-backed dovetail saw with 14 teeth per inch for cutting dovetails and tenons. Japanese saws will also do a great job; however, they can require delicate handling and replacement blades are often expensive.

Block Plane

block plane
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A block plane can either be a low-angle or the regular angle. They are solid, compact and well made. A block plane is useful for planning small parts, flushing surfaces and planning end grain.

Smoothing Plane

smoothing plane
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A smoothing plane is used for final planning of surfaces as well as for shooting edges on short pieces and for faring joints.

Rabbet Plane

rabbet plane
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There are several planes that fit the bill, this plane is used to trim rabbets, plane into corners and trim joints flush. Some of them have a removable front half to convert it to a chisel plane.


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This is a type of plane used primarily to round edges, make spindles and fair concave curves. The short sole of a spokeshave is mounted between tow handles. The blade is generally held in place with a cap iron. They can be used with either a pulling or a pushing motion.

Cabinet Scraper

cabinet scraper
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They are inexpensive, work well and last for what seems like forever. Scrapers are good for smoothing hardwood and veneered surfaces, either before or in lieu of sanding.


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These are smooth rods of hard steel used to put an edge on a scraper. They can be round, oval or triangular in section. A highly polished burnisher creates a smooth edge on the scraper, which in turn leaves the scraped wood smoother. The shank of a Phillips-head screwdriver often works well as a burnisher.

Drill Bits

drill bits for wood
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The drill bits found in a wood shop include twist drills, brad-point bits, Forstner bits and spade bits, each has a distinct advantages and limitations.


clamps for woodworking
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There are a number of clamps used to squeeze pieces of wood together particularly during assembly and gluing. Bar clamps consists of two jaws mounted on a length of steel bar, usually and I-shaped in section. A pipe clamp is similar except that it substitutes a pipe for the I-bar and is less ridged. Bar and pipe clamps are best suited for assembling wide surfaces, such as tabletops and fro putting together large carcasses.

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