The very affordable coping saw (often around $20) is regularly used for rough cutting shapes in the board, but especially for removing waste from dovetail joints (one of the most common wood joints). An affordable coping saw will work just fine as long as you have plenty of replacement blades on hand (also very affordable). Read my hand saw buying guide for more detail on brands & features to look for when purchasing a coping saw.
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.
No joke. As you get into building you’ll discover that woodworkers use jigs for everything, and that can be intimidating. The Kreg Jig company has absolutely knocked it out of the park in making jigs accessible, easy to use, and so incredibly useful that you’ll wonder why you didn’t think of that. They are affordable, and after just one build you will be singing the holy Kreg praises. I won’t go into each one, though I am happy to answer any questions you may have. Here’s a list of the jigs I have used and found incredibly helpful. (It’s a growing list!)
Here’s a traditional Swedish farm accessory for gunk-laden soles. The dimensions are not critical, but be sure the edges of the slats are fairly sharp?they’re what makes the boot scraper work. Cut slats to length, then cut triangular openings on the side of a pair of 2x2s. A radial arm saw works well for this, but a table saw or band saw will also make the cut. Trim the 2x2s to length, predrill, and use galvanized screws to attach the slats from underneath. If you prefer a boot cleaner that has brushes, check out this clever project.

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.
A marking knife is used for marking where you will be cutting with your saws. For getting into tight spots (like dovetails) and making very accurate lines (which is vital for tight fitting joints) you need just the right marking knife. You would think that any old knife would work, but you would be wrong. Years ago I purchased several that didn’t work well.
Own one junk chisel, probably about 1″. This will keep you from doing what you oughtn’t to your good chisels. It can be used and can be nearly trash. It’s going to hit caulk on masonry, junk stuck to the floor, interior cuts on thin sheets of aluminum, and other such abuse. If the back and bevel sort of intersect on an extra coarse stone, it’s sharp. I’ve sharpened mine on the concrete back stoop. (Not so great for the concrete)

Build this handy stool in one hour and park it in your closet. You can also use it as a step to reach the high shelf. All you need is a 4 x 4-ft. sheet of 3/4-in. plywood, wood glue and a handful of 8d finish nails. Cut the plywood pieces according to the illustration. Spread wood glue on the joints, then nail them together with 8d finish nails. First nail through the sides into the back. Then nail through the top into the sides and back. Finally, mark the location of the two shelves and nail through the sides into the shelves. Don’t have floor space to spare? Build these super simple wall-mounted shoe organizers instead!


After you have chosen the perfect table saw for your wood shop, the next major purchase one should consider would be a compound miter saw. While not as expensive as a quality table saw, a compound miter saw is invaluable for cutting compound angles (beveled, mitered and combination cuts) on the ends of a piece of stock. Once you develop your ability to make precise cuts with a compound miter saw, you'll find that your circular saw spends a little more time in the drawer than it used to.
I am finally getting to practice my woodworking more after years of collecting tools. By using tool reviews and thinking of the kind of work I would like to do, I have accumulated a nice set of tools without purchasing many mistakes. I decided to use Paul Sellers book and videos and start learning from the beginning. He starts with projects that begin with a small set of tools. One of those tools is a spokeshave. Even though I know much of what is in the first lessons, I have picked up a few new tricks, and am learning to use my tools more efficiently. My most important tools are my workbench and vise. The workbench was tough to build as I was on the floor using hand planes; not a good way to work. I have no jointer; did get a small planer and made a sled for it so I can flatten a board. My tools are in my house, so there is no room for a big table saw or bandsaw. I have a chopsaw and a piece of an old Craftsman tablesaw I got for free. It has to be moved outside to use. A circular saw with a guide is handy. My guide has a plate on which the saw is mounted. The plate slides on aluminum angle (with help of rollers) which is screwed to plywood. Once the initial cut is made in the plywood, the plywood is simply lined up with your cut marks and clamped down.

