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Occasional Table Class (Hand Tool Build) #2: The Recommended Tool Set, the Whys and Where's (part 1)

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Blog entry by RGtools posted 08-13-2011 07:54 PM 5743 reads 1 time favorited 15 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: The Big Announcement; And a Bit About The Tools. Part 2 of Occasional Table Class (Hand Tool Build) series Part 3: The tool kit Part 2, Saws. »

Often when galoots get into discussions about tools, the focus is either on planes or saws…sometimes even chisels get some love. What seems to never get as much attention as they deserve are the layout tools. This point mystifies me, because one of the most important skills in handwork is being able to split a line, be it with a plane or a saw. Good layout tools, make sure that your line (and the cut it guides) ends up in the right place.

Shown here is a 12” combination square, a marking guage, a set of dividers, a resharpened steak knife that I use for layout (my marking knife from Blue Spruce will be on it’s way shortly) and a pen…I forgot the pencil and the sharpener…see layout tools just never get the love they deserve.

We have all heard the old axiom “buy the best you can afford” or “the only time you will be disappointed with an expensive tool is when you pay for it”. While these are both very good pieces of advice, very few of us have the cash to run out and buy a whole suite of Lie Nielsens. In the course of going through the tool set I will tell you where I think you can get away with vintage tools and where you probably should spend the money; layout tools are one of those places when it’s a good time to crack the wallet open.

My combination square is a Starrett and it comes from the factory absolutely perfect. It may be a bit of shock but the combo squares you get at the hardware store are not flat, and they are not square, why we even allow them to be sold as “squares” mystifies me. Yes you can tune up a combination square, but it’s a pain and you really should not support people who make crap tools, or they will just keep making them.

The Glen Drake Titemark is the finest marking gauge on the market today. You can get away with much cheaper gauges, but I reccomend you stay in the wheeled category, they leave really clean marks and are very easy to use. The micro adjust feature on any of these tools with worth the extra money if it’s an option. The reason I like the Tite-mark, is it has one handed operation (a big plus when laying out a mark on an edge) and has some very well though out accessories. At the least, get the gauge. If you happen to have some extra cash, mortising heads and the reverse bevel marker are both very nice to have. In use make a habit of sticking it in a dog hole or tool well so it does not roll off of the bench (the single flaw of these gauges).

Get a decent pen and pencil and go to an art supply store for a good solid aluminum sharpener to keep in your shop. Pencils need to be sharp to leave crisp lines and harder graphite is a good choice for erase-ability (carpenters pencils are WAY too soft), for rough stock cuts a pen holds up well, for finer layout the pencil, and of course…

The layout knife. The layout knife I have shown is not really ideal for this project but habits die hard. A dull edge leaves a good mark on end grain for dovetails, but a sharp edge works better for crossgrain work. I use a steak knife that I reworked the edge on to mark well in end grain, but if I am not careful it’s really easy to miss a line. A better choice would be a chip carving knife or a double bevel knife like I have linked above. If you are short on cash grab a jack knife and take some time to practice making good marks with it (or just use the scribe in that Starrett combo square you bought). I recommend knives with a single flat side and a single beveled side, there is less of a learning curve. Find something that is comfortable to hold like a pencil and your fingers will thank you.

Dividers. These tools are so under-utilized. I have several sets which is nice for retaining several setting on complex projects. One will be a good start, get spring and screw dividers with sharp points. Starrett makes good ones I have heard; but I have been fortunate enough to get some no-name vintage ones that are perfect, and its good to mix and match a bit with these tools so you don’t confuse one for another on a project. 6” should be good for this and other projects.

Once you start making good lines. You need to start cutting them…so in the next entry we will visit saws.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan



15 comments so far

View mafe's profile

mafe

9515 posts in 1744 days


#1 posted 08-14-2011 10:49 PM

Half the job is the right tool we say in Denmark.
;-)
Best thoughts,
Mads

-- Mad F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

View RGtools's profile

RGtools

3302 posts in 1309 days


#2 posted 08-14-2011 11:20 PM

The other half is using it right.

I like this. My best to you and yours Mads.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View woodzy's profile

woodzy

416 posts in 1333 days


#3 posted 08-26-2011 05:00 AM

Interesting. thanks

-- Anthony

View RGtools's profile

RGtools

3302 posts in 1309 days


#4 posted 08-26-2011 05:04 AM

Thanks for dropping in woodzy.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View Arlin Eastman's profile

Arlin Eastman

2050 posts in 1216 days


#5 posted 09-08-2011 03:10 AM

That is the tools that I need most. I have been looking on Ebay and everything is so much money.
Arlin

-- It is always the right time, to do the right thing.

