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I’m at work on a Sunday … procrastinating on a personal project in the shop. So, I’m spending a little time at my desk answering e-mail and trying to work up the energy to go back to my massive pile of plywood.

One question in my inbox today was, “What tools do I need to get started?” (It’s a question we get a lot.) I’m going to let Frank Klausz answer this one, with the basic kit of tools he recommended in an August 2006 article, “Your First Toolkit.” We’ve a joinery video coming out soon from Frank Klausz, and we’re delighted to be welcoming him to Woodworking in America 2014 (Sept. 12-14 in Winston-Salem, N.C.). So it seems fitting to put him in the spotlight here.

The Basic Kit of Tools
Below is a list of tools essential for good woodworking (editor’s note: pictured atop this post). These tools are widely available from a variety of sources, from your local home center, specialty stores and catalogs.
• Six bevel-edge chisels, 1⁄8″, 1⁄4″, 3⁄8″, 1⁄2″, 3⁄4″ and 1″.
• Two-sided oilstone (not shown).
• Nicholson No. 50 patternmaker’s rasp, Nicholson half-round bastard-cut rasp, mill file.
• Burnisher and card scraper.
• No. 4-sized smoothing plane (9″-long sole), No. 7-sized jointer plane (22″-long sole), low-angle
block plane.
• 16 oz. claw hammer, tack hammer, nail sets.
• Carpenter’s mallet (16 oz. ) for mortising, smaller-lathe turned mallet for chopping dovetails
and other light work.
• Veneer saw, small edge roller.
• Scratch awl.
• Cork-faced sanding block, felt block.
• Screwdrivers. #0, #1 and #2 Phillips screwdrivers plus at least fi ve straight screwdrivers.
• 10″ dovetail saw. I like a rip saw filed with 15 to 16 tpi. Either a straight or pistol-grip saw is fine. And if you prefer Japanese dovetail saws, that’s fine, too.
• Steel framing square, 8″ try square, 12″ combination square, 6′ folding extension rule. Tape measure (not shown).
• Marking gauge.
• Pliers, needle-nose pliers.

Screen Shot 2014-02-23 at 3.00.40 PMIf you’d like to build Frank’s tool box (pictured on the cover at left), download this free PDF:

— Megan Fitzpatrick

Product Recommendations

Here are some supplies and tools we find essential in our everyday work around the shop. We may receive a commission from sales referred by our links; however, we have carefully selected these products for their usefulness and quality.

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Showing 14 comments
  • JosephNB

    How heavy is that polished cross pein hammer on the left? Thanks, Joseph

  • keithm

    Who am I to disagree with Frank Klausz? If I remember this article right, his kit was for his on-site and install work. It depends a lot on what you intending to do.

    I considered making this box as my travel kit, but decided weight, adaptability for future need, and access was a consideration. I just went to Home Depot and Lowe’s and picked out a lightweight nylon one with lots of pockets. I proved the concept with a bucket wrap that was less than ideal. And having just made two other traveling boxes for other tasks, time was of the essence. I do on-site repair work and my motto is “Be Prepared.” A trip out to the hardware store costs an hour or more.

    But for me, my work, etc., I’d make the following changes:

    – Three squares and two hammers are probably overkill if cost, weight, and space is a consideration, As are three planes if you are using s4s lumber (or have a jointer & planer).

    – Add a larger saw of some sort, e.g, cross cut.

    – Swap the carpenter’s rule for a tape measure. Add a 6″ easy to read metal rule.

    – Do people still use slotted screws?! I’d swap all the screw drivers for a multi-tip one, e.g., Pic-Quik. Bits double as bits for the cordless driver, below. Include a square drive #2 and #1 bit. If you really need all those slotted drivers, swappable bits take less space than a full screwdriver.

    – I’d add a couple of power tools initially a cordless drill/ driver. A set of drill bits, a small pocket hole jig, and screw pilot / countersink bits. For in-shop work add a random-orbit sander, and eventually a router.

    – Wrenches. My favorite is the 35pc Gear Wrench Microdriver. Has a lot of screw driver bits — square, slotted, Phillips, Torx, and SAE Allen wrenches, smaller socket wrenches for SAE and Metric. Low clearance for getting in the back of a carcase. Lots of leverage for those sticky fasteners. All in the size of a couple of bars of soap. If you have room, a small set of ratcheting box end wrenches 3/8″ – 5/8″, and 10mm-15mm. Add an adjustable wrench for times when you need two wrenches.

    – A small assortment of clamps and wood glue.

    – Pry bar, e.g., Painter’s pry bar.

    – Nail remover, I like “The Extractor”

    – Vice Grips (locking pliers). Not used a lot, but handy when you need it.

    – Magnetic pick up tool for retrieving lost hardware.

    – Assortment of screws, mostly #8 in various lengths. A few shorter #6 for hinges. Other fasteners as you might need – threaded inserts, T-Nuts, hanger bolts, nuts and bolts (1/4″ and 5/16″), nails, and dowel pins.

    – Chunk of paraffin for lubricating doors and screws.

    – Flashlight.

  • wb8nbs

    No saws? No drills?

  • pauls

    Where are the sharpening stones? What could be more basic to using planes and chisels than some means to sharpen them?

  • ArtieMax

    For all to many amateurs, the 2 tools on the upper right would be show stoppers. $300 to $500??? With modern CNC tools the costs should plummet,

  • Mitch Wilson

    Megan-any chance in getting Frank’s overall comparisons of the chisels he tried out? By the way, Footprint chisels are very good at a very reasonable cost. And the set of 6 I bought about five years ago, for under $60, were made in Sheffield.

  • Jonas Jensen

    It is a nice tool box.
    Are the 2 vertical wooden dowels with a small horizontal wooden dowel in each designed to push open the drawers?
    Or can they be pushed down to lock the drawers in closed position?

    I know that you didn’t build the tool box, but maybe you could ask Frank Klausz?



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