Woodworking Tools: Right Selection And Care Will Save You
Money, Part 5
Woodworking: Tools Of The Trade, Part 5 - Tools For
A civilization's maturity and intelligence is judged, in part,
by the diversity and sophistication of its tools. When it comes
to woodworking, the human race is quite advanced. There are
general tools that work well in many situations, and there are
specialty tools made for one specific purpose. There are tools
that require only manpower and a rudimentary knowledge, and
others that utilize computer programs, a wide range of knowledge,
and a powerful motor. We have even learned how to harness power
for our tools and package it in a small battery component, giving
us the freedom to take our tools wherever we need them.
It is truly amazing and wonderful to contemplate the vast
number of tools and all that woodworkers are capable of doing and
creating with the help of these tools. And for many people,
working with tools is one of the thrills, or even obsessions, of
Woodworking and related tools have become so popular that
there are numerous companies that manufacture these tools and
thousands of places to purchase them. Combine that with the vast
numbers of different types of tools and it can get overwhelming,
especially if you are new to woodworking. Our experts helped us
focus on the basics to develop an overview of those tools needed
to get a good start in woodworking.
In the most basic terms, a woodworker needs four kinds of
tools. They need a place to work, tools for cutting and shaping,
tools for assembly, and finishing equipment. This simple
statement provides the basis for the following discussion of
The tools listed and described here represent just the tip of
the iceberg. In keeping with the philosophy that it is best to
learn the basics first, and to not invest large sums of money
until a person is certain that they have an ongoing interest in
woodworking, the emphasis is on hand tools, with a few basic
power tools thrown in. These tools should prepare you for a
variety of beginner projects and give you a solid foundation of
equipment and knowledge to build upon.
Tools For Assembly
Once you have your wood cut and shaped, you will need to assemble
your project. There are tools made especially for this purpose,
and the list includes some of the most familiar household tools,
such as screwdrivers, hammers and drills.
As the name explains, screwdrivers are used for driving screws
into wood. Most people are familiar with the flathead or blade
screwdriver and the Phillips. There is also a square drive
screwdriver for those screws with square heads.
Within each of these groups, there are different sizes and
specialties of screwdrivers. Some come with ratchet action or
interchangeable bits. Some have magnetized tips to help hold
Most people purchase a set of screwdrivers to be sure to have a
variety. Select a screwdriver with a comfortable, secure handle.
Be sure the shaft doesn't bend easily and that the blade or point
is in good shape. Prices range from several dollars to over $10
for a specialty or multi-use screwdriver. Most bargain bin tools
will bend easily and are not really a good buy.
Care & Maintenance
Avoiding rust is the main concern with screwdrivers. Wipe clean
and store in a dry area. In addition, you want to be careful not
to force a screw or use the wrong size as this can strip the tip
of a Phillips or square cut tool.
Hammers & Mallets
Most people have used a claw hammer or ball peen hammer for basic
household projects such as hanging pictures or putting up
shelves. Hammers have metal heads for driving nails and other
fasteners. A mallet has a head shaped like a pop can and is solid
and heavy. They are used to drive chisels or take joints apart.
The head can be made of steel, wood, or rubber. Some are
magnetized. Again, most people find it helpful to have several
different styles of hammers and mallets.
A good hammer or mallet will have a solid handle with the
striking head firmly attached. Some have fiberglass or reinforced
handles. Others are padded. The choice is one of comfort and
cost. A good hammer can be purchased for under $10 while mallets
can be more expensive depending on the size.
Care & Maintenance
As with screwdrivers, the main concern with hammers and mallets
is avoiding rust. Occasionally you may have to replace or refit a
When you want to hold two pieces of wood together, either with
glue, or hardware such as screws, it is often handy to use clamps
to hold the wood while you work or until the glue dries. In
addition, clamps are important safety tools when used to hold
your piece of wood securely when sawing, drilling, shaping,
There are many different kinds of clamps, named for the way
they look, the material they are made from, how they are operated
or what they are used for. The C-clamp and F-clamp, named for how
they look, are two types that are usually operated by tightening
a bolt. The area that comes in contact with the wood usually
swivels to adjust to different angles and surfaces. These clamps
come in an amazing array of sizes to accommodate nearly any
When working with metal clamps, the teeth or surface that
holds the wood can often cut or dent your material. Use scrap
pieces of wood as a buffer between to avoid damaging your work.
Some people use wooden hand screw clamps that consist of two
blocks of wood tightened by large screws. There are also pipe
clamps for large spans, trigger release clamps, edging clamps
with a third tightening shoe, and several other specialty designs
to fit your specific needs.