My $0.02 worth. I agree with the thickness planer [mine is 10″] but anything over a 6″ jointer is expensive and space-consuming, so use hand planes as in your later blog. I inherited an 8″ table saw that my dad and I used to build a 12′ outboard boat back in 1955. I’ve used it for ripping, but I’m having second thoughts because of safety issues. Some have suggested a band saw for ripping, which is quieter and safer to use. I gave my router away [and hope to get rid of my Freud biscuit joiner and 6″ jointer]. A quality eggbeater drill works every bit [pun not intended] as well as a power drill, and they cost less. A coping saw and a jewelers saw negate the need for a jigsaw unless you are into making puzzles. Chris Schwarz has a video short on one of the Highland Woodworker series showing how to joint the edge of a board with a plane and a simple jig on the workbench surface. Another reason to bypass the jointer.
I have used a Workmate successfully for years and I am in the process of building an upgraded replacement for the work surfaces. My replacement bench top will be a little longer, much thicker and it will have and extended apron between the two halves to greatly improve holding wood vertically for dovetailing. With this simple upgrade it turns the little Workmate into a very capable portable woodworking bench.
John Oesleby, 11/7/2018 I lost my workshop and tools in the California wildfires, and thought this set would get me started again. It’s a good value, but does require some fine tuning. There are a lot of videos online. I found the following: The blades are lightweight, and need sharpening. The edge of one (the block plane) had been visibly overheated, and required some effort to get to undamaged steel. It doesn’t seem to hold an edge long. On the smoothing plane, the sole is concave, and will need some effort to flatten. The frog resisted adjustment because the adjustment screw was drilled a little to close to the sole. I got the frog into an acceptable position be removing the washers from the hold-down screws. The chip breaker needed some work to fit the blade properly. Overall, I feel the set was a decent value.
1. Power jointer and thickness planer. I have developed various means of straightening the edges of my stock with hand-held tools, but I don’t see a way to efficiently flatten the faces of rough or reclaimed lumber without a power jointer. It’s part of the first few steps for any furniture project, and I want to be able to move through this step quickly and into the more interesting work. The thickness planer is also a huge time-saver, compared to hand-held tools.
In researching the Sloyd tool cabinet shown at left I found some old tool catalogs from Chandler & Barber of Boston (a primary supplier of Sloyd paraphernalia), including one from 1900 complete with a list of pricing for all the tools in the cabinet. This got me thinking. According to the Federal Reserve’s website, $1 in 1900 should be worth about $27 today. Yet a straight monetary conversion doesn’t paint a complete picture since some tools that were common back then are a specialty today, and vice versa. So I created a spreadsheet that includes columns for the original hand tool prices, those same prices adjusted for inflation and actual prices for similar tools from today’s retailers. Click here to see that spreadsheet.
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!
Handsaws (often called “panel saws”) are long, thin saws with a comfortable wooden handle. They are used for rough dimensioning of your lumber. Although a “panel saw” is technically a smaller handsaw that fits into the panel of a tool chest, I’ll hereafter refer to this type of saw as a “Panel Saw” to differentiate them from the broad category referred to as “hand saws”. Panel saws come in two tooth configurations: “Rip” (cuts along the grain…like a chisel) and “Cross Cut” (cuts across the grain…like a knife). You will need both.
Of course, these wood joints would be almost useless without some sort of adhesive to go with them. Chapter 9 walks you through the most common types of adhesives available for woodworkers and shows you the best one for each job. In Chapter 11, I go over the ins and outs of screws and nails and show you when and where to use them to improve the strength of your joints.
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.
After the wood is cut it needs to dry before it can be used, and drying the wood causes shrinkage in the board. So it’s important that the board be allowed to dry evenly or it twists, bows, or warps. If you buy wood from a lumberyard, it’s already been dried, but you want to acclimate it to your shop before you work with it. This way the wood will make any changes it needs to make with the different humidity level in your shop, and you don’t get any nasty surprises like a table leg that twists after you’ve glued your project together.

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.
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Now, I know this list only contains traditional hand tools, but my circumstances led me to this choice to complete the job. After all, he is my brother and he’s helped me once or twice. Not all woodworkers will want to take the time and effort to go strictly with hand tools. That’s fine; different circumstances and preferences will lead the way. Most people wouldn’t drive a scooter full of tools to assist their siblings either. Sounds crazy, but I enjoyed the trip through the mountains. Once I was there, I still needed a way to rip through lumber. I also needed a can of finish. As needed, a few jigs and templates were constructed from the purchased lumber.
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Dividers (or compass) are used for taking and repeating a measurement over and over again on a work piece. Traditional woodworkers rarely take measurements with a tape measure when doing fine joinery work, but rather take a measurement with dividers then transfer that arbitrary (yet accurate) measurement to another work piece. This removes a degree of inaccuracy.
This plan is probably the easiest plan ever added in the list. The one who is working on this project, don’t need any professional skills but just knowing some basics of woodworking will be enough for this DIY. You will get step by step detailed process of this tutorial in the source linked tutorial. This tutorial will surely help you to build this plan quickly.
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