Getting Started & Where I Want To Go

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Blog entry by MikeInPenetanguishene posted 01-09-2010 06:47 AM 1203 reads 1 time favorited 16 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I remember as a kid going down to my Dad’s basement workshop where the sweet smell of freshly cut wood drew me in. I’d watch as he sawed, drilled, planed and put together all sorts of wooden creations. He would give me this little red hand-drill and a piece of scrap 2×4 and tell me to drill some holes for him. I never knew why he wanted me to drill the holes. He never used them. But I guess it kept me busy while he worked on the ‘big’ machines.

That was about 40 years ago now. My dad has passed on but in the last few years I’ve been getting the bug. The need to build ‘something’. I had turned my first love and hobby into a career – photography ( if you’re interested) but now I need a hobby to help me unwind and, well, be a hobby. So, here I am at 52 starting a new hobby that takes a lifetime of learning. Better late than never eh?!

I’ve got the basic hand tools, hand power tools, a new Ridgid 3660 TS, 12” Compound Mitre Saw and recently a Craftex 6” Jointer that a good friend gave me – but I’m mostly interested in pursuing this craft with hand tools.

I bought a set of good Japanese Chisels from Lee Valley – but not sure what to do with them. I’ve got a new Veritas Workbench – absolutely beautiful. I realized early that a good bench is necessary for good woodworking so decided to buy one rather than attempt to build one with my limited knowledge. That was a good move.

My first project, an Oak step stool. Never worked with this hard wood before. It’s almost finished and taught me that I need more tools!! Looking through the Lee Valley catalogue just makes me drool. There’s so many things I need RIGHT NOW, but the budget doesn’t allow that. I think I need a good, all around plane. Which also means I need to get a sharpening system (which will help with the chisels I don’t know what to do with too). Which also means I need to build a place to store this stuff. Gee… reminds me of photography. Which reminds me… I need a new lens!


-- Mike Guilbault, Penetanguishene, Ontario

16 comments so far

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 3076 days

#1 posted 01-09-2010 07:12 AM

Welcome to LJs Mike. I feel your pain. I have just recently been making attempts to get past the tool bloat where I feel like I never have enough tools and I start finding that the tools are driving the project rather than the project driving the tools. I had borrowed some books from the library a couple years ago to try to get some ideas on things I would like to make. While thumbing through the required tools list, I would say to myself “I don’t have that. Nope, don’t have have that either. Uhhhh, nope, can’t do that one…” I spent the last year accumulating tools and making space in the shop so I could do those things, but I found myself going “Ok, now where is the completed projects?” I think you are very much on the right track. You have a project that you are near completion using what was on hand. Once you pick up another project, you will find yourself with a new list of needs and then you will fill them. As the projects grow, so does the tool collection. And, hopefully, if you don’t have the tool that is ideal, you will judge your project by what you had to work with, admire it for the skills you have developed, then move on to the next project with an expanded knowledge of what you can accomplish and a new list of tools you will need :)

Good luck with the new chapter in your life,


-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

View Ecocandle's profile


1013 posts in 3034 days

#2 posted 01-09-2010 07:19 AM

I am right there with you Mike. While having an unlimited budget might allow one to buy all that one needs. I think part of the fun is the anticipation. I have just ordered a Japanese rip saw, which I have wanted for about a month. I should arrive next week. It will make my day when it gets here. Then I start practicing dovetails.

I too like photography. I just had 6 shots that I took for my blog here accepted at shutterstock (Extremely Average # 5, if you are interested). They are also in the queue at istockphoto. I plan on uploading them to the other sites tomorrow. I am sure that I will get all sorts of great stock shots from my new hobby.

I look forward to your following your journey. I am off to check out your photography now.

-- Brian Meeks,

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3083 days

#3 posted 01-09-2010 07:32 AM

welcome to L J and enjoy the site and your new journey


View Gary's profile


9326 posts in 3401 days

#4 posted 01-09-2010 07:37 AM

Oh boy…are you ever hooked!

-- Gary, DeKalb Texas only 4 miles from the mill

View woodworm's profile


14465 posts in 3558 days

#5 posted 01-09-2010 12:15 PM

Go ahead with what your wanting to do. You’ve got the interest, the will and determination – knowledge can be learnt, ability and skill will come along the way.
Good luck with your woodworking journey!

