wood tools on a wall

The Most Needed Wood Shaping Tool For Wood Art

The Most Essential Wood Shaping Tool

A friend asked me to put together a list of the most essential wood shaping tools that one would need for wood art. Why?

A friend of his has a kid who began their journey and they asked for help.

I decided to publish this list so that it could be a help to others. There are many tools one can invest in.

Here knowing the intent of your work will guide you on the right path to selecting the right wood shaping tool for you.

What I will detail below are the most common tools you will need for near any wood art project. Having said this lets get the big obvious ones out of the way.

I will begin with power tools first and then hand tools second. These two categories will allow you to focus on where you wish to go.

The Obvious Wood Shaping Tool You Should Already Have

There are wood shaping tools you should already have in your shop. A table saw is a big one and among the most common.

Aside from this, at minimum an electric bench planer of some variation, bandsaw of some size, and if your work requires it a basic lathe. With these three to four tools you will have the core essentials that you need.

If you are reading this you most likely already have them, or some of them. These will nearly always be used and no project can go forward without them.

If you need any of these check your local Facebook marketplace to find deals. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen great deals there on decent equipment.

To start out with you do not need the best, you just need to start. Now lets look at what you are really here for, the specialty tools that not every shop will have.

A Good Routing Table To Help As A Wood Shaping Tool

Odds are you have a router in your shop. Not everyone will have a good routing table. In fact few do.

Why is this the case? I have yet to find a truly good routing table out of the box.

Most woodworkers or wood artists build their table if they are serious about accuracy. Nevertheless there are options out there such as the Incra Router Table.

Personally I have my likes and dislikes about their design. After you add up the costs you may discover building your own is a better option.

While not many would consider a router table as a wood shaping tool, you definitely need to think of it that way. The router will only be as useful as the table which compliments it.

Aside from the table, you will need a solid fence system that can provide repeated results. Truth be told it doesn’t need to cost a fortune.

It just needs to fit the table and have a flat straight edge.

A decent size table for most wood art projects will be between 3 to 4 ft of working space. Some use the table extension from their table saw for this purpose. I dislike this option personally.

A Drill Press Is Another Wood Shaping Tool Few Think Of

In wood art precision is everything. If you plan on making anything with a hand made hinge you will need a drill press. Again it doesn’t have to be expensive.

This provides a simple function. It makes holes where you need them. Trust me at some point you will need holes.

The advantage is accuracy. Hand held drills just will not give you what you need especially when drilling through wood barrels for a hinge.

Hand Tools For Wood Shaping

Amazingly that is all of the powered tools I have to list. All others are not core essential and often can be a waste of money.

Having said this let’s look at the most critical hand wood shaping tools.

A Hand Plane Is A Must Have Wood Shaping Tool

Why is a hand plane so critical to have as a wood shaping tool? Unless you have a cnc mill to surface wood or a panel you will need a hand plane.

The electric planer that does the initial prep on your lumber is not enough to give a flat even surface. Alternatively, if you are lucky and have a larger more industrial electric joiner, this could work as well.

While a joiner typically is used for preparing joints that will meet, it can also level out the face of a board or panel quickly. Nevertheless that option is costly.

A hand planer allows for you to shave the board down to create an even surface from end to end. There are different sizes and options you can select from, and they can take some practice in their use.

Nevertheless this wood shaping tool has been used in everything from wood art to violin and guitar making. It wins hands down being near the top of the hand tool list.

Wood Shaping Tools For Wood Carving

There are a host of wood shaping tools that focus on wood carving itself. You do not need all of them.

Know up front the kind of wood carving that you desire to do in your wood art up front.

Odds are you will need at minimum a basic bench knife, a long bent, a short bent, a gouge, and veiner. These can be had cheaply if you do not wish to spend much on them at first.

Also if you are doing any kind of intricate carving, especially with letters or designs, wood rifflers will be needed. A riffler is a handy tool to help smooth out rough edges.

If you plan on using a router for all you art carving then know some of these tools will still be needed. While they may not see constant use there are some things that old school ways just do better as a wood shaping tool.

Wood Chisels As A Wood Shaping Tool

I always advocate for having the best wood chisels that you can afford. Yet these can be acquired with time.

As a wood shaping tool they are among the more critical to own, but also are very situational upon your work.

Personally I would not buy these as a set. I would see what I needed and then obtain that tool. You may discover that you can get by without them for quite some time, or only need a few.

Hand Saw’s As A Wood Shaping Tool

I am a huge fan of Japanese hand saws. They are not only among the best wood shaping tools, they are also cheap.

Why go this route over powered options? There will be situations no power tool can perform the function needed in the same way.

Some of the saw blades are made to be flexible. With this you can perform a flush cut on a peg with ease. These can also aid in box joints.

Their uses are many and worth the nominal investment they require.

Best Jig As A Wood Shaping Tool

There are certain jigs out there that are unique to help you on your journey. As a wood shaping tool there are few other things that can help produce repeated accurate cuts such as a jig.

My suggestion is to personally research and build near all jigs you need. There are different versions of sleds for example that will perform different functions for cutting wood accurately.

Outside of these diy build your own jig, there is one which stands out head and shoulders above anything I have ever seen.

If you plan on using box joints you would do well to check out the Incra Ibox. Simply put, there is nothing else out there that can do what that jig can do. It is worth ever penny.

As a wood shaping tool, the Ibox is among the most used in my shop when I am not making panel or wall art. With everything that company has made, that tool is what I like the most from their selection.

What Wood Shaping Tool Did I Leave Out?

A wood shaping tool can be defined as anything which shapes a wood surface. Clearly I left many tools out of this list.

To add to this list, I would say to acquire whatever complimentary woodworking vises or clamps that you may need. A solid woodworking table would be nice as well. Some of these things come with time.

There simply is no way someone new can put everything together in a shop at day one. It is too much to invest in and is impossible to plan for.

Yet if I had to select the core essentials to start off a new wood artist, the above list would be the ones I suggest. Most of them you should already have, the ones you do not have should not cost a fortune.

In this way you are able to minimize cost while focusing on what you wish to make. Wood art is not like other woodworking. It can require smaller tools with greater precision.

Powered Vs Hand Wood Shaping Tools

I wish to leave a note here about comparing the need and use between powered tools and hand wood shaping tools. Which is better?

Each have their purpose. Powered tools give you the ability of speed. Quality equipment will also give greater accuracy on many cuts such as joining or squaring.

Hand wood carving tools often give greater finesse and detail. These may not be seen as being accurate tools. That is in error.

The key is what the cut is for and if the tool is designed for it. Smaller cuts in wood for joints can be far more accurate when done well.

In short, I would advise to use the proper tool for the proper job. With hand tools it simply requires more practice to gain the necessary skill for the cut.