Over time, every woodworker will develop their own sense of what tools they believe are essential, but when you are just starting out, knowing what you really need can seem overwhelming.
My show, and this list, is focused on woodworking using affordable, modern power tools to get you up and building stuff right away with a very short learning curve. For all of these tools, I have separate videos showing you how to use them. Be sure to check out my Basics series!
Just a note, this list will not cover items that need to be restocked such as glue and sandpaper, or essential accessories such as clamps, squares, measuring tapes, etc. I’m only be talking about power tools today.
I want to lead off with a miter saw because I think it’s the best tool you can start with to get you building amazing things fast. Even after you start working with a tablesaw, you’ll probably keep using a miter saw for all kinds of tasks because it’s such a quick and simple way to make crosscuts and of course, miter cuts. It’s also a great tool to have for all kinds of home repairs and other DIY projects.
Recommendation: Look for a 10” compound miter saw. I don’t see any advantage to spending more on a sliding miter saw or a 12” miter saw, especially if you also own a table saw.
A circular saw is probably the most common saw used on construction sites as well as homeowners working on DIY projects. But it also has a strong place in the woodworking shop. Aside from it’s more expensive cousin the track saw, a circular saw is the best tool for breaking down large, bulky sheet goods like plywood. It’s lightweight and portable and simple to use and adjust.
Recommendation: Get a 7 ¼” circular saw. If you have a little extra budget, you might want to spring for a battery powered version.
A jigsaw is one of the most versatile and most affordable tools you can own. Once you start woodworking, it won’t be long before you are going to want to cut some curves. I find a jigsaw the best tool for this. A band saw would be a common method for cutting curves, but it has its limitations. For one, you can’t cut a hole. Plus, if you have a very large board, it won’t fit on the table. I don’t consider a band saw an essential power tool for new woodworkers. A jigsaw can make all your curved cuts at a fraction of the price. You can even set it up to make straight cuts like a circular saw. Oddly enough, as I get more experienced, I reach for my jigsaw more and more and my band saw less.
Recommendation: Get a variable speed jigsaw that accepts t-shank blades. You can pick up a new, corded saw for under $30.
Ask any woodworker what the most essential tool in their shop is, and they will almost always say, the table saw. And I agree. The main advantages to a tablesaw are workflow and precision. You can make rip cuts…cuts along the length of a board, and resaw cuts along the edge of a board, allowing you to dimension wood to almost any size you need. Plus you can trick out your table saw with all kinds of shop made jigs and fixtures to perform specific tasks and refine your woodworking. Honestly, I don’t recommend woodworking without a table saw.
Recommendation: Look for a 10” tablesaw with a decent rip fence. Make sure it has standard 3/4 by 3/8 deep miter slots…not the T-slots on some cheaper saws.
Drill and Impact Driver
You can get by with a drill alone, but trust me on this one. Once you get an impact driver, you’ll wonder why you waited! I am lumping these two tools together because they are often sold in pairs and I recommend buying them that way so the batteries can be easily swapped out.
You’ll need a drill for well, drilling holes. You’ll be surprised how often you need to drill holes in woodworking. And you can use a drill to drive screws, but an impact driver is so much better. In addition to twisting like a drill, it also taps in the same direction as it drives the screw in.
Recommendation: It makes sense to buy both at the same time so they use the same battery system. If you can, get a third battery so you can always have one charged and ready to switch out. Also, buy a drill and driver kit that comes with drill bits and drivers for all types of screw heads.
Random Orbit Sander
So much of woodworking involves sanding. If you don’t do a really good job smoothing out your projects, any imperfections will be frustratingly visible when you apply a finish. A random orbit sander is the most versatile and affordable way to get the job done.
A random orbit sander spins, but it also has a random oscillating motion to prevent circular scratch marks. There are some things you won’t be able to sand such is inside curves or tight corners, and sometimes the height of the sander prevents getting into tight spaces, but in general you’ll be able to sand 90% of what you want. You can just use hand sandpaper for the rest.
Recommendation: I think it’s better to get a corded sander rather than a battery powered one just because some sanding sessions can last a long time and plugging into the wall will save you any downtime. Make sure you get one that accepts 8 hole hook & loop sanding discs.
I hope you found this list helpful! Be sure to check out my Basics series for quick start guides to using all these tools.