Top 10 Tools Every Machinist Should Have

August 14, 2018 11:54 am

Having just the right tool for the job makes all the difference in getting the job done quickly and correctly. No place is this more important than in the machine shop.

Since every machining job differs from the previous one, there is no universal set of tools for every single machinist. It is a good practice, however, to buy a few basic tools to have always on hand and build a more customized toolbox from the ground up.

In the end, no one wants to start a new machine shop or a new job as a machinist without the tools they need.

When starting your first machine shop or job in the field, our suggestion is to pick up these basics, get a quality toolbox, and buy the rest as you go.

We’ve done some research, studied what you, the practical machinists, recommended on the forum and identified the 10 most important tools that every machinist should own.


1. Hand tools

DEKOPRO 128 Pieces Tool Set

Even though more and more operations in a machine shop are now performed by machines, there is no machine shop job where hand tools are not involved. For every category of tool, there are dozens of variations in size, shape, and design, so it is easy to see why most machinists have hundreds of tools in their rollaway chests.

This 128 pieces set has all the necessary hand tools every practical machinist should have to undertake any job


2. 6″ Scale

Mitutoyo 182-105, Steel Rule, 6″ X 150mm

A simple 6” scale is probably the most used tool for every type of job. A must-have tool for every manual worker.

Here’s what we recommend.


3. Combination Square

iGaging Combination Square Set 6″ & 12″

A good combination square, properly used, is worth its weight in gold. A good 6″ or 12″ combination square does far more than just help you draw perpendicular lines.

This is what we chose to start.


4. Deburring tool

NOGA SP7700 7 Pc. Complete Deburring Tool Set in Plastic Case

Deburring tools are incredibly useful when it comes to rounding out rough edges. These tools can also be used to remove chatter marks from machining.

This complete kit is has everything you need to start deburring your parts.


5. Telescoping Gauge

Anytime Tools Bore Gauge 6 pc 5/16″-6″ 

The telescoping gauge is used to measure the internal diameter of a bore, hole or groove. They are often used when the holes and bores are too small for calipers or internal micrometers.

Here’s what we recommend.


6. Caliper

Mitutoyo 500-196-30 Advanced Onsite Sensor (AOS) Absolute Scale Digital Caliper

The Vernier caliper is an extremely precise measuring instrument; it is used to measure internal and external distances extremely accurately – the error may be as little as 0.05 mm depending on the make.

We recommend this digital model for extreme precision.


7. Dial Indicator

Mitutoyo 513-402, .0005″ X .030″ Horizontal Test Indicator, 0-15-0

Dial indicators are typically used to measure deck clearances, crankshaft thrust and straightness, lifter travel and other measurements that involve the distance between two surfaces or small amounts of component travel.  The most commonly used type of dial indicator reads in .001-inch increments over a range of 1 inch.

Here’s what we recommend.


8. Edge Finder

Mitutoyo 050103, Edge/Center Finder

 Edge finders, or wigglers, are tools used to locate the edges, the center, layout markings or a previously machined feature. They are held in a collet, end mill holder or chuck mounted in the spindle of a milling machine or drill press.

This edge finder has the basic quality to achieve good results in every job.


9. Micrometers

Mitutoyo 103-922 Outside Micrometer Set with Standards, 0-3″ Range, 0.0001″ Graduation (3 Piece Set)

This precision measuring instrument is often used to measure diameters, thickness, and length of parts or material.

This set of micrometers has different ranges (0-1”, 1-2”, and 2-3”) to cover most types of jobs.


10. Center Punch

4 Piece Nail Setter & Center Punch Set

The center punch is a simple, yet pretty common and useful tool that every job shop should have. It is commonly used to mark the center of a drilling hole in order to guide the tip of the drill.

The simple set is our choice for all drilling operations.


Bonus Tools

Although the following tools didn’t make it to the top 10, they are still considered fundamental by the majority of our community. So here’s a bonus list of tools you should have in your tool box:


Allen Wrench

TEKTON Hex Key Wrench Set

TEKTON Hex Key Wrench Set

Allen wrenches are a universal tool that should always be part of a machinist’s toolbox. It is one of the easiest wrenches to use and is designed to help tighten or loosen screws and bolts that have a hexagonal socket in the head.

Here’s what we recommend.



Calculated Industries 4088 Machinist Calc Pro 2

Calculated Industries 4088 Machinist Calc Pro 2


Where there’s machining, there’s math. Luckily there are tools that can help make math easier and the most important one is a calculator. We recommend using a machinist calculator as it already has machining-specific keys, like surface feet per minute (SFPM), inch per tooth, inch per minute, and data about the most popular materials.

Here’s our favorite.



Nicholson 9 Piece Hand File Set

Nicholson 9 Piece Hand File Set

Files are probably the most used deburring tool in any machine shop. They are available in a wide variety of sizes and types depending on the material of the part and the type of edge.

This set by Nicholson contains 9 American Pattern files that will cover most of your roughing needs.



Neiko 02847A 2 LB Dead Blow Hammer

Neiko 02847A 2 LB Dead Blow Hammer


Often underestimated, hammers are one of the most used tools in any machine shop. They come in different shapes and materials to better address your needs. The two types we always recommend having are the Ball-Pein, used to deform soft materials, and the dead blow, generally used for objects which need a little more force in order to move.


