Best Tools for Woodworking: Our List of Must Haves

Cordless drill against a glass surface

As you develop in your woodworking skills, there are no shortage of tools that will catch your eye. Whether because they make your life much more convenient, they make the project a lot faster to finish, or they help achieve a higher degree of accuracy, the best tools for woodworking help you create the finest wood projects around. But which ones do you really need? We’ve compiled a list of our top 10 must have woodworking tools.

Top 10 Must Have Woodworking Tools

In essence, we go from the most basic to the most advanced in our list, although it probably isn’t best to look at it that way. Chances are you have a few of these tools already. Read on to find out why we think each one needs a place in your shop.

Cordless Drill

Past the very basics (hammer, screwdriver, etc), the drill is the very first tool most people pick up. And with good reason - this one tool can cover countless needs and help you out on a wide range of projects around the house. In addition, the drill is downright essential for most all woodworking projects.

A cordless version of a drill is basically a necessity as well. While purists will tell you that you can get more power out of a corded version (and they’re right), a cordless drill provides the ultimate in convenience, while sacrificing very little in power and usability.

Cordless drill against a glass surface

For the best around, take a look at the Dewalt DCD777C2, with a beefy 20 volt battery. Or, for a really good, economical option, look into the Black + Decker LD120VA - also a 20 volt option.

Jigsaw

A jigsaw is the everyman’s saw. Easy to use and cheap to buy, this saw is a great first step into the word of power saws.

This reciprocating saw can cut a whole host of materials, thanks to its quick-change blade system. As long as you have the right blade, you can cut soft and hard wood, plastic, metal, plastic, and even plexiglass. Blades are cheap, and the saw is easy and safe to use.

Jigsaws are relatively small, compact, and handheld, which makes them easy to learn. You don’t need any fancy guides or fences to start cutting - just line up the saw blade and cut away. They are also the go-to saw for cutting curves, and can cut bevels. All of these reasons make jigsaw the first power saw most woodworkers turn to.

Blue Makita jigsaw on wood

For the best, grab the Bosch JS470E. Or, go cordless and pick up the reasonably priced Bosch JSH180B.

Advanced Tip: Use the correct jigsaw blade that corresponds to the material you are cutting. Using the wrong blade is the biggest reason why your cut might not accurate.

Quick Grip Clamps

There are a whole host of clamps available, and all serve a variety of purposes. But if we’re being honest, the only clamp you must have in your workshop are quick grip clamps. These lightweight clamps are simple and fast to use, which can’t be said about other types like metal screw clamps.

You’ll need a quick grip clamp anytime you have to hold something in place, which is more often than you think. Any situation with wood glue is a must, but there are a variety of woodworking situations where they will really come in handy.

Pick up a set (or 5) on Amazon and you’ll be off to the races.

Random Orbital Sander

If you’ve ever tried to sand even a small project by hand, you know how much of a pain it is. Sanding isn’t much of an art, but it sure is a pain in the butt. In addition, when you sand by hand, there are a lot of ways to mess things up.

A random orbital sander changes all of that. Automatic and powerful, the sanding practically takes care of itself (or at least, it feels that way). And, the random part of the name varies the pattern of the sander ever so slightly, so you don’t have imperfections.

A great mid-range cordless option is the Dewalt DCW210B - remember that you only need one or two batteries if you stick with the same brand for all of your cordless options! We learned that lesson the hard way...

Circular Saw

Technically speaking, if you have a jigsaw with the proper blades and a guide, you don’t really need a circular saw.

But, a circular saw is just so darn convenient, and a lot more accurate than a jigsaw for many cuts, like the rip cut.

Circular saws are best for long, fast rip cuts, like when you’re cutting down plywood for a project. Frankly speaking, though, they can make virtually any cut.

Highly portable, even the cordless options have a good amount of power. You can pick up a speed square to make accurate 90 degree cuts and miter cuts.

Circular saw cutting through wood

For the price, it’s hard to pass up the Porter Cable PCE300 - with 15 amps of power, this saw is amazing, especially when you consider its economical price.

