Hand Tool Journey #1: Lately I've really been getting into hand tools.

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Blog entry by Blake posted 03-02-2009 11:06 AM 6064 reads 0 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Hand Tool Journey series Part 2: My first Krenov Style Plane »

Lately I’ve really been getting into hand tools.

I asked for a few Japanese chisels for Christmas (one each from a few different people in the family.) I ended up with a set of four from Woodcraft. I decided that this collection was worthy of family heirloom status so I had them laser engraved and built a box to keep them in.

Click for details

I have always had a fascination with Japanese culture, art and woodworking. Lately I have been reading Japanese Woodworking Tools, Their Tradition, Spirit and Use by Toshio Odate. This is a truly eye-opening book and I highly recommend it to every woodworker. I’ve also really enjoyed a book called Selecting and Using Hand Tools by Fine Woodworking.

So the natural progression from owning such a beautiful set of chisels lead me to coming up with a way to keep them sharp… which is how I ended up with a WorkSharp. And let me tell you, this is an amazing little machine. I know there are lots of ways to put a razer edge on a tool, but this thing makes it EASY. Which means my tools will ALWAYS be sharp. Its one of the best investments I’ve made in my shop in a long time.

So armed with the WorkSharp, I spent one afternoon grinding, sharpening and honing ALL my hand tools. And it suddenly occurred to me… wow… I’ve never worked with sharp tools before!

Dangerously sharp edge on a chisel from the WorkSharp:

I’ve always used chisels and planes and the occasional “Shark Saw” (Japanese-style saw from Big Box store) among other hand tools. But my first hand tool epiphany came when I first learned how to dress and use a cabinet scraper, and I was HOOKED. It really changed how I work… no more power sander (for the most part).

But my chisels and planes had been causing me a lot of frustration until now, because it was so tedious to sharpen them that I simply never took the time to do it. Now all of my planes sing like Billie Holiday.

The more I read Odate’s book as well as watch videos online, etc, the more I have become addicted to Japanese hand tools. Its a terrible, expensive addiction, but I don’t think I can shake it. I’ve been window-shopping online today on ebay and sites like The Japan Woodworker. I’ve got my eye on a Dozuki (dovetail saw) next… but that will have to wait a few months ‘till my birthday ;)

But its not just Japanese hand tools that has got me excited lately. Its ALL hand tools. It just so happens that I work at a used tool store (dangerous, I know). So my collection is always growing.

This is my plane cabinet. The bottom shelf is the currently usable planes, and the next shelf up contains some that either need to be restored, or purely collectibles (like the brightly colored vintage “student” planes).

From left to right:
  • Modern (cheap) Stanley that I use for utility purposes like door jams or construction
  • Millers Falls No 56B (Favorite block plane)
  • Record No 077 rabbet/bullnose (Other favorite plane)
  • Stanley Bullnose plane with SweetHeart blade
  • Little Stanley “finger” plane (as I call it) with SweetHeart blade

From front to back:
  • Stanley No. 4 with SweetHeart blade
  • Stanley Bailey No. 5
  • Stanley Bailey No. 6

So in my excitement over hand tools lately, I have really been in the mood to make my own planes. I have really been inspired by some of the handmade tools by other Lumberjocks too. It doesn’t seem like a very complicated project, but very rewarding (and a great way to use up scraps as well.)

So I have been thinking about where to get blades from. I hate Ebay, and I really didn’t want to spent $40 bucks each for “Hock” blades from a catalog. So I had an idea, let me know what you think. I have a small collection of old wood planes that were inherited from a family-friend. Although I appreciate the history and like looking at them, they are in poor enough condition to where I would never use them.

Example of poor condition:

Some of these wooden planes appear to be handmade. The only plane with any marks on the wooden body is this one which (I think) reads “196 W.SCHNEHOER AVE. NY”

(Note the seemingly-missing handle next to the saw marks… it was probably cut off after breaking)

Anyway, my idea is to keep the wooden plane collection but give the blades a new lease on life by using them to make my new hand-made planes. Or would it just be too sad to “rob” these elders of their irons? What do you think?

