Having the right tools

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by Nighthawk posted 12-13-2011 08:05 PM 1581 reads 0 times favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Those few of you that follow my mere attempts to be a wood worker will know I have fun doing it no matter how the project turns out. Whether it works out great or an failed attempt. Or whether it is a biggish project like the coffin or a small one like the cribbage board.

Having the right tools for the job can make things so much easier, yes I will agree with that statement. However as we all know you don’t always have the right tool or all the tools you require or want to have in your shop, in my case a basement. One thing I have learnt though, is learn the full capabilities of the tools you do have, if you do this then you may find that you already have a work around for many things that you didn’t realise.

Simple things like no table saw to cut various cuts in a various ways, while yes it may be alot easier having one, and yes I still struggle when I want to rip long or wide cuts… but think what other saws you have that could also do the job, circular saw , mitre saw, scroll saw and also don’t be affraid to bring out those hand tools like hand saws and cooping saw and chisels. With a bit of practise and thought you will be supprised in what you can do and achieve and it will open up other projects that you can now have a go at.

Now again I am not the best wood worker heck I don’t pretend to be. I myself don’t have all the fancy tools you see on many of the wood working video’s.

eg; now just take it over to your table saw and…

Well I don’t have one. (okay I do now since about a month ago), and that will change how I operate and build things, but I will remember that I didn’t always have one. If I am showing someone how to make something or do something then I will also try and come up with alternatives of how to make with out a certian tool.

If you don’t have a scroll saw then maybe a copping saw will do the job you want done. Don’t have a router to smooth sharp edges, then maybe a belt sander or orbital, even a hand plane. Whilst it may not give the same result as the router you can still achieve a great look.

The circular saw, you can still do a bit with it. You can set the angle of a cut, the depth and if you uses a straight edge jig or make a running jig for it (or buy one) you can still do a bit with it. Yes it is not as easy and there is more fluffing around but you can achieve it. Heck hand saw and sanding you will still get there with a bit of practise.

So don’t be too put off if you don’t have the all the fancy tools, there usually is another way of acheiving the similar out come, and sometimes it is a better. So sometimes you need to think out side the square.

Have fun.


-- Rome wasn't built in a day... but I wasn't on that job? ...

11 comments so far

View helluvawreck's profile


32087 posts in 3067 days

#1 posted 12-13-2011 08:35 PM

Well, yes I would be the first to agree with you. All that we have to really do to confirm what you’re saying is to go into any nice antique store and look at some of the furniture that was built maybe 150 or 200 years ago. Our forefathers most certainly didn’t have all of the tools that we have today yet look at what they did with what they did have. It’s probably a good exercise for every woodworker to try to build something every so often with nothing but hand tools. It would teach us a lot, make us appreciate more the capabilities of the tools that we do have, and the skills of those who went before us and had so much less to work with than do we.


-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View jockmike2's profile


10635 posts in 4447 days

#2 posted 12-13-2011 10:32 PM

I agree helluvawreck, like you said, just look at the buildings, furnitures and homemade tools they had to work with.

-- (You just have to please the man in the Mirror) Mike from Michigan -

View Jorge G.'s profile

Jorge G.

1537 posts in 2676 days

#3 posted 12-13-2011 11:10 PM

Funny, I was thinking of this in the shower today. When I first started I bought all the tools the books told me I should have. Of course, everybody has their own experience but in my case, give me a good band saw a jointer plane and a jack plane and I can do what everyone else can do on a table saw and more. Hell I have even jointed boards on my band saw when they were wider than my 12” jointer.

-- To surrender a dream leaves life as it is — and not as it could be.

View canadianchips's profile


2613 posts in 3198 days

#4 posted 12-13-2011 11:24 PM

Having worked out of a workshop most of my life, I would always struggle when I would go to install or repair something out of my shop. I would have to try and figure out what I needed to carry with me.(Never took the right things) SO , then I would use what I had to do it. Most of the time people were amazed at how I did that work (I was feeling bad cause I knew I had the tools at home to do a great job).It is always good to know what all the tools you have are capable of doing !

-- "My mission in life - make everyone smile !"

View willie's profile


534 posts in 2655 days

#5 posted 12-14-2011 01:30 AM

One thing to note here is that “use the tools you have” doesn’t mean that chisels should be used as screwdrivers or to open paint cans. Adjustable wrenches are not hammers and just because you can use a hammer to kill flies, it’s not quite the right tool for the job. Safety first, and don’t abuse the tools you do have!

-- Every day above ground is a good day!!!

View Nighthawk's profile


556 posts in 2557 days

#6 posted 12-14-2011 01:36 AM

lol… yes.. totally agree… ;-)

-- Rome wasn't built in a day... but I wasn't on that job? ...

View Dave's profile


11429 posts in 3041 days

#7 posted 12-14-2011 03:08 AM

Start with what you have and it will help you choose what you need not want. A small tool set will get it done just fine.

-- Superdav "No matter where you go - there you are."

