Save on Pinterest

11 Essential Tools for Carpenters

I've been a carpenter for 40-plus years, but the carpenter tools I use daily haven't changed much from day one. Here's a look at my go-to tools.

Every editorial product is independently selected, though we may be compensated or receive an affiliate commission if you buy something through our links. Ratings and prices are accurate and items are in stock as of time of publication.

1 / 11

Claw Hammer

I still drive a few nails today, but mainly I use my hammer with a chisel or nail set. A hammer can also be a demolition tool or for making adjustments that take more force than a bare hand can provide. I choose a curved claw model with a steel handle. The size depends on the task, but a 16 oz. Estwing is a good multipurpose hammer.

2 / 11

Tape Measure

A tape measure is my most used tool. They come in lots of widths and lengths but 25 ft. long and one inch wide works for most jobs. I like the standard slide lock. Don’t be tempted to go cheap — a rigid blade and reliable spring are important. A basic tape measure will show 16-in. centers plus feet and inches down to a 1/16th inch. More information than that can just be confusing. This Stanley tape measure is a solid option.

3 / 11

Chisel

I own chisels from 1/4 to 1-1/4 wide but I carry one 3/4 wide every day, such as this Stanley chisel. A chisel is a cutting tool, but at times I’ve used mine as a pry bar, putty knife and paint can opener. I buy middle-of-the-road quality but make sure it has a metal cap for when you need to hit it with a hammer.

4 / 11

Combination Square

This IRWIN combination square is a multipurpose tool. It marks the most common cuts, square and 45 degrees. But since it’s adjustable I also use mine as a marking and depth gauge; I always check that a saw is set up to cut square. They come in several sizes but I use one that’s small enough to fit in my nail apron.

5 / 11

Utility Knife

I still like a utility knife with a retracting blade, not the folding ones. I think simpler is better, so skip the quick-change models. I use my knife for cutting drywall, floorpaper and plastic, shaving wood and pencil sharpening. Always buy high-quality replacement blades. By the way, it’s also my go-to for splinter removal.

6 / 11

Diagonal Cutting Pliers

These are a mainstay for electricians, but I use mine all the time for removing nails when something goes wrong, repairing cords or on demo work. I use them to grab a nail and work it back and forth until it breaks off, or to just cut a stubborn nail off. They should be eight inches long. Don’t be disappointed — spend the money for a good pair, such as this pair from Klein Tools.

7 / 11

Nail Set

You almost have to buy these in a set, but the one I carry is 3/32 inch, included in this DeWalt three-piece set. Everyone uses nail guns today, but they aren’t perfect — sometimes you still must set a nail into the wood. I also use it to pop up hinge pins and to mark the starting point for a drill bit. I’ve even used mine to punch a nail through wood on demo work.

8 / 11

Pry Bar

No one is perfect so occasionally I have to take something apart, and of course there’s always demo work. Most of my work is trim carpentry, so I carry a small, flat bar all the time. The thin edge helps me remove trim with minimal damage. The Red Devil pry bar works pretty well as a scraper, which can be sharpened with a belt sander, and as a putty knife, too.

9 / 11

Vice Grips

Vice grips aren’t for carpentry, but I use my small vice grips to adjust and repair all sorts of carpentry tools. The five-inch vice grips I keep in my nail apron, like this locking pair from IRWIN, save me a lot of trips to the truck for everything from quick repairs on a nail gun to getting the cap off a glue bottle.

10 / 11

Screwdriver

Sometimes I wear a lot of hats. I might install doorknobs, adjust cabinet hardware, repair a tool and set appliances all in one day. I carry a screwdriver that’s a multipurpose tool. By swapping out or removing tips, this nine-in-one screwdriver covers two sizes of Phillips and straight blade, as well as two nut driver sizes. I like this size tool in particular because it perfectly fits one of the slots in my apron.

11 / 11

Block Plane

If you do any trim carpentry or finish work, a good block plane is a must. I use mine to fine-tune trim joints, ease sharp edges and remove saw kerfs. A good low-angle block plane will cost almost as much as all your other tools combined, but the cheap ones aren’t worth unwrapping. A good one will last a lifetime if you take care of it.

Newsletter Unit

CMU Unit

cover
Subscribe & SAVE 1 Year Subscription
for only $10!