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Discussion Starter #1
This is my first post (other than introduction) and I understand how members can get annoyed with redundant questions that have been asked over and over again. With that being said I apologize ahead of time. I am new to wood working and I am very overwhelmed with where to start even with my searches! I have been looking into "must have" basic hand tools for starting. But my question is, what are the limitation of hand tools as far as projects. As far as a table saw and jointer planer and few other pieces I do have access to. but what types of projects will I be able to construct with basic hand tools? I'm thinking projects such as shelves, coffee table, end tables, or bed-frame for starers. Thank you for any responses and any links to good threads are always great.
 

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I was in the same boat. Once upon a time, it was _all_ done with hand tools. That showed me that it could be done. They weren't called craftsmen for nothing.
My 10" Delta miter saw makes clean cuts at predictable angles (I fail by hand). My drill press gives me holes at predictable angles to the stock (I fail by hand). They save a whole lot of time.
Long cuts with the bandsaw or table saw can be dressed nicely with a #5 Stanley plane, I enjoy that part.
I can make useful things like bookcases but the design is mediocre, the appearance ugly, but for 1,500 volumes, they got the boxes finally emptied!
 

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Master firewood maker
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is your goal to do it all without power tools because of the philosopy of it, or more because power tools are expensive and noisy?

if the first reason, check out this page ... http://paulsellers.com/woodworking-blog/paul-sellers-blog/

mine is more the 2nd reason.

that said, there are some things that are much easier with a power tool, ripping being #1, and getting a perfectly perpendicular hole being right up there near the top.

so i try to do things as much by hand as i can, but i will use power tools when i makes more sense.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I'm not at all against power tools! Sorry if I came off that way. I am purely speaking of hobby, constructing some pieces that I could use in the future. I just assumed getting started up using hand tools would be cheaper than power tools and was wondering at what point I would have to upgrade to power tools. Since I am a college student with a major in Civil engineering I will be entering a work force that will have much downtime in the winter months and I am looking to pick up a hobby and I thought wood working would be one to consider.
 

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You are only constrained by your muscles and energy. At one time logs were felled with hand tools, then sawn with hand tools. Just takes a LOT of time and energy.

This video is worth watching. This person likes to use hand tools over power tools. Impressive work, but not many folks would have this amount of energy.

http://www.woodworkingtalk.com/f30/outdoor-workbench-41778/

A number of threads on the site building projects like benches with hand tools. One example.

http://www.woodworkingtalk.com/f2/workbench-build-unplugged-write-up-pictures-included-54721/
 

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As others have noted, people have been making fine furniture long before power tools were invented. But the skills required for that take years to acquire.

For the most part, and for a beginner especially, you'd be limited to carpentry type projects that don't require a lot of accuracy. The projects you mentioned are within the realm of possibility.

I started with just the hand tools that I inherited from my father. The first power tool I bought was just a circular saw, and that made a lot more things possible (being able to cut a straight perpendicular line). One of the most useful skills I acquired, out of necessity, was planing by hand. That made it possible to glue boards edgewise, and make my first coffee table. If you're willing to put in the time, anything is possible.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Maylar- that's good advise. I am going to defiantly do some research on hand planes and sharpening and the who deal. And glad to hear that the projects that I mentioned are plausible!

Dave Paine- Those links were really good. I think a work bench is a great first project and will be a project that will help me create many projects in the future! Thanks for the links. I have a lot to learn but one step at a time hopefully I will be turning out some projects soon.
 

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I am going to defiantly do some research on hand planes and sharpening and the who deal.
A bench is very useful. This is why there are so many threads on building benches.

You do not have to go far to read a lot of good information on hand plane restoration and sharpening, just take a look at the threads in the Hand Tools forum.

Also take a look in the Classifieds forrum to see if any members selling hand planes. I know BZawat has a recent thread.
 

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I've always let the projects I'm working on determine what tools I need whether machinery or hand tools. If you let the projects pick your tools chances are you won't buy something you will never use. If you are just starting at you would spend a lot of time shopping but eventually you would be buying less and less tools.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
yeah that's what i've been picking up from people. I want to buy some simple starter tools and then just let each project decide what else I need. Time really isn't an issue for me so if I don't have a tool I can just get whatever I need in the mean time.
 

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I started out down the power tool route, then did a 170 (not quite a 180 -- I still use a few power tools) after seeing a presentation by Paul Sellers and some videos of a few other hand tool workers. I said I use a few power tools, still: they are a corded electric drill, a drill press, a band saw, and a circular saw. I've also got a chop saw, but it's really a rough carpentry tool... I could spend a month calibrating it, and I still don't think it would cut a perfect 90 degree angle. If I were starting over I wouldn't buy the handheld drill or the circular saw, so I'm leaving them out of my math. Here's my take.

