Professionals and Amateurs Together

Basic Tool Kit


What would be a basic cabinetmakers tool kit? – Anon


Bob LaCivita replies: Before, I list the tools, it must be made clear that a tool kit is dependent on what type of work you are trying to produce. A tool box for a craftsman who makes Windsor chairs will be similar but different than a maker of casework just as a master cabinetmaker may not be a master woodturner or carver. The question reads basic tools for a cabinet maker, so below I will list what I believe is very basic for this type of work.

Measuring and Layout Tools

  • Tape measure – 16´ with fine increment lines.
  • Combination square – 12˝, steel, calibrated 1/64th ˝ on one edge. If you can afford the protractor and center finder, it will never be less expensive than now. Spend the money here – Starrett, Rabone, Mititoyo, Bridge City, etc.
  • Straight edge – 2´ min.
  • Dividers – 12˝.
  • Protractor – something with an adjustable blade similar to the one made by General or Craftsmen – inexpensive.
  • Trammel points.
  • Marking knife.
  • Marking gauge – the combination marking and mortising gauge might be the place to start.


  • Stone – India combination stone (basic) or a combination diamond stone (a more expensive alternative).
  • Oil – sharpening oil for India stone.


  • Block plane – low angle.
  • Smoothing plane – #4 or #41/2.
  • Jack plane – #5.
  • Jointer plane – #7.
  • Shoulder rabbet plane – similar to a Record #73. This is a large plane and will do everything a small plane will do plus the large stuff too.
  • Cabinet scraper – Sandvik.
  • Burnishing tool – to sharpen the cabinet scraper. The oval ones are nice.


  • Crosscut saw – 8 or 10 point.
  • Dovetail saw – 15 point or greater with a rip tooth.
  • Backsaw – crosscut.
  • Coping saw.
  • Chainsaw – just kidding – but handy at times.
  • Note – I was trained with western saws. But eastern saws are wonderful tools and can be substituted for the above list.


  • Paring chisels – Set of six min. – 1/4˝ thru 1˝ wide in 1/8˝ increments. Buy the best you can afford. A 1/8˝chisel is very handy too.
  • Mortising chisels – 1/4˝ thru 1˝ wide by 1/4˝ thick.


  • Drill – cordless rechargeable – 12 volts min.
  • Set of twist bits 1/64˝ up to 1/2˝ diameter.
  • Set of brad point bits 1/4˝, 5/16˝, 3/8˝ and 1/2 ˝ diameter.


  • Warrington hammer – 10 oz.
  • Claw hammer.
  • Wooden mallet – if you have chisels with wood handles, your mallet should be softer than your chisel handles. I like a mallet with a square head rather than a carver’s mallet. However, I see a lot of people using the round mallets.


  • Sanding block.
  • Sand paper – 100, 120,150 and 220 grits.


  • This is tricky because of the vast number of choices. I will take a stab at it for basic oil based finishes such as oil, varnish, polyurethane, etc.
  • China bristle brushes – high quality 2 1/2˝ – 3˝.
  • Rags – lint free.
  • Containers – plastic quart.
  • Sandpaper – 220, 320 and 400 grits.
  • Steelwool – #0000.

If you buy all of this new, you are looking at $1,000 for marginal tools and perhaps $2,700 for high quality ones. I’ve bought cars for less. Go slow and buy the best tools you can. In the end, you will end up replacing the poor quality tools.

Tags: Tools