I prepare this page for beginners to woodworking or puzzle craft. If you are an experienced woodworker may be you can find 1-2 tips but I guess most of the experienced woodworkers have better solutions and methods than me. I hope this page may help to people who want to start puzzle craft with a low budget workshop.
I want start with my measuring tools. My most used tool is my caliper. I prefer a vernier caliper. I have also a digital caliper but I don’t use it. Workshops are dusty and when I need it give love battery alarm. For this reason I advise a good vernier caliper. You can learn easily how to read it if you didn’t use before. For beginning you can start also with a cheap caliper. 0.1 mm precision is enough for you. A cheap caliper can make some mistakes after a few year but for long years you can measure with 0.1 mm precision correctly. The second important equipment is my pencil. This is 0.3 mm thin versatile pencil. With a 0.3 mm pencil you can draw more precise lines than a 0.5 or 0.7 mm pencil. I don’t use carpenter pencils. And my steel ruler also is one of my most used tool. This is a thick hardened stainless steel ruler. One side is as an ordinary ruler with 1 mm spacing but other side has 0.5 mm spacing. Some time useful for precise marking. But you can start wit a standard steel ruler. I use two different machinist square in my workshop. One is small about 100 mm and the big one has a base and about 200 mm. Especially for making boxes and checking perpendicularity this tools are very useful. For beginning you can start with some small carpenter square. and under the caliper you can see my marking tool. This marker is very useful for marking drill entrance points. I use also a compass for drawing circles and another mostly for marking equidistant points. Precisely measuring and marking is important for me.
My most used saw is a hand miter saw I will explain it later.I use also some handsaws. One for wood and other one for metal. Some time I cut some brass or steel pieces. My most used handsaw is a jewelry handsaw (4). You can cut a lot of thing and complex shapes without a scroll saw. And the saw at the top of the photo is my less used tool(5). For beginning you don’t need it.
Sanding blocks and files are also indispensable tools of my workshop. Small files are very useful. For beginning you can use with a cheap set. I use them mostly for wood or brass. An aluminium file (1) is most unusual tool of my workshop. This is a two sided file. One side is rough and other side is fine. This tool was designed for aluminium but amazing for wood especially for hard woods. you will forget your wood rasps. I made some of my sending blocks myself. I made (2) by using a small knob, a steel dowel and a wooden file handle. number 3 also s my home made sanding block. You can buy some ready sanding blocks too. But finding small ones may be difficult but you can make them easily.
I have also a few more unusual tool for wood workshop. This cable cutter is very good for cutting 3-4 mm wooden rods. Cuts very easily in seconds and you obtain a clean edge. I use this circle template for drawing circles also for marking or for finding center of circles. A small hammer and plastic mallet is useful for mounting wooden or brass pins, dowels etc.
I think no need to say, a lot of clamps all type is a must for all wood workshop. For my small workshop I use a lot of small clamp.
My most used tool is my hand miter saw. Only with this saw by using ready stocks you can make thousands different puzzle. I broke three of them. You can guess how much I used this tool. This tool is ideal for beginners. İf you are a beginner power tools are dangerous. This one is safe. This tool is also very quite: I use this one in an apartment building. Walls are thin but I can work all day with this tool and also with my other hand tools.
I made an auxiliary table on my hand miter saw. You can see this table from photo. Very easy to make. I made from scrap wood. Normally when I cut long ready stocks I don’t use this table. But for small pieces this table is very useful. because back side clearance is big and if you want cut small pieces, for example making a slot on a small 20x20x20 mm cube this auxiliary table is useful.
I prefer mostly using hand tools. But unfortunately sanding is the most annoying part of woodworking. I prefer using a small palm sander. My workshop is very small and I haven’t enough space for other sanders. I use mostly ready stocks. Their surface mostly aren’t very rough. I prefer sanding my ready stocks before cutting them. After cutting and gluing them sanding each complex piece one by one may be difficult. After cutting my pieces I sand only cutting surfaces and I make chamfers if required.
I have also a small desktop vise. I glued some plastic pieces to its jaws. I am working mostly with wood and steel vise jaws make traces on wood.
You can make a hundreds of puzzles with this hand tools. I have also hundreds of puzzles made by my hand miter saw. But when I wanted to make a puzzle box, I need a table saw. I had a big table saw but I bought a small desktop table saw.
Puzzle box pieces are very small (puzzle pieces also are small for big table saws) and for cutting them without cutting my fingers I bought this one. Only desktop saw that you can buy if you live in Europe but there are better alternatives for USA etc.
If you want make some puzzles with pin and holes like “Pinpinix” or for some puzzle boxes, you will need to a drill press. Because with hand drills you can’t drill perfectly perpendicular holes. I am using a small desktop drill press. I can advise to add a wood drill bit set and metal drill bit set to your workshop. My drill bit sets starts from 1 mm and goes to 10 mm with half millimeter steps. For larger holes I have another wood drill set from 12 to 24 mm.
I have also a small desktop wood lathe, a power miter saw a small router etc.etc. but I don’t use them too much.
This is my small workshop. If you are a beginner you can start only with a hand miter saw and some sanding blocks. I advise using cheap wood ready stocks like pine. I advise to start with simple puzzles Nobody wants make a Soma cube but you can find less known simple puzzles like “Diabolic cube” for beginning. Non interlocking puzzles are better for beginning. Mostly your first puzzles won’t be beautiful but you will learn how to glue them, how to finish etc. After you can use better hard woods. I am using mostly beech ready stocks. They are available in hardware stores. ( I buy them from Bauhaus which is a chain store famous in Europe). If you want make a puzzle box, I can say puzzle boxes aren’t beginner projects. But I can advise plywood for making your first puzzle boxes. Plywood has a uniform thickness, widely available and don’t warp.
You can find a lot of information from woodworker sites and forums about tool selection, sanding tips, finish methods and tips. But “Puzzle craft” by Stewart Coffin is a very good beginner guide. I hope you find this page helpful.