The blades are very rusty and would need a lot of work but I would end up with a great variety for my new planes. The man who owned the old wooden planes was a boat builder. So among the collection is a concave plane, a convex plane, and a couple different sizes of straight blades. It would be an interesting challenge to build all of the different plane shapes.

-- Happy woodworking!

7 comments so far

View kiwi1969's profile


608 posts in 3440 days

#1 posted 03-02-2009 11:51 AM

If you don,t use the old planes people complain that you,re just a collector, if you restore them people complain that you,ve destroyed the patina. You can,t win! So Use the old irons anyway. The metals probably as good as anything you get now.

-- if the hand is not working it is not a pure hand

View jcame's profile


72 posts in 3575 days

#2 posted 03-02-2009 12:52 PM

Do it dude!!! Besides, I did’nt here any names worth collecting anyway and even if I did, they would just sit around collecting dust. So its as I said, DO IT DUDE!!

-- Jed,Ala,

View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13345 posts in 3672 days

#3 posted 03-02-2009 03:03 PM

Thats real cool!

View Tony's profile


986 posts in 4029 days

#4 posted 03-02-2009 03:05 PM

I have a few old wooden planes, my favorite is: Photobucket it is 25” long with a 2” bi-metal blade. The main body of the plane is made from Masur Birch, I am not sure what the handle is made from.

The remainder are just gathering dust at the moment, some of them are worth repairing, others will be scrapped. But the blades are definitely worth using or re-using – sharpen them up first to see how the edge is maintained – if it is OK then de-rust and protect it.

They do not give as good as finish as my Veritas planes, but for rough work they are great.

-- Tony - All things are possible, just some things are more difficult than others! - SKYPE: Heron2005 (

View jcees's profile


1058 posts in 3798 days

#5 posted 03-02-2009 03:07 PM

Go for it, Blakester! The process of making your own hand planes can be a lot of fun. Also, you can set angles of attack for appropriate hardwoods, i.e. 50, 55 or even 90 degrees. While I don’t know just how bad your old blades are, you at least want clean smooth backs without pitting to be able to get the best use and life from them. I’ve used and am still using old Stanley blades, Hocks and L-Ns. The newer blades are better to be sure BUT the older ones like from the wooden planes are usually tapered and much much thicker on the business end than anything made by Hock, Clifton, L-N or Veritas. I’ve even gone so far as to collect old tapered blades that are restorable from flea markets and even eBay.

Good luck and keep us posted on your progress.


-- When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world. -- John Muir

View Woodshopfreak's profile


389 posts in 3741 days

#6 posted 03-02-2009 03:56 PM

Thats pretty neat. Those old planes look like they have had a lot of use over the years.

-- Tyler, Illinois

View Francisco Luna's profile

Francisco Luna

943 posts in 3392 days

#7 posted 03-02-2009 07:33 PM

That’s a nice set of chisels….I’m reading the same book by Odate and what interest me most about Japanese WW is the use of the body and space….and of course tools!
I am living in an small apartment, so I’m considering the way to work here but in a clean, non-mess way, so this book is great in that way.
I was recently in a tool event by Lie Nielsen at The Crucible in Oakland, one of the invited toolmakers was Konrad Bauer from Bauer & Steiner…..That was the first time I tried an infill plane (I tried all of them!) but that was the moment when I said: I want to make tools!!! Those planes are pure state of the Art!
There are many online steel suppliers you can use to make your own blades, or you can use Ron Hock ones, by the way he was telling us at the crucible, that many people make their own blades and send them to him for the final hardeness treatment. He is a very open guy to help other woodworkers.
I can recommend a Japanese saw I use, the brand name is HYOKUSHO, they are of great quality, made in Japan at afordable prices. Lee Valley also have a good selection.

-- Nature is my manifestation of God. I go to nature every day for inspiration in the day's work. I follow in building the principles which nature has used in its domain" Frank Lloyd Wright

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