View RGtools's profile

RGtools

3302 posts in 1309 days


#6 posted 09-08-2011 04:55 AM

True story Arlin. You don’t need the Tite-mark the Veritas cost half as much and does the same thing with less bling. The Starrett on the other hand is worth the money because it helps so many other tools work. Most of the other tools you can make, but it takes time. Cash or time, spend the one you have more of.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View RGtools's profile

RGtools

3302 posts in 1309 days


#7 posted 09-20-2011 08:59 PM

I forgot to mention it since this function was added after my class started. If you go to the Class tab and hit the subscribe button you should not miss any installments of the class.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View Dennisgrosen's profile

Dennisgrosen

10850 posts in 1770 days


#8 posted 09-22-2011 12:16 AM

thank´s RG :-)
now there is a chance I can remember to catch up on this class as a newbie into woodworking
with a low budget and less time :-( I think I can pick up a tip or ten
looking forward to read about your tool surgesstions :-)
thank´s for taking the time to do it :-)

take care
Dennis

View RGtools's profile

RGtools

3302 posts in 1309 days


#9 posted 09-22-2011 02:48 AM

Thanks Dennis. It’s always nice to see you around these forums. Hope you have a blast.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View Dennisgrosen's profile

Dennisgrosen

10850 posts in 1770 days


#10 posted 09-23-2011 10:44 PM

thank´s RG I´m on night shitft so I think I can catch up on a great deal tonight :-)

I don´t know yet if you cover this aspect of it
is it just me that think I realy can´t get started with out setting up a good
utillitycorner´with metal and diy handtools and sharpening tools
or is it just becourse I´m into restoring tools mode at the moment
and now when I have to sort of rearange/rebuild my little shop after the water
I thinking more and more to make this metal corner even though I don´t have the room for it
since it will prevent metalshaves and dust to interfear with the wood area

maybee I just overthinking this as a fair DIY disastre maker :-)

Dennis

View RGtools's profile

RGtools

3302 posts in 1309 days


#11 posted 09-24-2011 04:07 AM

I won’t be covering that in the class (tool restoration is a bit beyond the scope of the class). I will say that if you are flattening a lot of plane soles as separate metal working area is VERY nice to have. However, if you don’t have a separate metal area covering your bench with newspaper or waxpaper is another way of keeping those filings at bay.

I don’t have a dedicated metal working area just yet, and I have not had problems. it would be nice but you do not need it. I do have a dedicated sharpening area…but that is also a luxury that you can put off for now.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View Dennisgrosen's profile

Dennisgrosen

10850 posts in 1770 days


#12 posted 09-24-2011 04:13 AM

thank´s RG as usual I just overthinking

Dennis

View RGtools's profile

RGtools

3302 posts in 1309 days


#13 posted 09-24-2011 04:45 AM

It pretty easy to do that. I worked without a bench for years because I thought it would be impossible to build one without one. In practice, I made a bench anyway.

Get to work and find the solution along the way…it’s easier that way.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View Bertha's profile

Bertha

12951 posts in 1348 days


#14 posted 06-20-2012 05:26 PM

I have officially begun my adventure, RG. This thing is too popular to review all the comments, so if any of mine are redundant, please do not be offended. I agree with this set wholeheartedly. I like fixed squares but I have a Starrett combo. Every once and a while I’ll check him, and he’s never been off. I bought three off fleabay before I found a good one (they’d simply been abused; one to drive in trim nails. For the price of the dozens I’d bought at the big box stores, I considered myself a winner. Most just buy these new for the reasons above.
.
Wheel marker: no brainer. I’ve got many of many varieties and yours is my favorite. I’ve considered dropping a ton of coin for the M/T knives and such, but never have. This is a purchase you’ll never regret, no matter how much you spend.
.
Layout knife: you’ve described exactly what you want. Mine’s a Czech but the Blue Spruce is on the top of the want list. I’ve got many pretty marking knives, so it’s really the one I don’t mind sharpening and feels good in my hand.
.
Why do non-lathe guys avoid dividers? I mean, you can even get vintage ones! I’ll have to take a picture of my collection one of these days. I’ve got some with razor sharp tips that you can use to enjoy a painful exercise. Check your rulers, tapes, etc. against an inch with your dividers. You won’t be happy:)

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View RGtools's profile

RGtools

3302 posts in 1309 days


#15 posted 06-20-2012 06:56 PM

Glad to see you here. My wife recently bought me the Blue Spruce…yes I am that lucky.

Starrett has a remarkable reputation and they hold up quite well if they are not heavily abused. I have a vintage 6” that I got for $5 that is quite true, I reach for it often enought that it sits in the chisel rack at the bak of my bench. That was a risk but $5 is a gamble I can afford for a decent tool.

I have considered the M/T blades as well, but I see myself using a second gauge instead.

I will conduct the painful exercise tonigh…we will see if it’s another argument I can make for the story stick (covered later in the series).

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

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