Traditional Woodworking Tools – The Most Used Hand Tools

One of the first materials that man worked upon is wood. Man’s work on wood gradually developed from the use of traditional woodworking tools, also known as hand tools to the use of more advanced and sophisticated tools in the modern woodworking industry today.

It is only standard for every profession to work with specific kind of tools and the woodworking industry is not an exception. In the early years, woodworkers often employ various tools for cutting, sharpening, fastening, shaping and so on. Even in recent times, some of these traditional tools are still in use by highly skilled woodworkers.

traditional woodworking tools 1 The Most Used Hand Tools

Modern technology has made woodworking a lot easier, as most of the woodworking tools used nowadays are power tools. However, there was no such thing as electricity in the olden days let alone the thought of using a power tool which is powered by electric current.

In contrast to the power tools designed for modern-day woodworking projects, the traditional woodworking tools are handmade such as hammers, chisels, knives, calibres, bevels, saws, squares, planners, mallets and so on. In this article, we would list various traditional woodworking tools that can be of help in your woodworking project. Also, we will discuss the different categories of these traditional woodworking tools as well as the reason why you should not condemn this traditional woodworking tools but rather embrace them and use them.


Types of Traditional Woodworking Tools

  • Cutting tools
  • Shaping tools
  • Edge and surfacing tools
  • Holding or gripping tools
  • Force application tools
  • Measuring and joining tools
  • Boring tools

Cutting Tools

There are various traditional woodworking tools designed for cutting, such as hatchets, axes and saws. In those days, ‘ saws were tools used for lumbering cutting and shaping. Saws are handmade, designed with handles that made it easy to use the tool as a shaping and carving tool. Here are few examples of the saws they had in those days; turning saw, compass saw, carcass saw, sash saw and hand saw. On the other hand, hatchets and axes are used for rough wood cutting or felling of trees. Also, one niche that was very particular with these traditional cutting tools was carpentry. Carpenters used many traditional tools for wood cutting purposes.

traditional woodworking tools 1

Shaping Tools

There were various kinds of traditional woodworking tools employed for shaping woods, these include; saws, knives, draw knives, chisels, awls and planes. After a plank of wood has been lumbered, it needs to be shaped. This helps the woodworker to meet the requirements of its construction. Knives were used to shape and carve holes in the woods, and chisels were used to shape wood by shaving parts of the wood away while the saw was handy when it came to shaping your woods.

traditional woodworking tools 2 Shaping Tools - Copy

Edge and Surfacing Tools

After lumbering, the lumber is usually placed on a workbench where some traditional woodworking tools such as planers, chisels and gouges were used to smoothening the surface of the wood. This process is called surfacing, and the tools used to achieve this are called the edge and surface tools.

traditional woodworking tools 3 planers, chisels

Holding and Griping Tools

As a woodworker, while working in lumber, you want to ensure that the wood is well gripped to the workbench. Some of the traditional woodworking tools employed for this purpose were the vises, holdfasts and clamps, and these tools were usually built with the workbenches that serve different purposes.

traditional woodworking tools 4 Holding and Griping Tools

Force Application Tools

The hammers and mallets are similar traditional woodworking tools that both had great significance in the traditional woodworking industry. These tools were mostly used to join two pieces of woods. The hammers were used to force nails into woods while mallets were used to push the tool to join pieces of woods couples with the assistance of chisels and gougers.


Measuring and Joining Tools

When it came to measuring and joining woods, bevels, callipers, squares were the traditional woodworking tools used to serve this purpose. Calipers were used in measuring small distances. The external and internal distances were calculated by outside and inside calipers, respectively. Bevels were used in the transfer of duplicates and measuring the distances between two or more angles.

traditional woodworking tools 6 Calipers

Boring Tools

Examples of boring traditional woodworking tools include gimlets and bradawls. Gimlets, drill bits, and other traditional hand drilling tools were used to drill holes on wood. An interesting fact is these tools were hand made by woodworkers in the early days.

traditional woodworking tools 7 gimlets and bradawls

Why You Will Love These Traditional Woodworking Tools

You probably have been asking yourself this question, what’s all the fuss about traditional woodworking tools about especially in this modern age and time when you can employ power tools to get your project done? Here are a few reasons why some woodworkers still engage the traditional woodworking tools in this modern age.

  • The history
  • The quality
  • The safety
  • The quiet

The History

The history of classic furniture constructions and these traditional hand tools has become a centre of attraction for some woodworkers. They find joy in handling a 400-year-old saw or hammer as they think of the person who created it and the beautiful pieces of woodworking project that were completed with this lovely and handy tools. Furthermore, when you start to develop an interest in these historical traditional woodworking tools, there is a high tendency that you get addicted to using them because it is believed that there is a natural high that comes with rebranding and refurbishing these tools.

The Quality

One of the most dissatisfying stories about the modern-day woodworking industry is the woodwork’s lack of durability. Most people believe that modern-day furniture is cheaply made with inexpensive materials and tools which may account for its modern-throw-away lifestyle. And giving that a piece of ideal furniture is supposed to last at least two or three years, people turn their attention away from the modern woodworking principles to the traditional woodworking principles which employ the use of traditional tools. Moreover, it is believed that furniture built to last a lifetime often live to its expectations back then than in recent days. So, why stick with the new when the old serve you better?

