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What Are the Different Types of Woodworking Machines?

Woodworking machines are the backbone of any woodshop, ranging from saws that slice through timber with precision to routers that shape edges artistically. Jointers and planers smooth surfaces, while lathes spin wood into symmetrical masterpieces. Each machine offers unique capabilities to transform raw lumber into crafted treasures. Wondering which machine can elevate your woodworking projects? Let's explore their functions together.
Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari

Any machine, motorized or non-motorized, that is designed to cut, alter, or otherwise fashion wood can be considered one of the many woodworking machines available to carpenters and hobbyists.The two basic categories of woodworking machines are handheld power tools and stationary machines; handheld power tools are smaller and portable, and a user can pick them up to use them. Stationary machines usually require a user to move the piece of wood rather than the machines themselves, and they tend to be much larger and heavier than other types of tools.

Drills and saws are common handheld woodworking machines. A circular saw, for example, features a round blade that rotates at high speeds to form straight cuts along the length of a board. The circular saw is motorized, and it may feature a cord and plug that can be connected to a wall outlet, or it may have a rechargeable battery that makes the unit even more portable and functional. Battery-operated saws tend to be less powerful, however, and as the battery drains, the consistency of the motor's speed can fluctuate. Handheld drills feature a quickly rotating drill bit useful for drilling holes in wood. These, too, can feature a cord or batteries.

A power sander, which is used for woodworking.
A power sander, which is used for woodworking.

A few examples of stationary woodworking machines include drill presses, table saws, and CNC routers. Drill presses create holes in a piece of wood, but they have an advantage over handheld drills: the accuracy of the cut is much greater with a drill press, and the same precision cut can be made over and over again on several pieces of wood without having to re-measure. Table saws function much like a circular saw, except the blade is mounted beneath a tabletop. The top of the blade protrudes through the tabletop, and a piece of wood can be moved along the table to make the cut. This ensures an even, straight cut along the length of a long piece of wood.

A jointer, which is used to make one side of a wooden board flat.
A jointer, which is used to make one side of a wooden board flat.

Computer numeric control (CNC) woodworking machines feature a computer that can be programmed to make a specific cut or series of cuts. A CNC router is one such machine. A rotating bit can be programmed to move along a trolley and arm system over a piece of wood, and it can be dropped onto the wood at various locations to drill holes, finish edges, or otherwise make cuts. Other CNC machines exist as well to serve various functions.

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Discussion Comments


Has anyone ever seen any of those shows with the people that make various projects using old woodworking machines? I think they are very exciting to watch how people used to have to go about building furniture and the like.

The other thing I don't think a lot of people consider is how they made the blades for those things before they had machines to mass produce them. I would be interested to hear about it if anyone knows. My guess is that the woodworker himself would get the metal and cut the teeth the right shape.

I think the other really interesting part is that all of the various woodworking machines were powered by the feet. I would really like to be able to get an up close look at some of them to see exactly how everything fit together.


@TreeMan - Another really good project for beginners is to build your own workbench. You would have all the materials you need, too. By building your own bench, you can have it be to your exact specifications in terms of height and depth, and you can custom fit it to your work space.

Another tool that hasn't been mentioned yet is the miter saw. They are really useful for a lot of things. If you are cutting trim, they are crucial, but besides that, they are still good for chopping dimensional lumber and are easier to use than a table saw for long pieces.

I think my one suggestion for everyone would be to look into buying woodworking machines used. I have found a ton of high quality tools in great working condition at auctions and things like that. You can save a lot of money that way.


@TreeMan - Like you've already figured out, the tools you will need really just depends on what type of work you are going to be doing. I can't blame you for not wanting to start with furniture, and yard craft things definitely aren't for everyone. I can think of a couple ways you might want to start.

I was always more interested in the detailed woodworking stuff, so my first projects were with intarsia. Basically, you use a bunch of different colored woods of different heights and depths to make pictures. The designs are easy to find and are very impressive when done well.

If that is what you think you might want to do, you'll definitely have to invest in a good scroll saw, and a band saw might be a good addition later on.


I have just gotten into woodworking and was wondering if anyone had any good suggestions for what tools will be the most essential. I have had a circular saw for a while just to cut 2x4s and things like that, but once I decided I wanted to start making projects I decided a table saw and sabre saw would be useful, and I found a good deal on them. I am thinking maybe a band saw would be useful, but I'm not really sure. I don't know that I have ever seen anyone use one of them.

Part of the problem is that I'm not really sure yet what I would like to make. I guess there is a lot of glory in being able to make furniture, but I feel like I probably should start a little bit smaller. At the same time, I don't really want to be making lawn ornaments and those types of things either. That being said, any suggests on good beginners projects would be helpful.

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    • A power sander, which is used for woodworking.
      By: Negaro Imaging
      A power sander, which is used for woodworking.
    • A jointer, which is used to make one side of a wooden board flat.
      A jointer, which is used to make one side of a wooden board flat.
    • When woodworking, a miter saw is ideal for making precise crosscuts.
      By: Dmitry Naumov
      When woodworking, a miter saw is ideal for making precise crosscuts.