Tools in the Woodworking Workshop

In the 10+ years we’ve been designing and building furniture we often get asked what tools we use in our workshop. We’ve come about each of these at different times over the years. Some are upgrades from a previous version and plenty were bought used or reconditioned (my favorite ones are usually recons).

These are listed roughly in the frequency that we use them.



Miter Saw

What it does

A Miter saw is for making super accurate cross cuts. This straight simple cut is the one that starts every board and is used most often. Depending on the size it can cut varying widths of boards. It can also bevel/tilt side to side as well as twist left to right to cut angles and miters.

Where to get one

Home Depot carries these brand new ones for about $200. You can also get one reconditioned for about $150 online. I got my original one for under $100 from a pawn store locally.

Table saw

What it does

A Table saw is for cross cutting and ripping larger stock, in general, but can be used for very precise cuts as well. It’s essentially a circular saw mounted up inside of a base. Typically the blade can swivel to cut angles, although you’ll find you use it in it’s upright position mostly. The fence on your saw is one of the most important parts, it’s what insures your cuts are accurate to the tiniest measurement. Some people upgrade their fence systems in their saws for added accuracy. We use a Ridgid one with a custom router table in the extension arm that we built. We’d love to upgrade to a standing until one day, but for now the movability of this one is key in our shop. 

Where to get one

All Large home stores will have these in different sizes. There are contractor ones (would fit in your truck), standing units that roll, like ours, or standing cabinet ones that are the largest and heaviest. Often these cabinet ones are only available through more professional stores. Some think that in these machines the older the better, so checking Craigslist would be a great start.

tape measure

What it does

A tape measure is an easy, quick way to know the size and other information about your project or board. This tool will be used on a minute by minute basis. There are measurements from feet all the way down to sixteenth of an inch on a standard tape measure. When taking measurements take them to the closest mark you can, the extra accuracy of a 1/16 of an inch can sometimes make a difference in your final project.

Where to get one

Any home improvement store will have tape measures for about $10. There will be so many to choose from but generally a 25 ft. one will serve you on about any project you can imagine. If you can afford it go ahead and get two, they’re like glasses, they disappear and end up on your head, or rather on your belt.


What it does

A drill or impact driver can be used with interchangeable bits to drill holes or screw screws into wood and other surfaces such as drywall, metal, and tile (depending on the bit). The impact driver has more torque and uses quick change bits, it is the lighter weight of the two as well. A standard drill shrinks or expands it’s hole size to accept bits of different sizes. If you can’t find a combo kit with both, and have to choose just one, get the impact driver. You won’t be sorry!

Where to get one

Home Depot carries these in a combo kit for $150. Direct Tools (my favorite place to get tools) has reconditioned ones for under $100. We recently bought a second set of them since my husband kept stealing mine for his truck work.


What it does

A Pocket Hole Jig (most common brand of these is Kreg) is for drilling holes at a special angle with a special bit for the purpose of joining two pieces of wood together. It’s very simple to use. Both the Jig itself and the drill bit adjust to the thickness of wood you’re joining. You simply clamp the jig down and drill your holes.

Where to get one

You can find these at Lowes, Home Depot, Woodcraft, or even on Kreg’s site at about $50 for this smaller unit. They have a larger one for around $100 too, but I survived about 5 years with my R3 unit and it’s still going strong. After some time we invested in their Foreman, I cannot say enough great things about it, but it’s a much larger investment than the R3 or R5. 

dust collection

What it does

A dust collection system helps air quality in the shop and helps keep you safe by removing sawdust from the air and your shop. Dust collection systems work on the basic formula of captureconvey and collect.

We made a modification to ours with a large metal trashcan. It helps trap the larger pieces when we are jointing or planing boards. It then dumps those larger pieces into the metal can and only allows the smaller pieces of sawdust into the trash bag attached to the unit. This also helps us not have to empty the liner trash bag as often from the machine. 

Where to get one

You can find this one at harbor freight. They are normally not my go to place for tools but we’ve been really happy with ours from there. We bought a lot of attachments for it at woodcraft such as extra hoses and connectors. 


Orbital sander

What it does

The Random Orbital Sander has a round pad on the bottom and moves/orbits around in random order. It scars the wood in tiny circles while also spinning in circles. It can be used to remove large amounts of surface, such as a rough board or a top coat on furniture, with the right grit of paper. It is also gentle enough to use very fine sandpaper and buff your finish smooth. You do need sandpaper to operate it. The lower the number (#40,#60) the more surface you will remove. The higher the number (#150, #220) the less surface you will remove.

Where to get one

Any home improvement store has these guys. There are also ones with a square base that don’t rotate in the same fashion but generally get the same job done. I’ve seen them online as low as about $30 for a new Ryobi one, and upwards of $80 for a more sturdy new Ridgid one.


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worth mentioning but rarely used

 Scroll Saw

Exacto Knives


Circular Saw

Belt Sander


Dovetail Jig

Job Max






Why do I need that?

If you really want to become a woodworker you kind of need your hands the most, but second to that you need your eyes. Protect them! I cannot explain the terrible pain that is a piece of sawdust in your eye, or better yet a nail that bounces back or a hammer you swing to hard. Your hearing is also very important and even if a tool seems “not very loud” it can still do damage to your hearing over time. Protect both with a simple small investment of some safety glasses and ear plugs.

Our Favorite Brands

I’ve found that once you own a few tools you really find a few brands that are your favorite. These are a few of mine. When you’re first getting started buy the best you can at that time, you can always upgrade later on.


I personally own over 15 Ridgid tools and counting. We have bought almost every one of them factory reconditioned at our local Direct Tools dealer. They have great warranties, and their products last and last. They are not top of the line as far as all woodworking tools go, but they are very much at the top of the “consumer grade” list, in my opinion. The benefit in buying reconditioned is obviously saving money for me, but generally you get the same warranty on a tool as you would from a big box store, so it’s a no brainer in my shop.


The second power tool I ever bought was a miter saw made by Dewalt. We’ve considered upgrading a few times and plan to in the near future but man is that thing rugged. It’s withstood a lot over the years and keeps performing over and over again. I also have quite a few small tools of theirs that are always useful and hold up well.


The tools we have from Jet are our big beasts, our jointer and our planer. They are more of an investment, yet still reasonable if you save up for one. We found all of our Jet tools on Craigslist preowned. We’ve not had problems with them and they are really solid in their builds. I feel much safer with some of these larger tools after having a few small ones from other brands fail on me.


I finally jumped on the Festool bandwagon and haven’t looked back since. My Domino is one of my newest favorite tools. It’s easy to use and I plan to upgrade a few more of my tools to this company soon. I hear great things about their customer service, although I think they make such solid stuff I’m not sure when I’ll get to use the customer service. 


*Disclaimer: NJS Design Company is not affiliated with any of the products, sites, or companies listed in this guide. The opinions stated are my own and I stand by them. NJS Design Company is not liable for any personal harm that comes to you from operating any of the tools listed. Please always be safe when operating tools or equipment of any kind.

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