4 Tips for Choosing Woodworking Hand Tools - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum

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post #1 of 3 Old 11-10-2016, 02:55 PM Thread Starter
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4 Tips for Choosing Woodworking Hand Tools

Being a woodworker, whether as a professional or a weekend hobbyist, makes you an important part of a rich, long-lasting tradition of art and culture. Since the dawn of time, wood has been used to create shelter, boats, farming implements, household items and art.

As civilizations around the world advanced, existing tools were improved and new tools were invented to cut and shape wood. Most of the woodworking hand tools in use today have changed little since ancient times. Fortunately, the art of using hand tools is making a comeback. A growing number of novice and skilled woodworkers are “getting back to basics”.

Whether you’re just starting out or expanding your woodworking skills, it’s important to choose several basic, yet versatile hand tools. While few skilled woodworkers will agree on the exact same wish list, we’ve come up with a good sampling of must-haves.


These tools are essentially the workhorses in any woodworking shop due to their ability to remove waste from wood. There are several types of chisels, each of which is used to perform a specific function. Here is a look at each type and recommended sizes:

Bench Chisels

These beveled-edge chisels are vital to any woodworking shop. A set of five bench chisels in the following widths will meet most of your needs: 1/4, 3/8, 1/2, 3/8 and 1 inches.

Paring Chisels

Long (between 14 and 15 inches), lightweight and thin, these chisels are used to shave off thin layers of wood and precision trimming and fitting.

Mortice Chisels

A mortise chisel has a thick, strong blade designed to withstand the stress caused by levering waste wood out of mortice joints. The most common widths are 1/4 and 3/8 inches.


Most woodworkers prefer a rounded or square-faced wooden mallet when driving a chisel into wood.

Hand Saws

This is an obvious tool choice when working with wood, but like chisels, each saw has its purpose.

• Back Saw: used for cutting dovetails and tenons
• Coping Saw: the narrow blade clears corners of waste and cuts precise arcs
• Crosscut Saw: this saw enables you to quickly cut rough stock to size


Even woodworkers who love power tools know that some jobs are more easily started or finished by making a few passes with a hand plane. There are many types of planes, but these are good basics.

Fore Plane

These planes are available in lengths of 14 to 18 inches and are commonly used to smooth stock.

Block Plane

Possibly one of the most versatile planers in any woodworking shop, this tool can be used to flush edges, tune joints, rounding over and beveling edges, removing mill marks left by power saws and (always) adjusting the fit of a wood door.

Scrub Plane

This smaller plane can perform double duty by planing stock to both thickness and width.

Jointer or Try Plane

This is used to flatten and true your boards. For most furniture projects, a sole length of 22 or 24 inches is best.

Smoothing Plane

A smoother works like sandpaper by taking very fine shavings off a wood surface.

As with all your woodworking equipment, consider the hand tools listed above as investments. Choose each new tool carefully, buying the best quality you can afford and gain confidence with that tool or set before moving onto the next. As your skills using hand tools improve and your projects grow more multifaceted, add whichever tools will give you the best results.

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post #2 of 3 Old 11-25-2016, 08:26 PM
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Thanks for the tips :)
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post #3 of 3 Old 12-23-2016, 10:29 PM
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I love my hand tools. You left off cabinet scrapers. Faster than sand paper. Anyone can make a good scrub plane, highly efficient at removing twist from a plank quickly. I turned my mallet from Osage many years ago. The round form lets you know if you hit on center and you don't have to even look at it while driving a chisel. An old cast iron plane can be made into a good one by tuning it. Most new ones have the sole finished on a belt sander producing dips at the throat. Old ones aren't necessarily better but the iron has had a chance to stabilize. A traditional bench with two vices and dogs makes work much easier.
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