Newbie Neander Needs A Plethora Of Advice (LONG)

Hello all! I've been lurking on this newsgroup for about 6 months and I've finally plucked up enough moxie to post. I am going to ask a ton of questions so feel free to answer/respond to any or all of them. I know a lot of these questions have been asked in the past, so I apologize ahead of time. Feel free to flame me if you want - I have a thick epidermis. It's just that I've read so many varying answers to the same questions it's making my head spin. I simply want to puke out all my questions and let everyone have at them in one thread.
Now, the boring part. I'm in my mid-20s and enjoyed woodworking in high school. My grandfather was a carpenter so I was always working with him or messing around in his shop. The last eight years I've nary driven a nail what with college and becoming a white collar wuss. I finally purchased a home with a basement and realized that I could start woodworking again. I worked with powertools in the past but right now I want to head down the neander path. I don't want have any hubbub or hullabaloo with neanders vs normites - I'm not interested. I want to be a neander for my own personal reasons - that's that.
WORKSHOP As I mentioned, I have a basement - 24x28 with a staircase down the middle, furnace, water heater, etc. The whole this is drywalled and that's it. I was just going to start making stuff down there without framing out a separate workshop but I'm a little worried about the pyrotecnic possibilities that exists with sawdust and pilot lights. Maybe this isn't a big concern with hand tools but I'd still like a separate room for my workshop. So, how big? I know, the bigger the better, but realistically, what is a comfortable size for a neander workshop?
TOOLS I'm interested in making a lot of furniture for our (my soon-to-be SWMBO and I) house - coffee table, kitchen table, picture frames, tv stand, etc. I know I'll stick with this a while, so I'm not interested in buying the cheapest tools out there to "see if I like if first". One side note - I am very intrigued by the "Japanese Woodworker" tools even though they are on the pricey side. We don't have a ton of money at the moment what with purchasing the home, getting married, paying for beer, etc. so I won't be able to go and purchase some $1000 japanese chisels. Anyway, what tools do I *have* to have?
Saws: I am considering the Gyokucho Dozuki for tenons and dovetails and the Gyokucho Ryoba for ripping and cross-cutting. Do I need anything else to start out.
Chisels: I just purchased the set of 4 Blue Marples bench chisels. What about morticing chisels?
Planes: I've been looking on ebay at some Stanley #4 and #5s. If I get these, what should I follow them up with? What about Steve Knight planes - will they be considerably better than the old Stanleys? How about some of the cheaper planes in the Japanese Woodworker? I was specifically eyeing the Taiwan and Hong Kong style planes near the back of the magazine.
Other: I have a good combination square and will get a marking gage, mallet, sharpening tools and clamps. What other tools are must haves?
PROJECTS If anyone is still reading, thanks for you patience. Several posts I've read state that a workbench is too big of a project to start with and others say that it's the perfect project to start with. Some say you should wait to build it to find out exactly what you need and others say you can't build much of anything without one. What are people's comments on this?
Whew - I feel better. Thanks in advance to all you kind souls who take your precious time to share your expertise. This group has been a big help already - I'm sure I'll see a lot of you around for a long time to come.
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"chichikov" wrote in message

All correct to some extent.
That said, it is an inarguable fact that you _don't_ need a 'cabinetmaker's bench' to make cabinets.
But, you _do_ need something to work on while you gather the experience necessary to decide just what will tickle your fancy as the ultimate solution to your personal bench requirements.
Solution: there are any number of books with bench plans using 2 X 4's, and similar construction materials, that are just fine and dandy in the interim.
Equip one with a woodworking vice of your choice, and it will get you going and, more importantly, get you making sawdust in a satisfactory and measurable way.
Make the bottom stout, and the top interchangeable, and you may even be halfway there for a future upgrade.
... and you could find, as I have, that the "temporary" version may be all you really ever need.
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Check out ShopNotes #75 May/June 2004, it has a plank-top workbench that should be cheap and sturdy and also provide a new woodworker with the opportunity to gain experience in various joinery techniques.
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On 22 Apr 2004 14:29:36 -0700, cant_have_my snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com (chichikov) wrote:
-<snip of stuff to which I have nothing of any value to add>-

I have a similar set. They are not suitable in the long term for chopping mortises. Get a "for real" sash mortising chisel. Two schools of thought, choose the one you like best. First school is to get a set of each width from 1/4" up to whatever. That way you can chop any width mortise you are likely to need. And, a set is likely to be less expensive than each chisel purchased individually. The second school of thought is to buy only one chisel at first, and get others as you need that particular width. Spreads the cost so that the pain is more bearable. My thoughts? Go with the second school and buy a quality 3/8" mortising chisel and chop every mortise to the same width. For the things you mentioned, I doubt you'll ever need another thickness chisel. If you do, buy it then. When you figure all those chisels in the set that don't get used, the "less expensive" nature of the set sort of disappears. I think you will also find that a pair of good skew ground paring chisels not wider than your mortising chisel will come in handy but are not required.

