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top 10 recommended basic woodworking hand tools (Starter guide)


It is widely recognized, whether you are a beginner or an experienced carpenter, that having the correct basic tools for woodworking by hand is imperative to attain a top-notch outcome.

Are there any essential hand tools for woodworking? What are the best ways to maximize your budget and buy only what is necessary for your workshop?

To answer these doubts and offer guidance, I want to share my personal anecdotes and compile a compilation of my top 10 suggested essential woodworking hand tools in this blog post.

Ebook part 1 woodworking basics

What Are Woodworking Hand Tools

Woodworking hand tools are essential instruments used by woodworkers that only can be operated manually, with no reliance on electricity or force.

Woodworkers rely on an array of hand tools for a variety of projects. Saws can be used to slice wood into different sizes and shapes, whilst chisels are ideal for sculpting and forming the material. Planes are perfect for levelling and creating a smooth finish to wood surfaces, with hammers and screwdrivers necessary when connecting timber sections. Clamps come in handy when keeping wood pieces steady during woodworking tasks.

The mastery of hand tools is essential for any carpentry project that demands precision and exactness. Though using power tools can expedite and simplify woodworking, many woodworkers opt for the control and accuracy offered by manual implements.

Woodworking hand tools are indispensable for woodcrafters of all levels of skill and experience, granting them accuracy, authority, and inventiveness so they can make singular and attractive wood items.

What is the purpose of Woodworking Hand Tools

Woodworking hand tools are used by carpenters and woodworkers to manually shape, cut, carve and join pieces of wood. For operation, these tools necessitate the application of physical strength for precise and accurate results.

The chief benefit of utilizing a hand tool for woodworking is the control and accuracy they provide. Power tools may speed up projects and make them more effective, but working with hand tools allows for a more direct approach and greater concentration on minutiae.

Additionally, hand tools for carpentry are ideal for tasks where electricity is not accessible, such as in rural locales or when handling sensitive or complex wood elements.

Woodworking hand tools provide woodworkers a means to craft stunning, one-of-a-kind works of art with great accuracy, control, and imaginativeness.

What are the Drawbacks of using Woodworking Hand Tools

Hand tools for woodworking certainly bring benefits, however they can impede a woodworker’s productivity and efficiency.

Woodworking with hand tools can present a strenuous challenge, requiring considerable effort and strength to operate. Doing so is especially grueling when tackling bigger tasks, leading to exhaustion and lengthy completion times.

Using a hand tool for woodworking, despite their potential for human error, requires an immense degree of skill and precision. For novice woodworkers, the accuracy demanded by hand tools can be daunting, potentially resulting in mistakes or damage to the woodwork.

Using tools for woodworking by hand can be costly, and if not managed properly they can become ineffective or damaged, resulting in impaired precision. High-quality hand tools may cost more and require frequent maintenance to keep them in good condition.

Ultimately, hand tools may be inadequate for some woodworking projects. For instance, when dealing with dense or tough materials, hand tools may not have the accuracy or speed needed and thus, power tools might be essential.

Woodworking hand tools can bring great precision, control, and creativity to any project; however, they can be quite physically demanding, necessitate a good level of skill, and may not be the best choice for all woodworking tasks. Thus, it is essential for woodworkers to consider their own needs and preferences when choosing a hand tool for woodworking.

Top 10 recommended basic woodworking hand tools

I am not going to discuss any power tools. You can see that in another blog on this website: 9 Essential Woodworking Power Tools For A Successful Startup. In this blog, I only want to talk about those smaller basic hand tools.

Based on my projects from the past year, which you can follow on my YouTube channel, I have listed up my most used hand tools. Let’s go and check out these 10 recommend basic woodworking hand tools!

Woodworking Hand Tools #1: Measuring Tools​

With woodworking, it is important to always be able to transfer the correct dimensions to your workpiece. After all, you don’t want to cut an expensive piece of wood too short, and you always want perfect joints.

For my dimensions, both the length of a workpiece or the angle I want to obtain, I use the following measuring tools.

Tape Measure ​

A good tape measure should maintain its accuracy while at the same time enduring regular abuses, such as drops or bumps, in the workplace. For time-related projects, the quick unwind and rewinding is the main advantage of the tape measure.

