Setting Up Shop: Basic Woodworking Hand Tools

So you've decided you want to try your hand at building something with wood? Don't know what tools you'll need? Let's see if we can get you off on the right foot hand.

This is the first in a series of posts I have planned on getting your shop set up. In this episode, we'll cover some of the basic marking, measuring and hand tools you'll want to start with. Whether you plan to use power tools or not, these are tools you'll want in your shop, no matter what kind of woodworking projects you have in mind. In future posts we'll cover topics such as essential power tools, additional hand tools, finishing supplies, and where to put all this stuff.

Combination Square
Precise joinery requires accurate layout, and that starts with a good square. Over the years, you will likely own several squares. But a good combination square is a good one to start with. A combination square can be used as a marking gauge. It can measure and transfer depth and thickness, help with for power tool setup, mark 90 and 45 degree lines, and much more.
Sliding Bevel
If you ever need to make an angled cut other than 45 degrees, eventually you'll want a sliding bevel. These are basically squares that can be set to any angle and are great for transferring angles from one part to another or from plans to your parts.
Tape Measure
This should be fairly obvious. You'll need some way of measuring for layout, lengths of lumber, squaring up assemblies, etc.
Chisel Set
A good set of bench chisels are useful for a variety of tasks. They're used to trim tenons and mortises, chopping out mortises for hinches, removing excess glue and many more. Most sets come with chisel widths from 1/4 inch to 1 in width, which covers the most common cases.
Crosscut Saw
Even if you end up using power tools, it's still handy to have a hand saw around your shop. There are times when it is just easier, faster, or safer to make a cut by hand than with a power tool.
Rip Saw
The reasoning here is the same as for a Crosscut Saw, save that a rip saw has it's teeth filed for ripping operations, as opposed to crosscut. Depending on what you're doing, you might be able to make do with only a crosscut saw, but it will certainly cut slower than a dedicated rip saw.
Dead Blow Hammer
Useful for nudging those stubborn parts into position during assembly. The head is usually plastic or rubber which protects the workpiece you're banging on . The head is also usually filled with lead shot, which keeps the hammer from bouncing back.
There's a saying among woodworkers, "You can never have enough clamps." It may seem hard to believe, but there will be times when you wish you had just one more clamp. I could devote an entire post to the topic of clamps, but if you're just starting out, I'd suggest picking up some pipe clamps (cheap) or parallel clamps (expensive) in lengths appropriate for the first project you plan on building. You will probably also want some f-style clamps as well as spring clamps.

Hopefully that gives you an idea of where to start with your tool acquisitions. As with most hobbies, there's always one more doodad or gizmo out there would would make your life easier. But that's half the fun!

What would you consider an essential hand tool? Anything you'd add to my list?

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