10 Beginner Woodworking Tools under $20
I love tools that make woodworking easier, especially if they're cheap. There are countless lists on the internet from other YouTubers and friends of mine showcasing these incredible 10 Beginner Woodworking Tools for under 20 bucks. So, I've compiled my own list including several items related to general shop items, material preparation, and measurement/marking procedures.
Let's dive in.
1. Screw Clamp
First on the list is the old-timey screw clamp. You've probably spotted these in your grandfather's shop or at yard sales. I'd argue there's one in nearly every house, at least in Pittsburgh. I mainly use screw clamps to hold materials vertically that would be unable to stand on their own.
They're also incredibly useful for holding oddly-shaped items, especially when cutting shapes like spheres on a bandsaw. Cutting spheres and similar shapes on a bandsaw can be unsafe. Jimmy DiResta gave me this invaluable tip years ago, and ever since, I've always kept a screw clamp close by in my workshop. This tool is priced around 19 bucks, and multiple brands offer them. You can purchase this useful, inexpensive tool online or at your local hardware store.
2. Pivot Clamps
If you use parallel clamps in your workshop, these are a must have item. These clamps are great for glue-ups that aren't perfectly square. They easily attach to the end of your parallel clamps, allowing you to apply pressure across approximately a six-inch surface, allowing for angled glue-ups without needing to cut angle blocksThey're perfect for irregular or angled glue-ups and are priced at around 18 bucks.
Another invaluable item is neodymium magnets. You can get around 20 dime or nickel-sized magnets for just under 20 bucks. They're a game-changer in the workshop. Given that many workshop tools are metallic, if you need to hang a tool, these magnets come in handy. I've utilized many in my workshop to hang tools. They're also beneficial for projects, such as ensuring doors close properly or holding a tool on another while working. Ramon Valdez, a talented woodworker on Instagram, swears by them. After discovering his profile and his recommendation, I've always kept a stack on hand.
4. Epoxy Sticks
Another favorite is Mohawk’s epoxy sticks. I was introduced to these two-part epoxy tubes by another woodworker, Jeffrey Hempstead. One of the best features of this product is its ease of use. Pinch a piece, roll it in your hands, and use it as a filler. Whether it's for bug holes, gaps, or a quick fix, these are preferable to wood fillers or slower-setting epoxy fillers. Available in various colors, they're a must-have in every workshop. They cost around 20 bucks a tube.
Next up is a super popular tool that you'll often find on many lists, the foam sanding blocks.These are exceptional for touching up, breaking edges, or just generally integrating into your sanding routine. The shape of the block fits in my hand perfectly, allowing for a comfortable sanding experience. Interestingly, they can be used with both 5 and 6 inch sandpaper.
I always have one on my bench when I'm sanding. They are sold in a four-pack on Amazon for around 18 or 19 bucks.
Up next is the card scraper, a prevalent woodworking tool, which I initially didn't think I needed as a beginner. However, when I grasped how user-friendly and invaluable it was, I knew I had to own one. I'm specifically talking about the 5 by 2 ½ inch card scrapers from DFM Tool Works.
Proudly made in America, these tools are nothing short of amazing. Whether you're a beginner, amateur, or a DIY enthusiast, its uses are vast. From removing glue squeeze-outs in tight corners to achieving finishes that sanders can't replicate, its versatility is unmatched. Additionally, they're perfect for leveling high spots or for slight touch-ups on a project. This is why they're such a staple in woodworking. I also have the 0.032” ones, which are slightly thicker, making them great for bulk material removal.
While mine look worn and have seen better days due to frequent use, I wouldn't have it any other way. Initially, I assumed you had to be a seasoned, top-tier woodworker to appreciate and use one. However, that's far from the truth. Even beginners will find them beneficial. Priced around 18 bucks, they're a steal and will undoubtedly become a mainstay in your tool collection. Numerous online tutorials teach you how to maintain their sharpness and achieve a perfect burr. Familiarize yourself with those, and you'll soon find this tool indispensable.
Measuring & Marking
Switching gears to the measuring and marking category, the marking knife stands out as a shop essential. Often, it's the most commonly spotted tool in this category, second only to the humble pencil. Many might assume they don't need one, especially if intricate work isn't their forte. However, if you make it a practice to use a marking knife for laying out joints, you'll see improvements in your craftsmanship. Unlike a pencil line, a marking knife provides a groove for your saw or chisel, ensuring precision every time.