A vise is a heavy-duty type of clamp that is often mounted on
a workbench. It can be used in many different situations and most
open quite wide to accommodate a variety of projects.
Choose a well-know clamp or one that has been tested and
recommended in woodworking magazines. New gadgets come out on the
market all the time, but many of them do not work, or are not
appropriate for woodworking. It can be very dangerous if your
clamp slips or is difficult and distracting to use, so you want
to be sure you have a safe and functional product.
In addition, select the type of clamp that fits your needs and
the layout of your shop. If you don't have a designated
workbench, a vise may be difficult for you to incorporate. On the
other hand, you may want to set up a temporary workstation or be
able to move your projects to different areas. In that case,
clamps that are portable would be best.
Care & Maintenance
For the most part, clamps simply need to be kept clean and dry.
The tightening mechanism may need to be oiled occasionally to
ensure proper movement. Depending on the design of the clamp,
springs or fittings may need to be checked and replaced.
As the name implies, a drill is used to create a hole in a piece
of wood. You may want the hole to go all the way through, such as
with an opening for a birdhouse, or you may want it to stop
partway into the wood, such as when inserting a dowel. The size
and shape of the hole are determined by the bit used. There are
several different types of hand drilling tools.
A brace is a powerful and useful tool that is often overlooked
because of the popularity of power drills. But it is used by
those who have a large hole to bore, enjoy more traditional work,
don't have an outlet nearby, or feel that the brace gives more
control. It resembles an inchworm in mid-crawl, with a chuck and
ratchet on one end, an oval head on the other and a handle that
juts out in a squared U-shape. The chuck opens and closes to
accept bits of all different sizes, and is often used for holes
over 1/2 inch and up to 5 inches. The tool is used by pushing
down on the head and turning in a circular motion using the
Another option for smaller holes is a hand drill that is
powered by a drive crank and gear wheel. It is used for holes
under 1/2 inch. It can be difficult to keep straight if drilling
into hard wood that requires more pressure. A gimlet is a
handheld tool also used for smaller, shallower holes, such as a
pilot for a nail or screw. It is shaped like a T, with a handle
across the top and the shank extending down perpendicular.
Of course, the popularity and relative affordability of power
drills has made them one of the most common of home tools. The
limitation is that some of them will not take the larger bits
that the brace can accommodate. Other people find them noisy and
hard to hold or direct for small, intricate jobs.
The drilling tools mentioned here range in price from $25 or $30
for a basic power drill or small hand drill to over $50 for a
sturdy brace or heavy-duty power drill. They can be purchased
used, but should be checked to see that the bearings are good and
the chuck doesn't slip.
Bits usually are purchased separately and range in price from
several dollars to over $30 each. They are often made for use
with different types of wood density. When buying used, look for
bits that have plenty of usable length left with straight shafts
and no nicks.
Care & Maintenance
The main type of maintenance with drilling tools is to oil the
turning parts and keep them operating smoothly. Additionally,
sharp bits are essential to quality and ease of work. As with
other edged tools, you may need to bring them to a professional
to have them sharpened until you are able to learn more about
that aspect of tool care.
This completes part 5 of the condensed overview of some of the
tools that are commonly used in beginning woodworking projects.
As you can see, this topic could and has provided the content for
entire volumes of books and in order to fully understand the
possibilities in woodworking and create quality projects, it is
critical that you develop a more in-depth knowledge of the tools
you plan to use.
It is also important to note again that each type of tool has
its own care and maintenance needs that are often more specific
than what has been touched on here. The details have been left
out of this book to avoid overwhelming someone who is brand new
to woodworking. However, their omission does not mean they aren't
"Failing to care for your tools is ridiculous from a financial
standpoint," stated shop teacher, Kevin Warner. "Why spend $20 on
a good quality handsaw or clamp and then allow it to go dull or
rust? Not only will you loose money, your work will suffer
because your tools won't perform as intended. And it will take
you more time in the long run. Taking good care of your tools is
one of the first steps in becoming a serious woodworker."
Copyright © 2005 by Ferhat Gul. All rights reserved. You
may redistribute this article in its unedited entirety, including
this resource box, with all hyperlinked URLs kept intact.
Ferhat Gul is the publisher of the brand-new "Woodworking
Beginner's Guide - Tips From Experienced Woodworkers to Help You
Get Started", made just for people who love woodworking.
This comprehensive, yet compact woodworking introduction for
beginners is easy to read and helps to save time, money and
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