There’s a massive difference between basic DIY and being adept at carpentry and joinery but that shouldn’t stop beginners getting a decent toolkit together and tackling simple woodwork jobs at home. It could be as simple as cutting wood to length for a shelf or as complex as boxing in an alcove for a wardrobe or cupboard.
But whichever end of the scale you are at, the better the tools you have, the easier carpentry and joinery will be and the better the work will end up. Of course it’s easy to become a tool junkie and scoop up every gadget going. But we’ll try and keep it real and stick to the basic tools that will allow you to do the odd carpentry and joinery jobs that crop up around the home.
Supporting Wood and Cutting it
A workmate or similar portable workbench is worth its weight in gold, along with a set of cramps or clamps for securing wood while it is being worked on. A separate vide is handy too, secured to a workbench or old table in the garage or shed. You will often have to cut long planks to length so you can hold one end in the vice and the other on the workmate.
Cutting is of course a major part of woodwork and you should have at least two saws, a panel saw for cutting wood to length and a tenon saw. The tenon saw has finer teeth is stiffer, and is used for cutting joints and thinner wood such as sheets of plywood. You’ll need a rough surform file for the initial smoothing after a cut, and general finishing, then sandpaper for a smooth finish. You could buy planes to cut wood down to exactly the right size but they are really for proper joinery and unlikely to be useful for DIY work.
Chisels and Drills
Chisels are very useful as well. There’s no need to buy a full set, you can get by with a quarter inch (6mm) chisel and a half inch (19mm) one. They’ll do most jobs for a beginner, but you do need to get a stone and some oil to keep them sharp and it’s worth getting a honing guide as well. This will hold the chisel at the correct angle to sharpen it properly.
You’ll probably already have drill but it’s important to use proper wood drill bits of the right diameter so invest in a set in various sizes. Smaller holes are drilled with twist drill bits, medium and deep ones with auger bits and the larger ones with spade bits. If you need to drill really large holes, for example to take a waste pipe out the back of a kitchen cabinet, use hole saw bits or a jigsaw. A countersink bit is also useful for drilling the shallow depressions that countersunk screws drop into.
Measuring and Marking for Joinery
Tools to help you measure and mark up before cutting and drilling are possibly more important than the tools that do the actual work and often the difference between a quality job and a bodge disaster. You’ll need at least a try square for ninety degree angles, a steel tape measure and a wooden carpenters rule for straight lines. Keep them in good condition or they will be a wasted investment.
Finally we get to the meat of the action, hammers! A good claw hammer is useful for extracting nails as well as hammering then is and if you think you’ll be using small nails and pins the a smaller pin hammer would be worthwhile too.