I feel sorry for you guys...

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Blog entry by Loren posted 05-08-2011 07:23 AM 2156 reads 0 times favorited 23 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Just kidding. Today is a great time to get into woodworking. There’s so much great information available about how to do it… and so many super-cool new tools.

I went into a Rockler store today. I was floored by all the shiny cool stuff they had for sale.

I haven’t been in a hobby-oriented woodworking store in several years. I mostly mail-order supplies or deal with cabinet-industry suppliers that run their own trucks. Thus I am not often exposed, in person, to the seduction of new tools… and believe me, I was googley-eyed at some of the stuff I saw.

A lot of this new stuff by all these innovative tool companies is seriously cool. The thing is, you can do some very, very fine work without most of it. All the fancy router table stuff is really unnecessary. When you look at a finished furniture piece nobody will know if you cut the mouldings on a router table made from a formica sink cutout or a $999!!!(I kid you not) cast-iron “Bench Dog” ROUTER TABLE! .

Point is, especially for those of you who want to make money doing this stuff, that you don’t need the fancy new tools to do fine, satisfying and profitable work. Some of the new tools buy upgrades in accuracy or convenience, but they are often tiny, incremental upgrades and none of these fancy accessories will compensate for a lack of clear planning and an understanding of the essentials of craftsmanship.

Without boasting, let me tell you that it is very possible for me and many other people here to do very accomplished woodworking with less than $500 worth of tools. All that stuff from Lie-Nielson and Jessem and all those great companies is great fun to own and fiddle with and show off, but owning it will only marginally increase your effectiveness as a craftsperson.

The best investment in your growth in woodworking is spending time reading books and fooling around with hand tools. From bench work you grow in your understanding of the why and ultimately the how of machine stuff should work. When you get this understanding you will be amazed at what you can make with the tools you already own.

23 comments so far

View Tedstor's profile


1643 posts in 2628 days

#1 posted 05-08-2011 01:07 PM

Nonsense. The $150 laser-guided mallet I just bought has improved my work dramatically. Same with the $1000 depleted uranium chisels.

Seriously though, you’re right. I also think people can gain a lot from making thier own tools and jigs (when practical).

View Jamie Speirs's profile

Jamie Speirs

4168 posts in 2852 days

#2 posted 05-08-2011 01:14 PM

I disagree, I got a new roll of abrasive with diamond dust embedded in platinum

And my firewood looks much better than my neighbors. LoL


-- Who is the happiest of men? He who values the merits of others, and in their pleasure takes joy, even as though 'twere his own. --Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

View William's profile


9949 posts in 2838 days

#3 posted 05-08-2011 01:47 PM

Some of us just love tools, and lots of them. However, you’re still correct. I have more tools than I could possibly actually need. Just ask anyone who’s been to my shop. What I don’t have though is the fortunes that some people have tied up in it all. Most of my tools came second hand through various places. Most of my clutter came from Craiglist and yard sales.
I have talked with a few guys who have more cash tied up in one tool than I do in every wood working tool I own combined.


View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3111 days

#4 posted 05-08-2011 02:53 PM

no I disagree with this I can avoid hitting my thump all the time …. :-)

and with this nailgun I´m sure to get the nail where I want them

I think but I stick to my well used handtools whitout ellectronkilling device in them :—))

take care

View poopiekat's profile


4354 posts in 3730 days

#5 posted 05-08-2011 04:55 PM

Thanks, Loren! Your common-sense approach to woodworking is a breath of fresh air amid the loud voices of comspicuous consumerism! Thanks for a great blog topic!

-- Einstein: "The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift." I'm Poopiekat!!

View Loren's profile


10380 posts in 3643 days

#6 posted 05-08-2011 05:11 PM

Thanks for the support and humor.

I was seriously tempted to buy about 80% of the stuff in the store.
I got out of there with only a high-pressure glue injector syringe for
shooting glue into loose chair joints.

