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The village woodworker: beginning woodworking – a basic woodworking starter kit

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I am often asked, particularly by parents who have a child interested in woodworking, what is a sensible basic starter tool kit. I have thought about this a lot, and have usually referred them to good old Google to see what is recommended elsewhere.

woodworking tool set


I tried it myself recently, (Googling), and was disappointed with the results. The kits were either too elaborate, or attempts by commercial enterprises to flog off tools that weren’t selling.

woodworking tool kits


Sooooo …….. I have put my limited grey matter to work, and come up with my own basic tool kit list. These tools are based on what I have seen my grandchildren use in my own workshop, and I have left out tools that they cannot handle.

small woodworking tools


Having said that, I don’t think that there are any essential omissions. In other words, this starter kit would suit anyone commencing woodwork.

industrial woodworking tools


  • Okey dokey – measuring and marking time.
  • 300mm (12 inch for you foreigners) steel rule
  • Steel retractable tape measure -5m, 8m, 10m … whatever you can find …. length isn’t that important. Handy to have a stopper button like this one. I like the metric/imperial tapes, but children should have one or the other – too confusing otherwise.

  • Combination square – 90 and 45 degrees
  • Pencils – HB or H – kids always press too hard
  • Pencil sharpener
  • Screwing and nailing:
  • Warrington hammer – easier for kids to use than a standard claw hammer, as it isn’t as heavy and is better balanced. There are different sizes in these, so take the kids to the markets and get them to try the hammers before buying.

    Nail punches – flat ended – 1/8 inch and 1/16 inches wide at the tip

    Screw drivers – flat bladed and phillips head (posi-drive) – small and larger in each

    Chiseling and sharpening:

    Four bevelled edge chisels 1/4, 1/2, 3/4, and 1 inch wide. Older chisels are usually better than the new consumer chisels from the hardware stores. Again, the markets are your friend. Best value around at the moment are the older English bevelled edge chisels – anything made in Sheffield.

    Pocket knife – useful for so many little jobs around the workshop. In Australia you have to be over 18 to own one of these – Jeez, talk about the nanny state!

    Oilstone – and protective wooden box – for sharpening.

    Sharpening lubricant – I use a kerosene/oil mix of 3/1, but straight kerosene would probably be OK. Plastic squeeze bottle is from a hair-care store.

    Beginners might like to use a honing guide – not shown here but follow the link.

    Sawing: For kids, a shorter hand saw is better than a longer one, as they have more control over the cut. You won’t need all of these saws, but two would be good.

    An 18-22 inch crosscut saw with around 8-10 teeth per inch is most easily managed. Number 1 is a Disston American Boy – 18 inch X-cut saw. Number 2 is a 20 inch Warranted Superior X-cut saw probably made by Simonds. Number 3 is a 22 inch X-cut Spear and Jackson. Of all three my grandkids prefer the 22 inch saw

    A tenon saw has a brass or steel spine to stiffen the blade and children handle this easily if it has smaller teeth – say 10-12 per inch. Cross cut of course. This one – number 4 – is a Tyzack.

    There are no rip saws shown here, and children struggle to use them anyway. Most of the timber that kids will use will be milled and dressed. If not, they can ask an adult to use a power tool to do it for them. Kids faced with hand ripping, will simply lose interest very quickly. As far as timber is concerned, it’s better if it is softwood – lighter and easier to handle.

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