List of handtools for building furniture?

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New User
Went to the Woodwright's School for Roy's class on dovetails and M&T. And since I'm moving to Amsterdam for about 18 months and I want to do some sort of wood working, handtools may be my only option. So my question, For building something like a chest or stool, what is a minimal set of hand tools I would need to mark, cut, shape wood? I'm not looking to make stuff fast but I'd like to work on some skills I normally don't use and this seems like a great option.


Henry W

Corporate Member
Wes - I'm no hand tool aficionado, but I have used a few. Your list request is a tough one to detail - as it could be endless, and relatively expensive.

Cutting - rough cut saw, cross cut, rip saw, back saw (hard spine), dovetail, and possibly some Japanese pull cut saws if your taste leans that way
Planing/smoothing: The gamut of planes is endless, but certainly I'd include
- a block plane (low angle),
- midsize bench plane (#4 or 5?), and
- a jointer (long bed) plane are called for;
Then there are a lot of specialty planes, including a my most used hand tool, a shoulder plane (there are a variety of sizes)
- also could include a scraper plane, likely my next hand tool acquisition.
Add to that files and rasps for shaping smoothing, and then cabinet scrapers.

Sharpening tools - for saws, chisels, and plane blades. - jigs needed for such

Chisels - a set of bench chisels, maybe also mortising chisels if you are so inclined )got to make them mortises somehow!)

Layout tools - square(s), knives, marking gauge, etc

Bench (or substitute) - something to work on, and to hold wood while working on

There's likely more but that is what comes to mind immediately

Henry W

Mike Davis

Corporate Member
This may help, sorry I don't have the link but you should be able to Google it for more info.

So here goes, and true Galoots remember we wrote this to guide home the lost and lonely of your tribe:
1) Chisels (Paring, Morticing)
This pair is crucial. The morticing chisel is used with a mallet and often to cut across the grain. The paring chisel is less often hit with a mallet and is more delicate. It’s used for taking thin shavings off of your work piece. Further, chisels are typically in wide abundance at flea markets and antique stores.
2) Wooden Mallet
You can well make your own if you like, or if you’re a collector then get out to those yard sales and dig through old boxes. Using a wooden mallet is crucial for not damaging your beautiful chisels…
3) Plane (Block, Smoothing, Jack, Jointer)
Planes smooth the surface of your work piece. The block plane is for shearing off the end grain of your piece, the smoothing plane is for very small shavings with less chance of tear out, the jack plane is a smoothing plane with more blade depth, and the jointer plane is a long plane used for flattening the joint face of a board.
4) Saw (Rip, Crosscut, Coping)
When choosing your saw pay attention to the rake – the angle at which the teeth are ground, the pitch – the number of teeth per inch and the set – the “wave” that the teeth have that gives the cut its width. Of hand saws you’ll find especially useful the rip saw, which has a zero rake for cutting down the length of the grain, a crosscut saw’s teeth will have negative rake for cutting across the grain, and the coping saw gets you cutting intricate designs and cuts inside a panel.
5) Brace and Bit + Hand Drill
Making holes in wood didn’t start with the invention of the electric drill. It sure got easier though. Get back to the roots of your tool using heritage with a tag team of the brace and bit for making large holes and the hand drill (or egg beater) for making smaller bore holes. You could also consider the Yankee push drill.
6) Measuring and Marking Tools
Accuracy is one of the chief hallmarks of good woodworking. Stay true to your cuts and to your love of hand tools with a combination square – look for fine machining and deep etch markings. A try square will get you into smaller spaces and is important for furniture making. A sliding bevel will help you transfer accurate angles from one working piece of wood to another. Folding rulers have been mostly replaced by the tape measure. Don’t let that bother you – use your folding wood rule with pride. Marking knives, gauges, and awls will keep your fine cuts as accurate as possible.
7) Your Tool Box and Workbench
Finally, we suggest that your first project as a Galoot is to build your own tool box (and then workbench), in much the same way that Luke Skywalker had to build his own light saber. This will connect you to the true force of hand tools. May the Galoots be with you.
Thanks to the work of Ken Smith, Tom Price and all the Galoots out there whose efforts were a great inspiration for this article.


New User
Thanks for the quick responses.

I have a few of the tools from the lists already so thats good. Chisels, block and bench plane, squares, marking gauges, scrapers. I do have a Japanese pull saw and a coping saw but nothing else. I need to pull out my grandfathers old tools and see if the brace and bits are in good shape.

So I think I need to
1) Look at saws and learn how to sharpen them.
2) Learn how to use the planes.....anyone want to teach?
3) Figure out a workbench once we have a place in Amsterdam.

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