View Pop's profile


427 posts in 3942 days

#7 posted 05-08-2011 08:11 PM

Loren, Having sold tools for several years, what you propose is only partly right. We had a guy who bought his power tools at Harbor Fright for price and then spent $ & hours trying to improve their performance. He usually ended up with not much in the way of a workable tool. I try to read specs, compare tools, use my past knowledge of manufacturers and their track record on quality & customer service. Then; I start shopping for price. I look for used and recon. tools as well as deals on new. Then I buy.

Yes there are many gadgets that most of us can do without. When it comes to tools the old saying is true, “you can cry now or you can cry later”.

-- One who works with his hands is a laborer, his hands & head A craftsman, his hands, head & heart a artist

View DLCW's profile


530 posts in 2650 days

#8 posted 05-08-2011 10:48 PM

My first 10 years of woodworking was done with hand tools. I didn’t own a power tool other then a corded drill (10 or 12 pounds). Cutting was done with a hand saw, flattening was done with an old hand plane I got from my dad. I had 4 chisels that I got from my dad. Most of my drilling was done with bit and brace.

That was back in the days when I found the process of woodworking was actually more enjoyable then the outcome. I made a LOT of firewood from 1by and 2by scrap I got at construction sites. Plywood was not even something I knew about, nor had any tools that could handle it anyway. Everything I made was from solid wood. It was a lot of fun learning how to work with wood.

I was finally able to save up enough money to purchase an old 4th or 5th hand contractor style table saw (that needed a lot of work to get it working right). My next purchase was an old 6” jointer. After that I added more 4th and 5th hand power tools and started to really see the efficiency that power tools brought to the process. Sadly though, gone were the days of listening to a sharp plane slice through a piece of oak and peel off a beautiful paper-thin ribbon of wood – or the sound of a sharp chisel shaving a tenon to just the right size and shape.

Now I have a very modern shop including a CNC machine, edgebanding machine, 20” planer, 44” sanding machine plus many more and can crank out cabinetry and furniture 10 times faster then I could ever have imagined 15 years earlier. The quality is still there, just the time to get the quality is considerably less, which translates to lower cost to the customer.

So if you are in this to make a living, the ability to complete projects quickly, efficiently and of high quality extremely important. When it goes from hobby to livelihood, the way you work has to change to keep you competitive. That’s the bottom line as a business.

There are a lot of gimmicky inventions out there that are great in design, poor in execution. I have to admit I’ve fallen victim to this on more then one occasion. Now I have to carefully evaluate every purchase to make sure it is going to make me more efficient and deliver a higher quality product for my customers.

-- Don, Diamond Lake Custom Woodworks - - "If you make something idiot proof, all they do is make a better idiot"

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2686 days

#9 posted 05-09-2011 05:21 AM

Loren, I have been wanting to post this topic for some time but couldnt figure out how to phrase it without offending.You couldnt have said it better.My concern is that potential woodworkers will never get involved if the think they have to have all of the high dollar toys before they can play.I have seen this happen with several sports/hobbies to their detriment.Thanks for posting this.I hope all the young,hungry wannabes read it.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View Pop's profile


427 posts in 3942 days

#10 posted 05-09-2011 05:50 AM

OK guys! So you made artistic wonders with nothing but a coping saw & a dull screwdriver for a chisel. Roy Underhill works with all hand tools because it’s his job to show how we did it long ago. Bragging about using ONLY HAND TOOLS is like bragging about getting therapy. Who cares! ! ! I’m in the group who like Old Norm have never met a power tool I didn’t like. You can bet your butt that if the old masters could have had power tools they would have used them. Having done my bit with hand tools in the 7th grade before they turned us loose with power in the 8th grade, I can assert that there is more pain & suffering than joy associated with having to do it all by hand. In no way are you going to tell me that you get more joy by doing something in the most difficult way possible.


