Improving Your Tools
Wooden tools wear out fast, so it’s best to upgrade your kit as quickly as possible.
Each type of material has a different level of durability. Think of durability as the number of useful actions the tool can perform before it wears out completely, disappearing in a sudden splintering of wood. I’ve included the durability in parentheses after each material’s description:
- Gold (33)—Although this is the least durable material, a gold pickaxe can break blocks out of most softer materials in the blink of an eye, and it happens to be the most enchantable material, so you can imbue it with superpowers. But given that gold is about five times as rare as iron, and gold can be used to craft many other useful items, I wouldn’t recommend using it for tools.
- Wood (60)—It’s easy to obtain, especially in an emergency aboveground, but think of wood as just a means of getting to cobblestone because, unlike the latter, wooden tools can’t mine the more valuable ores such as iron, gold, diamond, and redstone. You will at least need a wooden pickaxe to mine stone because doing so with your bare hands will just break the stone into unusable dust, but after that, swap them out for something tougher.
- Stone (132)—With just a touch over twice the longevity of wood, stone makes a great starting point for more serious mining and other activities such as slaying mobs. Stone tools are built from cobblestone blocks, which in turn come from stone. That may seem a little confusing, but it will seem natural enough after a while.
- Iron (251)—Iron will become your go-to material. It is found most commonly all the way from bedrock, the lowest layer of the Minecraft world, up to about 20 levels below sea level. Iron is used for building all kinds of tools, implements, and devices including armor, buckets (for carrying water, lava, and milk), compasses, minecarts, and minecart tracks. All these require at least iron ingots obtained by smelting the ore in a furnace, with each block of ore producing one ingot. Ingots and many other items are found scattered throughout the world in village chests, mine shafts, dungeons, and strongholds. You might also find them as drops from slain zombies and iron golems—although I definitely don’t recommend tackling the latter.
- Diamond (1562)—It’s the strongest material of all but also the most expensive given that diamonds are relatively rare. (You will enjoy the moment you do find your first diamond, but it’s found only in the first 16 layers above bedrock, the lowest layer in the Minecraft world, and even then it’s about 25 times as scarce as iron.) A diamond pickaxe is the only material that can successfully mine obsidian, a material required for creating the portal to reach The Nether region. Given that diamond is much scarcer than iron but only six times as durable, you should use iron pickaxes as much as possible and only switch to diamond when you need to mine obsidian to reach The Nether. You’re better off saving any diamonds you find for weapons (a diamond sword does more damage, and that combined with its increased durability will ensure it lasts much longer than any other material while doing more damage where it counts), armor, and enchantment tables.
The recipes for crafting tools from all materials are identical, save for the replacement of the head of the implement with the material of choice. As long as you have the right materials, that version of the tool appears selectable in the crafting interface:
To make a stone pick, you need two wooden sticks for the handle and three cobblestone blocks.
Replace in the same way for the axe and the sword.
You might also want to add a shovel to your collection because it’s about four times faster than using hands to harvest softer materials such as dirt, gravel, sand, clay, and snow, and it helps some of those blocks deliver resources rather than just breaking down. For example, only a shovel can gather snow balls from snow.
As you craft more items, you need to find somewhere to store those you don’t need to use right away. You should also store other resources and food you find on your travels so they’re not lost if you come to an unfortunate end. That comes next.