5 Must-Have Tools for Woodworking

A woodworker using a jigsaw on a piece of lumber.

For anyone getting ready to enter the creative world of woodworking, the hardest part is knowing which tools you'll need now and which can wait until you have a greater skillset. Thankfully, the must-have woodworking tools list isn't very long. They're tools you're likely familiar with and may already have, so getting started is probably easier than you thought! As you get more experienced with woodworking, you'll know what other types of tools you may need, including any specialty ones, but for now here's just five very basic and versatile power tools you'll need to get started.

1. Table Saw

A power saw in a woodworking shop.

A table saw is essential in almost any shop. With a table saw you can make box joints, do basic milling, make crosscuts, cut parallel edges, and more. But before you purchase a table saw, make sure to check the voltage. Most will run on the normal household current of 120v, however, if you find a contractor-type table saw it may require 240v, which not every shop has wiring for. A good quality table saw will cost you anywhere from $500 to $1200, but you can also save quite a bit of money by buying one that's already used.

2. Thickness Planer

A thickness planer is a must-have tool for any woodworking shop that will be using rough-cut stock, which is wood that hasn't yet been milled and is therefore much less expensive than its counterparts. When shopping for your first thickness planer, start with either a 12-inch planer, which will plane wood up to six inches thick, or an 18-inch planer, which will plane a piece up to nine inches thick. To work properly, it should have at least one and a half to three horsepower. The price of planers will vary depending on whether you get a portable or benchtop planer, as well as if it has a built-in dust collector or chip ejection fan, which also works as a dust collector. A portable planer costs between $150 to $300 and a benchtop planer starts at around $250 and can go as high as $1200.

3. Router

A woodworker with a router.

One of the most versatile and flexible tools you can have in your woodworking shop is a router. With it you can cut and trim wood, create curved contours, cut patterns, cut holes or grooves in lumber, or even create decorative molding. There are two types of routers for woodworking, and they include a fixed-based router or a plunge router. For most beginning woodworkers, the plunge router is best since it's considered a tool that will do just about everything, however, as you get your craft more developed, having both types is recommended and some brands even offer both in a router combination kit. An 11 to 12 amp router is the most common to start with and horsepower is usually 8,000 to 24,000 RPM. The cost of a router ranges from $90 to $300.

4. Jigsaw

A jigsaw is something all woodworking shops should include in their arsenal. With a good jigsaw, a woodworker can make a lot of cuts that would otherwise require a bandsaw. You can also use it for making inside circular cuts, pocket cuts, and trimming inside cabinets or furniture. Jigsaws come in light to medium duty which corded would be a 3 or 4 amp model, to pro level of 5 amps or more. With a 3 to 4 amp model, you can cut softwood depths of 2 ¼ inches and hardwood of 1 ⅜ inch depths, and with the 5 amp softwood or hardwood at depths of 3 ⅜ inch. A jigsaw is one of the least expensive must-have woodworking tools you'll need with a light duty jigsaw starting at $20 and pro models starting out at $60. A cordless model costs more, starting at $60 for a light duty model, and most are not as powerful as corded models. Most experienced woodworkers suggest that a corded jigsaw of 5 amps or higher is best and will last you a long time.

5. Sander

A sander.

Sanding is necessary for any woodworker, and to make the job of sanding at least a little easier, a powered sander is recommended. This could be either an orbital sander or bench sander, depending on what you prefer and what kind of woodworking you're doing. For minimal use, an inexpensive 3 to 4 amps sander would be appropriate and would cost as little as $30, even for a good brand. For most woodworking shops, though, a sander is used quite often and therefore a more heavy duty model with higher amps would be best. These start at $100 and go up to $300. Purchasing one with a dust collector is also highly recommended.

These are just the top five most recommended tools that you should have in your woodworking shop. There are others tools you'll want to have on hand too, including a drill, some chisels, and an assortment of hand planes. As you get more experience under your tool belt, you'll figure out just what other tools you should add. Until then, get these five power tools and get to crafting your first project!