Tools for the Task

Originally, I’d thought about waiting until I was done with the entire project to be finished and uploading a single post explaining the entire build. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I should probably make at least a few separate posts, as there are going to be some tools to acquire, and most people (including myself) will want some practice before they start in on the whole project.

My goal with this build (and every furniture build I do going forward) will be to use 1) as few tools as possible and 2) to use techniques that don’t require incredibly specialized machinery. However, since the focus of this blog is doing things BETTER, this will not be a situation where you can get away with just a circular saw, pockethole jig, and a cordless drill. If you don’t have a family member who has access to the tools I suggest, I HIGHLY recommend looking for a local woodworking guild, such as the St. Louis Woodworkers Guild. They can provide educational tools, guidance, and maybe even a workshop like the St. Louis guild offers.

Finally, many of these tools can be acquired on Craigslist (always be safe!), at antique malls, or in your grandparents attic. It’s a lot more fun to use old tools, and they’re often higher quality.

(I am sure I am forgetting some tools. If I do, I’ll talk about them in the post for that given part of the project. These are the major ones).

Necessary tools:

Table Saw: Because we are going to be working with high quality lumber for this project, and not construction grade lumber, we’re going to require a table saw. That’s because lumber yards sell hardwoods (and some softwoods) in random widths. This means one board of wood will be 6″ wide, one will be 4.5″ wide, etc. We’ll go over lumber selection in the next blog, but the key to getting uniform pieces is going to be using a table saw to rip everything down to width. If you absolutely don’t have access to a table saw, you MIGHT be able to get away with a circular saw if you use some kind of guide to ensure a straight line.

Miter Saw: Because we’re not cutting any complex angles on this project, you don’t necessarily need a massive compound miter saw. But you will need something that has a cutting depth of at least 3.75″. That means you’ll need a 10 inch blade, likely. Here again, you can get away with a simple circular saw but make sure to use a square or something to make nice perpendicular cuts, and you may have to cut from two sides to get through.

Router with Table/Base: Some of the joints we’ll be doing will require dovetails, and the paneling on the head and foot board will use a groove to set the panel into. The we’ll use a dovetail bit, and a straight bit. The table/base will have a fence on it that will allow you to make precise, straight cuts. You could probably create some sort of sled to guide the bits along the length of the boards if you don’t have a table, but I think this would be very difficult.

Chisels: OK, so the really expensive and bulky tools required are out of the way. But no less essential are the chisels. We’ll be cutting mortises, and chisels are going to be the easiest and cheapest way to do that, if not the fastest. Here’s a decent set from Harbor Freight, and here’s a video from Paul Sellers on how to sharpen them with just sandpaper.


Hand Saw: We’ll be using plain old hand saws to cut some of the tenons on here. If you’re really dedicated, you could use hand saws in place of the miter saw too! That used to be the only way to do it (even hand ripping boards to width). Our tasks will be smaller. Here’s a small Ryoba saw from Harbor Freight that will handle both rip and cross cuts, and won’t break the bank.

Hand Plane: You have a number of routes you can go with your hand plane choices. The most common would be like a #4 smoothing plane. I am lucky to have access to my grandfather’s #5 jack plane while he’s refurbishing one for me; it’s a really good, all around plane. Either way, older seems to be better than newer, and I recommend antique malls and Craigslist for finding these. If you have access to a power jointer (as I will once I take the safety class at the guild) you could probably skip this tool. But it’s such a great tool to have, you really should get one.


Clamps: Clamps, clamps, clamps, clamps! We will be laminating wood together (easier than it sounds) and you’ll need a bunch of clamps. Don’t worry, they’re cheap and you never have enough. I recommend the screw type, you get more pressure. But use a few quick clamps just to get everything locked in place at beginning.

Power Drill: Corded, cordless, doesn’t matter. It will play a minor role. If it can drive screws and drill small holes, you’re set.

Safety Equipment!: I put it last, but not because it’s least important (it’s just not as sexy as the rest of the tools). You absolutely need eye protection, ear protection, and at least a cheap dust mask. If you’re working inside in a basement shop, you need to connect at least a shop vac to your tools. Sawdust is nasty stuff for your lungs, you can’t be too safe!

Misc others: Pencil, hammer, combination square, tape measure, sandpaper, wood glue, nails, stain of your choice, sealer of your choice (like a polyurethane). You will also need bed rail brackets from Rockler, I’ll talk about those in the post directly when we get there.

Optional Equipment:

All of these items will make your life easier, but you don’t necessarily need them. I’ll list them just as bullets, feel free to email if you need more info:

-Woodworkers vise

-Miter gauge

-Power sanders

Hand Brace with auger bit

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