Advanced Tip: Learn more about how a circular saw differs from a miter saw and a table saw, and which of the three saws you need the most.

Kreg Jig and Pocket Screws

In woodworking, you’re constantly joining two pieces of wood together. And, while nails and screws might be good enough for the entry-level DIYer, that method just won’t cut it if you want the wood piece to last. Enter the kreg jig and corresponding pocket screws.

With the kreg jig, you can easily drill a pocket hole into one piece of wood and insert pre-aligned screws. The jig allows for the angle to be perfect, and means that you can quickly join two pieces of wood together with a method that will hold strong.

The best part is that this method is ultra cheap to use in the long run. And, once you use a keg jig, you’ll never turn back. If you’re still on the fence, perhaps 5 stars across 1,000 reviews on Amazon might change your mind...

Brad Nail Gun

For the layman, this could just read as a nail gun. Similar to what having a cordless drill does to simplify screwing, a nail gun drastically eases to burden of nailing. Brad nails in particular are great because they don’t leave any evidence of the nail head. In other words, nail away and no one will be able to tell.

Brad nailers are great when you need to fasten one piece of wood to another, prior to gluing or applying a more permanent solution. Whether in moldings, trim, or cabinetry, you’d be surprised how versatile and heavily used your brad nail gun will become once you get one.

You also don’t need to break the bank to pick one up, with the Bostitch 18 Gauge Nailer coming in right around $100 and being full of features.

A yellow Brad Nailer

Table Saw

It's actually hard to say that a table saw is a must have woodworking tool, but once you have one, you might change your tune. Incredibly powerful (and equally dangerous), the table saw allows you to make both cross cuts and rip cuts in bulk. Once you line up your fence, you can rip through (pun intended) dozens of cuts in a matter of minutes.

For any large scale project, a table saw becomes more of a must. An additional benefit of this style of saw is that it is a highly accurate way of making cuts. Unlike the jigsaw or circular saw, the table saw can be used to achieve accuracy down to the 1/16” of an inch.

Close up of a table saw

While you can certainly drop a load of cash for the best top end table saw with all the bells and whistles, you’d be surprised at how good some of the cheap table saws are. For example, our favorite table saw​​​​ under $300 is the SKIL 3410-02, which comes with a 10” blade capable of cutting at 5,000 RPMs.

Miter Saw

Ok, we have a love/hate relationship with the miter saw. Well, not literally with the saw itself, but with whether or not to include it on this list. The miter saw does angled cuts, such as the type you need for crown molding and baseboard, really really well. Any beveled cut is made instantly easy with a good miter saw.

However, it isn’t very often that you need to make that kind of a cut. And so, it is a bit hard to justify putting it on a must have woodworking tool list. What tips the scales for us is that a miter saw can also be used like a chop saw, which is really convenient for rapid cuts of similar measurements. Don’t break the bank for this saw unless you have a specific need for it, but you also shouldn’t turn your attention away from it.

You can’t go wrong with any of the Dewalt miter saws, but take a look at the Makita 10” LS1040 if you’re looking to save some money.

Band Saw

Ah, the band saw - the saw that no one truly needs, hardly anyone has heard of, but every owner loves.

For ripping wood, there is no better saw out there by a country mile. While a table saw can rip wood, it can’t rip thick wood.

A band saw can cut through thick wood, both cross cut and rip cut.

However, that’s not all a bandsaw does well.

It can cut circles in wood with a much higher degree of accuracy than a jigsaw, and can cut circles in thick, hard wood, which a jigsaw struggles with.

White JET band saw

Unless you’re an avid woodworker or carpenter, chances are you don’t need this saw.

But, in our opinion, it quickly becomes a needed option when you start doing a variety of woodworking projects.

Our favorite is the heavy duty Jet 14” band saw, but the entry level option we bought was the Skil 9” 2.5 amp and we were very happy with it.

Final Thoughts

No doubt, you probably have a difference of opinion about one or more of the tools on our list. But, in our experience, this is our list of the best woodworking tools that you can have in your workshop. Let us know if you think we missed any must haves!

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