What Tools Should I Upgrade First in Stardew Valley?

Tools are an essential part of any farm-life game and Stardew Valley is no exception. Upgrading the right tools at the right time can make the game much smoother, and using an original pick axe and water can by Fall can make you start wondering why the heck so many people claim this drudging game is relaxing.

Stardew Valley is an incredible game, and for those of us who have put in 1,000+ hours into the game (something that is very common among Stardew players) coming back to SV is as easy as a cyclist going for an afternoon ride. This can make it easy to forget that in the beginning, there was an awful lot to learn!

If there’s one bit of tool advice I’d give to a new Stardew Valley player it’s this: I’m a huge proponent that the best first tool upgrade in Stardew Valley is ALWAYS the copper pickaxe.

furnaces in mine Stardew Valley
Yes, these will make planting large fields much easier once we convert these bars into quality sprinklers.

How Upgrading Tools Works In Stardew Valley

The first thing to understand is that there are several upgrade levels for the tools. To get the higher level upgrades you need to have done the proper upgrades in the previous steps.

In other words all basic tools go to copper, copper to steel (via iron bars), steel to gold, and gold to iridium. A basic tool can’t upgrade up to a steel or gold tool, for example, even if you have the bars and the income.

You don’t need to upgrade everything to copper, then everything to steel, etc. Each tool follows its own track for upgrades.

  • Basic to Copper
  • Copper to Steel (Iron Bars)
  • Steel to Gold
  • Gold to Iridium

With this in mind, it’s possible (and even advisable) to sometimes sprint for the gold version of one tool before even upgrading a basic tool of another type.

Best Tool Upgrades for Stardew Valley in Order

Keep in mind that because of the huge difference in cost between a copper tool upgrade and an iridium tool upgrade, its possible that a less important upgrade might jump one that would be more useful, but is practically going to be out of reach of the average farmer.

In other words that iridium pickaxe is arguably the most useful tool in the entire game…but with how far in the game you need to be and the investment, most of your tools will be mostly upgraded before you get to it.

The best order to upgrade tools in Stardew Valley:

  • Copper Pickaxe
  • Steel Pickaxe
  • Copper Axe
  • Copper Water Can* (If you had a really good spring and have quality sprinklers out in force before summer then you can drop this under the gold pickaxe AND the steel axe)
  • Gold Pickaxe
  • Steel Axe
  • Copper Hoe
  • Gold Axe
  • Steel Hoe
  • Gold Hoe
  • Steel Water Can
  • Gold Water Can
  • Iridium Pickaxe
  • Iridium Axe
  • Iridium Hoe
  • Iridium Water Can
  • Copper Trash Can
  • Steel Trash Can
  • Gold Trash Can
  • Iridium Trash Can

In order of importance there are a few tools that really stick out. I’m going to go over each of these now.

Copper Pickaxe – The pickaxe is the first tool that should be upgraded because the mines are extremely important. Not only for getting minerals for upgrades and other crafting materials, but also for collecting gems for the Museum, and getting the materials necessary for a quality sprinkler which takes steel bars and gold bars to craft.

And those quality sprinklers…absolutely essential for expanding the farm.

Steel Pickaxe – If you have the money to upgrade the pickaxe early it’s worth it as the copper pickaxe can still use a lot of energy and time when you get to the levels that offer gold ore. This isn’t always possible with other needs popping up in year one, but it’s a great upgrade if you can get there fast.

Copper Axe – This is the upgrade that allows you to cut stumps.

Steel Axe – Important to do by summer if you’re not using the chair secret woods glitch, because this is what allows you to cut logs, gaining access to the secret woods.

Copper Watering Can – Helps with huge initial watering of huge crop fields in spring/summer until you can get all the quality sprinklers out.

Gold Watering Can – Essential if you have the beach farm.

Gold Hoe – Convenient for clearing fields but not necessary. Unless on the beach farm.

When Should You Stray from This Stardew Valley Tool Upgrade Schedule?

That list is the order of what tool upgrades are the most important, but depending on your playing style, this can actually change things up quite a bit. The reason the list above is in that order is that it assumes the average playing style (which involves rushing to get good sprinklers so you don’t have to water giant fields by hand).

This means rushing for metals to make sprinklers and the basic pickaxe just doesn’t get it done. The sooner you have iron and gold metal bars, the sooner you can get quality sprinklers that automatically water a 3×3 square on a daily basis. That’s eight less crops you need the water can for (middle space for the sprinkler).

If you just hate the mines, then the pickaxe upgrades becomes much less important but you will want to upgrade the watering can and hoe instead since your farm will need to be built the old fashioned way at that point.

The steel axe also comes before the gold pickaxe for upgrades if you are trying to complete the community center in year one and not using the chair trick to “cheese” your way into the secret woods north of the Wizard’s Tower (this is where ferns can be found in the wild).

The Stardew Valley beach farm is also its own beast. Since very little land is sprinkler friendly here, going the upgraded water can/hoe route before worrying about mining is a viable option – though choosing to farm the sprinkler-friendly land is also a strategy some beach farm enthusiasts use.

Why Don’t You Upgrade Hoes in Stardew Valley?

The hoe can be useful in making a field, but assuming you’re using any farm other than the beach the only time being able to make mass tilled soil at once is helpful is the beginning of a new planting season. Once the sprinklers are set up I’m not sure anything above copper makes that much of a difference.

So while very convenient the day or two you really use it a lot, it’s just not a tool that you need the upgraded version of all the time.

Why Don’t You Upgrade the Water Can in Stardew Valley?

Honestly, once you’ve played a bit and understand how invaluable quality sprinklers and (eventually) iridium sprinklers are, mass producing high quality and better sprinklers becomes a much higher priority than upgrading the water can. Over the long-term this is a big time saver and allows for the tending of much larger fields.

While taking the water can and upgrading it can help, it’s not nearly as useful as a couple dozen good sprinklers.

Why Upgrade the Trash Can in Stardew Valley?

While I really like the upgraded trash can concept, and was glad to see it added (I use an early copper trash can more than I care to admit even though it’s NOT at all min-maxed or efficient as an investment/play style), it’s never a high priority. Upgrade the backpack and drop chests across the map where NPCs don’t walk to store all your extra stuff.

Some Tools Just Matter More Than Others

Once you get past the first few upgrades, and then any unusual situations like the Beach Farm that drastically changes up the order, upgrading tools is a relaxing thing that is often done on a whim. Depending on play style you might race for a better pick. Or the Axe. Or just fish and not worry about it until a panicked rush right before next spring.

When you have the basic upgraded tools in Stardew Valley you’ll be able to figure out what tool upgrades suit your play styles and which you can just forget about until you’re making a completionist run.

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