The Only 5 Tools You Need For DIY Projects

November 17, 2022

Hi! I'm Nicole

Fearless DIY. Sharing building project tutorials and interior design tips. Let’s build something beautiful together. For more projects, design tips and behind the scenes, follow me @designtobuild.nicole

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If you’re like me, you feel like you have to have every tool, known to woodworkers, before taking on this DIY venture. But really, there’s not much to it. There are only 5 general tools you really need. And, good chance, you already have a couple of them.

Although my dream is to have a big workshop with stationary tools throughout–reality is: my workshop is my garage. And most nights we’re having to park our vehicles out in the driveway because my garage has been overtaken by my latest project and all of my woodworking equipment. Workshop goals, for sure. But for now, this works. 🙂

Two partially built tables in a garage

As you’ll see in my list of tools below, Ridgid Tools are my go-to. They have a great product line of virtually every tool I could possibly want. I find extreme value in that they offer a lifetime warranty on all of their tools. I have tested this out a few times, unfortunately. Seeing that I usually go from one woodworking project to the next, my tools get a lot of use. In the past, I’ve had to take my orbital sander, nailgun, and drill all into the shop. Ridgid offers superior service. If they are unable to repair your tool, they will replace it with a brand new one. For me, this is reason enough to continue to purchase Ridgid

So, what are the only 5 tools you need for DIY projects?

Most used tool #1: Cordless Drill

This is my most used tool. Definitely, a must-have! From DIY renovation projects to hanging pictures, I use my drill almost daily. Here is the cordless drill I have and love.

Basics on how to use a Cordless Drill

  • Along with your drill, you will want to purchase drill bits and driver bits. (Note: For my bits I like to use DeWalt; I feel the quality of their bits is better. Therefore, these are my go-to for drill bits and driver bits).
  • To insert a drill bit, simply twist the chuck (nose of the drill), until the opening is large enough to stick your drill bit into. You will then need to turn the chuck clockwise until it is tightly holding the bit.
  • Drill bits are used to create a pilot hole for you to then use your driver bit to drive the screw into. For example, if I am needing to attach hardware to a cabinet door, I’m going to want to drill my holes first (using a drill bit). This will make driving the screw into the cabinet door more precise and much easier. The key is to make your pilot hole narrower than the width of your screw.
  • Depending on the size of the screw, you will want to adjust the gear switch accordingly. This is the rotating dial on your drill with all of the numbers on it. The higher the number the faster the speed of the drill. For a thicker, more substantial wood screw, you will want to use a higher speed. For a smaller screw, a slower speed.

Ridgid drill on table base

Most used tool #2: Miter Saw (also called a Chop Saw)

Although places like Home Depot can usually rip your boards for you, you will need to make individual cuts and a miter saw is the easiest, most precise way to get the job done. Great for straight cuts and bevel cuts a miter saw is my second most used tool. Once again, I love Ridgid products primarily for their lifetime guarantee. If anything goes wrong with your tool, you simply take it to your nearest Home Depot and they will mail it to Ridgid for you. If Ridgid is unable to fix it, they will replace it for free! That being said, be sure to register your Ridgid products to take advantage of the lifetime warranty.

Basics on how to use a Miter Saw

  • When it comes to saws, where do you even begin. Band saws? Table saws? Circular saws? There are so many options out there. But thankfully, if you’re just getting started in woodworking, this option will be all you really need.
  • I also highly recommend this portable stand to attach your miter saw to. So simple: wheel it in place, press the foot release and voila, your miter saw is ready to use…
  • Draw a line on your board and make your cut just to the right of that line.
  • If you want to make a miter cut, move the arm of your miter guage to the degree you wish to make your cut.
  • If you want to make a bevel cut, change the tilt of your blade. To do this, loosen the crank in the back of the saw, grab the handle on top of the saw (without pressing the trigger) and pull the saw to one side.
  • The best practice when working with any cutting tool is slow and steady. The natural instinct is to push the blade through the wood as fast as possible. The mind says, the faster I cut through this the faster I can move away from this blade. But in reality, you will have less chance of accidental contact with the blade if you take your time and slowly pull the saw down to cut through the wood.
  • And of course, always be sure to protect your eyes and ears.

