Basic Woodworking Tools for Built-ins

This is a gallery of basic tools that are used in built-in projects.
Basic Tools

The tools on these two pages are essential for most projects. You won't need all of them to begin woodworking, but you will find all of them useful by the time you've completed several projects.

Tools for cutting and shaping

A crosscut saw cuts wood across the grain (rip saws have special teeth to cut with the grain). A backsaw creates a finer, more accurate cut and is typically used with a miter box to cut accurate angles. The thin, narrow blade of a coping saw follows tight curves. Look for saws with solid wood handles, which are more comfortable and sturdy than hollow plastic ones. A jack plane smooths and squares the long sides of larger pieces of wood, while a block plane shaves their ends and angles. Wood chisels pare away material and cut recesses. A rasp and a Surform plane quickly remove wood. When buying these cutting tools, look for precision machining. A sanding block holds sandpaper flat and firmly as you smooth wood. For trimming small pieces, a utility knife is handy.

Tools for joining wood pieces

A 7-ounce finishing hammer drives brads and small nails. A nail set pushes a nailhead below the wood's surface. Use a dead-blow hammer to tap wood pieces into place without marring. For screws, you'll need phillips and standard screwdrivers in several sizes.

Use a hand drill and twist bits or brad-point bits to make pilot holes for screws. Turn to Forstner bits for clean-sided, flat-bottomed holes or spade bits for rougher cut ones. Drill-stop collars control hole depth. Dowel centers help correctly align holes when making dowel joints.

C-clamps and adjustable pipe clamps or bar clamps hold work securely during gluing or machining. Quick clamps are easy to tighten with one hand. A miter clamp holds pieces at a precise 90-degree angle.

Tools for measuring and marking

A 12-foot steel tape measure is handy for making large measurements accurately and conveniently. The best ones have wide, tempered-steel blades with large high-visibility numbering. A framing square is handy for checking right angles and laying out 90-degree lines; choose one that has the gradations stamped into the metal, rather than simply painted on. A layout square quickly lays out angles up to 90 degrees. A combination square lays out 45- and 90-degree angles, and its blade slides for adjustment. For checking 90-degree angles, use a try square. To measure odd angles and transfer them for duplication, use a sliding bevel gauge. Scribe lines parallel to an edge with or mark several pieces the same distance from an edge with a marking gauge. A compass draws circles. Mark layout lines with a mechanical pencil.


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