I didn't see anything about sharpening equipment and supplies. This could almost get to be a religious argument with the many different types of stones, sharpening systems, and techniques. My advise is to get a copy of "The Complete Guide to Sharpening" by Leonard Lee, ISBN 1561581259. Read it, and all the other responses you are going to get on this subject, and make your own decision. In any event, understand that, especially in Neanderland, a good, sharp edge on your tools can make the difference between thoroughly enjoying your time in the shop and throwing up your hands in disgust and abandoning the shop in favor of the latest "reality" s**t on TV (no, make that "tv". It doesn't rate capitalization.)

Build your workbench first. You won't like it, or you will like it but will eventually outgrow it. In any case, the first workbench you build will probably not be the last workbench you build. Check the workbench plans and projects that seem to be continuously appearing in the popular woodworking magazines. I suspect they all have numerous workbench projects in their back issues. A quick search of books at Amazon for "woodworking workbench" returned 624 titles. "The Workbench Book" by Scott Landis, ISBN 1561582700, can give you some insight into the history and development of the different styles and the reasons they are different. Read the book, pick a workbench style, build it, use it, find out why you don't like it, then build one that you do like.

Good, you're welcome, and I sure hope so.
Tom Veatch Wichita, KS USA
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chichikov wrote:
<snip>

It's possible to do a lot without a workbench; but it's /very/ much easier to do almost anything if you have one. (-:
I'd suggest building your own "apprentice" workbench and using it until you decide that you need a better one. Eventually, if you continue developing skills, you'll build a workbench more beautiful than you can even /imagine/ today...
There are a lot of bench plans available. Some time back I needed a bench and built it in less than an hour from three boards: (2) 2x12x12, (1) 2x4x8. Later, I added a patternmaker's vise. It was supposed to be temporary; but I just haven't felt the need to upgrade. I'll post pictures to ABPW (news:alt.binary.pictures.woodworking)
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Morris Dovey
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Morris Dovey screwed up:

S/B news:alt.binaries.pictures.woodworking
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Morris Dovey
DeSoto, Iowa USA
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I run my tablesaw next to the furnace. So far no problem with dust and the pilot light...knock wood (pun intended). However, I do keep a board over the slot where the furnace filter goes. Sawdust can plug-up a filter FAST. You can see my shop here... http://www.angelfire.com/jazz/kb8qlrjoe/page5.html Good luck. Joe kb8qlr
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<snip> So, how big? I know, the bigger the

Being in the UK during my early woodworking years, rooms tend to be smaller than in the US, so my first shop was a converted 12' x 14' bedroom, I found that plenty of room working with hand tools and the odd manual power tool. With hand tools there is virtually no chance of creating explosive sawdust mixes, all the old shops were heated with pot bellied stoves or similar, yes they had the occasional fire but that was because the majority of people smoked or hot coals fell out.

Depends on what type of wood you will be working with. I cut a lot of dovetails for my kitchen using maple and I got real frustrated with the Dozuki; the majority of the cut in a DT is end grain, being cheap I bought a Japanese flooring saw which has about 5" of blade, on a fairly long shaft. A reasonable Japanese DT rip saw is well over $100, if I were starting out I would buy one, but getting to the end of my ww days I'll pass.

Again, depends on the wood you will be working on, I found with my Marples I had to re-sharpen at least at the end of each drawer and often during as well. I bought my 3 most common sizes from Woodcraft, they required a lot of work to get to standard but once there held the edge much much better. Haven't had to do much morticing since I got them, but remember Japanese chisels are designed to be struck with a mallet.

