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.
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
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*
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?
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.
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
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.
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.
On 22 Apr 2004 14:29:36 -0700, cant_have_my firstname.lastname@example.org (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.
Wichita, KS USA
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
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...
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.
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
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.
Welcome to the "Wreck". I'll try to give my points of view as they come up.
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
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
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,
Outgoing mail is certified Virus Free.
Checked by AVG anti-virus system (http://www.grisoft.com ).
On 22 Apr 2004 14:29:36 -0700, cant_have_my email@example.com
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....
cant_have_my firstname.lastname@example.org (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
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
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
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.
cant_have_my email@example.com (chichikov) wrote :
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
- 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.
p.s. I'm not a neander; I do most of my joinery by hand but I balk at
the stock prep.
cant_have_my firstname.lastname@example.org (chichikov) wrote in message
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
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.
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