Surprisingly, professional woodworking tools aren’t just the top of the line in miter saws or table saws. Instead, the tools professionals use for woodworking are unique in their capability and are built to improve speed and quality of the work.
For example, most DIY woodworkers start with pocket hole joinery and possibly dowel jigs or biscuits.
But a professional uses advanced wood joinery tools like a Festool DOMINO to create loose tenon joints.
After almost thirty years of woodworking my shop has grown from the basics to hand tools that cost more than my first table saw. Learn what tools I now own and wish I had collected years ago.
#1 - Festool DOMINO for Creating Loose Tenons
The first thing to know about professional woodworking tools is this: they aren’t the big box brands.
Instead, professionals turn to highly specialized woodworking tools that cut more precise, speed up production or have unique capability.
Why, then, is the Festool DOMINO on this list? Well, woodworking at its very basics is simply joining wood together to create a structure. And the DOMINO takes a traditional mortise and tenon joint (used for thousands of years) and creates a near-instant loose tenon joint.
- Loose tenons that are superior to biscuits, dowels and pocket hole screws
- Speed of joint creation
- Portable to allow you to take the machine to the wood
Why do professionals use a DOMINO? Aside from the patent Festool holds on this unique tool, its speed and accuracy for furniture and cabinetmaking are un-rivaled.
#2 - Professional Grade Festool Kapex Miter Saw
While I’m not showing off my collection of Festool tools, it is worth understanding a professional doesn’t use a $299 miter saw.
Because of the features and accuracy a high end saw offer, including:
- Laser guides for perfect cuts
- Advanced dust collection
- Quick hold-downs
- Maximum cut capacity
- Compact, bench-friendly design
Expensive? Yes. But you’ll crosscut more wood in your shop than you’ll rip. So agreeing to a price-point that’s competitive with a table saw isn’t really a decision – it’s a must. A top rated miter saw will be in your shop for decades to come.
#3 - Power Feeder For SHapers and Router Tables
From making shaker cabinet doors to a simple quarter round edge a router table is a staple in every professionals shop.
But pushing hundreds or thousands of lineal feet of lumber through a table saw or router table isn’t just tiring. It’s error prone.
Which is why a professional woodworker uses a power feeder that both reduces fatigue and prevents start/stop marks in the wood.
- Three or four speeds to adjust rate of stock feed into the bit or saw blade
- Downward pressure prevents stock from moving
- Adjustment allows for pressure into the fence
- Soft rollers won’t mar wood
- Available in sizes from “mini” for router tables up to industrial shaper and table saw feeders
- Single or three phase
Read more: Guide to the Best Woodworking Power Feeders
#4 - Slab Flattening Mill For Large Surfaces
While a drum sander is also on this list of professional woodworking tools, a slab flattening jig owns a top 10 spot because of it’s unique ability to flatten wood slabs weighing 500+ pounds.
All without you needing to lift the slab.
Unlike many other tools, you won’t find a lot of selection with these jigs. A few of the popular jigs include:
For my shop I paired the economical Woodhaven sled with a pair of linear rails and some ingenuity in a custom slab sled.
Read more: Guide to Slab Flattening Mills
#5 - Dust Extractor For Small power and Hand Tools
In most workshops the dust collection starts with the large tools like table saws, planers and drum sanders.
But even the best professional woodworking tools won’t function if the cutting or sanding surfaces are clogged.
The solution? Dust extractors that use HEPA grade filtration to capture small particles. Which, oddly enough, are MORE damaging to your health as they pass through your bodies defenses easier.
Things to look for? Well, I choose the Festool 574837 as it featured:
- 130 CFM of suction
- Long hose
- Extra capacity
- Powers on/off with the tool
- Flip-stop stand to keep it in place
And, of course, the Festool reputation.
Read more: Best Dust Collection Systems for Woodworking
#6 - Drum Sander For Perfectly Flat Panels
There aren’t any professional woodworking shops that don’t have a large drum sander or belt sander.
While you can sand a cabinet door, panel or cutting board flat with a belt sander, it is a slow process that produces a sub-par finish.
With a drum sander, professionals are able to:
- Sand single pieces of wood up to 50 inches wide
- Use low grit paper to sand rough surfaces
- Use high grit paper to create finish-ready surfaces
- Speed up production by turning a half day manual job into a few minutes
- Create perfectly flat finished pieces
Read More: Guide to Drum Sanders for Woodworking
#7 - Track Saw for Cutting Panels to Size
If there was one woodworking tool I wish I had thirty years ago it would be the track saw.
While similar in appearances to a circular saw, a track saw (by name) uses a track that guides it with laser precision for rips and crosscuts.
The benefits? Well, there are many:
- Using connecting tracks you can rip table tops, plywood sheets and even hardwood boards of any length
- Rather than lift a 75-pound 3/4 sheet of plywood thru a table saw, a track saw lets you accurately cut the sheet in place (I use a sheet of 2″ foam and a Bora centipede table).
- Track saws are now cordless – allowing you to tether to just your dust extractor
- Track saws have an un-paralleled system for producing chip-free cuts
And with a high quality professional woodworking brand like Makita offering up a saw under $500 these saws are affordable for many.
#8 - Professional Woodworking Jigs
The best way to spot a professional woodworker is to take a look at the jigs they use to do their jobs. In woodworking there are many steps that require repeated, high accuracy cutting, drilling or placement.
And woodworking jigs are a must to perform tasks like:
- Drill shelf pin holes
- Install drawer slides
- Drill concealed hinge cup holes
- Create pocket holes
- And many more
In fact, there are more than a dozen types of woodworking jigs (learn more here).
#9 - High Quality Woodworking Vises
Often overlooked, woodworking vise is a simple tool that dates back thousands of years.
Why does it belong on a professional woodworking tool list? Because many amateurs and serious hobbyists don’t have one. Or, the right one at least.
While a standard metal vise sits on top of a workbench, a woodworkers vise is built into the side of the bench. This offers:
- Large clamping surface
- Wood jaws that won’t mar your workpiece
- Holes in the top of the jaw for horizontal clamping with bench dogs
- Frees up the bench top for workpieces.
Read more: Guide to the Best Woodworking Vises
#10 - Professional Grade Woodworking Clamps
If there is one tool an amateur can buy and have for life its a woodworking clamp. And while professionals use a variety of clamps that will make your head spin, there are a few basics to start with:
- Owning dozens of bar clamps is necessary for bulk-gluing wood panels
- High quality trigger clamps (Bessey, Pony) allow for fast clamping
But for professionals, you’ll find they use tools like:
- Cabinet claws for installing cabinets
- High grade parallel clamps for precision glue-ups
- Custom clamps for track systems
Read more: Guide to Woodworking Clamps