ETA: I also have a nice Rigid router, with both a fixed base and a plunge base. The fact that I forgot I owned it when I wrote this tells you how much I use it. Someday I'll probably build a router table, since there are some jobs that would be a lot easier with a router table than with hand tools, and it would make the router feel a lot quieter.

Anything you could make with power tools, you could also make with hand tools. Anything you could make with hand tools, you could also make with power tools. The question of "Can it be done?" is therefore pretty meaningless. So what's the difference? Cost, convenience, and complexity.

Cost: Hand tools are arguably cheaper. I'm pretty sure I'm less than $800 into my hand tool kit, and the only things left that I know I'll need sooner or later are a pair of router planes and some new drill and auger bits. I'm including the two power tools I anticipate using regularly in that number, by the way -- a band saw and a drill press. I'll probably buy the planes and bits new, which means I'll probably add another $300-350 to my total. If you buy all new, instead of mostly cheap and used like I have, you can still probably get a good kit for under a grand, just slightly less complete. On the other hand, a nice solid table saw can run upwards of $500 on its own, and you'll still need a router, router table, bandsaw, drill press, miter saw, and so on. I priced it out. Buying good quality new tools, or even high quality used tools, gets expensive.

Convenience: In many cases, power tools are more convenient. I have a band saw for doing long rip cuts, long curves, and resawing. I have a drill press for drilling perfectly aligned holes of any size. In other cases, hand tools are more convenient. I don't know of a way to come up with the same end-grain surface that a hand plane used with a shooting board will get. For cutting a small board to exact length, I'd rather use a carcasse saw and a bench hook than a miter saw: it's faster, more accurate, and less prone to throwing little bits of wood around the shop like buckshot. And in just about every case, the hand tool will be quieter and cleaner, which is a nice bonus.

Complexity: In my mind, this almost always goes in favor of hand tools. Complex compound miters are relatively easy with hand tools: draw the line you want to cut on, put the piece of wood in a vise, and cut it. With power tools, you frequently end up needing complex jigs to do the same job. Given the need to cut a piece to an exact length, I can measure it out on the piece, mark it, and cut. I find that a lot easier than setting up a table or miter saw. Most operations, though, aren't any less complex either way: cutting curves with a bow saw or a band saw are the same except in terms of effort. Ripping is simple with hand or power tools, it's just more work with hand tools. There's one specific place this goes entirely in favor of power tools: production line work. If I need a hundred boards cut to the same length, I'd far, FAR rather use a miter saw with a stop block than a hand saw. It's faster, it's easier, and it's simpler. No question. If I need to produce a huge run of identical molding, a router or shaper is the simpler answer by far. There's really no room for debate, it's just true.


So. What does all that mean? It means I value quiet and simple more than I value fast and physically undemanding. I like being able to listen to the radio while working, and I don't mind that woodworking makes me sweat. (I need the exercise anyway.) I also, so far, have built small one-of-a-kind things; if I wanted to make a run of ten identical dining room chairs, or anything else for that matter, I might well re-consider. You might find the value equation goes the other way. I really couldn't tell you. But I can state that anything you can do with one type (power or non-powered) of tool, you can also do with the other type. It just may take more work.
 

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Master firewood maker
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here is the beginning of paul sellers' series on building a workbench with very rudimentary tools

 

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I started out down the power tool route, then did a 170 (not quite a 180 -- I still use a few power tools) after seeing a presentation by Paul Sellers and some videos of a few other hand tool workers. I said I use a few power tools, still: they are a corded electric drill, a drill press, a band saw, and a circular saw. I've also got a chop saw, but it's really a rough carpentry tool... I could spend a month calibrating it, and I still don't think it would cut a perfect 90 degree angle. If I were starting over I wouldn't buy the handheld drill or the circular saw, so I'm leaving them out of my math. Here's my take.

Anything you could make with power tools, you could also make with hand tools. Anything you could make with hand tools, you could also make with power tools. The question of "Can it be done?" is therefore pretty meaningless. So what's the difference? Cost, convenience, and complexity.

Cost: Hand tools are arguably cheaper. I'm pretty sure I'm less than $800 into my hand tool kit, and the only things left that I know I'll need sooner or later are a pair of router planes and some new drill and auger bits. I'm including the two power tools I anticipate using regularly in that number, by the way -- a band saw and a drill press. I'll probably buy the planes and bits new, which means I'll probably add another $300-350 to my total. If you buy all new, instead of mostly cheap and used like I have, you can still probably get a good kit for under a grand, just slightly less complete. On the other hand, a nice solid table saw can run upwards of $500 on its own, and you'll still need a router, router table, bandsaw, drill press, miter saw, and so on. I priced it out. Buying good quality new tools, or even high quality used tools, gets expensive.

