One of the most important aspects of woodworking is understanding the properties of wood. I know this seems obvious, but you’d be surprised about how many woodworkers I talk to who don’t know why wood acts the way it does. Wood changes with the weather and the stresses put upon it (such as when it’s stacked in a pile under a bunch of other wood). It expands and contracts and can twist, warp, or cup depending on the stresses that exist within it (from the direction of the grain in the board). Being able to look at a board and determine where those stresses are and how they may impact the board as it experiences changes in humidity requires some basic understanding of wood and how it’s made.


We recommend buying quality, age-appropriate tools. Even if you purchase professional class tools, your investment can still be modest, as demonstrated by our 24-piece Highland Woodworking Tool Kit for Kids. It contains real tools of a quality that will serve any woodworker, and we've selected them based on what is needed for the kind of woodworking projects that kids are likely to undertake.
Thank you for this post. I am about three years into wood working with handtools. I didn’t want to be a handtool collector. I wanted a good set of tools I could use. Since funds were tight and I wasn’t sure if I would keep doing this, I wanted to build my tools slowly. What you outlined is more or less what I ended up getting and it has indeed served me well. One can easily do a lot with all of these tools. At some point about two years into the hobby, I had a much better feel for what I wanted to make and what I may or may not need beyond this.
2 small Japanese pull saws, a western push saw, fret saw, set of chisels, bit brace with a roll of arbor bits, rabbet plane, side rabbet (trim) plane, 2 shoulder planes, 3 set of diamond stones, slip stone, multiple files, a rasp or two, 2 small bar clamps, a mini vise, hand scrapers, scratch beader with cutters, combination plane with cutters, smoothing plane, jack plane, block plane, combination square, steel straight rule, 12′ tape measure, small bottle of glue, a few short dowels, 2 marking gauges, and a few different marking instruments (awl, pencils, marking knife).
I agree, that’s a nice and easy set up to start with. I’d say a block plane it’s handy for small areas, and touch ups. A no.5 is excellent but a bit heavy and tiring sometimes. I find that a nice rabbet block plane (shoulder + block) with two irons with different sharpening angles it’s essential to me. One fine flat rasp and a medium flat file would complete my set.
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.
In 1900, just as it was when I was a student over 100 years later, the view is that it is better to buy a quality tool once that will last a lifetime than buy something of poor quality which will not serve you well in your work. Keep that in mind as you review the list — since the tools were not the cheapest back then and surely are not the cheapest today. But with this modest set of tools you can build an amazing array of projects just as many ‘Sloyders’ (Sloyd school students) have done before us.
The key to making furniture is having a plan. (Or is that the key to life? I always forget.) The good news for beginning woodworkers is that you don’t need to develop the plan; you need only to follow it. Project plans are abundant and easily found (check out Chapter 21 for some project-plan resources). After you get familiar with the way plans are written, you can build just about anything (depending on your skills, of course).
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