Hey all. I've been lurking in the old Wreck (see, I have the lingo)
for a while now, and I need some informed advice. I have been wanting
to get into fine woodworking for a long while, and now have been
authorized to spend about $1000 on my own tiny 'shop', which is the
back of a deep, and shared, one car garage about 12x8. I have some
tools, circular saw, drills, drill press, mistreated cheap handsaws,
and have built a small workbench previously out of 2x4's and plywood,
but I want to build another one for woodworking still.
I've been doing a lot of research, but I'm convinced I won't really
know what I need until I start working on projects, but I can't start
working on projects till I buy my tools. Also I'd like to make my
purchases before the money evoporates into other things, so I need
some help deciding.
I am impressed by Roy Underhill and the other Neanders, and I think
not going heavy on the power tools is the best way to sqeeze the most
potential out of the small area I have to work in. I will buy a
bandsaw at some point, but not now.
I am interested in making furniture, chests, booksheves and boxes. I
am also a bit of a japanophile, and am interested in that style.
So, can you all help me out? Which types and sizes of chisels should
I buy? Planes? Measuring instruments. How do I get the most bang
for my buck?
I'd start with a selection of small power tools like sander, router, biscuit
jointer, good quality drill/driver, etc...
Stuff that with your limited space, you could have on a shelf over the bench or
Doesn't sound like you have room for a table saw, unless it's a bench-top type..
Lots of folks will have great advise on hand tools, but being a turner, I can't
help ya there..
Feb 2006 Popular Woodworking had an article called "The Ultimate Hand
Tool Shop" about how to set up a small shop for hand tool woodworking.
It's aimed more at western tools, but much of the information would
Japanese saws were designed for use with a different set of body
positions than western saws, but many people still use them with
There's some discussion of basic tools at Sawmill Creek. You might want
to check it out.
One aproach might be to decide on a project and get the tools necessary
for that project. Many things can be purchased as needed, and can be
worked around if you don't have them. If you use drawbore pegs on your
mortise and tenon joints you don't need clamps. Hot hide glue lets you
do rub joints on panels without clamps.
Here's something of a list, organised more or less in terms of how
frequently they're used. For the try square and combination squares,
you want to make sure they're accurate.
-marking knife (can be an exacto knife or similar)
-6" steel rule
-measuring tape (a small accurate one is convenient)
-parallel jaw ones are nice but expensive
-pipe clamps are cheaper and length can be whatever you want
-quick-grip ones are relatively weak but convenient
-or sandpaper to start
-stones are expensive initially but cheaper in the long run
-chisels (basic set of bevel-edge)
-sharpen the smaller ones (up to 3/8") at 30 degrees since they're
often used for light mortising
-the 1/2" is general purpose, so sharpen at 25 degrees
-3/4" and up are often used for paring, sharpen at 20 degrees
-jack plane (if you have a good jointer, the jack can be lesser quality)
-jointer plane (nice, but I got along with just a good jack for a while)
-rip and crosscut saws (or circular saw and edge guide)
-dovetail saw (dovetails and small rip cuts)
-carcase saw (small crosscuts)
-tenon saw (larger rip cuts)
-brace and bit
-eggbeater drill (or power drill)
Final surface prep:
-card scraper (need a file to sharpen it)
-smooth plane (or sandpaper)
Mortise and tenon joint:
-mortise gauge (can use the marking gauge)
-mortise chisel (can use drill press and bevel chisels)
-router/rabbet plough planes (or router, or tablesaw)
-coping saw (or jigsaw)
I haven't bothered to add it up, but if you went strictly with Chris'
excellent list, you'd likely get close to your $1k. Planes alone could
set you back $6-800 if you went with Veritas or L-N. I still don't have
a jointer plane and get along fine with my jack. I'd also highly
recommend a block plane. And a good one. Spring for the Veritas low angle.
In everything you get, try to get the best that you think you can
afford. That doesn't necessarily mean the best overall, or the most
expensive. Just what you think you'll be comfy with for the next few
I'd toss in some books too. Tage Frid's book is stupendous. "Tage Frid
Teaches Woodworking" Doug Stowe has an excellent book on boxmaking if
you're into that.
Chris mentions sharpening, but doesn't go into detail. I have the
Veritas Mk. II jig for chisels and planes and cannot say enough about
it. It's a tool I couldn't be without. I use relatively inexpensive
water stones from L-V, and I'm happy with them. Other guys have the
WorkSharp, and swear by it, but it's going to eat into your $1k pretty
quickly as well.
You sound realistic enough to realize that your initial outlay is more
of a down payment for a lifelong quest. That quest, which is
unattainable is to be at the point where one can say "Ok, honey. I have
enough tools now. Why don't we go out and look at anniversary rings for
each of your fingers?" As I said - unattainable, but a worthy quest
Thanks a lot for the advice, guys. I'm definitely going to print out
this thread for future reference.
