What are the essential carpentry tools for beginners?

carpentry toolsFor beginner carpenters, it can sometimes seem overwhelming trying to understand which tools are more important than others. That’s why MTeevan have created this beginner’s tool guide to carpentry. We have only listed the bare essentials in this guide, so if you do require more options, you can head over to our tool hire page.

  1. Workbench
  2. Handsaws
  3. Copying Saw
  4. Chisel Sets
  5. 6-inch Combination Square
  6. Dividers (Compass)
  7. Marking Knife
  8. Sharpening Tools
  9. Joiner’s Mallet
  10. Clamps

1. Workbench

This is arguably the most important tool in your arsenal, because, without it, you won’t be able to start any projects (not properly, anyway). You don’t have to spend a fortune on a good workbench, if you are on a tight budget, you can simply find a space that will allow you to safely saw, clamp and generally build your projects.

If you’re up to it, you can try building your own workbench. Not only will it last longer (if the right wood and foundations are used), but it will save you money.

2. Two Handsaws – Rip and Cross Cut

Right after you invest in a workbench, you’re going to purchase two handsaws. Arguably a carpenter’s most essential tool, handsaws (and panel saws) are traditionally long, thin saws with serrated teeth and wooden handles.

The difference between a panel saw and a handsaw, is that panel saws are technically smaller handsaws that fit within the panel boards of a toolbox. Handsaws are typically larger and used for cutting bigger pieces of wood. Panel saws come in rip cuts (cuts that run along the grain, similar to a chisel) and cross cuts (like a knife). It’s advised you buy both, as both serve different functions and both are essential for all common carpentry jobs.

3. Coping Saw

Much more delicate and far less expensive than handsaws, the coping saw is used to cut fine lines and shapes in the board you’re focusing on. They’re also used to clear waste from joints, specifically dovetail joints (known for their strong design and resistance to being pulled apart). The saw itself is relatively cheap, and you only ever need to buy replacement blades, which are also very cheap.

4. Chisel Sets

Chisel sets are commonly used just as much as handsaws and are without a doubt one of the most important tools in your toolbox. Try not to buy the cheapest set, as they’ll likely blunt fast and generally won’t offer you the quality of a more expensive set. Try and find some bevel edge chisels (new or vintage), as they’re good quality and are likely to last you a lifetime. Wooden handles and exceptional steel are musts.

Look for a set of 5-7, this will cover the majority of carpentry project needs.

5. 6-inch Combination Square

For accurately cornering and measuring projects, you’re going to want to invest in a 6-inch combination square. They’re used in several projects, including:

  • Scribing dovetail joints
  • Measuring mortise depth
  • Squaring boards
  • Levelling panels

While it does seem as though you could invest in a cheap combination square, don’t! Cheap combination squares are largely inaccurate and it could jeopardise your entire project. Shop around and look for companies that provide precise combination squares. While there may be a jump in price between good and bad combination squares, it’s ultimately worth it.

6. Dividers (Compass)

Used for taking measurements repeatedly on a project. Although some carpenters and woodworkers may use a measuring tape when doing joinery tasks, dividers remain the traditional method and a popular one at that. The measurements taken from a divider can then be easily transferred to another workpiece.

Buying two dividers is advised, as it’s likely you’re going to want to transfer one measurement at a time.

7. Marking Knife

Does what it says on the tin. A marking knife is used to outline and mark where you’ll be cutting with your saws. It’s also used to getting into tight areas, such as dovetail joints, and marking accurate lines.

While it’s never advised to buy the cheapest tool on the shelf, marking knives, generally, don’t follow this rule. You can pick one up for around £20 and it will do the job just fine.

8. Sharpening Tools

At some point, your tools are going to need sharpening, it’s just the toils of wear and tear. Investing in a sharpening tool will save you having to go out and replace your tools whenever they get blunted. You don’t have to invest in expensive sharpening machinery, just something that helps keep your tools sharp.

9. Joiner’s Mallet

Another essential tool for every carpenter’s toolbox is a mallet. These can be built or bought, depending on your budget and preference. Mallets are mainly used to hit your chisels when cutting joints. Never hit a wooden chisel with a metal hammer, as it will likely damage or even split the wood. If you’re building a mallet, use a hardwood, such as maple, beech wood or oak.

10. Clamps

Finally, clamps! Clamps are essential for steadying workpieces for sawing, measure, cutting, grinding and pretty much everything else. Without a clamp, you’re jeopardising the accuracy of your project. Clamps also help to hold freshly glued pieces together until it hardens. For beginners, we advise investing in a good quality ‘hand screw clamp’ (10-14 inches should do it) and a couple bar-type clamps.

This is just a rough guide, however. You’ll find out how many clamps you need when you get your project underway.

Hopefully, this guide has served to help you beginner carpenters understand what you need to start basic projects. If you’re looking for more bespoke tools to rent, you can head over to our tool hire page for more information.

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