In this guest perspective from Bill Rainford, traditional joiner, we learn a powerful method for analyzing today’s tool prices and thinking about which tools you really need in your shop. This article is about woodworking hand tools, but as someone who has visited Bill’s shop, I can tell you that he is no hand-tool purist. You’d love some of the machinery, new and old, he has acquired and cared for over the years.
After the wood is cut it needs to dry before it can be used, and drying the wood causes shrinkage in the board. So it’s important that the board be allowed to dry evenly or it twists, bows, or warps. If you buy wood from a lumberyard, it’s already been dried, but you want to acclimate it to your shop before you work with it. This way the wood will make any changes it needs to make with the different humidity level in your shop, and you don’t get any nasty surprises like a table leg that twists after you’ve glued your project together.
Being without machinery to dimension and dress rough timber myself I can definitely see the benefit, but I think the investment (both in money and space) in machinery like this is premature for ‘basic’ woodworking. Additionally, without some other machinery (table saw, bandsaw) you’re still going to have trouble dimensioning smaller timber for projects from large/rough stock (e.g. producing timber strips for case fronts, ripping to reduce thickness, etc).
Dan, my work space that is available for power tools is quite small, about 6′ x 20′. It may seem like a lot on the surface, but a long rectangle is a bear to work in. It requires a lot of serpentine action. That said, I don’t have too much room for large footprint tools. I have settled finally on three big tools; a small bench saw, a thickness planer, and a drill press. I had to forgo the jointer, so I use hand tools to make up for it’s absence (as I do with a lot of my hand tool techniques). I have gotten to the point where I can flatten one side and true an edge of a board reasonably quick. I then finish it up with the thickness planer and table saw, giving me a nice flat board. I guess what I am basically saying is, there’s more than one way to skin a cat, and don’t write off hand tools as a quaint way to experience the past. They worked for thousands of years, and still do! Thanks for the blogs, they make for great reading.
24″ for the chopping block. all of my lumber comes from last years spring clean up. currently have Cherry, White oak, Ash, Hard & Soft Maple as Well as Sasafrass on hand there is also Birch in the woods but none of them have needed to come down yet. I keep two single bevel axes one light one Heavy(2-1/2 lb) which I use depends on how my Elbow feels. A Froe is also required. I think going from tree to board is harder than from board to furniture but it depends how much wind is in the tree. I don’t think I would of ever been able to build the required skills if I had to pay for the lumber though I guess I paid in labor. Air dried stuff is some much better to work with its worth it.
No joke. As you get into building you’ll discover that woodworkers use jigs for everything, and that can be intimidating. The Kreg Jig company has absolutely knocked it out of the park in making jigs accessible, easy to use, and so incredibly useful that you’ll wonder why you didn’t think of that. They are affordable, and after just one build you will be singing the holy Kreg praises. I won’t go into each one, though I am happy to answer any questions you may have. Here’s a list of the jigs I have used and found incredibly helpful. (It’s a growing list!)
I was telling my brother of the different ways I sharpen and he seemed interested in the slab/sandpaper method. When I went to get the extra supplies I picked up a slab of granite, adhesive, and sandpaper for sharpening. When the job was completed, the saw, the can of finish, and the slab with sandpaper were gifted to my brother. I could have shortened my list a little,
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The fourth most important basic handheld power tool every beginner should buy is a random orbital sander. While palm sanders are less expensive and can use plain sandpaper (cut into one-fourth sections), the random orbital version uses hook-and-loop fastened sanding disks, and doesn't sand in patterns, using instead a random sanding motion. This will motion will serve to reduce the chance that any sanding marks may appear on the stock due to the sanding. Of course, be certain that your local woodworking supplier has sanding disks readily available in a number of grits to fit the model that you choose, as the key to proper sanding is to use progressively finer grits as you sand to reduce or remove any marks that are left behind from the previous sanding.
The very affordable coping saw (often around $20) is regularly used for rough cutting shapes in the board, but especially for removing waste from dovetail joints (one of the most common wood joints). An affordable coping saw will work just fine as long as you have plenty of replacement blades on hand (also very affordable). Read my hand saw buying guide for more detail on brands & features to look for when purchasing a coping saw.
now I finally know what to recommend my friends when I try to convince them to give handtools a try (I currently am doing an apprenticeship in cabinetmaking (unfortunately mostly particle board) and said friends they do the same and often have no clue what can be achieved with handtools alone) because up until now, I never knew what to recommend for sharpening as my setup is great but very expensive. And I guess if I recommend to get two stones instead of a combination stone, one can keep one side flat for flattening the backs of new chisels, and add a strop with some polishing compound I really can’t think of anything else one would need for a long time!
But that’s not all. In this chapter I talk about one of modern times’ greatest gifts to the woodworker: manufactured boards (also called sheet goods) and veneers. Yep, wood technology can help you keep your sanity while also speeding up the process of making furniture. Oh, and it can also save you some bucks in the process. What’s not to like about that?
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Speaking of rugged simplicity and hand tools kit – I’m very surprised to not see an axe in it! I still remember how I was amazed to see a board being split by an axe in the spoon rack premium video. Do you plan to make a blog post on this sort of topic (also because not everyone has access to premium videos)? Would be interesting to see what other coarse tools you use and when and why, and your thoughts around them. After all, the longer we stay at coarse stage the less time it will take to make something and the more efficient we are.