I covered all the power tools I use on a regular basis in my Power Tools for the New Carpenter post. There are a few other tools and gadgets I use when building cabinets and buit-ins that help me get professional results. If you are a new carpenter and want to have everything on hand for that next project, these are some items I would consider getting ahead of time.
Edited October 2014: A majority of my clients were having issues with the Kreg RipCut, shown at the bottom left of this photo, so I have removed it from my recommended list.
Kreg Jig Jr. pocket hole jig ($40) For when you don’t want to screw through the front of the wood you are attaching to another piece of wood. This allows you to screw from behind and pull that front piece of wood back securely to the wood behind it.
With that you’ll need a face clamp ($20).
Square check for tape measure. ($3) Squaring up your cabinet “box” is VERY important! This keeps the tape measure in exactly the same spot on each corner and keeps it from sliding off. I do have some trouble with the entire square check falling off when working alone but if you have a helper, they can hold it in place easily. If you work alone, you put it back in place 3 times, swear a couple times and somehow get it done. Still, this little $3 tool makes the process as easy as possible.
EZ Mark Line Cords ($3) For when I staple the back onto my cabinet. It saves some time so I don’t have to measure and mark where all my shelves are. Just line up the cords with the shelves and staple below (or above, depending on how you place your cord.)
Assembly square ($6) I have two of these. I clamp them on my cabinets while I secure the shelf to the side. It makes sure everything is going together square.
With those you’ll need some clamps. I’ve purchased cheap clamps in the past and I won’t do that again. I bought two Irwin clamps a few years before I bought six cheap ones from Harbor Freight tools. All six of the cheap ones have broken and fallen apart but the Irwin clamps are still great. I’ve since bought about a dozen more Irwin clamps in 12″ and 6″ lengths.
Irwin Clamps ($20 for four 6″ clamps)
Corner Clamp from Harbor Freight tools ($9.99) I also have two of these. Sometimes I use these and sometimes I use the assembly squares. Depends on where I’m working and what I can find. I like them both.
Rafter Square ($16) These come in different sizes but I have the 12″ and love it. If I could find one that was 18″ I would LOVE that even more. But, I’ve never seen one that big so I make do. This square has a lip on one edge so it sits on the edge of the wood you are marking and ensure that you have a square mark every time. You can use it for marking and for cutting. It’s also a great tool to have to check square on boards that have been cut for you (you know they don’t always get cut square).
It is important to note that not all squares are square — check yours to make sure it is square before using it.
These are all workshop favorites. Not sure they all warrant their own post but they are must haves in my shop all the same. I’ll definitely write more about some of these… sometime in the future. 😉