What tool to get? #1: Hand tool Advice

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Blog entry by MJWaldner posted 02-21-2009 08:38 PM 1420 reads 0 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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I’m looking for some advice. I need to get a good hand saw for cutting dovetails, tenon and whatever else I find it useful for. I just need a high quality saw that I will be happy with for years to come.
Also to the same standards. I’m in need of a good all around hand plain. I will take any suggestions.

-- Nashville, TN

9 comments so far

View Chris Wright's profile

Chris Wright

540 posts in 3476 days

#1 posted 02-21-2009 08:43 PM

If you don’t mind the price, Lee Valley are some of the best made hand tools. Crown make some good saws as well, and you can’t beat an old Record or Stanley hand plane.

-- "At its best, life is completely unpredictable." - Christopher Walken

View MedicKen's profile


1615 posts in 3457 days

#2 posted 02-21-2009 09:09 PM

I recently purchased a Lie-Nielsen dovetail saw and i must say, I LOVE it. It cuts straight, true and a nice thin kerf. It is the first dovetail saw I have owned and its fits my hand nicely, feels like it was made for me. A little on the pricey side but well worth the money.

-- My job is to give my kids things to discuss with their

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3817 days

#3 posted 02-21-2009 09:14 PM

As far as a good all around hand plane goes a Lie-Nielsen or Veritas block plane would be a nice general workhorse type of plane to have in the shop. For woodworking along traditional lines using planes for specific tasks you will get into a entire array of plane types. Out of curiosity I priced the entire line of LN planes from bench planes, block planes, shoulder and specialty planes and figured it would run around 5K. This, in my opinion, is well beyond the scope that most of us would envision. I would think that a block plane, a smoother, jointer and shoulder plane would suffice for all but the mmost dedicated traditionalist.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View Francisco Luna's profile

Francisco Luna

943 posts in 3388 days

#4 posted 02-22-2009 12:06 AM

Japan style? Look for GYOKUCHO brand, really good saws at afordable prices

Hand Plane?
I have the Veritas Low Angle Block plane ($145 at, a really nice tool, in my opinion a long way better than Lie Nielsen that doesn’t have lateral adjustment. Veritas offer two types of steel, blades with different angles for all type of woood grains, toothed blade, also there are accesories like rear handle or knob and front knob.

-- 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

View John Gray's profile

John Gray

2370 posts in 3880 days

#5 posted 02-22-2009 01:17 AM

I’ve got a “no name” except made in USA block plane sharpened with Scary Sharp and it handles 85-90% of my planeing chores. If I was buying again I’d get a Stanley or Miller Falls. I just can’t see th big money for some of the new ones. I’d also like to have a Stanley Low Angle Block Plane. my 2 cents.

-- Only the Shadow knows....................

View JuniorJoiner's profile


486 posts in 3435 days

#6 posted 02-22-2009 01:17 AM

for the dovetail saw. Adria. hands down the best i have used. and i have 5 different dovetail saws(all within 4 years old). Eddie sirotic in vancouver makes the saw , and he does great work.
as for the handplane, you never stated the size or the use. I would suggest a lie-nielsen number 5 1/2.regular pitch. this plane you can use for jointing shorter boards, can be set to use as a smoother, or used on a shooting board. i have even raised panels with one. i find the 5 1/2 the most versatile size.
no matter what plane you buy, also invest in a way to sharpen it at the same time or else it will be useless to you.

-- Junior -Quality is never an accident-it is the reward for the effort involved.

View 8iowa's profile


1580 posts in 3756 days

#7 posted 02-22-2009 01:50 AM

The first thing I’ll recommend is some sharpening equipment. Seldom do chisels, hand planes, and other cutting tools come “out of the box” ready to use. A quick way to get into sharpening without taking out a second mortgage is to purchase several packets of wet/dry sand paper, 220 thru 1200. The sanding sheets can be adhered to flat glass plates with 3M77 adhesive. A good honing guide comes next. If you stretch a little bit the Veritas MKII is great. Other less expensive guides will also work.

Unfortunately, cutting dovetails requires a top notch saw if you wish to get good results. The lower end would be something like the 8” Garlick dovetail saw at around $80. A decent tennon saw however can be much cheaper. Look for an inexpensive aluminum backed saw with as many teeth per inch as you can find. I have an Ace 14” miter back saw that has given good service. Another hand saw that I like for more general use is the 15” Stanley “Sharp Tooth” saw with 12 teeth per inch. The Ace and Stanley saws only set me back around $35 for both.

Once you have obtained your sharpening gear, you can be on the lookout for vintage Stanley/Bailey hand planes. You can buy them at very resonable cost. Once you have flattened the soles and sharpened the blades they will serve well for years. A block plane and a #4 or #5 would be a very good start.

Perhaps the most important tool that a hand tool worker needs is some type of a cabinet maker’s bench with side and tail vices and bench dogs. You should definitely be on the lookout for this essential piece of workshop furniture.

-- "Heaven is North of the Bridge"

View Gofor's profile


470 posts in 3782 days

#8 posted 02-22-2009 04:52 AM

I agree with 8iowa in many ways. If you learn to sharpen the tools (that goes for saws as well as planes and chisels), you will be able to ply the craft much less expensively than those that have to have them ready “right out of the box”. Vintage (i.e. 1930’s etc) Stanley/Bailey hand planes are not expensive, do good work, but you pay for it most of the time by your work in fettling them.

An inexpensive Garlick 8” will cut fine dovetails. If you can live with a “Gentlemen’s” handle instead of a full handgrip, you can get them much cheaper than $80. However, you can use a cheap stanley backsaw to cut serviceable dovetails if you can sharpen it correctly. (Note of caution, tho. Dovetail and other fine tooth saws are NOT the saws you want to learn sharpening on. Start with 7 to 13 tooth hand saws).

As for planes, a number 5 is probably the closest thing to an “all purpose” plane. However, it is anything but all purpose until you learn how to fettle it, use it, the different profiles for sharpening the iron, and adjusting the mouth.

All that said, if you can afford them, you won’t go wrong with Veritas or Lie-Nielson. They will either be enjoyed by you for many years, or they will be easy to sell if you decide its not your thing (as long as you don’t try to get 100% of your investment!). If you are just starting out, you may want to consider a bevel up #5. By changing the bevel, it is a very versatile plane that can be used for a multitude of operations, from squaring end grain, to smoothing, to jointing. It won’t be good for hogging off a lot of wood if you are starting with sawmill lumber, tho.



-- Go

View Eric's profile


875 posts in 3779 days

#9 posted 02-23-2009 07:01 AM

I’ll second what Doubthead said. Get yourself a Gyokucho ryoba saw – cross cuts on the one side, and rips on the other. Here’s a review of it that I posted here on LumberJocks. And here’s a pic taken from that review. Notice that the one in the middle is a Crown (western) saw, and the one on the right is the ryoba.

This is an incredible saw for much less than you’d pay for an equally-good Western saw.

-- Eric at

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