Woodworking has been around for ages and it’s safe to say that every civilization around the world has an art form or tradition in woodworking. Archeological finds of wood artifacts reveal intricate skills in woodworking all over the world.
What is Woodworking?
The term is a general one and encompasses many facets of the art form. Woodworking can be a hobby and a profession, restoring an old wooden chair picked up at a garage sale, putting together a balsa lantern, installing a floor mosaic or building custom kitchen cabinetry.
Each project comes with a set of traditions, techniques, preferred wood types and woodworking tools. In this article, we’ll focus on the hobby and the must-have tools for small projects. Whether you’re a beginner or an expert, there are a few craft tools that are great to have in the toolbox or around the workbench.
What is Wood Carving?
Wood carving is a type of woodworking with a specific set of tools designed and intended for chipping away and removing pieces of wood from the whole piece. Humans have carved wood as far back as history can remember - Shigir Idol, a 12,500-year-old wooden sculpture is the oldest one found so far.
Modern-day hand wood carving tools and woodworking sets don't differ much from the ancient ones, the principles for chisels and carvers are the same. It’s the refined materials that they are made of in this day and age that make them more efficient.
Engineered for strength from quality aluminum and steel, they are lightweight, flexible and durable. Available in a variety of TPI (that’s teeth per inch) and blade heights. Due to its simplicity, the thin blade is great for beginners to use as well as seasoned professionals due to how easy it is to use.
Small hand-powered pull saws are great tools to have for projects like building photo or picture frames, decorative wood mosaics, decorative wall molding or wood trim, building lanterns, wall decor, wood art and even trinket storage boxes.
Another small but very effective and helpful woodworking tool is the mitre box. Paired with the pull saw, this combo is an efficient and simple way to cut wood. The mirte box has 45-degree and 90-degree notches so the cuts are just the angle needed.
Use this tool along with pull saws to create popular DIY projects such as wood wall art, photo frames, decorative patio lanterns or bird feeders.
Another small-yet-powerful hand tool is the sanding stick. Its unique pointed shape allows for sanding in small and narrow spaces. The circular sanding belt can be rotated so the entire surface area of the sanding belt can be utilized. Spring loaded mechanism keeps the belt tension taught and in place when working and allows for a quick change of belt when a new one is needed.
Sanding belts are available in grit #80, #120, #240, #320, #400 and #600, so there is always one right for the job. If you’re working on any project using wood, odds are you’ll need to sand!
Every workbench needs one of these helpful tools. It’s the strong extra hand you need while tackling all sorts of projects, from staining the frame you just built to holding freshly glued pieces together until they set.
This table vise is removable, so it’s great for multi purpose spaces when the table top needs to be cleared. Another great feature is that the vise grip rotates 360 degrees, giving versatile positioning and flexibility. The vise also tilts 45 degrees for even more functionality.
Clamps play the role of assistants, they hold pieces together while the glue sets or while drilling openings when everything needs to be set in the right place. Some clamps are plastic for lightweight and delicate projects. Others are a combination of metal and plastic for heavier duty jobs. Whatever the project you're working on, it’s good to have several of these on hand.
Drill bits come in many sizes, they range from a needle size to a few inches in diameter, depending on the type of job they’re intended for. We’re going to focus on the very small ones for precision projects for the hobbyist or DIYer.
Small drill bits in sizes ranging from #61 - #80 are made from steel and used on projects that require small holes and screws. Woodworking, model trains, jewelry making and wooden beads to name a few. Use these with a Pin Vise for delicate projects.
A pin vise is used with drills. For small drills, a small hand-held pin vise like this one above is great for small woodworking projects like toy making, wooden jewelry, miniature dioramas and model-train set building.
This tool features a self-centering aluminum chuck that assures the drill bit is centered and secure (and accommodates drills from #50 - #80).
Available in many sizes and shapes, chisels are used for many tasks including carving, chipping away, peeling, whittling shaping and detailing.
A chisel has a handle that is usually made from wood, a ferrule and a shank that is also called a blade. The tip of the shank is called the cutting edge and is beveled. The cutting edges are available in many shapes such as v-gauge or curved chisel, the most common is the straight chisel. Each one can do specific things and a woodworker may need a few different ones for one task, which is why shaped chisels are often sold as sets.
Carving Gouges & Carving Routers
Also used for carving, whittling and detailing. These small tools are light-duty woodworking tools for fine, detailed work. The shaped tips like the v-gauge, carve or route specific channels or shapes.
Read more about types of chisels in our earlier article Types of Chisels for Woodworking.