<snip>
I picked up a tip from an old carver, he uses a piece of ebony as a mallet, at the local quality wood merchants I found a piece about 14" x 1 1/2" for about $14 ABAICR, makes a superb mallet and feels great too. I've tried all sorts of sharpening systems, I was trained to do it free hand, but have been given a lot of different aids over the years, including a Tormek, but at least for preparation work I found Scary Sharp to be excellent and inexpensive, I picked up some granite tiles from the BORG for about $1.0 each on sale. I deleted the section on planes, but I would recommend some form of scraper plane, I have used a Stanley 80 for many years, but I also hear good reports about the Veritas. A couple of hand scrapers also saves you a bunch of sanding. Wouldn't bother with a dedicated burnisher, I found a HSS turning chisel to do just as well. At to-days prices I would pick up an electronic caliper, much easier to transfer dimensions. For joint cutting I always use a marking knife for the waste portions, as opposed to a pencil, a slight tap with a chisel and mallet on the waste side and you have an exact reference to get perfect joints. One good quality tape measure and use only that for all major dimensional measurements and marking out.

Extremely difficult to do Neander work without some form of bench, I re-built a yaght galley while living on board, in the end I had to get a work-mate, even then trying to plane while one foot is holding down the work-mate is an exercise in frustration. My first bench was made entirely of 2"x4"s, it was properly built with M&Ts and I installed a Stanley QR vise, lasted for several years 'till we moved house. <snip>
Bernard R
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Hi Chich,
Welcome to the "Wreck". I'll try to give my points of view as they come up.

Fine that.

No realistic size - bigger is always better. You need room to accommodate your bench and working room around it. You need room for your tools. Try to get everything off the floor. If you're neandering, one of your early projects should be to make your wall-hanging tool cabinets. Don't worry too much about the fire risk with dust and pilot lights - Neandering doesn't produce anything like the amount of dust that Norming does, but sooner or later, it will be a concern - you'll quickly get fed up with hand sanding, and you'll need to think about point extraction for your Normite sander(s) at least. If your operation is small, then a shop vac (noisy bloody things) will probably be your cheapest option.
You'll need assembly room, so another concern should be an assembly table. This needs to be accurately flat, and have storage around or under it for your clamps.
You'll also need storage for your stock - no matter how disciplined you are in assessing and costing your materials for each job, you will *always* end up with a surplus, which you either need to store or get rid of. The majority of us woodworkers are magpies and tend to hoard our off-cuts . The amount you hoard will depend on the space you have available. The first rule of hoarding is that you will hoard an offcut for years, until the pressure of space dictates that you have to have a ruthless clear-out, and burn it. The second rule is that, less than one week after getting rid of that offcut of walnut which you've stored for seven years, you'll find an urgent job for it. The third rule is that you'll then have to go out and buy another bit of walnut to replace it, which will always be too big for the job. Then you'll have to store the consequent offcut for another seven years...
You'll also need storage for your consumables - screws, nails, abrasives, glue, varnish, shellac, thinners, wax and so on ad infinitum. Try to get them on the walls again. I worry more far more about the flammability of my finishing stuff than I do about dust.

Don't buy a tool until you actually need it. Buy singles, rather than sets, unless you get a great deal - you'll use your 5/8" and 3/4" chisels far more than you will all the other chisels in the set. Don't buy "Carpentry Sets" - the people who do the best chisels may not do the best planes.
When you do buy, do your homework - research reviews and the Wreck archives - watch the pros and see what they use. You'll eventually whittle the endless list down to half-a-dozen or so. Think of what you can realistically afford - then buy the next one up. An old "Wreck" adage is to buy expensive rather than budget - with the expensive tool, you'll only cry once - with the cheap tool you'll cry twice - once when you buy, and twice when you have to replace the POS. Plus the fact that when you use a really good tool, it will always give you a wee tug of pleasure when you pick it up, and it will become a lifelong friend.

Apropos Japanese tools, I only use Japanese saws so far, my ancient Western chisels and planes serving me perfectly well. I've got a perfectly open mind and intend to try Japanese chisels when I get round to it.. As far a Japanese saws go, well I., as a very experienced woodworker, with more than 40 years behind me, found them to be an absolute epihany when I discovered them 5 years ago. To such an extent that my Western saws feel positively clumsy in comparison, and are seldom used now. The Dozuki and Ryoba are excellent starter choices.

If you're going to make Neander mortices, then you need mortice chisels. Nothing else will suffice, other than as a time-wasting stop-gap. Period.