For my projects, I use the Stanley Fatmax 8m / 26′ tape measure. I use this model because for me it is the most universal tape measure. It’s long enough to measure and divide longer boards, but the tape measure is still useful for smaller projects.

The size of the tape measure is suitable to put in your pocket, so you always have your tape measure at hand.

Personally, I like to work with the tape measure because of the movable hook.

To measure the outside of a part, simply place the hook over the edge and pule out the tape measure. 
The inside of, for example, a box can be measured by pressing the movable hook against the part. 
This way you always have the correct measurements.

  • Fits in your pocket so you always have it with you​
  • Easy use for both inside and outside dimensions of a workpiece
  • Works quickly thanks to the retractable system

Multi Mark Measure Hand Tools

As you can see this is the most used measurement tool in my workshop. It is a simple but very handy tool, especially when you have to repeatedly mark the same dimensions.

Draw parallel lines? Mark the same dimensions repeatedly? Set the depth of your saw blade? 
Then I recommend you this super handy hand tool for woodworking. 

The Kreg KMA2900 Multi-Mark is always in my pockets and is perfect for small dimensions.

Just turn the knob open, slide the ruler, tighten the knob, and voila, the multi-marker is set. 
This handy tool is light and strong and has an built-in level. 
Buying this was worth every penny.

  • Three scale configurations​
  • Imperial and metric scale in one tool​
  • Works quickly thanks to the retractable system

Digital Caliper​

It is a tool that I use less in projects but still considers it one of my top 10 recommended hand tools.

When you have projects that really concern very fine dimensions, the Digital caliper is an ideal and affordable tool. 
By reading the digital screen, you know the size of your workpiece with an accuracy of 0.02mm / 0.001 ”

With a caliper, you measure inside, outside, and depth of your workpiece.

  • accuracy of 0.02mm / 0.001 “
  • LCD screen for easy and clear reading​

Digital Angle Gauge​

Some projects have parts that have to be cut at a certain angle. Then this digital angel gauge comes in really handy. 

To set your table saw, band saw or miter saw the right angle, very accurate measurements are always required. Perhaps this is recognizable to you, but even after measuring twice, I still doubt whether my device is correctly adjusted.

With this digital protractor, that is a thing of the past. The digital angle gauge is very easy to use and very accurate. Thanks to the magnetic bottom, it easily sticks to your saw blade. 
Just set the perfect angle by reading the degrees on the LCD and you’re done.

If you have a Digital angle gauge like this, you will never have to doubt the correctness again and you will not be afraid to reset your device again and again.

  • Strong magnetic base for easy attachment
  • LCD screen for easy and clear reading
  • Can be used as both a bevel gauge and a digital level

For a more in-depth article about measuring tools, I suggest you should check out my article 7 Basic Measuring Tools for Woodworking Everyone Should have. By Going through that article you will grow your knowledge even more.

Woodworking Hand Tools #2: Marking Pencil​

Of course, all measuring instruments that I have just discussed are nothing without you being able to mark where you have to saw.

Besides measuring instruments, a marking tool is an unmissable item in my top 10 recommended tools for woodworking by hand.

You can mark sizes on your workpiece in different ways. You can use a pencil, a marking knife, or a marking gauge. Depending on the project, you will have to make a choice. 
I personally use a marking pencil more than a marking knife. 

Since I started woodworking, I have used just about every pencil that can be used. Until I discovered this PICA 3030 / SB Dry Longlife Automatic Pen from Pica Marker. 
Thanks to its cover with belt clip, the marker is always firmly attached and within reach. 
In the cover is a sharpener integrated, like that you always have a very sharp pencil for super fine markings.

I am most amazed by how long the graphite last. When the graphite is finally used up it can be replaced very quickly.

In addition to my multi-marker, this is the hand tool that I use for every project.

  • Integrated sharpener in the quiver cap​
  • Convenient quiver cap with special clip for perfect one-handed handling
  • With this pencil, you can mark on almost all surfaces, even if they are wet, glossy, or oily​.

Woodworking Hand Tools #3: Square​

A square is used to square your workpieces for precisely fitting connections. 
It is used to write square lines around the faces and edges of your boards, such as a line where you have to cut with your saw for perfect 90-degree cuts.