One of my many tools: Ridgid miter saw


Miter saw on a stand

Most used tool #3: Orbital Sander

Not my favorite tool. Haha! Sanding is not my happy place. But, like it or not, it IS a must have! I have two different sanders: this one for smaller surfaces…(Amazon Affiliate Link)

Ridgid small hand held sander

And this one for larger surfaces…(Amazon Affiliate Link)…

Ridgid hand held larger sander

But, to be honest, you can definitely get by with the smaller sander. I use that one more than my larger one. My larger one, I primarily use on table tops. So, if choosing between the two, get the smaller one. 🙂 Down the road you can invest in a larger sander, such as a wide belt sander. But for just getting started, this one is all you need.

Basics on how to use an Orbital Sander

  • One of the biggest mistakes people make when sanding is pressing down on the sander. The key is to let the sander do the work for you. Hold the handle firmly, but allow the sander to glide across the wood.
  • If your sander starts to smoke, chances are good the dust collector needs emptied. Be sure to empty this out throughout your project.
  • The order of the sanding pads matters greatly! Especially when building furniture. I like to start with a 60-grit sandpaper to smooth the rough parts of my lumber. From here, I sand the entire piece with a 120, then a 180 and finally a 220-grit. This process is sure to give you that smooth furniture finish you get from a piece bought at the store. It also eliminates any chance of having swirly lines throughout your wood. Jumping straight from 60 grit to 220 is sure to leave you with these unsightly, almost impossible to get out, indentations. Long story short, although it is a lot more work to go through all the sandpaper transitions, it is SO worth it in the end.

Most used tool #4: Nail Gun

Why not just use a hammer? Well, a nail gun is so much faster and easier to use, especially on larger projects; you avoid hammer indentations; you can sink your nails; you’ll feel like a boss with your nail gun and the list goes on….

I use my nail gun for almost every project. You cannot go wrong with this one here. The best part is, it’s cordless. This makes it easy to whip out real fast for those quick projects. Cordless power tools are the best!

Basics on how to use a Nail Gun

  • There truly is no easier tool to use. You simply load it with nails, hold it against the surface and pull the trigger.
  • When nailing into a wall where there is no stud to go into, it’s best to angle your nails. Shoot two nails in alternating directions. This will make a cross and ensure a stronger hold.
  • On most nail guns, you can choose from two settings: 1. Pull the trigger each time you shoot a nail. Or 2. Keep the trigger pressed to fire multiple nails consecutively. I honestly never use option 2. I feel like I have more control over the nail gun when I drive the nails in one at a time.

boards separated with paint sticks and one of my favorite tools, nailgun

Most used tool #5: Kreg Jig

Saving the best for last! This is by far my favorite tool! I can’t imagine my life without this tool. Too much? But seriously, my projects would take so much longer and would be so difficult without my Kreg Jig.

Now, before the name scares you away, let me tell you what it is. It’s used for drilling pocket holes, which create a strong joint between two boards.

I use this tool for every furniture piece that I build. Without it, I would have to pre-drill a hole and countersink my screws. The Kreg Jig gives me a very strong joint and hides the screws. If you don’t have one, you need one! If I had to give up all but two of my tools, I would keep my Kreg Jig and drill. (Amazon Affiliate Links)

Basics on how to use a Kreg Jig

  • The easiest way to show you how to use a Kreg Jig is by referring you to this post. You’ll find a video I created a few years ago that explains the process so clearly.

two tools: kreg jig and drill

High quality woodworking is achievable with these general woodworking tools.

So, there you have it! The only five tools you really need. A little less intimidating? It should be! You’ve got this!

And let me just warn you, once you complete your first project, you’ll want to keep going. And as you go you’ll see continuous improvement.

As always, let me know if you have any questions.

Let’s go beyond the design to build something beautiful together!

Disclaimer: Always be sure to follow safety standards when working with power tools. Having the right products is a must. Safety glasses, ear protection and a dust mask are the most important.

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girl building a fireplace hearth

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Where to go next…

A Few More Essential Tools for DIY Projects

A Great 1st Project Post! 

This post only requires a couple power tools 🙂

Sources: (Affiliate Links Included)

Cordless Drill

Driver Bits

Drill Bits

Miter Saw

Miter Saw Stand

Orbital Sander

Orbital Sander (Larger Surfaces)

Nail Gun

Kreg Jig







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