By Chris Black
Over the years we’ve been asked numerous times if we carry children’s tool sets. Unfortunately, the quality of these sets marketed for children is so shoddy that the tools quickly break, or they are unusable to begin with. Like learning to play music on a cheap instrument, working wood with poorly constructed tools will soon frustrate even the most ambitious student. We recommend buying quality, age appropriate tools. Even if you purchase professional class tools, your investment can still be modest.
As rewarding as woodworking is, it is also inherently dangerous. Tools are not toys. Adults must closely supervise children. You are personally responsible for learning proper techniques and teaching these skills to your children. Remember, always wear eye protection! Our child-sized safety glasses (818349) have adjustable temple arms to fit most heads. Time spent crafting with kids is a great joy, so use good judgment and keep it safe.
TOOLS & MATERIALS
Tools for children must work right out of the box without modification. Only a minimal amount of skill should be necessary to put the tools into service, and they need to fit small hands. The tools listed here meet these standards. As for materials, stick with softer woods like white pine and basswood. These woods are inexpensive, easy to work and readily available at any home center.
- SAFETY GLASSES (818349) – an absolute must for kids and adults
- PORTABLE WORKBENCH VISE (169133) – You’ll need a way to hold the wood while you work with it. This one can be mounted just about anywhere, like on a picnic table.
- EASY CARPENTRY FOR CHILDREN (202644) – A wonderful little book with basic projects that require just a few tools.
- WOODWORKING FOR KIDS (202463) – A more detailed study with extra projects.
- COPING SAW (051901) – These saws are prefect for children. They cut on the pull stroke (easier for children), and the inexpensive blades are replaceable.
- SCHROEDER HAND DRILL (071817) – Eggbeater type drills like this are safe and fun to use. You should also get a 1/16” drill bit for making starter holes for nails and a 1/8” bit for screws. Loading the screw threads with a little candle wax makes driving screws effortless.
- SURFORM TOOL (8131219) – Surforms smooth and shape wood fast, fit small hands and have replaceable cutting surfaces. Unlike a handplane, a Surform doesn’t need to be tuned or sharpened to work.
- 6″ COMBINATION SQUARE (461520) – A small, adjustable square helps mark out projects with straight lines.
- SMALL JAPANESE HAMMER (146605) – Any small hammer will do, but we’ve found that traditional Japanese hammers are better balanced, and are more comfortable for kids to use.
- WOOD GLUE (165039) – Basic white school glue works just fine. Our yellow woodworking variety sets faster for short attention spans.
- 16” STANDARD TAPE MEASURE (167238) – This one has a rubberized armored case, so it won’t break when it hits the basement floor.
- SCREWDRIVERS – One slotted, one Phillips.
- PLIERS – for straightening or pulling bent nails.
- NAIL & SCREW ASSORTMENT
- SANDPAPER – 80 OR 100 grit. Anything finer is not necessary at this level.
- PENCIL & SHARPENER
- RUBBERBANDS – Use them as clamps while the glue dries.
Even though we want to emphasize safety, too often these projects become our projects. Let the kids do the work. The point is not necessarily to accomplish a task or even finish a job. Kids operate in the moment, and are more interested in the process than getting the job done.
Keep the tasks simple at first. Limit your initial projects to something that can be accomplished in about an hour or so. Boats with paper sails, cutting boards and one or two piece toys will spark interest and lead to more complex ideas later.
If you purchased just the tools listed here (the ones with our part numbers), your initial investment would be just under $120 with shipping. Although this is a considerable sum, it’s much less than a hand held video game system or the latest battery powered whiz-bang. We’d like to think doing something interactive with your kids, like woodworking, will create more happiness, joy and memories in your lives than a video game. WONDERFUL!
I saw your reference to woodworking with kids and safety and thought your readers might like to know the safety chapter of my book, Woodshop for Kids is on line at