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Discussion Starter #1
Hey guys. I'm just getting into wood working. I would like to learn with as many hand tools as possible. I know that it'll take longer, but I think it'll be worth it. My question is this:

What are the best bang for your buck hand tools?

I was thinking of getting the saws from Windsor Saws and building my own handles. But what about chisels, planes, scrapers, mallets?

I will be having some money to spend shortly, but please, don't spend it all in one place for me. LOL

1,874 Posts
How are you going to build a handle for your new saw without a saw to cut the wood with?:eek::laughing:

I'm only half joking, but the first consideration is what types of projects you want to build and how much hand tooling do you want to do.

Will you be using wood that is rough cut and need to be joined and planed by hand? If so, the number of planes that you will want will increase. Probably at a minimum you'd need/want the equivalent to a Stanley
Bailey #7, #5, #4 and a low angle block.

Do you plan on making all your cuts with hand saws? As with the planes, you will need at the minimum a rip saw, a crosscut, a CC backsaw for joinery and maybe a rip backsaw for dovetails.

You can see where I'm going with this, a lot of your choices will be determined by what you want to do.

I would not recommend going out and trying to buy a laundry list of hand tools to try and outfit your shop. Buy them piece by piece for the current project. Only buy further tools as you need them and buy quality tools to start. You will be disappointed if you buy a bunch of cheap hand tools as they will not perform.

That doesn't mean you have to buy expensive tools, just quality tools. If you want quality tools at a really affordable price, that means buying vintage in many cases. It may also involve refurbishing some of those tools.

Personally, I think learning how to refurbish/sharpen tools is the first thing anyone new should learn, maybe even before they start cutting any wood. They are skills which are as necessary (maybe more so) than learning any joinery skills and will serve you for a lifetime.

Here are some brands to look for in vintage tools. I like Stanley/Bailey planes and you can't go wrong. Other brands that are quality include but are not limited to Millers Falls, Union, Record.

You can't go wrong with Disston saws, but there are other quality used saws as well (I'm just not very familiar with other brands). There are also several manufacturers of new saws of very high quality.

Chisels - vintage is good, but not always easy to find depending on your location. I've bought several Narex brand chisels and am very happy with them. Highland woodworking and Lee Valley both carry them.

Mallets - don't waste your money, make your own - see recent threads on mallet swaps.

Scrapers - I really don't think there is much difference between brands.

If you are going to make your own saw handles, you'll also need a rasp or two for shaping.

I hope this gets you started, it's tough to make exact recommendations without knowing your budget/projects you want to start with.

There is a lot of expertise at all levels here, so as questions come up, ask them and you'll get many different opinions.

where's my table saw?
27,863 Posts
what he said

The only tools I'd buy in a set are chisels. Others, one at a time as needed. Sometimes a pull saw will come with another...
Here's a list of the many brands of chisels. http://www.highlandwoodworking.com/chisels.aspx

I have about 5 different sets, I've accumulated over many years, from Stanley homeowner (beaters) to Craftsman all steel construction types, Sorby mortises chisels, to the best Japanese tools I could carry from Japan when there on business. When I got home I ordered more from Japan Woodworker.

Some are meant to be struck, like mortising, others just pushed by hand as for carving. It's mind boggling, I know. :blink:

1,529 Posts
Someone already pointed you to Paul Sellers -- He's good, and I liked a lot of his advice. Paul Branam has a site at http://www.closegrain.com that has some similar stuff on it. Jim Tolpin wrote a book called "The New Traditional Woodworker" that has a lot of good information in it, and "The Anarchists Tool-chest", by Christopher Schwarz is also a good read.

As far as what tools you need, it's going to vary a lot. If you're going to do all hand tool work, I think you're going to need at least the following:

1) A bench. This doesn't have to be expensive or complicated, it just has to be flat and solid.
2) Hand saws. At least one rip, one crosscut, and a finer tooth backsaw.
3) Chisels of various sizes. Which sizes depends on what you're building.
4) Hand planes. A good set would probably be a fore plane (maybe a #5 Stanley, which are everywhere used), a smoother (#4 Stanley or equivalent -- again, they're everywhere), and a jointer or try plane (I still don't understand the difference, but it's a longer plane -- more than 18 inches).

Add a mallet -- which is easy to build on your own! -- and some clamps, and you've got enough to work with. From there, buy tools as you need them, not from a list.

Gold Coast. OZ
618 Posts
You are very fortunate because you have been given some sensible advice on how to start.

Make your own mallet, their not difficult but are a good learning skill. What the first one finishes up like does not really natter as long as its a user. You can make a better one later, but your first will still find a place as a bruiser.

What was said about sharpening is so very true, but finding a mentor for that might not be easy. I had to pay to learn that skill, so I learnt real hard. lol.

I have gone the complete 360 degrees. I started with hand tools, screwed up big time, got frustrated and moved on to the tailed devils. But later, I met a real hand tool worker who spent some time with me.

The majority of my work is with hand tools, but I still use power when necessary.


2,647 Posts
Think about this from a task-oriented point of view:
You have a need for a simple book case for, say, basement storage.
Draw a sketch (need tape measure and ruler) and guesstimate the wood you need. Go to the store and buy it.
1. Tools for cutting wood (saw and square & pencil.
2. Tools for (maybe?) shaping wood (plane, sanding)
3. Tools for joining wood (chisels, drill & drill bits, screwdrivers, hammer, mallet)
Then you realize, at the end of the day, that you should have built at least two of them for all your stuff.

32 Posts
I didn't realize how much time is put into woodworking by hand. That was the biggest hurdle for me, I would try and rush through a part of a project, make a mistake and become frustrated. The ability to stand back, take a breather, and except the time it takes to learn and do right is the best tool a hand tool wood worker can have IMO

As far as tools I think it goes in stages according to skill. To start:
- workbench (1st project IMO)
- a set of bench chisels 1/8 1/4 1/2 and 1 inch in size,
- a scrub, no 4, 5, 6, and 7 bench plane and low angle block plane
- rip and crosscut panel saw, rip and crosscut back saw
- straight edge, marking knife, small and large tri square, mechanical pencil, marking gauge.
- plough plane
- mitre box
- mortising chisels
- brace and a set of drill bits
- 1000 / 5000 grit water stones coarse wet dry sand paper or diamond lapping plate and honing guide, paste wax or protective oil to prevent rust
These basic tools to me will get u through any simple project.

As your skill increases
- coping saw
- spoke shave
- draw knife
- a few simple hallow and rounds
- snipe bill plane
- beading plane
- dovetail saw
- a set of gouges
- routing plane
- low angle bench plane and shooting board / donkey ear
- skew rabbet plane
- raised panel plane
Not really much you can't do with these

1,529 Posts
Incidentally -- there are a lot of good sources for plans for benches. Roy Underhill published a set of plans in "The Woodwright's Apprentice" (well worth a read -- see if your local library has it!). Paul Sellers includes plans in his book, and has a long series of posts in his blog about it (http://paulsellers.com/series/building-a-workbench/). There are also workbenches about every second issue of Woodsmith, Shopnotes, Fine Woodworking, American Woodworker, and Popular Woodworking.

That doesn't even start trying to count the ones people on this site have built...

No where near in that class is the one I built. The only real advantage mine had was that I didn't need a bench to build it, which isn't always true.
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