If your wallet still cringes at the totals above, fear not, for the totals above are for all brand new tools. The one luxury we have in our modern day of hand tools is the large secondhand market where you might be able to scoop up some great tools – possibly even some of the actual tools that once inhabited these cabinets – for the original price in today’s dollars, or less. So before you break out the barbeque, give some thought to how you can free yourself from a mountain of modern tools and invest in a modest set of traditional hand tools that will get you started on the path to more enjoyable woodworking.
I agree, that’s a nice and easy set up to start with. I’d say a block plane it’s handy for small areas, and touch ups. A no.5 is excellent but a bit heavy and tiring sometimes. I find that a nice rabbet block plane (shoulder + block) with two irons with different sharpening angles it’s essential to me. One fine flat rasp and a medium flat file would complete my set.
11-2. Pipe clamps, I have about 10 of them with varying lengths of black pipe in 1′ increments. I can switch out the clamps for larger lengths on larger projects, or downsize as needed. (very rarely do I need more than 6 clamps on a project during drying time, and when I do, it’s time for a cup of coffee and a 1/2 hour break while I wait) You keep your initial investment down, and buy them as you need them to increase your collection.
Many species of wood fall into two general categories: hardwoods and softwoods. Knowing which type of wood is which and being able to choose the right wood for your goals can help reduce the negative impact of the inherent instability that is a part of solid wood. As you discover the variability of wood, you’ll undoubtedly come to appreciate that some wood products allow you the same level of beauty without having to worry about the wood changing shape on you. These include veneers and manufactured wood products such as plywood and Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF). All this talk of wood is covered in more detail in Chapter 2.
My Stanley 51/2 was in a bit of a state when I got it and refurbing it took a bit of time and cash. Now it works a treat and looks like new. I’m nearly through the bench build and have spend hours using it – it really is a workhorse piece of kit. I did some final cleaning up of some oak legs the other day and I can’t really see how a smaller plain would do a better job.
While some people consider the circular saw to be more of a carpentry tool than a fine woodworking tool, but some would disagree. There may be no more versatile basic handheld power tool than a circular saw. When used with a clamp-on straight-edge, the circular saw can be just about as accurate as a table saw and handle quite a few of the tasks that one would attempt with a table saw, particularly cutting sheet goods such as plywood or medium-density fiberboard. When woodworking on a budget, a quality circular saw should be the first handheld power tool purchased, as it is the one that will likely be the most useful as you get started.
John P, 3/18/2014 I lost most of my tools in the divorce. I have gotten a tool here and there over the past few years. I needed a plane and went to Google to see what was available. I found this starter set and placed my order. The planes exceeded my expectation and I have used them successfully on several projects. I recommend this starter set to all without reservation!
Basic woodworking tools are different from beginner woodworking tools. For one thing, I don’t like to use the word “beginner” unless I am using it accurately. It’s not a very useful label, in my opinion, because it implies that there are clear-cut and hierarchical steps in your growth as a woodworker. Who wants to return to grade school during his or her valuable shop time? So I only use the word “beginner” when I’m talking about someone who is touching woodworking tools for the first time.
“Basic,” on the other hand, is a word that allows for growth – and that’s exactly what you want in your woodworking tool kit. You want to be able to take the same kit with you through many years in the craft. With my basic woodworking tools list, I wanted to provide a core set of tools that will serve you well from project to project. I’m especially concerned these days with the transition to hardwood furniture making, as opposed to plywood boxes of various sizes. That’s the transition I’m making right now in my own work!
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.
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The block height’s going to be a personal thing, depending on what you use it for. Mine’s about knee height, which is on the low end, but I did use to do a tremendous amount of prepping straight from the tree. As you’re the same height as me, I’d say 33″ would be a tad on the high side. If you imagine you’ve got a longish piece of wood to work down the length, you want to be holding it almost vertical, rather than angled as it’s less likely to slip. The higher the working surface, the more angled it’s naturally going to become, hence why mine’s so low.

In researching the Sloyd tool cabinet shown at left I found some old tool catalogs from Chandler & Barber of Boston (a primary supplier of Sloyd paraphernalia), including one from 1900 complete with a list of pricing for all the tools in the cabinet. This got me thinking. According to the Federal Reserve’s website, $1 in 1900 should be worth about $27 today. Yet a straight monetary conversion doesn’t paint a complete picture since some tools that were common back then are a specialty today, and vice versa. So I created a spreadsheet that includes columns for the original hand tool prices, those same prices adjusted for inflation and actual prices for similar tools from today’s retailers. Click here to see that spreadsheet.
The key to making furniture is having a plan. (Or is that the key to life? I always forget.) The good news for beginning woodworkers is that you don’t need to develop the plan; you need only to follow it. Project plans are abundant and easily found (check out Chapter 21 for some project-plan resources). After you get familiar with the way plans are written, you can build just about anything (depending on your skills, of course).
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