5 Essential Woodworking Tools

Which woodworking tools are really important to you? If you had to pick 5 tools to start a new shop from scratch, what would they be? We decided to poll all 10 of our writers to find out!


Our Top 5:

  1. Table Saw (7 votes)
  2. Router (7 votes)
  3. Random Orbit Sander (7 votes)
  4. Drill/Driver (6 votes)
  5. Miter Saw (4 votes)

The table saw was popular because of its versatility. As Peter said: “It’s a quintessential tool that can do a lot of joinery and crosscut work. All you need is the right jig!” Although you can get by without one if you need to, a table saw makes a lot of tasks easier.

Bosch Router in action
Phillip cutting some stopped dados with his Bosch router

The router opinions varied substantially. Brad Sanacore recommended just a simple trim router, while Michael Heredia suggested including a router table and router with a powerful motor to mount in the table. Whichever option you go with, the router is just as versatile as the table saw. It can be used to flatten stock, put a decorative edge profile on a picture frame, or even drill holes (with the right bit and a plunge base).

Even though Michael Bromley suggested that a good plane makes a power sander -specifically a random orbit sander – unnecessary, most of us felt that it was still a good addition to the shop. In Phillip’s words, what it boils down to is that “no human likes sanding by hand”.

For the drill/driver, the general consensus was that an impact driver is preferable, but that any cordless drill will do in a pinch. There are tons of inexpensive options out there that will do the job done just fine!

Milwaukee M18 Sliding Compound Miter Saw
Ian’s “Slightly Used” Sliding Compound Miter Saw

Although a slightly less popular choice, the miter saw is a useful and accurate way to break down rough lumber into manageable pieces. As woodworking tools go, that’s a pretty important – but easy to overlook – function.

Honorable Mention

  • High Quality Square
  • Good Hand Plane
  • Good set of Chisels
  • Planer
  • Jigsaw
  • Circular Saw

Few woodworkers would argue that this list of tools isn’t important to a fledgling workshop. But as a group, they just didn’t quite make our top 5.

Only one vote each…

  • Workbench with Vise
  • Hand Saw
  • Bandsaw
  • Good Pocket Hole Jig
  • Dust Collection
  • Scroll Saw
  • Lathe

Personal Preferences

Shelby’s list of tools (Miter Saw, Scroll Saw, Lathe, Drill, Random Orbit Sander) isn’t typical, but it allows him to continue building small items like the baby rattles he’s known for.

Allan felt that shop safety was important enough that dust collection made his top 5, even if it’s just a shop vac with a Dustopper.

Michael Bromley loves the satisfaction of working with hand tools, so his suggestions (workbench, chisels, square, hand plane, hand saw) were in keeping with those preferences.

Michael Heredia (Table Saw, Band Saw, Kreg K4 Pocket Hole Jig, Heavy duty router with table, 12″ sliding compound miter saw) was very specific with his list of tools. He learned from experience that there are some tools that you shouldn’t skimp on.

Both of our Brads’ lists were geared towards the “I just bought a house and need more furniture ASAP” crowd.

What’s Your Choice?

Each of us could easily have written an entire article on our favorite woodworking tools. Although this isn’t a deep dive, rest assured that we put a lot of thought into our choices. What are your thoughts? Let us know what we’ve missed in the comments below!

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