10 Basic Woodworking Hand Tools You Should Own [2023 Updated]

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This is  10 Basic Woodworking Hand Tools You Should Own. In this post, you’ll learn several useful hand tools that you should have in your shop as a woodworker. Enjoy.

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Updated 2023

Basic Woodworking Hand Tools

10-basic-woodworking-hand-tools-you-should-ownOne of the things that slows down new woodworkers the most is the huge amount of woodworking tools that are on the market. Even if you separate just the hand tools by themselves, it still seems like there are thousands to choose from.

Sometimes, this can lead beginners to feel overwhelmed, and unsure about making a purchase. After all, woodworking tools are not inexpensive, so you definitely don’t want to waste your money.

Instead of being apprehensive about what you should buy, take a look at this list and you’ll find 10 basic woodworking hand tools that are super useful for any woodworker. These are the kinds of tools that you can have with you an entire lifetime.

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You don’t have to worry about buying them, and you don’t have to worry whether or not they will serve you a long time. These are all fantastic tools, and very safe purchases for a new woodworker.

Here’s the list to get you started, and I’ll go into all of the amazing reasons why you need each one of them farther down in the post. Enjoy.

  • Sanding Block
  • Hand Plane
  • Marking Knife
  • Chisel
  • Mallet
  • Hand Saw
  • Coarse File
  • Cabinet Scraper
  • Dial Caliper
  • Sharpening Stone
  • Combination Square


Sanding Block

One of the best tools you could have is a woodworker is a sanding block. This is one of those basic woodworking hand tools that is totally unappreciated until you have one in your shop. Once you do, you’ll love having it.

You can buy a sanding block, or you can make one. I actually recommend as a new woodworker that you try to make the majority of your first tools. It does take tools to make tools, so if you have to start out with a few things that are store-bought, that’s OK too.

The sanding block is really just a small flat block of wood with cork glued to one of the faces. It lets you wrap a piece of sandpaper around the block, and the flatness helps you create a smooth surface on your woodworking projects.

Once you have a few sanding blocks that are a few different sizes in your shop, you’ll find a thousand reasons to use them. They are super handy, and they are actually a lot of fun to build when you use a nice looking species of wood.

See Also: Heirloom Sanding Block Tutorial

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Hand Plane

As far as handtools go, the mother of all hand tools is most definitely the hand plane. This is an extremely useful tool, and they come in a number of different sizes and varieties.

In the beginning, a medium sized block plane is perfect for the majority of situations. You can level surfaces with it, shave corners and edges, and much much more. As long as you keep the blade very sharp, you’ll have a very good experience.

Once you spend a little time with your first plane, you will naturally find yourself looking for different models to help you with other projects. A hand plane is a fantastic hand tool to master, and it has a special place in every woodworkers shop.

See Also: Woodworking Tips Cards – Hand Plane

Marking Knife

One of the interesting things about making marks and measuring for your projects is that the marks and lines have a width to them. Depending on the marking device, your pencil line can be nearly 1/8 inch wide in some cases.

When this happens, you don’t necessarily know which side of the line is the correct measurement, or if it’s someplace in the middle. The best solution is to find a way to make a very fine mark, and there is nothing finer than a marking knife.

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This is a small hand tool with a wooden handle and a metal blade. The blade comes to a very sharp point and is beveled on one side. This allows you to make a very precise mark exactly where you need to cut your boards.

This tool eliminates the question of where to cut along your lines, because the line is so thin there is really no way to mess it up. If you have been experiencing problems like this, a marking knife can be a good solution.

See Also: Woodworking Tips Cards – Measure Twice


As a new woodworker, you absolutely must learn how to use a chisel effectively. This is one of those tools that is really under appreciated. Once you finally learn how to sharpen and use a chisel, you’ll wonder how you ever did without it.

A chisel is not just for digging holes and creating mortises. It’s actually a very fine, finesse tool that you can use for so many different shaping operations. One of my favorites is taking the sharp edge off of boards in a single pass.

With a very sharp chisel, you can carefully run along the edge/corner of the board and remove it. This makes the sanding process a little bit easier, because the bulk of the wood is gone at this point.

Pick up a set of chisels from a well known maker, and avoid the really cheap stuff. You don’t have to go high-end either, just shoot for the middle and you’ll get a nice set that can last you a long time, and that sharpens really well.

See Also: How to Sharpen a Chisel the Easy Way

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Another useful tool is a mallet. If you plan on doing a lot of chisel work or carving work, you’ll naturally end up needing a mallet to assist your chisels. However, mallets are useful for a lot of other things too.

Occasionally, you are going to need to bump one piece of wood to get it to line up with another, and a mallet is great for that. You can also use it to pound in dowels, and tap together pieces during the assembly process.

There are a lot of different kinds of mallets, but thankfully most of them are inexpensive. I recommend that you pick up a rubber mallet, and then possibly a wooden mallet if you prefer not to make it yourself.

A mallet is a fairly easy beginner level woodworking project that results in another tool for your shop. If you have a couple basic hand tools already, take a look online for some mallet plans and make yourself something nice.

See Also: Woodworking Glossary

Hand Saw

The basic hand saw is a staple in woodworking. In order to make projects, you have to cut pieces of wood down into smaller pieces. This is where the handsaw does it work, and there are several different types depending on what type of woodworking you do.

For most shops that are building smaller projects, a small rigid saw is perfect. It’s large enough to do most projects, but not so big that it’s just too much. If you plan on going without power in your shop, you’ll probably acquire a few different saws.