-- One who works with his hands is a laborer, his hands & head A craftsman, his hands, head & heart a artist

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3111 days

#11 posted 05-10-2011 01:05 PM

its my hobby and by that its me who choose how to do it :-)
and I do love to do every aspect of woodworking by hand … like a gentleman …. in silence :-)
but those who get the joy from doing woodworking with powertools only great for them `
I´m not against powertools at all but there is tooo many powertools user that don´t know
that it can be faster and better with handtools but those who take and mix both world
often find the best way of doing it
and learnig the old way of doing things often brings another understandness of how to
use the powertools better
and yes you can bett I wuold buy the powertool if I had to joint and plane 5000 boardfoot
there is times where powertools is the right choise
but if you make oneoff a kind I wuold say that doing it by hands shuoldn´t take more time


View Loren's profile


10380 posts in 3643 days

#12 posted 05-10-2011 06:35 PM

I’m not saying go with hand tools only. I use machines a lot, but I’ve
recognized that gimmicky commercial jigs and stuff like that are fun,
but unnecessary to the style or work I do.

I’ve collected plenty of fine tools over the years, especially planes and
chisels. But I also know a $800 dovetail jig might be something I would
use a few times and the cash would be better invested elsewhere,
for me anyway.

Btw, I have Festool stuff, Lie Nielsen and so forth. I’ve accumulated it
over many years.

I also have two sets of tools in different states and when all the good
stuff was in one place, I had to confront how I would do the work
in the other with some tools, but not the whole kit.

If you read the older Fine Woodworking magazines you’ll see guys figuring
out how to do really nice, developed work without all the fancy
aluminum jigs. Even fine hand tools were hard to get back then so
you had to settle for Stanley-type planes (or antiques) or make your own,
like Krenov. Dovetail jigs, such as they existed, were rudimentary
by today’s standards.

It’s a great time to get into woodworking, and it’s actually cheaper than
ever to get some decent tools together because the used market is
so glutted with discards from people who over-spent.

Back when I started, I had to buy my Japan chisels new because there
was no ebay, for example. I probably paid twice what I would have to
pay today for similar chisels, because now they are so much more
available. Also, planers and other machines are much more affordable,
even new ones, than they were when I started. I was paying $35-70
a piece for 1/2” shank router bits because those were all my local tool
store had. They were good ones, to be sure, but if I bought my router
bits over I wouldn’t buy the top-line ones in most cases because most
of the bits don’t get anywhere near everyday use.

View Pop's profile


427 posts in 3942 days

#13 posted 05-10-2011 09:37 PM

Dennis & Loren, I’m not out to do away with hand tools. I have pleanty and I use them. What I’m fussing about is the woodworkers that brag “I did it with only hand tools” Making the point that woodworkers who use power are a bunch of smucks. That TRUE craftsmen use hand tools only and that their accomplishments are superior due to that fact. I get real tired of that attitude.


-- One who works with his hands is a laborer, his hands & head A craftsman, his hands, head & heart a artist

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3111 days

#14 posted 05-10-2011 10:23 PM

now I understand your point :-)
but don´t take me wrong here its said with the best intentions :-)
if I posted a project done by handtools I wuold allso said only done by handtools
or handtool made
not to brag but to catch other handtools user or galloot like peoples atention
using handtool or using electronkiller devices as I say for fun :-) or if the tools is power by compressed air
it doesn´t matter to me how the projects is made , there isn´t a finer way to do things than an other

I cuold also say flyfishing , fishing with lures or dipping a worm walking at the ocean in the river or sea
or using a milliondollar trollingboat nothing is finer than the other
as well as its doesn´t matter if you scroll , make furniture , carving , boats or what ever you make or use of wood
whats matter is how the single person enjoys his hobby or work
and I think most handtool users doesn´t brag the wrong way but simply just dam proud of what they
have accomplished with there own hands maybee even thought they cuold do it before they started
and even if they would have used a single power tool or two it wuold have been the same proudness they
wuold show
I think its allright to point out its handtool made since there isn´t so many that does it only that way
and its a hole new set of skills to learn

I agree there maybee is a few that have the atitue you said , but that isn´t for me to judge about

have a great evening :-)

View Pop's profile


427 posts in 3942 days

#15 posted 05-10-2011 11:02 PM

Thanks Dennis


-- One who works with his hands is a laborer, his hands & head A craftsman, his hands, head & heart a artist

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