Tips for Woodworking with Kids

Safety | Books and Links | Tools


First of all, don't be afraid about giving kids manual woodworking tools. Tools are less dangerous than people fear and kids aren't dumb: they don't want to get hurt either. Organized sports are much more dangerous, and people accept the possibility of serious sports related injuries - concussions, broken bones, etc -- more readily than they accept the risk of the very minor injuries a kid is likely to get woodworking.

Use normal precautions: teach kids about safe use of tools, use eye protection and work gloves, have a high adult/student ratio, 1:3 or so.

Post safety rules. Here is our version:

Safety Rules:

See Jack Mckee's (below) chapter on safety


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Books and Links

Two excellent books on woodworking with kids:


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John Mckee has an excellent chapter on tools in his book "Wood Shop for Kids" . There are a few things I could add:

Kid Sized Tools:

First of all, there is not really much need for "child sized" tools. Hammers, for instance, need the weight to work. The 7oz hammers, for example, don't have enough weight to really move the nail. A 16 oz hammer works well.

A kid-sized workbench is important. A 27 inch high bench is good for mid-elementary. Equip it with a wood vise.

Manual Tools:

It is easy to do just about everything with manual tools. We do cheat and let kids use electric hand sanders. Older kids sometimes use cordless drills.


Kid powered scrolls saws are an important tool in our workshop. Scroll saws are designed to cut shapes in wood. Our manual versions work surprisingly well. We generally work the saws in teams - one kid powering the saw and the other pushing the wood through the saw. Team work is good and kids enjoy both ends of the job. Use gloves.

We have a couple versions - both are easy to make. Kids love these saws. They have become woodshop essentials.

Photos: The following saw is made from a vintage saw plus a vintage bench grinder.

manual scroll saw

The saw below is a converted electric saw (merely replaced the motor with a lever attached to the bottom arm of the saw). One child moves the lever up and down while another guides the wood through the sawing blade.

manual scroll saw manual scroll saw

Scroll Saw Conversion Kit: Contact me at if you want to purchase our manual scroll saw conversion kit.

Detail Sander Accessory: The scroll saw can also be turned into a detail sander by wrapping sandpaper around a small tube into which you can insert the blade and attach it to the saw.


The alternative to these manual scroll saws are coping saws. Coping saws can be initially difficult and frustrating for children to use. If you use a coping saw, use it with the vise - with the wood held vertically. The saw then is held with its blade in a horizontal position. Kids' skills with the coping saw will improve and sawing will become less frustrating. You can also put "training wheels" on a coping saw. Make a two handled saw. Buy an extra saw to harvest its handle. You can saw with the child lumber jack style. (I think this is a Jack McKee idea).

double handed coping saw


The one tool I've had a little difficulty finding is a good hand saw. Most hand saws sold are "aggressive saws" - their teeth are sharpened on all sides. These are not safe for children. Alternatives such as smaller toothed PVC saws or hack saws are generally not adequate for wood. (Hack saws are fine for small jobs such as cutting small diameter dowels). After some searching, I found a nice hand saw made for drywall and plaster board, but works well on wood. It is made by Master Mechanic. It is called a 12" handsaw - 14 teeth per inch. You can wrap the original cardboard sheath with duct tape for safe storage.


Another tool we use a lot is a "nail spinner" This is a little attachment for a hand drill that lets kids drill a finishing nail or brad in the wood 1/4 of the way so that they can then hammer the nail in with out risking their fingers. You can get these at Sears Hardware. They are made by Craftsman. I had a bit of a hard time finding them online. You can get a more expensive version of the same thing made by Vermont American on Amazon. See links below:


This tool is made for drilling large holes, but braces are also great for putting in screws. Kids have trouble with screw drivers jumping out of the screw head, but using a brace helps a lot, especially if you use star-slotted or square-slotted screws. Ebay is the best place to get a nice brace.


The best place to get a hand drill is also Ebay. Try for a Millers Falls # 2.


If you want to get fancy, Logan makes a nice hand version of a disk sander. It is expensive - around $150.00. Certainly not essential, but fun.


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