Old Stanley 4s and 5s were fine planes. Modern ones are shit. Better to go for a modern Record. OTOH, older Records were good, but older Stanleys were better. Better than either are modern Clifton planes. Lie-Nielsen are outstanding planes, but they're about twice the price of Cliftons, and only (arguably) a few percentage points better.
As for follow-ups, you want a good block plane - do buy the best you can afford, because this little plane will become your best friend. It's small and light enough to live in your waistcoat (vest!) pocket, so it's always to hand, and verstatile enough to take off that irritating high spot or rough spot, run a quick chamfer, trim a tenon etc
You also want a jointer - forget the #6 - go for a #7 or #8. The longer the better. Then find out about shooting boards.
What about Steve Knight

I haven't yet had the pleasure of trying Steve's planes, but I've seen many favourable reports of them. Having said that, it's a real pleasure to use any well-tuned wooden-bodied plane - they really are much easier and sweeter to use than a metal plane, once you get used to setting them up. I don't know anything about Japanese planes, other than that they were designed for craftsmen who worked on their haunches on on their knees - I really don't know how they would work for people who are conditioned to working standing at a bench, and would welcome opinions for those who have used them.

The first essentials for a Neander are a good square and a good marking knife. I'd follow that by a good marking gauge, a good mortice gauge, and a good cutting gauge. A few home mades, like winding strips and shooting boards. I'd also buy almost any book by Charles Hayward or book/video by Jim Kingshott. Look for them on www.ebay.co.uk

A workbench is a good early project - you will need it in order to do anything worthwhile as a Neanderman. However, having said that, I reckon that very few people build their ideal workbench on the first attempt. You need to have the experience of woodworking in order to to define what *you* want from a bench. Don't go overboard initially - research and test your ideas. Bear in mind that it's an expendable tool, and not a piece of fine furniture. Don't go down the route of making a mahogany bench with a flamed maple top, like many other "wreckers" - it will limit you, in that you'll feel bad about quickly tacking a piece to the bench-top, or using it for sawing or drilling on etc. Ply, MDF, 4 x 2s and 4x4s, even old doors, are fine until you settle on a design that suits your style of working. All you really need is flat, stable and heavy (you'll appreciate the last when you have sone serious planing to do!)
For first projects, I'd make myself a couple of sawhorses and a shooting board (you'll need these if you're going to build a bench Neander-style) and you' ll use them for the rest of your life in any case.

You're more than welcome. You haven't chosen the easy route, in going for a Neander, and you will have a steep learning curve, but persevere, and you will certainly find it infinitely rewarding (if you don't have to make a living from it!)
I have a few websites and books I'd like to recommend to you, but they're not to hand and it's getting late, so I'll come back to you with them.
Best of luck,
Frank
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On 22 Apr 2004 14:29:36 -0700, cant_have_my snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com (chichikov) wrote:

go at it the other way- how small a space can you wall off for the furnace and water heater?

go at it the other way- start the first project and get the tools you need as you need them.

go at it th..... <G>

when it comes to that, get some....

it's to some degree a matter of personal preference. the ideal thing would be to go somewhere where you could try them all out. lacking such a workshop in the sky, see if you can beg borrow or steal some, and do read all you can find. then buy some planes and make shavings.

work bench. bow saw. long straight edge. etc...
make something and see what you need....

yes. <G>

kewl...
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cant_have_my snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com (chichikov) wrote in message
[Lots of good advice in this thread so far. Let's complicate things even further.]

It depends on the size of projects you are making, how much wood you want to be able to keep on hand, how much a of a tool collector you plan to become, etc.
But, the one universal in woodworking is: No matter what size shop you have, your wood, tools, etc. will expand to fill the available space. Sorry, that's just the way it is.

Japanese saws are just fine for a beginning neander with one caveat: Some folks find the pulling motion of a Japanese saw to be ... er ... well ... "foreign". I don't mind it for fine work, but find that for powering through thick stock or doing rough work, a push-style saw seems to work better.
But, a Japanese saw will be better than 90% of the new Western stuff that's out there for a comparable price.

I'm of the school that says buy 'em as you need 'em, unless you can get a good package deal on a set. I bought the ugly Marples plastic-handled set from Garrett Wade several years back because it seemed like a good deal. They've been just fine, but I've found that I only use a couple of sizes with any regularity.

