Beginning beginner: what tools first?

  • Creator
  • #340050
    Dale Tucker

    Hi I’m Dale. I don’t have a shop. I don’t have tools (except the sort of general toolbox assortment – hammer, screwdrivers, tape measure, power drill, etc.) I really, really want to begin woodworking with hand tools. I know it will take time and dedication.

    I don’t have thousands of dollars to invest in all of the tools I might eventually need. I am willing to begin with one or two tools and build from there. I have viewed a number of videos here and elsewhere and see them as a wonderful resource for learning.

    I’m thinking that to begin with I will need a workbench, a saw, chisels, two planes, a wooden mallet, sharpening stones, and . . . . It seems the list goes forever. I don’t know what to get first. My guess would be sharpening tools. What would be the first-through-fifth tools you would purchase if you were in my position?

    I’ve also considered making my own planes and such as a way of beginning, but it might be way beyond me. As far as projects go, I love books and never have enough book shelves so that would be a project that would interest me. Also a chest of drawers is another project which interests me. And of course building my own workbench would be one too. Any advice? Thank you much for your responses.

Viewing 7 replies - 16 through 22 (of 22 total)
  • Author
  • #340564
    Dave Ring


    I’m glad to be of help. BTW have you watched Paul’s Youtube videos where he builds a serious, heavy duty workbench in his back yard using a couple of sawhorses and no more tools than we have mentioned so far? (No bench, no vise.) These show what’s really necessary to do what Paul likes to call “Real Woodworking”.


    Dave Ring


    OOPS! I almost forgot something. I think Paul used a brace and auger bits on this project. Both are expensive to buy new and the new ones are of much lower quality than old ones. Around here good vintage braces sell for $5-$10 each and bits for around a buck. Again, go and get your hands dirty at the flea markets, estate sales and antique malls.




    Hi Dale

    Dont go out and buy lots of tools.
    You dont need to, and it may be a barrier that prevents you from even starting the first project.

    I reccommend that you find a project that you would like to make.
    You mentioned a bookshelf, which is a great beginner project. You only need to buy the tools to complete that project first. It looks like youve had some good advice already. I would only add that if you only need one chisel for a bookshelf’s dado joints – it should be the width of the shelves you want to use. Probably 22mm.

    Dont worry about brand names. Veritas are good, but rather buy a long panel saw from the local hardware than a short Veritas panel saw. You will appreciate the lenght in use. And its nicer to learn to sharpen on a cheaper saw. Dont buy anything with special tips, which prevents sharpening and thus decreases the lifespan. For panel saws, you will only need a cross-cut sharpened blade to start. You could also probabaly make a bookshelf with a back saw only.

    I wouldn’t buy a plane just yet either, or even a vise. Buy PAR (Planed All Round) timber from the hardware which comes smooth and ready to use. If you buy a plane you will need to make winding sticks before you start your bookshelf. Planes are great, but setting it up and learning to use it might prevent you from succeeding in your first project. Its not too difficult, so definately use one for the second project. Vices are amazing, but you will need to bolt it to something. And unless you are planing, or chopping mortices the a ‘workmate’ should be just fine.

    Be weary of what people tell you that you need on YouTube. They often get the tools for free provided they have enough people subscribing to their channel, and that they tell you that you definately need that tool.

    Most importantly, look in the right attic! You might find a nice surprise up there.

    Good Luck & Enjoy!


    Matt Cromwell


    As someone in a similar position i was wondering about getting a tenon saw and what make is classed as quality. From reading here it seems most people don’t even bother with them and generally go for a Veritas dovetail instead?



    From reading here it seems most people don’t even bother with them and generally go for a Veritas dovetail instead?

    Not at all. If I could only have one, it would be a 14″ tenon saw, 12 tpi, set fine. With that, I can do all of my joinery, including dovetails and tenons. The converse is not true in that I’d find a dovetail saw to be too small for some joinery. Also, 12 tpi is fine enough to be versatile but large enough not to drive you batty as you learn to sharpen saws (my weakest skill). For cutting dovetails, I don’t think its about having a super fine saw; rather, it’s about a uniform set that cuts a smooth, straight kerf. That’s not to say a lighter saw isn’t nice, but it’s why this larger saw can be so versatile, at least in my opinion. My 14″ 12 tpi tenon saw is an old Disston.

    Derek Long


    Matt, mostly the rec for a Veritas dovetail saw is because 1. it is a good starter saw that comes sharp, 2. it is cheap (about 60 bucks), 3. it is a small saw suited for smaller starter projects.

    Eventually anyone is going to want to get other saws for larger cuts.

    Tenon saws run the gamut from inexpensive to very expensive. You can get tenon saws off Ebay that will be very serviceable with a sharpening, but I find the prices now are very inflated and there’s a lot of junk, too. Both Veritas and Lie Nielsen make tenon saws on the mid-range of the price scale that are good saws. I like the weight of a brass back.

    Derek Long
    Denver, Colorado



    If you go to harbour freight you can get a set of 6 chisels, hammer,clamps and a marking gauge and get change back from a 100$ bill. There are squares and such there as well. All will do the job to start.

Viewing 7 replies - 16 through 22 (of 22 total)

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