Essential Woodworking Hand Tools for Traditional Woodworking

Woodworking Hand Tools

While many woodworking tools are available as machine or power hand tools, there is no replacing the finish and accuracy of a good hand tool. Beginners and master craftsmen alike can tell the difference in fine woodworking when using a good hand tool. Here are the most essential woodworking hand tools you will find in any woodworker’s shop.


Types of Saws

Unique Tools Quiz


From cutting down large pieces of lumber to creating fine bevels for interlocking pieces, a saw is among a carpenter’s first needs. There is a large variety of hand saws which perform many different functions.

Panel Saw: a general-purpose saw for cutting wood panels and boards to size. These are also referred to as a crosscut hand saw. Look for 22 or 24”.

  • Dovetail Saw: a simple saw for cutting small joints. These will be 8 or 10” and should be 15 Points per Inch (PPI) or less.
  • Coping Saw: has a narrow blade set in a U-shaped frame. These are used for cutting curves in the wood and cutting out waste in dovetails.


Wood chisels are one of the most indispensable tools in a woodworker’s shop. These can be used for a variety of things from paring to cutting notches to removing waste. Using mallets with a chisel can increase the force when driving the chisel into the wood.

  • Chisel Set: bevel-edge chisels serve many purposes. Chisels with a beveled edge can push into corners, and dovetail joints in a way other chiseling tools can’t. Sets should include ¼, ½, ⅝, and 1” sizes.

Marking Tools

The old slogan “close counts” does not apply to woodwork. An essential woodworking hand tool kit will always include precision measuring instruments and marking tools. Measuring and marking for cuts helps keep things fine and exact.

  • Marking Gauge: for making cut lines parallel to the edge of the board. These have a single or double pin for marking cut lines. They have a locking fence that maintains the exact size as they are moved along the edge of the wood.
  • Marking Knife: also called a scribing knife. This uses a blade rather than a pin to mark for precision cuts. Cut lines are preferable to pencil lines because they offer a precision start to your cutting tools.
  • Combination Square: mark at 90 and 45-degree angles. The 12” is the most commonly used, though other sizes are available. Combination squares are made of a ruler with a sliding marking edge which will frequently double as a level.

Bevel Gauge: works much like a combination square except it has a pivoting head that can mark lines at any angle. These are the common tools for creating dovetail joints.

Hand Planes

Woodworking planes are created to shape the wood. This might be used to create flatter or smoother rough wood surface. These are also used for reducing the thickness of the wood. Many seasoned woodworkers believe that using hand planes creates a better finish than a machine or power tool can.

  • Block Plane: have low-angled blades. These are lighter-duty planes that are typically used for easing sharp edges and corners.
  • Smoothing Plane: creates a fine finish on the wood. This can also prepare the piece for finishing. Many craftsmen prefer the smoothing plane to sandpaper for its results and lack of extra dust.
  • Jack Plane: a mid-sized hand plane. These are good for leveling out high spots or flattening.

The Woodworker's Toolkit

If you are just starting out as a woodworker, it can be confusing and exhausting to decide what tools you need to start with. Not to mention tools can be expensive. Trying to start out with too many or too much right at the beginning can scare away even the most interested beginner. If you want to learn how to start woodworking by hand, make a short list of what you really need and start there. You can always expand your woodshop as time goes on and your needs get more technical. Keeping it simple up front will help you learn as you go.


The product statements contained herein are intended for informational purposes only. Such product statements do not constitute a product recommendation or representation as to the appropriateness for a specific application or use. W. W. Grainger, Inc. does not guarantee the result of product operation or assume any liability for personal injury or property damage resulting from the use of such products.