-- masrol, kuala lumpur, MY.

View FlWoodRat's profile


732 posts in 3877 days

#6 posted 01-09-2010 02:29 PM


Please keep in mind that the Master Craftsmen of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries did pretty much everthing with hand tools. Of course, when power tools became available, they used them to speed up their build processes. What you intend to build, and how long you want to take to build them really dictates the tools you need. Boards can be ripped, cross cut, jointed and flattened by hand. Joinery (butt joints, mitres, dovetails, mortise and tenons, dados and rabbets can all be cut by hand. Curves can be cut with coping saws, bow saws or fret saws. All of them are quieter than power tools and use more of your energy than that provided by the power company. That having been said, I recommend the following items for your basic hand tool set:

For Sawing:


A dovetail saw (shop around LV makes a good one as does Grammercy, LN and Adria)
A cross cut tenon saw.
A coping saw or fret saw for curves

For Planing and Smoothing:

An adjustable mouth low angle block plane (for cleaning up end grain)
A smoothing plane (#4 or #4.5) (for smooting, duh)
A roughing plane (# 5 or #6) (for quicker removal of stock)
A jointing plane (#7 or #8) (for jointing edges and flattening stock)
A shoulder plane or rebate plane (#78) (for cleaning up tenons)
Card scrapers, straight edge and curved (for cleaning up mill marks prior to sanding)
A router plane for cleaning out the bottom of dados and rabbets

Sharpening System (low tech but effective)

A supply of various grit wet/dry sand paper (220, 400, 800, 1200 and 2000)
A waterstone (4000 and 8000 grit Norton Combo)
A Veritas Mark II honing guide (buy the extra cambered roller so you can put an arc on some of your plane iron leading edges)
An 18” x 18” x 1/2” piece of granite tile (base for your wet dry paper)


Spend the money for high quality tools here. Good precise layout leads to better joinery

A set of engineer squares (4” and 6”)
A 12” adjustable combination square (Starrett)
A marking knife (or 0.5 mm mechanical pencil)
Inexpensive drafting triangles (45/45/90 and 30/60/90 degree corners
Tommy MacDonalds “4-Pak” (dovetail layout and paring blocks plus a bench bat and marking gauge)
Hope this helps.

Once you have started putting your tool kit together, build yourself:

A Bench Hook (Makes hand planing easy without the need of clamps and can also be used for steadying stock when cross cutting)

A shooting board (for precise mitres and jointing of small pieces)

Instructional Materials:

Check out Tommy MacDonalds Major League Wood Working web site at
There is a ton of video content there that will help you understand basic joinery and construction. Also, while you are there, buy his Tool Box DVD. Build that puppy and you will have a place to keep your toys.
(Read Karson’s review. He posted it a few days ago)_

Most importantly… Practice Practice Practice.

Enjoy the journey.


-- I love the smell of sawdust in the morning....

View Bob Kollman's profile

Bob Kollman

1798 posts in 3159 days

#7 posted 01-09-2010 04:04 PM

What Bruce said….Mike do you think his short list sounds affordable?

Most hand tool guys spend as much as I do (or more) But craigs list,

and local estate sales might help you fill that short list. I think with

hand tools you do need to buy the best, not nessicarily the most

expensive. Browse this sight I have read a lot of knowledgeable articals

related to hand tools here.

-- Bob Kenosha Wi.

View FlWoodRat's profile


732 posts in 3877 days

#8 posted 01-09-2010 04:41 PM


Bob Kneosha is right on with your search for tools. Look into Craigs List, EBay and There are gems to be found out there. Of course, buying from individuals does have its risks, and one occassionally can get into a ‘bidding war’ and pay way to much for tools. So far, I’ve been fortunate with my ‘on-line’ purchases off of CL. By the way, when you buy a ‘fixer uppper’ off of EBay,,, you will find that when you use the tool, you might have a greater appreciation for it. You now own part of its quality.


-- I love the smell of sawdust in the morning....

