WoodSkills Issue 02 - Page 25

Recommended equipment for a furniture making shop:

Jointer (6 in. to 8 in. wide)

Planer (13 in. to 15 in. wide)

Bandsaw (14 in. to 17 in. throat)

Tablesaw (2HP or 3HP model)

Drill Press (16 in. floor-mounted)

Router Table (2HP to 3HP plunge type)

Horizontal Mortiser (to create mortises)

This list reflects machinery installed in a typical furniture making shop. Another facet in furniture making involves hand tools, used exclusively or in conjunction with machines. Hand tools provide greater control of a woodworking process. Machines excel when efficiency and repeatability are sought. Hand tools provide a tactile element to the process.


Using hand tools initially results in a much slower process than using machines. Over time, you will find that the efficiency gained from using hand tools offsets the productivity gains of machines. Machines need regular maintenance and setup that needs to be factored into the overall time necessary to build furniture. I favor a hybrid shop environment where machines and hand tools are used together. Over time, you will develop an effective workflow and likely rearrange workbenches and machines in your shop. Through an improved workflow, your productivity will increase.

There are instances where woodworkers work only with hand tools. Often, the reason is that they have developed a woodworking philosophy of working exclusively with hand tools. Another reason is they cannot run noisy or dusty machinery at their locations. A third reason is they prefer the hand tool process and the accompanying peacefulness and quiet that comes with it. For example, you can live in a condominium setting and create furniture in a spare room. It is entirely possible to accomplish this using only hand tools and a solid, proper woodworking bench. The hand tool approach minimizes noise and dust and you can work any time of the day or evening without disturbing family or neighbors. If you decide on hand tools as a component of your furniture making, it will be necessary to become familiar with sharpening processes.

Over the years, my style of work has evolved where today I embrace the use of hand tools in my furniture making. I have devised methods of work to increase efficiency when using hand tools. Hand tools have their place in most furniture making shops today.

Hand tools to consider for furniture making:

Set of Chisels (to create mortises and dovetails)

Hand Planes (preparing and finishing surfaces)

Squares (for precision and accuracy)

Workbench (with a front and tail vise)

Dovetail saw (to create dovetail joinery)

Rip saw (for ripping wood)

Back saw (for crosscutting)

Shooting Board (for precise end cuts)

Bench Hook (for accurate trimming)