Whether he’s teaching at North Bennet Street School or working in his home shop, furniture maker Dan Faia wants certain essential hand tools close by. As it happens, the compact tool rack also featured in this issue holds them all. Your list may vary, but this comprehensive list of hand tools for layout, surface prep, shaping, and joinery is a good starting point for any aspiring hand-tool woodworker.
Last, but not least…but often left until last, let’s talk routers. If you already own Ryobi batteries, this is the no-brainer entry-level router for you. As you get into doing more router work you will learn there are different kinds of routers (trim, combination, and full size). Honestly, I don’t own this router, and when I first purchased a router a number of years ago I had no idea what I was getting. If I did it again I would start here and get comfortable with it, then decide from there what my main applications are. I will add that if you are using a router table, which I totally recommend (I use this one), you will need a full size. My old router is going out right now, and I will likely replace it with this Bosch model.
Like yourself, I get great satisfaction from working with this small kit. Similar to your wine box, I’ve got this old ‘sausage box’ that I can fit everything in, if I’m out the job site or such. It’s a lovely feeling to know that with just this small box of tools, I can pay all my bills and eat. I just wish I could get the rest of my life so minimal!
Finally, a workbench. Like most people, I started with a DIY workbench that totally did the trick for the first couple of years. I recently upgraded to a Kreg workbench, and it is awesome. It moves around so smoothly, it’s incredibly durable and strong, and it combines form and function in ways that make my heart sing. If you, like me, are working out of a garage or small shop, consider the value of something that moves about extremely well, and that is adaptable to your needs. They have several sizes to choose from, so I’ll link to the main product page.

I sincerely hope this list is helpful to you! Learning to build – to create from scratch things of beauty and function – has been one of the most personally satisfying and empowering experiences I have ever had. I love to see people take up tools and find their creative voice. Wherever you are at in your journey, from learning to read a tape measure to hand tooling furniture in your sleep, we are all in this together. So jump in, get your hands dirty, and let’s build something!
As someone who is just progressing past being a “beginner” (just getting into building furniture) in the woodworking community, I would say there are a number of changes I would make to your list. First, I would say that a power jointer/thicknesser does not belong on the list by any means. They are way too large of an investment and take up a lot of space (not to mention you can buy your stock at the desired dimensions). I also strongly disagree with the concept of joinery devices. As someone new to the trade, I feel this is a very important skill that must be developed, not skipped over by buying devices power devices that achieve a single goal. I think the jigsaw should be replaced by a good bandsaw. I just purchased my first major power tool and it was a 14″ bandsaw and not a tablesaw for space reasons as well as versatility. The bandsaw allows me to resaw, cut curves, (now that it is adjusted for drift) rip pieces of stock accurately that are thicker than a table saw could handle, etc. Once the cut is complete, a handplane can remove any saw marks and square/flatten a surface. It is also really useful for cutting tenons and dovetails. Handsaws can be used for crosscutting and anything else the bandsaw cannot handle. As for a bench, if you are getting into woodworking, this should be your first real project (and it is not expensive to make). You are also missing a good vise to be attached to the bench.

Lots of good comments! I do think it is a bit of stretch to include a jointer and surface planner on the ‘basics’ list – we’ve got a slippery slope here! And a lot of different approaches – money, space, time, resources, etc. But lets plunge ahead. If you buy your wood already (or mostly) prep’ed, then the jointer & surface planner can be postponed. You definitely need a way to accurately measure linear distances (e.g. length, width) so a good ruler and tape measure. You need to be able to measure squareness – so you need a good combination square. You need to be able to mark the wood – so a good marking knife, an awl, some chalk, a fine pencil, etc. You should have some decent chisels (and good ones don’t need to cost a lot!). You will need to sharpen them (again not expensive – piece of plate glass and some sandpaper). You need a way to accurately cut your wood – a couple of good handsaws and a file or two for sharpening. You really should have a decent work surface/work bench/etc – a good first project by the way. Last of the basics – a good drill (3/8″ vs battery type). Lastly (I could go on but room is lacking), take a look at Paul Seller’s video’s for simple but highly competent work.
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