Woodworking Hand Tools

Aspiring to tackle some of your own wood working projects? You better be sure you know all of the tools that are at your disposal to make your job both possible and easy.

Detailed below is an informational guide on some of the most common hand tools utilized by both beginner-level and expert woodworkers for a variety of projects.

By learning how these tools are commonly used and how they may best serve your own woodworking project, you can determine if they may be necessary for your own endeavors, whether you are attempting casual Do-It-Yourself (DIY) woodworking, or are a beginner looking to expand your arsenal of useful woodworking hand tools. With a collection of these tools, along with a portable workbench, you should be ready to tackle most jobs.

Rip Handsaw

Common uses of a rip handsaw:

  • Making rip cuts along the wood grain
  • Ripping boards to thickness
  • Fast cuts

Often contrasted with crosscut saws, a rip handsaw is a woodworking tool best utilized for projects requiring rip cuts – i.e. cuts that run parallel to the direction of the grain. The teeth of a rip saw are designed to bend right and left in an alternate pattern, acting almost as a chisel. While they may not produce the cleanest cuts – and may therefore best be followed up with a plane – they can rip fast, offering time-saving convenience for users.

Crosscut Handsaw

Common uses of a crosscut handsaw:

  • Making cuts across the grain of the wood
  • Cutting through coarse wood
  • Finer woodworking projects

While rip handsaws produce sawing results similar to a chisel, crosscut handsaws saw with a knife-like edge and are specially designed to cut perpendicular (across) the grain of the wood rather than parallel to it. Featuring small teeth that angle back with a beveled edge, crosscut saws can produce quick cuts that can later be sanded with a plane for best results.

Jack Plane (or Fore Plane)

Common uses of a jack plane:

  • Rough stock removal
  • Smoothing boards
  • Shaving doors that stick
  • Jointing short to medium board edges

Jack planes are common woodworking hand tools to find on a workbench in a typical workshop due to their versatility as a general-purpose tool. A jack plane can be used for most planing tasks, but is often not used alone, as – in the case of preparing stock, for instance – the use of a jack plane is usually followed up by a jointer and/or smoothing plane. For beginners, a sharp, low-angle jack plane may be recommended for ease of use and efficiency.

Miter Box & Saw

Common uses of a miter box and saw:

  • Cutting wooden materials to accurate lengths
  • Making 45 or 90-degree cuts for frames or trim

Owning a miter box and saw can be useful for projects requiring quick, accurate crosscuts that need to be made at selected angles. While the miter saw itself – also known as a chop saw – may be used for making cross-cuts across the grain of the wood, the miter “box” piece features slots on both sides of the saw that allow the user to make angled, accurate cuts. A miter box and saw may be commonly used for cutting miter joints for picture frames, or for molding and trimming projects.

Coping Saw

Common uses of a coping saw:

  • Making interior cut-outs
  • Rough-cutting unusual curves or shapes
  • Tidying up dovetail joints

A coping saw is a budget-friendly type of bow saw that can be used for a variety of purposes but are popularly used for cutting certain shapes or curves with its thin metal blade. Distinctive with its U-shaped frame, the saw typically features a wooden or plastic handle and commonly measures between 12 – 15 inches.

Bench Chisel Set

Common uses of a bench chisel set:

  • Joinery
  • Chopping
  • Paring

An ideal bench chisel set will feature ⅛, ¼, ½, and ⅜ bench chisels. As multi-purpose hand tools, they are very commonly found on the average woodwork bench so users can easily grab and utilize the tools for any number of purposes. Due to how often they are often used in woodworking, it is best to buy a quality set of bench chisels as they will likely last a user many years.

Combination Square

Common uses of a combination square:

  • Setting heights for blades and bits
  • Aligning a table saw for precise cuts
  • Checking the squareness of boards

A combination square can serve as a handy tool for woodworking projects as it allows for greater precision for alignment or length/height-setting purposes. The parts that comprise a combination square include a handle – which is made up of an anvil and shoulder – and a rue-type blade.

In addition to the ruler component, the head of the tool, most commonly a standard or square-shaped piece, can be used to check 45 and 90-degree angles. Purchasing a good quality combination square is recommended for the best accuracy.

Woodworking Clamps

Common uses of woodworking clamps:

  • Keeping freshly-glued joints steady and secure while the glue dries
  • Securing wood while sawing

There are several different types of clamps woodworkers may purchase depending on the needs of a project. Clamps are versatile pieces that are primarily used to keep freshly-glued pieces secure until the glue has hardened and may also be used for keeping wooden pieces secure while sawing. The handiest clamps to have around in general may be a hand screw clamp – which typically measures 10-12 inches – and several bar clamps.

I-Beam Level

I-beam levels are a type of spirit level that may be used by woodworkers. Their benefits for woodworking projects include durability, accuracy, and their magnet strength. Professional i-beam levels can be an economical tool for casual DIY-ers as well as professional contractors or woodworking specialists, as they can range between $10-$40.

Features to look out for when purchasing an i-beam level include:

  • Levels that are specifically designed for wood leveling work (like hanging sliding barn door hardware)
  • Lightweight
  • A digital display readout for precise angling and leveling

Speed Square

Common uses of a speed square:

  • Marking angles
  • Making basic measurements
  • Serving as a saw guide for 45-degree and right-angle cuts

Combining some of the most common functions of a try square, combination square, and a framing square, a speed square is triangular shaped woodworking hand tool. With each leg of the triangle often measuring approximately 7 inches in length, a speed square can easily be tucked into a tool belt, bag, or box for use on-the-go.

The speed square includes: one leg of the that features a raised piece – or “fence”- that can hook the edge of a board while measuring; one leg that displays the markings of a typical ruler; and the hypotenuse, which features degree markings that can be used to mark angles ranging from 0 – 90 degrees.

So which of these handy tools is on your wish-list for your next project?