Convenience: In many cases, power tools are more convenient. I have a band saw for doing long rip cuts, long curves, and resawing. I have a drill press for drilling perfectly aligned holes of any size. In other cases, hand tools are more convenient. I don't know of a way to come up with the same end-grain surface that a hand plane used with a shooting board will get. For cutting a small board to exact length, I'd rather use a carcasse saw and a bench hook than a miter saw: it's faster, more accurate, and less prone to throwing little bits of wood around the shop like buckshot. And in just about every case, the hand tool will be quieter and cleaner, which is a nice bonus.

Complexity: In my mind, this almost always goes in favor of hand tools. Complex compound miters are relatively easy with hand tools: draw the line you want to cut on, put the piece of wood in a vise, and cut it. With power tools, you frequently end up needing complex jigs to do the same job. Given the need to cut a piece to an exact length, I can measure it out on the piece, mark it, and cut. I find that a lot easier than setting up a table or miter saw. Most operations, though, aren't any less complex either way: cutting curves with a bow saw or a band saw are the same except in terms of effort. Ripping is simple with hand or power tools, it's just more work with hand tools. There's one specific place this goes entirely in favor of power tools: production line work. If I need a hundred boards cut to the same length, I'd far, FAR rather use a miter saw with a stop block than a hand saw. It's faster, it's easier, and it's simpler. No question. If I need to produce a huge run of identical molding, a router or shaper is the simpler answer by far. There's really no room for debate, it's just true.


So. What does all that mean? It means I value quiet and simple more than I value fast and physically undemanding. I like being able to listen to the radio while working, and I don't mind that woodworking makes me sweat. (I need the exercise anyway.) I also, so far, have built small one-of-a-kind things; if I wanted to make a run of ten identical dining room chairs, or anything else for that matter, I might well re-consider. You might find the value equation goes the other way. I really couldn't tell you. But I can state that anything you can do with one type (power or non-powered) of tool, you can also do with the other type. It just may take more work.
very well said!
 

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To add to my original response ... like Andy, I have done pretty much a 170. For me, woodworking is a hobby; I do it for its therapeutic and relaxing attributes, not to make a living.

I started out all gung-ho about power tools. I bought a bunch of routers and was going to setup a high-tech shop. Then the reality of the fine dust that settles on everything and in your lungs, the noise, and the need for things like eye and ear and lung protection set in. In order to continue, I would have had to install a powerful dust collection system, and I would have needed much more space that I have available.

That was when I realized that I really didn't WANT to have to wear protective glasses, a dust mask, and earplugs in order to pursue this hobby that was supposed to be relaxing and enjoyable.

But I have not gone 100% into the hand tool realm ... I still use some power tools for some things, and am actually in the process of making a panto-router. To be honest ... I am not really 100% sure what I will use it for, probably mostly mortices and tenons ... but it is such a cool jig that I just really wanted to make one.

I will not hesitate to go the the drill press for a good hole, I will pull out the table saw to rip stock, I use the router for the rabbets for the drawers I make, and still go to the miter saw when I need more than a couple of pieces the same length.

For everything else though, I am unplugged and am very happy with my hobby.

OK, full disclosure ... I have also been known to us a drill with a phillips head attachment to screw in screws.
 

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Thanks CC: sums it up for me. I went into wood carving 15(?) years ago. The larger pieces (12" - 60") are excellent exercise as well! I've even tried to do a couple of logs like Guiseppe Penone but too exhausted too many times.
 

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Working wood is a lot like playing music. it takes practice, discipline and imagination. You can go totally acoustic or electric or somewhere in between. Heavy metal is best on electric and folk is most often acoustic. What kind of music you play determines which instrument you use. The same holds true for woodworking. Personally, I have a mix of power and hand tools. Sometimes the time it takes to set up a precision process on a power tool takes longer than if I just grabbed a hand tool. If you are repeating the same process over and over without changing the setup then a power tool may be best. For instance, ripping a bunch of boards down to the same width is faster and easier with a power saw, but if you have to move two cars and a bunch of boxes to rip down just one then I grab a handsaw. If the power fails or it's too cold to work in the garage you'll find me at the basement workbench armed only with hand tools. I believe it's best to start with hand tools, develop those skills and when the process becomes tedious and the need is there, then invest in a power tool.
 
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