There are dozens of types of squares but I prefer the one indicated above on the picture. 
Due to the flat sides, this square stays well on the workpiece and with the foot, I can push the square against the edge for a perfect square.

I also have a square with one wooden side, but I don’t recommend that. Depending on the weather conditions, the wood will shrink or expand, so that the correctness of the square can no longer be guaranteed. 
This square is in my closet and I never use it for that reason.

Tip: Be careful when buying a square and check its correctness. 

You can do this simply by placing the square on a board with a straight edge and using your marker pencil to draw a line along the square at right angles to the edge of the board. 
Now place the square in mirror image on the other side of the line you drew. 
If the drawn line is parallel to your square, you have the perfect tool.

  • T – shaped base for perfect fixation on the workpiece​
  • Metal for minimal deformation

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Woodworking Hand Tools #4: Pocket Hole Jig​

While I don’t use pocket holes for all of my projects, I still find the pocket hole jig worth adding to my top 10 recommended basic woodworking hand tools.

Some are against it, others in favor. The eternal discussion where no one is right.

I’m in favor, depending on the project. That is why in my drawer, my Kreg R3 Master System is never far away.

I like to use pocket holes in places that are not visible or in places where I don’t want to see screw heads.

Pocket holes can be made very quickly by this small and light tool and ensure a strong connection.

  • Easy to set up thanks to the clear instructions​
  • Compact and light tool​

Woodworking Hand Tools #5: Chisel set​

I use chisels for almost every project. 
Some updating or removing larger parts of wood is done quickly with a good set of chisels.

I think it is a good idea not to buy cheap here. A good set of chisels made in high-quality metal will last for many years and are therefore definitely worth their money. 
Inferior chisels will only make the job more difficult and slow you down.

A good basic set of chisels of different sizes will help you well for most projects.

Protect and care for your chisels well. 
Keep them in a suitcase or separate drawer, so they don’t get blunt by bumping into each other. 
Always keep your chisels sharp, this makes work much more pleasant.

  • A set ensures that you have different most common sizes
  • Quality material​

Woodworking Hand Tools #6: File set​

With a file, I quickly remove wood and produce a beautifully finished surface comparable to sandpaper for smoothness.

It is the ideal tool for updating my workpieces and obtaining beautifully finished edges or surfaces.

As with the chisels, I also recommend buying files in a set. You will use one more often than the other, but with the different shapes in your workshop, you can now handle any workpiece.

In almost every project, my files are used to update edges and are therefore indispensable hand tools in my workshop.

  • A set ensures that you have different most common sizes​
  • Comfortable, ergonomic grip​

Woodworking Hand Tools #7: Clamps

I mainly use my clamps to clamp two parts together after gluing. In this way, the pressure on the wood glue will make the connection stronger.

But clamps can also be used for other jobs.

For example, to fix a workpiece on my workbench so it doesn’t shift when I want to work on it.

Clamps come in various shapes and sizes. What you need depends on the type of projects you do.

In my workshop, I have 3 types of clamps that I have purchased. The spring clamp for smaller jobs or to hold something temporarily, the one hand clamp to fix a workpiece while working, and the clutch style bar clamp for the heavier clamping work.

Although I have to admit that sometimes the clutch style bar clamps are too small for the projects I’m working on. I’m thinking about it to replace the clamps with pipe clamps.

I now have 4 of each type of clamp, but I expect to double this number in the near future in view of upcoming projects.

Tip: Do not buy clamps in large quantities when you start woodworking.
Start with a few clamps that you think you will need for the projects you want to do.
After some time, you can gradually increase the number.

To give you an indication, until now I had no shortage with the 12 clamps I have in my workshop.

In addition to the purchased clamps, I also made DIY clamps in wood. 
For example, I made hold down clamps for my crosscut sledlarge bar clamps which allow me to glue a tabletop, bench dog clamps that fit into the dog holes of my workbench and corner clamps to make cabinets.

Be sure to watch these videos/blogs to see how you can build them perfectly yourself. 
You can always contact me if you have any questions about this, I will be happy to help you.

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I hope this information about woodworking hand tools was helpful, and that this blog inspires you.

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Christophe, founder of
Woodworking | DIY | Home decoration

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