However, if you get a basic back saw for right now, they can do quite a bit of work for you until you need to get something more specific.

See Also: 13 Woodworking Ideas to Help Any Beginner

Coarse File

Another great tool for a beginning woodworker and a classic hand tool is the coarse file. This is simply a metal file that is rougher in nature than a smoothing file. They are inexpensive, and you can get a couple different types.

The nice thing about having one of these in the shop is that it helps you rough out your woodworking projects very quickly. The teeth are very aggressive, so without a lot of effort you can really change the shape of a piece of wood.

This is fantastic, because you can get the initial shipping out of the way and quickly, before you move onto the sanding phase. Sanding can take a long time, especially if you are sanding a surface that you probably should have attacked with a rougher tool like a file first.

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When you have a course file in your shop, all you need to do is knock out the initial shaping with that tool, and then switch to sanding for a much easier and less time-consuming experience.

See Also: 17 Important Tips on How to Sand Wood

Cabinet Scraper

This is one of my absolute favorites. The cabinet scraper still manages to hold on and have a place in the hearts of many fine woodworkers even though it was replaced by sandpaper so very long ago.

Before sandpaper was invented, old masters used thin pieces of steel with a sharp edge which were dragged across or pushed across a piece of wood to level and smooth the surface. This produced a surface far smoother and cleaner than any sandpaper.

If you really want to take your surface prep to the next level, and you are looking for a method that doesn’t require you to purchase sandpaper over and over again, then definitely pick up a cabinet scraper and a nice burnisher and start practicing.

Once you understand the technique, which doesn’t take very long to figure out, you’ll wonder why you ever used sandpaper in the first place. Not only does the cabinet scraper smooth the surface really well, it also doesn’t require multiple grit changes or tool changes to make it happen.

See Also: 13 Great Tips for Using a Wood Scraper

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Dial Caliper

When it comes to fine measurement, the dial caliber is probably the best tool that you can possibly own. This is a small, handheld caliper that measures a couple of different ways depending on what you need in your shop.

My favorite dial calipers measure in thousandths of an inch. This makes it really easy for me to figure out drill sizes, pilot holes, and screw shank diameters. Instead of having to eyeball the measurement, I get an exact measurement down to the thousandth.

Depending on the brand, you can unload quite a bit of money on a really nice dial caliper. However, for the needs of the average woodworker, the margin of error on an inexpensive caliper is not even enough to worry about.

You can go nuts and buy a very expensive model if you’d like, but anything in the entry level range will be just fine for measuring screws and drill bits.

See Also: 5 Important Measuring Tools You Need as a Woodworker

Sharpening Stone

What woodworking shop would be complete without a sharpening stone? In fact, if you plan on buying chisels, or a hand plane, then you absolutely need to buy a sharpening stone as well. This should be on anyone’s basis woodworking hand tools list. 

One of the reasons that new woodworkers complain about edged tools is that most of them fail to sharpen them properly. I was there too, and never really understood why my tools didn’t work like they were supposed to.

Once I discovered how to sharpen my chisels and plane irons really well, which actually isn’t very involved, they took on a new life. Suddenly those tools became some of my favorites, and in many cases they work better than a power tool.

Pick out a nice combination whetstone, and spend a little time sharpening your chisels and plane irons. In a short amount of time, you can create an edge that is sharp enough to shave hair off your arm.

Be careful testing it obviously, but with a tool that sharp you can really do some exceptional woodworking.

See Also: How to Choose a Sharpening System You Will Actually Use

Combination Square

Finally, the combination square is great to have around because it allows you to do something that is really important in woodworking. Nearly all of the time, you are going to be drawing straight lines and right angles.

The combination square lets you take a simple mark and turn it into a line that is perpendicular to the edge of your material. This is super helpful, because when you cut your pieces squarely, they fit together better.

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It’s actually very difficult to eyeball a right angle cut, so it’s definitely worth the time to pull out your combination square and create a nice line to follow. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to get a good model, again just avoid the super cheap ones.

See Also: Woodworking Tips Cards – The Square

People Also Ask:

What are the basic hand tools for woodworking? The basic hand tools for woodworking are the saw, plane, chisel, square, hammer, and awl. These few tools are capable of a lot, and you can start woodworking without a lot of tools. 

What are the basic hand tool uses? The basic hand tools are used to do th esame things that the machines are capable of doing, they are just a little more time consuming and cost less.

What are the classes of hand tools? The classes of hand tools are measuring, marking, holding, boring, cutting and driving.

Your Action Assignment

a-beginners-guide-to-woodworkingNow that you know these 10 basic woodworking tools that you really need to have in your shop, it’s time to take action. Pick a couple of these that you don’t have, and order them to come to your shop.

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None of these tools are really expensive, especially in the middle of the road price ranges. If you want to start out easy, you can use a handsaw to cut yourself a piece of wood and make your own sanding block. From there, you can add a file, and pick up a cabinet scraper and a burnisher.

These tools will help you out quite a bit, and then you can start adding the others that you don’t have to your collection. Again, buy a few to get you started, but then start making some of them yourself with the tools you already have.

If you have any questions about these hand tools, please post a question and I’ll be happy to answer them. Happy building.


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  • More than 20 Years Woodworking Experience
  • 7 Woodworking Books Available on Amazon
  • Over 1 Million Words Published About Woodworking
  • Bachelor of Arts Degree from Arizona State University
Buy My Books on Amazon

I receive Commissions for Purchases Made Through the Links in This Post.

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