View FERNOS BARTNER's profile


1 post in 2596 days

#8 posted 12-14-2011 08:54 AM

Totally agree with your thought Nighthawk!!
Most of the times we just don’t know about the full capabilities of tool, so the first thing we need to understand that what kind of works we can perform with our tool so as to implement it! Again also it depends which tool to be selected for a particular task is important equally.
Personal protection dog for sale

View wolflrv's profile


85 posts in 2572 days

#9 posted 12-15-2011 10:32 PM

I agree with you completely, but I also finally learned my limitations, before I had an accident too. I’m in the process of trying to dimension wood to make small models and toys. I have lots of old 2×6 studs I was hoping to use to practice on, but I’m finding that not only is it not worth it, due to too many knots and nail holes, but also because I’m currently without a bandsaw, jointer or planer. I do have a very small 9” antique bandsaw, but it’s really a slightly thicker scrollsaw, certainly not up to resawing 2×6’s. For several weeks now I’ve been putting myself at risk, trying to resaw these chunks of wood on the tablesaw and I finally just told myself, it’s not worth this risk. This is just too dangerous.

So I called my brother-in-law who will be happy to burn all that scrap in his woodstove, which gets it out of my shop and makes me more room. I also went to Lowe’s last night and got some nice select pine and poplar boards that were pre-dimensioned at the right thicknesses and had the absolutely most pleasant glue-up this morning! I look forward to the day, when I can purchase a real bandsaw, jointer and planer, but in the meantime, I can live and work with all 10 fingers and both arms!

-- Handcrafted toys, models & gifts at --

View Dallas's profile


3599 posts in 2688 days

#10 posted 12-15-2011 11:37 PM

When I started this little excursion into the mystic art of cellulotic manipulation, I owned a hand saw, a bunch of framing and remodeling tools that were a decade or two old at that time, (funny, I remember buying them new… how did they get that old overnight?). I also had a 35 year old Milwaukee circular saw that was missing a spring on the guard return, (Still have it and still use it, but it’s nearly 45 years old now), a couple of Empire speed squares and some other miscellaneous articles of destruction.
I built the entire cabinetry and interior in two ex-Trailways buses that we lived in for almost 10 years. These weren’t your standard hippy bus, but quality over the road coaches built for millions of miles of travel.
I learned in that time that the old saying, “It’s a poor workman who blames his tools” was pretty close. Sometimes I have had to make do with the wrong tool, (screw driver instead of a chisel, cheap block plane instead of a nice jointer, dollar store sand paper instead of quality sand paper from the hardware store, etc).
I learned along the way that many of the tools we consider essential really aren’t, although they do make a job easier and that sometimes home made tools work as well or better than store bought. I make my own hand scrapers, I’ve built my own band saw fence, router table, scraper plane, pocket hole jig, dowel jig, box joint jig, spoke shave, square(s), etc. None of them were pretty enough to show here, but they do the job and do it well.
Cat, (My wife) and I use to watch every home building and remodeling show on TV. Some were exciting and showed what could be done and others were so poorly done that you could tell they would fall apart withing weeks of the end of the show.
We watched New Yankee Workshop religiously, and were in awe of Norm and his 4,312 routers, 17 band saws, 36 table saws and yes, his mortising machine.
We watched This Old House and wondered at the capabilities of Tommy, Norm, Bob Vila, Steve Thomas, Kevin O’Connor and the rest over the years.
We also watched The Woodwright’s Shop and marveled at the way Roy Underhill could take a stick of wood and turn it into a beautiful piece of furniture or a bowl with nothing more than ancient hand tools, some dating back to the 1700’s.
Now days, I have a shop, and almost all of the machines in it are old used machines that I bought at a flea market, yard sale, from CL or Ebay or someone has given me. About the only real exception to this is my thickness planer (Porter Cable Junk) that I bought new and wish I hadn’t. 2 weeks after I got it a fellow gave me his Delta 22-580, including a new belt and new knives. We thought all it needed was a new driven pulley so I ordered that, and once it was installed found that the gear drive on the other side was mangled beyond any use. A new gear drive for it will cost almost exactly what my planer cost, so I’ll either have to save up for it or find another 22-560 that I can rob for parts. In the mean time, it sits in the corner happily watching the goings on every day.

All of the previous rambling was to say that you don’t need all the fancy newest thingamajigs out on the market to make a project, look at what you have and go from there.
Learn to make some of your own tools. Once you’ve made one, you’ll find others you can make, and then more complicated ones to make and so on.
Start with something simple like a card scraper…. and don’t worry that it doesn’t match what LN sells…. it will work just as well. Soon you’ll be making curved scrapers and scrapers to clean rabbets and so on.

Good luck with your quest, we’re pullin’ for ya and know that you will be building projects that rival the best in the business before long.

Now, if I could only remember what I did with my tape measure.

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

View Nighthawk's profile


556 posts in 2557 days

#11 posted 12-16-2011 11:07 PM

@ Dallas I can never find the pencil…even when I am look right at it… lol

Total agree, not point buying a mortising Machine if you are never going to use it… (as I look at my wish list sigh) know what jobs you are wanting/needing to do and then slowly build the tools you require for those jobs.

-- Rome wasn't built in a day... but I wasn't on that job? ...

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics