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.
Always be on the lookout for usable wood. You might be able to salvage some. You can use a metal detector to find nails and screws. You don’t need a full fledged metal detector. I use a pinpointer made by Garrett. If your wood has some woodboring beetles you can still use it if not eaten too badly. A healthy dose of cyfluthrin will take care of them.
Just for the record, a jointer and planer are not from the ICDT kit – the philosophy on that column is, indeed, beginner AND basic (hence the Workmate). The tools we suggest in the ICDT manual are for those who are working at a kitchen table or in a backyard; the tools the editors would recommend for someone who is quite sure he or she wants to pursue serious furniture making would be rather different.
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.)
Thank you for this post. I am about three years into wood working with handtools. I didn’t want to be a handtool collector. I wanted a good set of tools I could use. Since funds were tight and I wasn’t sure if I would keep doing this, I wanted to build my tools slowly. What you outlined is more or less what I ended up getting and it has indeed served me well. One can easily do a lot with all of these tools. At some point about two years into the hobby, I had a much better feel for what I wanted to make and what I may or may not need beyond this.
“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!
Some might expect to see a cordless drill on this list, but when we're talking about basic power woodworking tools, a corded drill is more versatile and powerful. Sure, the cordless is, well, cordless, which makes it more portable, but corded drills are less expensive and can do more than a cordless drill. There are some options to consider when choosing a corded power drill, such as whether you want a 3/8-inch or 1/2-inch chuck, keyed or keyless chuck, straight drill or hammer drill, and so on. Learn all about these options (along with some suggestions on what to look for when shopping) in this article on corded power drills.
1: Table saw in place of a jointer. Any number of tips in previous issues address straightening edges of boards without a jointer. A jointer serves one purpose, but a tablesaw can serve many (just watch your local Craigslist for a decent one to come up.) The thickness planer is unavoidable, but until you can afford one, buy stock in the thickness you need.
I prefer the large size because it will cut the most sizes. Years ago I purchased a medium shoulder plane, but it didn’t cut the larger sized joints, so I sold it and purchased a large shoulder plane so I could cut and trim most sized joints. Most of your traditional woodworking hand tools can be vintage/used, but used shoulder planes can be very hard to rehab and get “square”, so I recommend spending the extra money on a new shoulder plane. See my recommendations in my hand plane buying guide.
A marking knife is used for marking where you will be cutting with your saws. For getting into tight spots (like dovetails) and making very accurate lines (which is vital for tight fitting joints) you need just the right marking knife. You would think that any old knife would work, but you would be wrong. Years ago I purchased several that didn’t work well.
John Oesleby, 11/7/2018 I lost my workshop and tools in the California wildfires, and thought this set would get me started again. It’s a good value, but does require some fine tuning. There are a lot of videos online. I found the following: The blades are lightweight, and need sharpening. The edge of one (the block plane) had been visibly overheated, and required some effort to get to undamaged steel. It doesn’t seem to hold an edge long. On the smoothing plane, the sole is concave, and will need some effort to flatten. The frog resisted adjustment because the adjustment screw was drilled a little to close to the sole. I got the frog into an acceptable position be removing the washers from the hold-down screws. The chip breaker needed some work to fit the blade properly. Overall, I feel the set was a decent value.
The last tool I recommend for every beginning woodworker is a quality router. While many routers available today offer two different bases (a stationary base and a plunge router base), for most beginners, a quality stationary base model will take care of quite a number of tasks, and can also be mounted in a router table should you choose to invest in (or even build one) one down the line. Choose a router model that is at least 2-HP and has electronic variable speed controls (as larger cutting bits should use slower speeds), a soft start mechanism and is easy to make bit changes (preferably with the ability to use both 1/2-inch and 1/4-inch shank router bits).
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