Your essential woodworking hand tools
The Claw Hammer
The claw on one side of the head should be well counter balanced by the finish head, which should be somewhat rounded in shape.
A claw hammer that is poorly balanced will twist in your hand, making it difficult to drive nails properly. You normally grip a claw hammer with your hand at the back of the grip, this allows the weight of the head do most of the work. All you have to do is direct the driving surface toward the head of the nail.
The most commonly used claw hammer is the 20 oz size and enough to easily drive nails. Wooden handles might look great but cannot cope the strain, if you have to pull a lot of nails out. Hammers with a steel handle or fiberglass, will be stronger. However, these won’t absorb the vibrations from driving nails the way a wooden handle will. You’ll also need to make sure the fiberglass and metal handles have a rubberized grip for control and comfort. If you’re going to be driving a lot of nails, it´s advisable to use the woodenhandled hammer, as this is better for reducing stress on your hand, and wrist
An accurate tape measure that is at least 25 feet long is a second good tool to have. Tape measure longer than 25 feet will give you problems when you need to role it back. Since measurements on large scale projects can be very susceptible to even the most minute measurement variations, you’ll want to make sure the tab at the end is firmly attached. When they get loose, you’ll have as much as 1/8” variation in your measurements. This can add up to some severe accuracy problems in the long run. It´s important to have a good stable tape measure.
A good utility knife is another great tool for the woodworker. There are many different kinds, but the kind that uses disposable blades is the most commonly used. The blade slides back into the grip for safety. The woodworker will use the utility knife when cleaning out mortise joints or scribing wood, e.tc.
A layout square, or combination square come in 6” and 12” sizes. Most woodworkers use the 6” model, as it is simply easiest to carry around. Also, most of the stock you’ll use will be no bigger than 6” wide, so 12”. The layout square is a triangle that you can use to measure and mark out square cuts on wood. Once you measure the length of the cut, you line up the layout square with the edge of the board. The short side will give you a straight, square cut across the end grain. The layout square can also be used to measure off angles. This helps when you’re trying to measure for a bevel on a table saw, or marking a cut for a miter saw. I recommend a metal one as the plastic ones are not only fragile, they can warp, making them quite useless
Chisels should be part of every workbench. Chisels are not just for wood carvers. All woodworkers will need chisels to clean out joints and saw cuts at some time. Look for chisels made of High-alloy carbon steel or chromium-vanadium alloyed steel. Hardwood grips are best, especially if they have metal caps on them. This will keep the end of the handle from becoming damaged when you hammer on it.
You’ll need a variety of sizes in ¼” increments from ¼” to at least 1 ½”. The smallest chisels are best for mortise work. The ¾” and 1” will be best for door hinges, and the 1 ½” works well for chipping out. You can even get a corner chisel that cuts a notch out of the wood with the blow of a hammer.
Most chisels are beveled on the 2 sides and on the cutting edge, but specialty chisels may only be beveled at the cutting edge. This bevel will be at 20 to 25 degrees down the length of the blade on one side, and flat on the backside. The blade will be between 4” and 7” long.
When you sharpen your chisel, you may want to use stones rather than a grinder. You need a set of stones of increasingly fine grit to hone the blades properly. Start with the coarser grade, and end with the finest grade. You may have to moisten the stone with oil for best results.
A woodworker needs a couple of levels. A 6 foot levels is usually used in construction, but a 48” is a good length for many of the woodworking projects you’ll do. You’ll also need an 8” level, too, also known as a torpedo level. You’ll check the horizontal and vertical level of your construction with the 8” level.
Most quality levels are made of either brass-edged wood or of metal. There will be a bubble reading for level, and another one for plumb. When the bubble is exactly between the lines, you have a level or plumb surface.