With everyone's advice, I'll work towards the beginnings of a full
shop, but I'm going to pick a project and buy what I need. This is
probably the best approach for my own sanity. I want to assemble a
workbench w/ mortise & tenon construction. As I lay it out in my
head, this is still going to require a decent chunk of those tools
that you've all listed.
Now it's time to do a little online shopping...
I never said it was going to be decent. ;) I'm not shooting high for
A few people have suggested that you buy tools as you need them and not to
spend any money on bigger things iron until you know you'll them. Your
decision will depend on what you think you might like to build and then buy
the basics so you can build it.
When I was first setting up a workshop, aside from drills, screwdrivers
hammers, etc. which I already had, the first thing I bought was a
contractor's tablesaw. That was the tool that my workshop revolved around.
Even when I was a little kid, I was always building boxes and I knew I'd
continue with that trend. So I bought a tablesaw, used that to build my work
bench and continued on from there. What do you want to build first? What has
piqued your interest in woodworking? Something has caught your eye. What was
it? With that information, you can get some more concrete suggests as to
what you might want to start off with. (I'm talking about electric tools of
some form or type).
You can get a lot of good info from a good book; see if your local
library has this book, or just buy it:
(Amazon.com product link shortened)09658727&sr=8-1
Figure out how you are going to sharpen your tools. There are many
options, the lowest starting cost option is probably "scary sharp",
using sandpaper of various grits.
If you are going to purchase surfaced/dimensioned lumber, you are
still going to need a way to flatten the faces and joint the sides
square. If you want to use hand tools, you probably want jointer and
jack planes. You may also want a scrub plane if you are going to want
to hog off a lot of wood quickly.
You want smoother and block planes regardless. Some of these planes
are available with bevel up configuration, in which case you can have
extra blades with different bevel angles for different purposes /
types of wood.
But you can easily blow the whole $1000 or more on new hand planes.
Decent used planes are available for a reasonable price through flea
markets or online, if you want to spend a couple hours (or more)
tuning each one up. Information on how to tune a plane is available
online. For example, here's a google search hit that seems to cover it
Definitely get some cabinet scrapers for a few bucks (just a flat
piece of steel).
An Xacto knife makes a good marking knife when you want precise lines.
A good combination square is a godsend (for example, a Starrett,
(Amazon.com product link shortened)).
If you are going to do mortise and tenon joints, you can get specific
hand saws for this. A shoulder plane is useful for fine tuning such
joints. A router plus jig can do mortises and you can use floating
tenons as well.
A "gents" saw can be used for dovetails, cost can be under $30 new. Or
you can get a higher quality Western dovetail saw in the $100-150
range. If you look for used saws, you will immediately be wanting to
learn to sharpen/set them. High quality Japanese saws for joinery are
less expensive than Western saws (maybe $50 and up). You won't be
sharpening those, you replace the blades as needed.
Hmm, chisels. You can start with Marples Blue Chip bevel edge chisels;
(Amazon.com product link shortened)09661047&sr=8-2.
The main knock on these is the durability of the edge compared to some
other, more expensive types. I have some and use them all the time,
but my Two Cherries chisels last much longer between sharpenings.
You can find some quality used chisels, such as James Swan, Charles
Buck, T.H. Witherby for maybe under $15 each. What you don't want is
pitting on the "back" of the chisel (the side away from the bevel,
more properly called the "face"), because you want that flattened and
All the hand tool recomendations are great but you are going to need
either a tablesaw or a bandsaw to accurately cut wood down to size. A
circular saw *can* do the job but not nearly as accurate. Yes, there
are those that can cut more accurately with a handheld power saw or a
handsaw than most newbies can with a TS but a TS is just sooo easy to
A benchtop or portable (fold up legs) can be found for a good price
and can handle many tasks. A used contractor saw can be found on
craigslist in good shape for $100 almost every week. Add a mobile
base and you're in good shape.
Spend more than you want to on the hand tools. The quality will be
better and if you decide you don't want to continue you can sell them
as opposed to cheap tools which you may as well throw away.
Good luck and welcome to dorking!
On Thu, 1 May 2008 12:12:34 -0700 (PDT), Limp Arbor
Spending a grand on a bunch of iron you probably don't know how to use
will not get you into the game. Take a few classes at a local
Woodcraft, adult school or whatever you can find in your area. THEN
start the tool purchasing once you have a knowledge and a feel for the
basics and some idea of what projects you will start on. Capeesh?
First step - join woodnet.net's hand tool forum, or sawmillcreek.org.
Lots of folks who really know and appreciate hand tools hang out in those
spots - well respected Masters and authors as well.
* Learn to sharpen....
If you're at all near to Waco, TX a really good and inexpensive
introductin to hand tool woodworking is available from Homestead
Heritage's School of Woodworking called Woodworking with Hand
Tools. It's a one day class for $110 and you'll learn a LOT.
From there, you'll have a pretty good idea about what type of hand
tools you need to buy.
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