The perfect woodworkers workshop and hand tools.
Despite the growth in digital technology and all the entertainment opportunities it provides, the hobby of woodwork remains enormously popular. The sense of achievement and hands-on experience it nurtures appear to offer a calming influence unique to this timeless tradition.
As a hobby it crosses generations, requires only a small amount of space and can be started on a relatively low budget.
So, if you are planning to extend your woodworking skills, embark upon a new project, or even try your hand for the very first time, this guide should help.
Space – A workshop environment can easily be conjured from a space of just two metres square. It doesn’t need to be a permanent location or exclusive for that use, and for much of the year can remain unheated. The much-loved garden shed is a popular choice, as is a garage. A power supply will be needed for all but the simplest of tasks, but this can always come by way of an extension cable, if provided safely.
Safety – Just about every woodworking activity requires a stable bench on which you can both work on and securely clamp materials during construction or repair. A small foldaway bench will suffice, but a larger permanent facility offers storage beneath it for handy access. Working in a confined space with wood generates dust, so a safety mask is always recommended. Even so, dust should be regularly cleared, and power tools with built-in extractors are ideal. For the keen enthusiast, a multi-functional extractor that’s able to connect to machinery and power tools will help enormously.
Hand Tools – basic unpowered
In most cases people grow their collection of tools as their projects become larger and more complex. Don’t feel you need to buy everything at once, just build up your list as you need to.
Hand tools offer that real hands-on experience and a precision you just can’t get with anything else. There is a vast array to choose from but with a core range of well selected items you’ll soon gain the confidence to complete numerous tasks.
Saws – To tackle most woodworking projects proficiently you’ll need a combination of four hand saws: a Carpenter Saw offering a long, slightly tapered blade and large handle, a general use item that cuts on both the forward and reverse stroke; a Back Saw, which is shorter and has a reinforced top edge to reduce flex, and a thinner more fine-toothed blade, offering an easier to control saw, ideal for tenons and dovetail jointing; a Hack Saw, a small, lightweight tool, useful for tight or confined spaces; and lastly the Japanese Pull Saw, which only cuts on the pull stroke and offers a very controllable fine cut where ease and precision are required.
Chisels – An assortment of chisels should be part of every workbench. Chisels are not just for wood carvers. Any woodworker will need chisels to clean out joints and saw cuts. Look for chisels made of high-alloy carbon steel or chromium-vanadium alloyed steel. Hardwood grips are best, especially if they have metal caps on them. This will keep the end of the handle from becoming malformed when you hammer on it.
The Level – This is a must-have item, and most woodworkers will want a couple of sizes to handle different projects. They must provide a horizontal and vertical bubble plumb and most are made of either brass-edged wood or of metal.
The Square – The layout square is a triangle that you can use to mark square cuts on stock. Once you measure the length of the cut, you line up the layout square with the edge of the board. The short side will give you a straight, square cut across the end grain. You can also measure-off angles with the layout square. Buy a metal square because plastic ones are often fragile and can warp.
Screwdrivers – You’ll need a range of different sized Phillips, slot, or flathead screwdrivers. Buying good quality tools will never be regretted and this is even more so when it comes to screwdrivers. Quality products provide useable torque without stripping heads.
Planes – There are few more versatile hand woodworking tools than the block plane. They are used to shape, flatten, curve, clean up, square, or even add chamfers to a piece of stock. They also provide a faster alternative to sanding on raised areas and joints.
Hammer – This much maligned and rarely considered tool remains an important part of any woodworker’s tool kit. A good hammer acts like an extension of your arm. You can swing it with remarkable precision, but its weight will determine the force and number of blows required to accomplish any task. An over-light hammer will require too many blows and will result in a lot of bent nails. An over-heavy hammer is hard to wield accurately and tires you. You’ll find hammers in many sizes, but buying two should cover you for most jobs. The Claw hammer will cover most roles although it is better to remove nails with locking pliers, rather than using the claw section. A smaller Tack or Pin hammer is useful for lighter tasks.
Miscellaneous – A tape measure, “Measure twice, cut once” will be essential, and you can never have enough clamps.
In the next article we will roll out the woodworking machinery, and explain what you need, and the features to look out for. In the meantime, why not take a look at the various step-by-step woodworking projects available on our site.