View MikeInPenetanguishene's profile


57 posts in 3028 days

#9 posted 01-09-2010 04:43 PM

Thanks everyone. I understand the slippery slope of buying tools and I only want the ones that will help me with my next project. It’s going to take a while, I know, but I’d rather spend the money and buy the best rather than waste it on something that will only ‘do for now’. I’m learning as I go. Bruce’s list at least gives me a goal to work towards.

Like you said, the Craftsmen of yesteryear only used hand-tools – but moved on to power when they became available. They, mostly though, were interested on improving production where I want it to be strictly a hobby, have the time available and no deadlines to meet. I think that’s what interests me about hand tools. The time to learn how to use them, master them (or at least use them decently) and take my time building something I can be proud of no matter how simple or complex the item may be.

I already feel like I’ll be learning a lot from you lot. Thanks for the welcome and hopefully, in 20 years or so, I’ll be able to contribute back in some way.


-- Mike Guilbault, Penetanguishene, Ontario

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3083 days

#10 posted 01-09-2010 05:48 PM

I know that there is a lot of info you can get from all the L J´s on this site but try and see
this guy go on to his blog and go to the first site from the beginning with reading and see
the vidio´s he has made he do it only with handtools and he is quit empressive becourse
he had think abaut how the tools work the correct way etc.
here is the link

I hope you can use it

Dennis a newbee

View Skylark53's profile


2661 posts in 3028 days

#11 posted 01-09-2010 06:24 PM

Mike, apparently you and I got here about the same time, and I would say we’ve found an excellent neighborhood in which to raise our woodworking skills. I’m pretty sure I don’t belong, but LJ folks are so kind and encouraging, I don’t want to leave. As for tools and accumulation of, I am learning at every stop here but am most amazed at those who master a particular tool at it and exploit it beyond its original intended use. I have a retail store where we mix paint, custom colors if needed. Years ago I asked one of the master color tinters how I would ever learn to do such. “you gotta get your fingers in the paint”. Same thing with woodworking- “you gotta make sawdust”. You’re gonna have a ball with it.

-- Rick, Tennessee, John 3:16

View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13345 posts in 3641 days

#12 posted 01-09-2010 06:26 PM

Mike welcome to the new hobby of woodworking.

View LeChuck's profile


424 posts in 3030 days

#13 posted 01-09-2010 07:35 PM

Hi, this is interesting :)

I also had a dad who used to be a woodworker, but here in France back in those days, manual work was not well regarded compared to “working in an office”, so he didn’t develop a professional career out of it, but it allowed me to pick up the taste for it.

I am also a photographer, although it has never become a career for me, just a passion and a bit of money on the side. Balancing 2 expensive hobbies is tough but I now have a strong preference for woodworking as, for me, the more creative of the 2, and the most likely for me to turn into a new career.

So, welcome, from another newbie on this site and good luck with the woodworking :)

It’s a bit like photography. Don’t go crazy, but if you can afford the right stuff, especially when it comes to machinery, get it, or regret it and waste money.


-- David - Tucson, AZ

View Karson's profile


35111 posts in 4368 days

#14 posted 01-11-2010 07:47 AM

Welcome to LumberJocks. Glad to have you aboard. †

I’m glad that you decided to join us and wish you luck in your new hobby. Don’t expect a lot in the beginning so you don’t become discourages. Celebrate in the joys of creating. The skills which you learn will improve and the abilities that will appear will make you wonder why you didn’t start this years ago.

Have fun and work safely.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View JohnnyVee's profile


43 posts in 3366 days

#15 posted 01-20-2010 07:24 AM

Welcome to LJ Mike

I’m from Penetang as well but am living on the west coast these days. My grandfather and his brothers all worked down at Grew Boats (and a host of other ship and boat factories) in the area and I always went down to the visit them at “the shop”/ Man if I could have apprenticed with him…too late for that though. And like you the woodworking bug bit me again about 3 years ago. I just bought a new home (built in 1917) and am putting a shop together so I hear what you are saying. If you want to get more into it, perhaps checking around to see if there is a local woodworker’s guild ( I belong to the Vancouver Island Woodworkers’ Guild to get more info and others who love the craft.

Cheers and good luck with the new start

-- John ..."Measure twice, cut once and always do a finger count right after that..."

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