In general, the term "woodworking" is used to refer to all practical and artistic endeavors that involve wood, such as carving, building or simply creating 3-dimensional art. In any time period, woodworking hand tools might be used to build furniture or homes, make other tools and carve art pieces like statues. Over time, different tools have been engineered for each specific task.
Man has worked with wood for as long as can be researched. Some of the earliest woodworking hand tools come from the archaeological sites at Kalambo Falls in Africa, Lehringen in Germany and Clacton-on-Sea in England, in the form of worked sticks and flint tools. The oldest date back as far as 300,000 B.C. In later Neolithic periods, carved wooden vessels show that humans were using more sophisticated woodworking tools. The ancient Egyptians depicted carvers at work in many drawings, and numerous examples of furniture have been discovered in their tombs. Their woodworking tools--such as axes, chisels, pull saws and bow drills--were made of copper, and later bronze. The ancient Chinese used planes and chalklines in their woodwork. Art from the Bronze and Iron Ages also shows an abundance of woodworking-tool use.
Today, woodworking is highly specialized, and tools are designed to aid in fairly specific tasks. Thought there is some crossover, there are different tools for construction and home repair, for furniture-making, for cabinetry and for carving. Tools have been evolved for tasks unique to woodturning, such as carving out cylindrical objects like bedposts or stair railings. Carvers working from an artistic angle will use tools that are different from those on the commercial end. Although most industries now require the use of machines and mechanical tools, there is always a category of hand tools that are absolutely necessary for each job.
Most woodworking tools are easily recognizable, though some may be difficult to tell apart due to specialization. Common tools that can be used in almost any type of woodworking project include various types of hammer, the tape measure, the layout square, the utility knife and the level. Woodworkers often use a variety of chisels, screwdrivers, bevels, clamps, saws, wrenches, pliers and nail sets. More specific types of woodworking, such as carving, may involve the use of particular chisels and additional items like wood gouges.
Measuring tools like layout squares, tape measures and levels are used to double-check woodworking accuracy. The tape measure, which locks in place and hooks onto items, is used for distance measurement, while the layout square and level are used to measure angles. Different hammers and mallets exist to drive other tools or nails into wood; the claw hammer can even remove nails. Cutting and carving devices like chisels, utility knives, gouges and block planes remove chunks of wood, while wrenches, pliers and screwdrivers are used to manipulate hardware inserted into the wood.
Each type of woodworking hand tool comes in a variety of styles that are suited to specific purposes. Screwdrivers can be either flathead (used on single-slot screws), Phillips-head (used on two-slot screws) or socket-head (used on screws with a square indentation). Wood chisels come in many different sizes, and can be used for paring, sideways chiseling or perpendicular chiseling--each of which requires a special technique. Gouges, used mostly for carving, come in a huge range of types, including the straight gouge, the V-gouge, the fishtail gouge and the spoon gouge. Hand tools have infinite variety.