However, for woodworkers that are used to power tools, we recommend that you slowly begin to incorporate the use of traditional tools into your craft. It will give you a better understanding of your woodcraft.

The Safety

Sometimes, using a traditional woodworking tool is less risky that usage of power tools. It is believed that if you follow the guidelines and precautions of using a power tool carefully, you might be free of the potential hazard that may arise from using a power tool. Sadly, despite the necessary precautions and guidelines, power tools are still mechanical and are prone to a certain level of malfunctions which could be harmful or harmless to the user. However, with the traditional woodworking tools, there is a certain level of comfort derived from knowing that you don’t have large blades rotating at a thousand miles per hour just beside you. You feel less exposed to risks because using traditional woodworking tools gets you on your toes always. We are not implying that traditional woodworking tools come with no risks; all we are saying is that it comes with lesser risk when compared to the use of power tools.

The Peace and Quiet

Many woodworkers enjoy walking in a very peaceful serene, and it helps their inspiration. They love to employ the use of traditional tools because it graces them the peace and breaks they so desperately need from the noisy, disturbing and fast-paced world. Sometimes, working with these traditional tools can ease a lot of stressed compared to modern power tools.

Some Professional Traditional Woodworking Tools

Work Bench

The first thing you want to observe at a woodworker’s workshop is the concrete workbench. You can build yourself a sturdy and well-grounded workbench. However, if you are not ready to subscribe to the stress of creating a workbench, you can purchase one online or at any woodworking sales shop. Also, if you feel too inexperienced to build a workbench and you have a very tight budget, you can improvise with anything that allows you to secure your woods in place for various activities. Also, make sure to use clamps to secure your workpiece. We recommend that you get a workbench with at least a 3″ solid top, a strong vise and firm, supportive base legs.

traditional woodworking tools 8 Work Bench

Block Plane

This is one of the most actively engaged tools in a woodworker’s workshop. The block planes are used to trim joints, trim end grains and put chamfers on board edges. Furthermore, it is advisable to get a low angle block plane, and this is because the low angles make it easier for you to cut difficult grains.

traditional woodworking tools 9 Block Plane - Copy


Another essential traditional woodworking tool is the handsaw, also known as the panel saw. The handsaws are long, thin saws (blade) with well-designed wooden handle. The wooden handle gives the woodworker enough comfort when using the handsaw.  This tool is needed for the rough dimensioning of lumbers. Also, they come in two categories;

  • Rip (cuts across the grains like a chisel)
  • Crosscut (cuts across the grain like a knife)

traditional woodworking tools 10 Handsaws

Bench Chisel Set

The chisel is one of the most demanded tools in a woodworker’s workshop, and these chisels are ideally designed to last you for years and perfectly fits every woodworking project. As a woodworker, there is no shying away from buying other sets of chisels, but a set of bench chisel seems essential as it can serve for any purpose.

traditional woodworking tools 11 Bench Chisel Set

Combination Square

Another excellent traditional tool is a combination square. The combination square can perform many tasks, some of which include, examining the square-ness of the board, measuring the depth of mortises, scribing and lots more.

traditional woodworking tools 12 Combination Square

Woodworking Clamps

A woodworking clamp performs a simple but essential function in the workshop of a woodworker. It holds your glued-up joints together until the glue hardens. Despite the simplicity of this task, we recommend that you build your first project and put it together without glue. This process will allow you to take cognisance the amount of pressure that you will need to apply on all the right spots. The amount of force necessary will determine the number and type of clamp you will need for your future projects.

traditional woodworking tools 13 Mallet


In traditional woodworking, having an excellent wooden mallet is as vital as having enough oxygen to breathe. Mallets are used for hitting your chisels when cutting joints. When building or purchasing your mallet, we advise that you get a mallet made from fine hardwood, light and well balanced to give you proper handling and force to chop off the woods with your chisel.

traditional woodworking tools 13 Woodworking Clamps - Copy

Rabbet Plane

One of the joints that cannot be avoided in furniture making is the Rabbet. Having a hand plane that cuts Rabbet should be your priority as a woodworker. However, rabbet joints can be cut without a hand plane, but it becomes problematic when you do this. Using a hand plane to cut rabbet joints will enhance your accuracy and precision during the process.

traditional woodworking tools 14 Rabbet Plane - Copy

Here are some other traditional tools that made our list;

  • Sharpening supplies
  • Marking knives
  • Tape measure
  • Marking gauge
  • Pair of dividers
  • Try square
  • Bevel square

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The power tools have indeed taken over the woodworking industry in this modern day. However, the effectiveness of traditional tools cannot be put aside. We strongly believe that we have discussed in details essential things you need to know about conventional woodworking tools. If you want to work with the modern-day power tools or the traditional woodworking tools, the choice is yours. Carefully go through this article and digest it. This knowledge and understanding will go a long way in helping you make the right choice for your craft.

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