Top 6 Hand Tools for Woodworking

woodworking hand toolsWondering which tools you should have at your disposel for the woodworking project you have lined up? From backsaws to gimlets to surforms, woodworking is full of beautiful and often somewhat esoteric tools. Buy them all at once, and you’ll be out a fortune. On the other hand, there are four tools that are neither esoteric nor expensive… and they’re so useful you may use them on any project.

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Claw Hammer with a Finish Head

It’s a classic. When people think of hammers, they think of this one.

Claw hammers have a nail-pulling claw on one side and flat face for driving nails on the other. There are actually two kinds of hammer faces on these kinds of hammers: there’s a finish head, which has a flat face, and a waffle head.

The finish head leaves a flat indentation on the wood. A waffle head has cross-hatched grooves that help keep the hammer from slipping off the nail, but leave a distinctive pattern when the hammer touches the wood.

For woodworking purposes, a flat finish head hammer of about 20oz weight is great. It has enough heft to drive even large nails, but it’s still light enough to extract fasteners and carry around.

As to handle choice, a hickory wood handle will help absorb vibration, whereas a fiberglass or steel handle will stand up to the additional stress of pulling nails better. If you anticipate pulling a lot of nails, get a fiberglass handle, otherwise a wooden handle is the way to go.

Another Useful Handtool for Woodworking- Layout Square

Layout squares are triangular tools that let you make square marks as well as angles on wood stock. They’re extremely useful for making square cuts on 1x4s and 2x6s.

Layout squares are also marked so it’s easy to figure a mark or cut’s approximate angle. You just put the layout square’s square corner where the angle meets the stock’s long axis.

The marks on the square tell you the angle. This feature is very useful for setting angles and bevels on compound miter saws and table saws. On the other hand, if you’ll be cutting by hand, the layout square will let you mark the appropriate angle to cut.

While you can get both plastic and metal ones, get a metal one. It’ll last much longer.

Tape Measure

This is another essential handtool that’s useful for any woodworking projects for beginnerswhich you will probably own at least one already, but consider picking up another if yours is a cheap model.

For woodworking purposes, you generally want a 25 foot model with a locking mechanism to lock the tape in place. You also want a tape measure that has a “loose” hook. The “looseness” should be exactly the thickness of the hook — this way, you can make accurate inside and outside measurements. You won’t be constantly fighting 1/64-inch or 1/32-inch errors in everything you do.


It doesn’t matter how many power tools you have around. You’ll always want to have some chisels handy.

Chisels are some of the most useful and versatile tools in woodworking. The most common ones are called bevel-edge chisels, and using them safely means keeping them sharp. The duller chisels get, the more dangerous they are. You start needing more and more force to move them through the wood… which means they’re more and more able to cause damage if they slip.

You should be able to “pare” (chisel) with just body weight, paring away from your body. If you really need to, tap the butt of the chisel with a wooden mallet… don’t use a steel hammer as it may damage the chisel.

Block Plane

One of the most versatile hand tools for woodworking is the block plane. They can shape, curve, flatten, square, and even chamfer stock… in many cases saving a lot of sanding time.

As with chisels, the key to using one right is an evenly honed and extremely sharp “iron” (the blade). Set the depth by loosening the so-called cap screw, and set the depth adjustment screw on the “frog.” Now adjust the iron’s angle so it’s square.

Japanese Backsaw

You probably already have a hand saw, so consider adding a Japanese backsaw. Japanese saws cut on the pull, rather than on the push stroke — which makes it possible to use a much thinner blade. A thinner blade means a narrower “kerf,” less sawdust, and much less effort required to make a cut.

Japanese backsaws are extremely useful for precise cutting and flush-cutting. To use them, align the saw with your mark and pull to start your cut. Slide the blade forward and pull to cut again.

Between the 6 tools mentioned, you’ll have enough to cover 80% of your needs. There’s plenty more tools out there, but a word of advice… don’t buy until you actually need them.

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