If you've caught my recent videos, you'd have noticed my use of a marking knife to outline joints on blue tape, making the removal process a breeze. I can't stress enough the benefits of incorporating a marking knife into your routine. Your craftsmanship will thank you, and so will your peace of mind.
Next in line is the digital caliper. Lately, I find myself reaching for it more often as I continually refine my workflow. While the more budget-friendly versions tend to have a shorter lifespan, they are an excellent starting point. For around 20 bucks, you can get acquainted with one. And if it becomes a favorite, consider investing in a more robust version down the line. I own several: one by my planer, another alongside our wide belt, and a third near the table saw. They ensure consistent measurements across all my projects.
One feature I appreciate is the ease with which I can measure depth, especially when aiming for uniform drill depths or when gauging the depth of a mortise. The back end also comes in handy, especially when I need to measure the interior of a joint or if there's a minor discrepancy in my cuts. With both imperial and metric readings displayed, it's a tool I can't recommend enough. I only wish I had discovered it sooner in my woodworking journey.
Before wrapping up my list of tools priced under 20 dollars, I have some bonus mentions hovering around the $30 mark that deserve your attention.
BONUS Under $30:
BONUS: Digital Angle Finder
In the realm of digital measurements, nothing compares to the digital angle finder. Brands like Wixey and Johnson are known for producing reliable ones. However, other brands can still provide an accurate reading. They assist in precisely setting angles on your table saw. Also they can come in handy when you're handling unconventional cuts and need an accurate angle measurement. If you don't own one, it's time to change that.
Bonus: Drill & Driver Bit
Next up is going to be the combination drill and driver bit. I’ve recently discovered this bit from Montana Tools and it has become an essential item in my shop.. If you watched my outfeed table video, you'd have seen me use it quite extensively. It's a truly awesome bit. Usually, I find myself carrying multiple drills or impact drivers, just to keep various bits at hand and maintain a swift workflow. But this tool has been a revelation, so easy and enjoyable to use. If you don’t own one yet, you should consider getting it. Priced at around 28 bucks, it's a steal.
BONUS: Cheap Handheld Drill Press
I’ve been advocating for another tool for years: if you don’t have a handheld drill press, get yourself one. Mine from Milescraft is priced around 30 bucks online. It's something you'll find invaluable, especially when aiming for precise holes while drilling freehand. For example, I used this tool to drill out perfectly straight holes in my outfeed table for bench dogs and table clamps. Regardless of brand or price, this tool remains indispensable.
Coming in at number nine is the marking gauge finder from DFM Toolworks. It's exceptionally versatile. I own two of these, and they come with a range of pins. Using these pins with the center cutout enables me to easily find the center of any board width that fits into these holes. It’s an efficient and fun tool. Moreover, it features a perfectly machined square which is great for setups on your table saw, bandsaw, or any other tool that needs squaring. This tool accelerates the process of finding the center of boards. It’s a tool I often turn to, be it for laying out screw holes in plywood or when planning a joint for a biscuit or domino.
Last but certainly not least, are the engineering squares. Priced at around 20 bucks, they're a fantastic investment. Although they don't have markings to aid in measurements during layout, I frequently find them useful across the workshop. For instance, I keep the smallest one near my sharpening station to ensure perfectly square edges on all my chisels and plane blades. One rests by my jointer for quick setups to check the squareness of my jointer fence, and another resides near the table saw for similar purposes. These squares are also instrumental in laying out joints and dovetails. As a beginner, I found it more cost-effective to buy a four-pack of these engineering squares, rather than investing in one of the more expensive layout tools. Despite the latter's presence, I find myself using the squares just as frequently.So, if you're starting out and are seeking value for money, consider getting yourself a four-pack of engineering squares. You'll be surprised at how versatile they can be.
To conclude, these are my top affordable tools under 20 bucks, with a few slightly above that range. I believe they are essentials that should be in every workshop that can help grow your skills as a woodworker.. You can also further your maker journey by grabbing some of our latest merchandise and plan bundles to spruce up your workspace. Until next time, get out there and keep crafting!
I que'd up another article right here for 5 Household Items You Should Have In Your Shop