If I were to give someone new one piece of advice, it would be to buy their chisels new, not used. I have wasted more time and more money trying to save butchered chisels than I want to admit. There’s a good chance that the used chisel will be bellied in the back or pitted at the edge and it will take more than beginner skills to fix it. You may make things worse rather than better. Sure, learn to do this _some_ day, but maybe not as a beginner first thing. I’ve had similar problems with used planes, but it isn’t nearly as bad a problem for a joinery plane. If there are pits that lead to scratches, it may not matter for anything other than a final smoother. Also, a tiny back bevel may save the day on a plane, but you likely don’t want that on a chisel. So, I’m less fussed about planes and, if it all goes south, you can buy a new blade for smoothing work and use the old for rough work (all in the same plane). You can’t buy a new blade for a chisel. Well, you can, but it’s called buying a new chisel. I use 3/8″ a lot. 1/4, 3/8 to handle all the mortises and dovetails and either 3/4 or 1″ for paring shoulders and for fat parts of some dovetails. I probably learn towards the 1″ because there are times you want to reference off the blade to keep moving in a line, like for a housing. I think Lee Valley’s version of the Narex are excellent and mine came with flat backs that could go straight to polishing.
I dedicate several chapters in this book to exploring the exciting world of tools. From age-old hand tools to the most modern machine for milling wood, Chapters 5, 6, and 7 cover them all (well, not all of them, that would be insane, not to mention take up the entire book). Not only do you get to see what tools are what, you also get a glimpse into how to use each of them safely and effectively.

About forty years ago I purchased a Shopsmith Mark V because I lacked space for a large shop, and also moved around the United States a lot. Later I purchased another Shopsmith Mark V Model 510 for the increase in table size and flexibility. I do wood working as a hobby, not to do many projects as fast as possible. I also have every tool and accessory that Shopsmith makes for the two primary tools. Their quality is excellent, and while I enjoy antique tools like the 1912 three phase electric Camel Back Drill Press I purchased for my son’s shop, the Shopsmith does every thing I have ever needed.

Second, I assumed that you want to do things the fast and easy way and not necessarily the old-fashioned way. As you’ll likely find out by talking to other woodworkers, you can find almost as many ways to perform a task as you can find woodworkers. Everyone has his own unique way to do things and mine involves taking advantage of modern tools and shortcuts, rather than using old-fashioned, time-consuming, and often frustrating approaches that can be done better with modern tools and approaches (do you sense a little bias here?). For example, if you want to find out how to craft dovetails by hand with a chisel and backsaw, buy another book. But if you want to make joints that are just as strong and beautiful in a fraction of the time with a router and a jig, then this book is for you. (Don’t worry, in this book, you will still get to see many of the traditional ways things are done, if for no other reason than to help you decide for yourself how you want to approach a task.)


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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!
However, I would recommend that you either build a wooden workbench, or purchase one if you feel a workbench build is too advanced for you right now. However, I created the DVD “Building the Portable Moravian Workbench with Will Myers” so that even beginners can build a solid, portable, and very affordable workbench that will fit almost anywhere, using mostly or only hand tools. You can buy it in my store here. You can find Will’s free workbench plans for the Moravian Workbench here. Whichever path you choose, make sure you choose to either build or buy a heavy & sturdy wooden workbench, with at least a 3″ solid top, strong supportive base legs, and two strong vises.
Cut off a 21-in.-long board for the shelves, rip it in the middle to make two shelves, and cut 45-degree bevels on the two long front edges with a router or table saw. Bevel the ends of the other board, cut dadoes, which are grooves cut into the wood with a router or a table saw with a dado blade, cross- wise (cut a dado on scrap and test-fit the shelves first!) and cut it into four narrower boards, two at 1-3/8 in. wide and two at 4 in.
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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