Everyday Woodworking Podcast Ep 15
Five Tools Every Woodworker Must Have
Hey everyone. I’m Ricky with Everyday Woodworking, your Podcast Home for tips, tricks and information on how to make the most of your woodworking time and money, every day.
Well welcome back to another week of Everyday Woodworking.
In the course of woodworking and learning and preparing for our shows, I’m constantly reading blogs or articles or listening to woodworking podcasts or videos. Just always snooping around for new info. Something cool or interesting.
And one thing I noticed was that everyone (including me) is talking about the newest table saw or CNC, or reviewing a hot new drum sander, or a thousand other things that frankly…I can’t afford.
And I thought “What are the absolute essential tools that you need in your shop?”
And that’s what today’s show is about. Five absolutely essential tools that every woodworker must have in their shop. Let’s poke the bear and see what we can stir up.
Before we do though, let’s take a quick break…
I already know, when I throw out my list of top five tools, half of you are going to disagree. And that’s OK. These are essential TO ME. I happen to think my list is logical and would make sense for any woodworker, but hey…if you disagree, then you have a right to be wrong.
I wanted to keep it small (top five) and simple (basic tools). I’m also leaning toward classic tools. Now that doesn’t necessarily mean “old” tools, but “proven” tools that have endured through generations. And honestly, some of these aren’t specifically woodworking tools. Some are just good general things to have in any shop.
And let me say, as always, if you have a beef with my picks, then shut your mouth and keep it to yourself. LOL! No, really…let me know. I want to hear your thoughts and ideas, and who knows, you might just change my mind!
So let’s jump on in to our Top Five Tools Every Woodworker Must Have.
Number One: Compound Miter Saw
I Know, I know, you’re going to say, right off, that a miter saw is hardly “classic”. Well…I would disagree.
The miter saw, or as most of us call it, the chop saw, has been around for nearly 60 years. And even though there have been tons of improvements, it’s still basically the same tool it was in the beginning.
If you’re like me, you started life with a wooden (or God help us, a plastic) Miter Box. And that was fine. It was a good start. But I found out really fast that smooth, accurate cuts in that little box were a challenge. I think I used mine like 4 times, then it went into “permanent storage”.
You could argue that a Circular Saw would be more essential than a Chop Saw, and maybe so. But I love the accuracy of the chop saw. And the ability to easily and quickly knock out repetitive cuts, bevels and ahem…compound miters!
A 10-inch saw is probably good for most common tasks, but the addition of a slider vastly increases your ability to tackle wider boards. And a laser cut guide really makes life easier for close cuts.
Brands? Well, we’ve been using our Ryobi 10-inch for over 5 years now and it’s a rock. Cheap, dependable, fairly accurate. I can’t complain. A few other brands to consider would be Ridgid, DeWalt and the Bauer brand at Harbor Freight.
We’ll leave some links.
Number Two: Random Orbital Sander
Or sometimes called the Random Orbit Sander.
As you break down lumber, you’re obviously going to need something to knock off the edges or smooth out the rough patches. Could you do that with a piece of sandpaper and a block of wood? Well, yeah. And I have. But it can be slow, tedious work. And frankly, a power sander can be a lifesaver when you have a lot of sanding to knock out.
Why a Random Orbital Sander? Because I think it’s the most “aggressively controllable” sander. The ROS is the perfect balance between a belt sander (which can be really aggressive) and a Finish Orbital Sander (which can be very delicate).
For me, whether I’m hitting the edges of a fresh 1X4 or chewing away at the face of a reclaimed barn door, the Random Orbital Sander hangs in there for pretty much anything I need. It can be sweet, but it can get pretty ugly if I want it to.
Definitely look for one you can hook up a shop vac to. They generate a lot of fine (dangerous) wood dust. And weight will be a big factor, so keep that in mind when shopping for yours.
Again, we prefer our Ryobi. It’s a hoss and it’s been with me for years. We tried a palm sander before, but we’d just burn up the bearings in them in a few weeks. Any brand. The ROS seems to handle our workload better.
I’d also buy a Ridgid or a Makita. Any of the three would be affordable, tough and relatively quiet.
Number three: Hammer
It may seem silly to try to discuss a hammer here. I mean, a hammer is a hammer is a hammer, right? Not exactly…at least not to me anyway.
A hammer is something that everyone has. But not everyone has a really good hammer. I’m talking about a hammer that you’ll pass down to your son. Those are hammers that made the hammer THE all-around, do it all, never be without hand tool.
The little cheapies that you see at the gas station or the Grocery store. Please.
