January 12, 2019
When I teach boatbuilding and woodworking classes I send the students a tool list to help prepare them for the project and the work we’ll be doing. Sometimes students, particularly new woodworkers have a lot of questions. I teach mostly introduction style classes. Introduction to Woodworking, Introduction to Boatbuilding – even my kayak and canoe building classes are made up of mostly first time builders. Many aren't sure what tools to buy or bring. The goal of this post it to help first time students sort through this tool list.
I enjoy seeing budding craftsmen and craftswomen delve into the mysteries of working wood or building boats. I enjoy hearing about the projects they go home and tackle or the places they paddle the boats we build together. Using and buying tools is part of that experience.
So here’s the tool list. It’s geared towards new woodworkers so let’s briefly break it down. I’ll try to recommend the sweet spot price wise and include several options where I can. The most expensive tool is often not the best tool for a job and the least expensive is often not even usable. Keep that in mind while you're shopping. The guideline I use when buying outdoor gear is “buy once cry once. “ In many cases the same applies to tools. Good stuff cost less in the long run.
Basic tool list for a class:
Safety goggles or safety glasses
12" Combination Square
13oz or smaller hammer
Back saw or Japanese Ryoba saw
1⁄2” and 1” chisels
16’ tape measure
6” steel pocket rule
12- 3” C clamps
12- 2” pinch clamps
I’m not going to include links here because those can change over time. Basically shop at a good local hardware store or one of the better online shops.
Safety glasses or goggles. I wear OSHA approved prescription glasses with side shields when I work. I also have a nice pair of goggles that protect and shield my eyes if I think I need them. These fit over my glasses. You should have basic safety glasses for the class.
Hearing protection: Something that is always around your neck and can be popped in for quick noisy task is nice. The full headphone style is better for loud task. All the schools I teach at have ear protection you can use.
Respirator: A simple dust mask will suffice but for lots of epoxy work and greater comfort a proper organic vapor respirator is best. 3M makes a nice basic mask, as do others.
12" Combination Square: Spend some money here if you can. The best is made by Starrett and cost more then $100. More basic tools start at $15. There seems to not be much middle ground here. A basic square will do.
13 oz hammer: I like something with a wooden handle. If you're only going to have one hammer a 13oz is the most useful.
Japanese saw: You'll find out why this works so well in class. I buy mine from The Japan Woodworker but most tool websites like Lee Valley and Highland Hardware carry nice ones. Look at the type called Ryoba. Good ones start at around $50. A Back Saw is a western version of this saw. If you have one bring it.
Chisels: You wont need but one or two for our class a 1/2" and 1" will work. But buying a 1/4"-1" set of 5 or 6 chisels is often a good price point. There are lots of options. Marples Blue Chip have always been a great first chisels. Mine are 40 years old and still used daily. You can try the new Iriwin version or look for the old ones online. The new Stanley Sweetheart chisels also look like they might be ok.
Block plane: This is a tool you'll use often. Hand planes are basic parts of any woodworking tool kit. A good low angle block plane will no doubt be the first of several style planes you'll buy. Stanley’s #60 is the standard. At least the old ones are. If you have or can find a good used one bring it to class. Modern tools by Lee Valley and Lie-Nielsen are wonderful. Some of the other new versions are hit and miss. You’ll not find a usable new block planes for less then $50.
Tape measure: Any good 12’-16’ tape measure will work. I like the ones made by Stanley.
6” steel pocket ruler: I’d find it hard to work without one.
Clamps: For a basic woodworking class you don’t need to bring clamps. For boat building you’ll need some in class to supplement the 100s I bring. You’ll also need some at home for the last details of the build. 2” spring clamps and 3” ‘C’ clamps are a good starting point. Again cheaper clamps are, well cheaper.
I hope this list helps you prepare for our class. Don’t be intimidated. If you’re in doubt about buying a tool, hold off. I bring a basic student kit and you’ll have a much better idea about the tools you need and want to own at the end of class. Throw your new and old tools in a box and bring em with you.