Carpentry Hand Tools

There are a few carpentry hand tools that are essential for building most carpentry projects. As you browse the hand tool section at your local hardware store, you will see that there are quite a few hand tools that are available.

Carpentry Hand Tools

Some of these tools are perfect for very specific purposes, but not very useful to carry around with you all day long.

The list of essential carpentry hand tools that you will find in my tool belt are the following:

The Essential Carpentry Hand Tools

Chalk line: Use a chalk line to layout a floor for partition walls or floor tile. You can also use a chalk line on rafters for marking the starting point for roof decking; for marking floor joists for floor decking; for marking straight lines on plywood; basically, for marking straight lines on just about anything that is too large for a straight-edge tool.

Red and blue are common chalks colors. I prefer blue, but many carpenters prefer red because it is easier to see and doesn't seem to wash off as easily as blue.

Carpentry Hand Tools - Chalk Line
Carpentry Chalk Line

Carpenter's Pencil: A carpenter's pencil uses a hard graphite lead so it can be used to mark on wood or other rough material without easily breaking.

You can sharpen your carpenter's pencil with a razor knife, or you can use a special sharpener that is made for carpentry pencils. I like the latter because it puts a consistent point on the end. If you use a razor knife, be careful not to break the lead point when you are fine-tuning the tip.

Carpenters Pencils
Carpenter's Pencils

Utility knife: Use a utility knife, razor knife, or box cutter to quickly remove packaging from materials delivered to a job site. There are two types of utility knives that I own; the retractable blade type with a compartment that holds replacement blades, and the folding style that fits easily in your pocket.

Utility Knife
Utility Knife

I use the retractable blade style in my tool bag because it fits nicely in one of the narrow pockets. I use my folding style utility knife at times when I need my knife but I'm not wearing my tool belt.

Tin snips: Use tin snips to cut metal flashing to the size and shape you need. They are also handy for cutting the metal bands that typically bind lumber packages together for delivery.

Tin Snips
Tin Snips

Wood chisel: Use a wood chisel for chiseling part of a cut that your circular saw can't cut. As a builder of over 200 decks, I can say that a wood chisel is extremely useful as a wedge for prying deck boards into place before fastening them to the framing.

If all boards were perfectly straight, we would never need to do this, but wood is rarely perfect. Deck boards come in all shapes; bowed, cupped and crooked. For these boards, the chisel is the perfect tool.

Wood Chisel
Wood Chisel

Torpedo level: Use a torpedo level for leveling small openings where a 2 foot or 4 foot level won't fit. I keep a torpedo level in my toolbox for quickly leveling my travel trailer at campgrounds. Two-foot or four-foot levels are the best when leveling floor joists or plumbing walls.

Torpedo Level
Torpedo Level

Nail Puller: A nail-puller is a must have tool for residential framing. Sometimes carpenters make mistakes (I know it is rare) and have to remove a stud or joist that was installed incorrectly. There are many reasons why you might need to pull nails. When you do, a nail-puller is the right tool.

Speed Square: A Speed Square is a must-have tool in your toolbelt. They are super-handy for marking 90° angles on framing lumber and for marking roof pitch angles on common or jack rafters.

Tape Measure: A 25-foot Stanley is a commonly used tape measure on construction sites. I purchase a 30-footer, because I had wanted one for years, but never really needed the extra five feet.

Hammers: I own two types of hammers for driving nails: a 20-ounze smooth-face hammer for trim work, and a 22-ounce waffle-faced hammer for residential framing.

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