Which tools should a beginner woodworker with a budget of $500 purchase first? The goal is to build a simple workbench, so a set of tools with the greatest versatility to accomplish all the necessary tasks (e.g. jointing edges, ripping, cutting, drilling, etc).

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    Hi, welcome to SE. I'm afraid this sort of query is not a good fit for here because it's very open-ended so expect that it might be closed as "Too Broad", It's perhaps better answered in a standard forum format where there can be some back and forth. The simple answer to your question is: hand tools (I can point to some resources for basic starter lists) and the best way to get good ones at an affordable price is to buy secondhand tools, many of which are vintage and of good/excellent quality at a fraction of what you'd pay for new of mediocre/poor quality today.
    – Graphus
    Nov 4, 2016 at 8:08
  • Also "necessary tasks" depends on the projects you are going to be doing and what your source of wood is. Nov 4, 2016 at 9:41
  • The answer below is good and agree with him. I have a high recommendation that you get Ryobi if your on a budget. I own a set (Link below) and they are just amazing. Great power, good run-time and stuff. Look into them, google Ryobi and they have a website. (Not advertising but just wanted to recommend this). This set of tools (link below) is $129 and comes with 2 - 1.2 Ah batteries (they have bigger, up to 4 Ah), A drill, 5 1/2 in circular saw, reciprocating saw, flash light, and a charger. This is a 18v system. Hope this kinda helps you out.
    – Ljk2000
    Nov 4, 2016 at 11:43
  • homedepot.com/p/…
    – Ljk2000
    Nov 4, 2016 at 11:45
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    @ratchetfreak Necessary tasks could be simplified to include everything necessary for furniture work (with the exception of complex mouldings, veneer and inlay work which have specialist tool requirements). Few people would choose to work this way today but you can make any plain, unadorned furniture with tools that would comfortably fit inside an old carpenter's chest. And not a particularly large one either since it's less than 20 tools all together.
    – Graphus
    Nov 4, 2016 at 11:53

1 Answer 1


I will attempt to answer this from my experience, but ultimately the answer is very subjective.

Assuming you are starting with nothing, I would recommend:

  • Good tape measure
  • Hammer (Not a framing hammer, but one with a smooth flat head)
  • Mallet
  • Retractable box cutter
  • Screw drivers (Phillips, Standard/Flat head)
  • Chisels (Set of 3 should be good)
  • Combination square (12" is what I like)
  • Pliers

Beyond this, as far as power tools I would start with:

  • Drill
  • Circular saw
  • Router
  • 1
    This is a good illustration of how different the opinions on this sort of question can be (and why it's not a good fit for SE) as my first thought was how do you flatten/smooth wood with this? I'd leave out the power tools (all of them) and add in hand planes, two or three basics, as must-haves, and they can cost less collectively than one decent circular saw.
    – Graphus
    Nov 4, 2016 at 11:59
  • It ultimately depends on your goals and skill level, and how deep you plan to go. You can buy S4S, and most beginners will be starting with that, Learning to work wood with hand tools is a much different commitment than cutting material to length for a weekend project. If you are going to go the hand tool route, then you would need to add a couple of saws. If you are surfacing, you will still need to cut material to length/width. Nov 4, 2016 at 13:18

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