I’ve got like 17 hammers scattered around the house and out buildings and in my truck and the carport. They’re just great to have. But my “main” hammer has it’s own home, and never shall it be lost from that place. That’s because it is indispensable.
As a woodworker, I use it to drive stray brads, hand pictures, pull nails, tighten joints, straighten nails. I use that hammer, daily.
For me, the Estwing 16 oz Framing Hammer is the quintessential hammer. Smooth face. Solid Steel. Comfortable grip. Not to heavy. Not too light. If you don’t have one, then something’s wrong with you. Get one. Drop a good $30 and consider it an investment in a remarkable, indestructible, ultra-versatile tool. You can thank me later.
Number Four: Power Drill
Now we’re about to poke the bear.
I don’t think anyone would argue that the Drill would be a Top Five tool to have. You just dadgum use it so much. But for this, I’m not talking about a cordless drill. I’m talking about a corded model.
I know, you’re going to say that cordless technology is just as good as corded. But I disagree. I have and have had LOTS of cordless drills, drivers and screw guns over the years. And loved most of them. But when it’s time to get down and dirty and I need to get mean with something, a corded drill will come out on top, every time. It just has more muscle and that’s it.
Do you always need that muscle? No. But if you have to pick one of the two (corded or cordless) then I have to say go with the corded drill.
The cordless models are much more convenient. And portable. And cool. And yada, yada, yada. But if you have to pick only one, then the corded model will pretty much do it all.
Brands? I have a DeWalt that I bought for $10 at a yard sale, 10 years ago. And it’s still my go to drill for heavy drilling. Especially when I have lots of paddle bit work to do, that would normally suck the life right out of a cordless battery. It’s heavy and beefy and totally dependable for when I need to just power through it.
Before that, I had an old Ryobi (the blue one). And it was the same. After about 8 years of constant abuse, it finally burned up on me. But by and large, corded drills are cheap, and they last a very long time.
Number Five: Table Vise
Some people call it a bench vise. I calls it a table vise. Mmm hmm.
It may not seem like a good vise would be an essential tool, but I can’t stress enough the importance of having one. Especially in a small, one-man shop.
For woodworkers, most of us are going to be looking to a woodworker’s vice, or as they used to be called, a face vice.
I remember my granddaddy’s work bench and his vise that was the focal point of the whole thing. His was a face vise that had a wooden handle and jaws, but had a steel screw and mounting plate. It was used as an extra set of hands for joining components. Maybe holding a saw blade secure for sharpening. Or just keeping pressure on a glue up while he moved on to something else.
The vice should be large enough to handle most common jobs, but not overly sized so that it’s in the way. 6-8 inch jaws should be fine and an opening of around 12 inches will cover most jobs you might have.
There are a myriad of vices to choose from, and none of them would really be “wrong”. As long as you make sure the surfaces of the jaws are protected so the don’t mar your wood. These “jaw liners” are usually something like a soft wood, like pine.
Where can you find a good woodworker’s vice these days? Rockler has a really nice one. The call it a “front vice”. It’s about $150, which is about normal. Grizzly has a couple available. Of course, you can always look on Amazon and roll the dice. And you might find a decent one at Home Depot, although probably not in the physical store.
I have to confess, it was really, really hard to just pick five tools for this. I would say that we could easily expand this list to include things like a good tape measure, a speed square, a jig saw, a good hand saw, a set of clamps, a work bench…
So many great tools that have a place in our small shops. But I think this gives us a great start. And IMO, if you have these Top Five tools, you’ll be well on your way to making most any simple project you have a mind to.
That’s all we have time for today, but again, thank you guys for being here. I really enjoyed this. Sort of a walk back in time for many of these.
I hope y’all enjoyed it too!
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That’s it. Have a great day. Thanks again. And I’ll see you next time…right here, on Everyday Woodworking.
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Ryobi 10 Inch Miter Saw (on Amazon - https://amzn.to/3xViLKh
Ridgid 10 Inch Sliding Miter Saw (on Amazon) - https://amzn.to/3fcVMSt
Bauer 10 Inch Miter Saw (from Harbor Freight) - https://www.harborfreight.com/10-in-dual-bevel-sliding-compound-miter-saw-57179.html
Ryobi Random Orbital Sander (on Amazon) - https://amzn.to/3heSZuz
Estwing 16 oz Framing Hammer (on Amazon) - https://amzn.to/3vWpfqp
Ryobi 3/8 inch Corded Drill (on Amazon) - https://amzn.to/3y1tx1y
Woodstock Cabinetmaker’s Front Vice (on Amazon) - https://amzn.to/3tC7jzC
Rockler Heavy Duty Quick Release Front Vice - https://www.rockler.com/heavy-duty-quick-release-front-vise
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