Machinery’s Handbook

Machinery's Handbook, Toolbox Edition

Machinery’s Handbook, Toolbox Edition


Although technically not a tool, this book is a must-read for any professional machinist. The Machinery’s Handbook has been the most popular reference work in metalworking, design, engineering and manufacturing facilities, and technical schools and colleges throughout the world.  If you don’t have a copy, we recommend getting the pocket version and keeping it nearby while working in the shop.


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  • Steve J says:

    Vernier calipers are pretty much history. I prefer dial calipers as you can see the minimum for external dimensions which eliminates Abbe errors. electronic calipers which do english, metric & fractions are nice.

  • Moe says:

    Also a Crank Yanker for the Bridgeport.

  • Troutt’s Metal Works says:

    You left out one important tool. Adjustable parallels. When setting tool length it’s much easier to get close and use the parallels to gage the distance and measure with calipers. Quick and easy.

  • Aubie says:

    I would add inside mikes and depth gages as basics.

  • Marc says:

    Radius gauges?

  • Murph says:

    On the end of the combination square should be a Protractor and a center finder. All can be bought as a set or individual as needed .

  • rikbak says:

    You are fairly accurate about what tools, but except for the 6″ scale and edgefinder all of the tools you recommend are not of the best quality. They will get the job done but if you are going to be using every day you might think about spending a little more money on tools that will last a lifetime and be accurate.

  • Edwin says:

    Telescoping gauges are one of the least reliable way to measure internal diameters. I’d stick with calipers until you can afford a bore gauge or internal micrometer.

    I would add a 3d sensor like a Haimer gauge, since you can use it for edge finding, tramming and aligning.

  • DyinTimesHere says:

    How about a tool box to put all that stuff in

  • brian says:

    A claw hammer? how about a ball pein,dead blow hammer,I have been in the trade for 50 years and still have my original mike’s, one funny note, when i was young i was told not buy many tools because we were going to be all metric in a few years, not true

  • A good precision square is a must have to do any quality work. The combination square isn’t accurate enough. Mine sees most of its use at the cutoff saw.

  • IanN says:

    The most important tool any engineer will ever own is a note book

  • Etch says:

    Let’s remember what the author of the list intended and not be so critical. He said,” when starting your first machine shop job….” I agree with his list as a starter and to continue to build as you go. Imagine the apprentice today and him 40 years from now .many changes will take place … Methods and tooling will too.

  • Bill says:

    A 6” & 12” vernier depth gage & a depth mike set are very useful. 123 blocks and adjustable parallels great for set up. Buy the best measuring tools, Starett or used Brown & Sharp they will last a life time.

  • John says:

    An endmill sharpener is most important for keeping those $200.00 carbide tools sharp every day.

  • bluejeep says:

    How about the Sharpie . Also a good set of Allen wrenches, Rolling head pry bar, Transfer punches, Scratch paper pads, a set of pin gauges, a set of spotting drills, not just lathe center drills. and a simple tool that has been a hero many a times: a pair of Vampliers.

  • swilhelm says:

    I’ve had trouble measuring inside diameters with snap gauges in soft metals. I can get good results in holes in steel. But, I can’t get a consistent result at all in soft (99.9%) copper. No matter how gently I lock them and how gently I seek to measure the results (with a micrometer), I get results all over the map. Am I doing something wrong, or are snap gauges just not suited to soft materials?

  • Bink says:

    ok guyes and gals of the trade;
    After fifty years in the trade all of these tools are basic and essential.. But myself, one tool that seemed to be forgotten is the good old pencil with an eraser. I always carried that and a 6 inch scale, my best partners in machining. Good to see that there are still machinists out there, keep the good work up

  • GR says:

    This comment string made me look up Abbe (thought is was a typo!) and Vamplier. Learn something new every once in a while

  • Capt Phil says:

    As a former machinist, machine shop owner employing a number of machinist’s, who each ran different machines and who depended on each other to help each other in helping each other at some time during the shift……..I would put dependable transportation (getting to work on time, every day) at the top of the list.

  • torkie says:

    definitely quality snap gauges. use a shot of wd-40 on softer holes. maybe a 5″sine bar. quality electronic calipers are a must as are vertical and horizontal indicators. love my Interpid vertical. for bearing plates with multiple bores a set of diemakers buttons and a carr-lane makes for very precise patterns. get a set of chinese 1.2.3 blocks and square/size them to – ,0100 for setup blocks. all calipers and mikes should have carbide surfaces. i always have a 5x optivisor on. and in general, re Capt Phils comment. solid transportation is a must as is a good attitude at work.

  • Bruski says:

    Every tool in my box is important. Some I don’t use but once a year ,but I would rather search my box then the whole shop looking for it. It’s amazing the things you can use for tools.

  • Peter says:

    The rest of the world did Lol. Here in Australia I still use my old imperial Mitutoyo gauges, mics etc & my new Metric Mitutoyo gauges, mics etc. I have other cheaper quality items for roughing in & then finish with the newer units.

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