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.
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.
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.
Two things which I took to instantly and now wouldn’t want to do without are an old-fashioned two foot, four fold ruler which gets used all the time (there’s nothing that comes close to it) and a 1 1/2″ butt chisel which gets used all the time for marking anything which needs to be chopped e.g. the side of a mortice. It also means fewer chops and therefore a bit more accuracy when cutting out a knife wall.
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.

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.
Here’s a traditional Swedish farm accessory for gunk-laden soles. The dimensions are not critical, but be sure the edges of the slats are fairly sharp?they’re what makes the boot scraper work. Cut slats to length, then cut triangular openings on the side of a pair of 2x2s. A radial arm saw works well for this, but a table saw or band saw will also make the cut. Trim the 2x2s to length, predrill, and use galvanized screws to attach the slats from underneath. If you prefer a boot cleaner that has brushes, check out this clever project.
Delta 22-590 13 in. portable thickness planer includes: Delta 22-590 13 in. portable thickness planer includes: 3 cutting knives cutter head wrench dust chute with 4 in. port and magnetic blade changing tool. High-speed steel indexed double-sided knives provides 2X blade life and allows for quick blade changes. Oversized cutter head height adjustment handle with indexing ring provides ...  More + Product Details Close
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