The Right Carpentry Tools: Everything You'll Need for MOTHER's Woodcraft Projects

In this foundational article, the author of many of MOTHER's woodcraft projects guides you through the most important tools for woodworkers to have, including the qualities of a good tool and the functions they perform.

| October/November 1992


An electric drill is one of the most useful, labor-saving tools for the everyday woodworker.


You rip open the woodworking plans to build your new swing set or trestle table and begin reading: "Reduce stock to 57/64ths on the planer-joiner, cut curves on the bandsaw, scarf dovetail tenons with the plunge router, then chamfer the blind rabbet with your radial saw's dado blade…"

Fine and dandy if you know a rabbet from a cottontail and have a workshop full of elegant power tools. Some years back, a suburbanite woodcraft-hobbyist displayed his mahogany Chippendale reproductions to me. "What era of period furniture do you prefer to build?" he asked. "Early Poland-China," I replied. I was used to cobbling up pig troughs out of old barn boards.

In MOTHER'S woodcraft articles, you'll find no fancy equipment or cabinetmaker's jargon. Straightforward woodworking projects with reasonably priced carpentry tools will be described in plain English so you can build sturdy, country-practical projects such as decks, a kid's tree swing, and mailbox posts. In future articles, you'll find instructions for building a U.S. Park Service-quality picnic table; an indoor/outdoor planting bench with a wet sink; a pioneer infant (or doll) cradle; a kid's tree fort with a secret trap door and rope ladder; a hobby horse with a real tail and mane, etc. Each project will detail an easy lesson or two in practical woodcraft. Even if you don't build the projects, just reading the articles ought to make a practical woodworker out of you.

Equipping Your Tool Crib

First, some advice on equipping a country homeowner's basic woodcraft/general-purpose tool crib. Had I bought one 40 years ago, I would have saved a great deal of money that I've wasted on over-priced, over-promoted, or over-powered equipment. This tool kit should cost you about $600, plus another $100 to stock up on nails, screws, and other hardware. Don't buy it all at once, though; get what you need as you need it. Also, save money by shopping store sales, country auctions, flea markets, and yard sales.

Defining a Good Tool

The best tool is one that does the job well with little effort on your part. In glossy catalogs, woodworking tools aren't sold for utility but for design and looks. Trust me, your electric saw won't cut any straighter if its housing has won a design award. Another marketing tactic is tacking added functions onto a tool that's been honed to perfection. Such is the case of the hand ax, whose design and function has not changed much since the Stone Age. Trying to add a nail-puller, sawblade, and screwdriver to an ax head will only reduce its effectiveness.

I plan to discuss plain and effective carpentry tools under these basic woodworking functions:

mother earth news fair


Feb. 17-18, 2018
Belton, Texas

More than 150 workshops, great deals from more than 200 exhibitors, off-stage demos, hands-on workshops, and great food!