A lot will come down to personal preference. Steve's planes are fine, but some folks simply prefer a plane with a full knob and tote. Old Stanleys are fine planes, but many of us who own them routinely upgrade them with aftermarket irons, and there can be a fair amount of "fettling" involved.
If I were starting off now, I would buy an older Stanley #6 or 7 for jointing and surfacing. A lot of folks don't like the #6, but it's my most-used large plane. (Mine is a WWII-era type 17 with the thick casting, so it's just about as heavy as my crispy type 12 #7.) Contact one of the online oldtool merchants if you want to be assured of getting a good plane (but be prepared to pay a bit more than you would by bargain-hunting on *b*y). Tell them you want a decent "user" and aren't concerned about collectability.
I would also want at least one good smoother. Here is where I'm likely to spend a bit more to make sure I have a plane that is capable of handling all sorts of woods (including the ones that aren't meant to be planed, like purpleheart). If you can afford it, I would advise you to look at the LV/Veritas line of planes. They are, IMHO, a bargain. Excellent planes with real improvements over the standard Stanley/Bailey designs.
You'll need a block plane (preferably low-angle). This one is a tough call; I have a nice old Stanley #60-1/2 with a Hock iron in it that has been my favorite for years. But, not too long ago I got the Veritas low-angle block and it is a beauty. It's much more substantial than the #60-1/2 and the feed and lateral adjustments are more precise. I honestly think you can't go wrong with either.
As you slip further down the neander slope, you'll probably want to buy various specialty planes for joinery (rabbet, shoulder plane), and a scraper plane or two (#80 or #112). For now, it wouldn't hurt to just buy a card scraper or two and learn how to sharpen, hone and burnish them.
As you get even further along in your neander career, you'll find yourself looking for the "perfect" smoother. But don't worry, you won't ever find it. So that means you get to keep looking.

I'd probably go the "get it as you need it" route here too. If you do dovetails, then a bevel gage or dedicated dt marking gage is handy. If you do mortise & tenon joints, then you want a dedicated mortising gage (or two regular marking gages). A marking knife is handy. A small double-square has many uses. (My little 4" Starrett is *the* most-used tool in my shop.)
As others have said, don't dismiss sharpening as an afterthought. As a beginner, I'd probably recommend a Scary Sharp setup. Get a cheapo side-clamping sharpening jig (Eclipse-style) or spend a bit more for the Veritas with an angle-setting gage. But be warned, the Veritas has its problems.

I'm in the "you need to do some woodworking first to know what you want" camp. But, I also recognize that the lack of a good workholding surface is going to cause problems. I managed to get by with a modified w*rkm*tt until I felt that I had the basic knowledge of what I needed (and the skills to build it). So, I guess what I'm saying is, don't wait too long, because you'll get frustrated, but you should have some basic skills with making m&t joints, dimensioning wood, jointing, sawing, etc. or you won't be happy with the your attempt to build a bench.
But once you have built even the most basic of becnhes, as long as it's solid, it will make your neander life so much easier and more productive that you'll wonder how you ever got by without it.

Good luck, and welcome to the slope.
Chuck Vance
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See this site for planes: http://www.hntgordon.com.au / They make planes from lignum vitae.
Alex
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cant_have_my snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com (chichikov) wrote :

...
Hi,
I'm not a pro, but I feel experienced enough to comment on some of this ... hope it helps:
- I'd suggest considering used backsaws from Ebay (Disston no 4, Jackson, etc) and learn how to sharpen it yourself using the instructions on Tom Law's site, etc. Western vs Japanese saws are a matter of personal preference, but I believe you can restore a good Western saw cheaper than buying anything of comparable quality on the new market.
- I'd also suggest looking at used Stanley planes. The pre-WWII era Stanley planes are really very nice and to get better you'd have to go to something on the high end. Pick up a book on tuning planes or follow instructions on the net. I recently got a no 3 Stanley sweetheart from Ebay, and the thing looks, feels, and cuts like a thing of beauty.
Cheers, Nate
p.s. I'm not a neander; I do most of my joinery by hand but I balk at the stock prep.
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cant_have_my snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com (chichikov) wrote in message

[clip]
Neanderdorking without a sturdy work surface is challenging at best, and mostly frustrating. You've gotten plenty of written advice already, so here are some web pages to chew on, regarding a bootstrap workbench.
http://www.klownhammer.org/proto-bench
Don't forget to get some rubber mats for around your bench, and the all important bench brush. Mine's a genuine Fuller brush, nabbed at a local flea market.
And welcome,
O'Deen
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