What hand tools to buy?

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Forum topic by swampjack80 posted 03-05-2010 07:51 PM 1339 views 1 time favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View swampjack80's profile


53 posts in 3289 days

03-05-2010 07:51 PM

What type hand planes and/or chisels do you guys recommend. I’m kind of just getting started in the woodworking gig and I’m trying to get some basic tools i need. I can’t really afford the really high end stuff but I want something worth having. I have a couple hand planes and a set of chisels but I’m sure there are better quality tools out there to have. Any input would be great. Thanks

-- "I believe that our Heavenly Father invented man because he was disappointed in the monkey." - Mark Twain

11 replies so far

View JimmyNate's profile


124 posts in 3590 days

#1 posted 03-05-2010 08:09 PM

Old Stanley planes
Old Record planes
Hock, Lie-Nielsen replacement blades
Marples chisels

Old Stanley planes can be found dirt cheap and work better than the new ones. You can find some nice deals at flea markets and garage sales on old tools too.

Saws can be resharpened, replacement blades can be bought for hand planes. As long as the tool isn’t rusted, bent or otherwise damaged, it can be made to work better than most of the new stuff out there.

Plan on spending some time and money on sharpening. Take the time before you go tool shopping to learn what you can sharpen yourself and what sharpening tools you will need. I can recommend The Complete Guide to Sharpening: A Comprehensive Guide -by Leonard Lee (of Lee Valley/Veritas tool fame). Mr. Lie-Nielsen (of Lie Nielsen tools) also penned a book on the matter for Taunton that I would expect to be good.

Reading about sharpening changed what I look for in tools. I highly recommend starting there.

-- "We are what we repeatedly do; excellence then is not an act but a habit." ---Aristotle

View Eli's profile


141 posts in 3246 days

#2 posted 03-05-2010 08:21 PM

It doesn’t really matter as long as you tune them up correctly. JimmyNate’s list is a good one, though. The blades are actually the most expensive thing on the list. If the blade in the old plane is good, you don’t need a replacement. I used a “new” stanley for a while (not the new high-end ones, new three years ago). It was $40 and had plastic handles, but it worked just fine. If those are still available, it might be even cheaper than an old plane with a new blade.


View DaddyZ's profile


2475 posts in 3280 days

#3 posted 03-05-2010 08:24 PM

Whatever you can Afford, When I get something better, I Pass the others on to someone else.

Gave my Bro In Law some wrenches, Sockets, Screwdrivers, allen wrenches. He is in auto repair so he is always looking for more tools.

-- Pat - Worker of Wood, Collector of Tools, Father of one

View ackychris's profile


103 posts in 3253 days

#4 posted 03-05-2010 08:54 PM

I don’t know a lot about planes, but I’ve gotten great results from a very old Union #5 I found in my family’s garage. I cleaned it up and lapped out most of the pitting on the blade, and honed the heck out of it, and now it’ll take whisper-thin shavings on all the hardwoods I’ve tried it on. In short, JimmyNate’s right: for now, at least, find an old plane online or at a flea market and take some serious time to tune it up. I think tuning mine also gave me more of an appreciation for planes as a tool, so it’s time well spent. I’ve also got a couple cheapo Buck Brothers block planes, and with enough sharpening, they’re fine. Not great, but fine.
As for chisels, anything you can adequately flatten and hone will give you good results, but I had the same urge to get some worth having, so I did some shopping and found MHG chisels on I got a six-piece set of bench chisels, and I’m freakin’ thrilled with them. They’ve also been on clearance for a long time, so they’re about half-price, fifty-some dollars for the set. I’m sure they’re not as nice as Marples, but they’re awesome for the price and they’re much better than the sets at the big-box stores. They needed almost no flattening, and they seem to keep an edge really well. You might also want a very small chisel, 1/8” or so, for cleaning out handcut dovetails and such.

And sharpening doesn’t have to be complicated. I just use the scary-sharp system—sandpaper on a flat surface, progressing up to 2000 grit. It’s the easiest way to sharpen I’ve found, and produces a better edge than I ever have before. But, you have to find the system that works best for you, and that you like enough that you’ll actually sharpen your tools frequently. When I was using stones, I made do with dull tools most of the time because I didn’t want to bother with sharpening. So, there’s my two cents.

-- I hate finishing. I never manage to quit while I'm ahead. --Chris

View WayneC's profile


13800 posts in 4337 days

#5 posted 03-05-2010 08:59 PM

Union is a quality brand like Stanley as is Sargent, Miller Falls and Ohio Tool. If your looking for a list of what types of hand tools to buy I can recommend two books that I would read before you go too far.

Tom Fidgen Made By Hand: Furniture Projects from the Unplugged Woodshop

Hand Tools by Aldren A. Watson

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View dfdye's profile


372 posts in 3277 days

#6 posted 03-06-2010 07:45 AM

This discussion seems to have centered around brands, so here goes:

I second the Marples Chisels suggestion. They go on sale at some of the Big Box stores occasionally, so keep your eyes open and you may catch a deal. My set takes a pretty good edge, and so far has held onto their edges pretty well. Good price/performance ratio, and unless you demonstrate that they don’t fulfill your needs, I don’t see a reason to get anything better.

I personally use cheap Irwin fine toothed “Japanese” saws when I use a hand saw. They cut like razors when they are sharp, and I just pitch them when they get dull. I figure the time I save vs. resharpening expensive Japanese saws is worth the additional long term cost of replacing the cheap blades.

I’m still undecided with regard to hand planes (still working that out for myself by trying a bunch of different strategies out.) I know that I didn’t really like the #4 Footprint that I have until I beat the snot out of it getting it tuned, and would definitely spend some more money on a better one if I had it to do again. I’m about to restore an old Stanley, so that may be a better option. Still, I can’t offer much advice here. The planes I am really looking at, though, are the WoodRiver line from Woodcraft. They seem to be really nice for the price.

The most important aspect of any hand tool, regardless of the price, is to keep them sharp, so the best advice I can offer is to get the best sharpening system you can! This by no means is the most expensive, though. The most effective method I have found for the price (at least in terms of initial start up cost—haven’t broken it down long term) is sandpaper sharpening. I use cheap hardware store stuff for grinding with coarse grits (up to 400), and use 3M fine abrasive films down to 0.5 micron for the final polishing and honing. The 3M films really have made a big difference for me, and I highly, highly recommend them!

if your question was “what TYPE of tools do I need?” then I would simply list the tools I pick up the most in the course of a project: Fine toothed pull cut saw (a lot of people advocate a Gent’s saw for this, and I could be convinced that is a better route, but I use the thin kerf pull saw myself), flexible flush cut saw (both of these are the cheap Irwins I talked about), a good general purpose hand saw (I don’t use this much except to clean out partial circular saw or table saw cuts, but it is invaluable when you need one! Mine was an Irwin $10 at Menards, and it works extremely well for what I use it for), 1/4” to 1” 4 piece set of chisels (I could justify a 1.5”, but haven’t gotten one yet), Bailey block plane, Jack plane (#4 or #5 should do the job), cabinet scrapers, exacto knife (for marking and fine trimming), adjustable angle gauge, engineer’s square, GOOD tape measure or rule (seriously, this get’s way too little credit for being a critical component of a good shop), and as many f-clamps and pipe clamps as you can justify.

What hand tools do I NOT have that I really wish I did? High angle smoothing plane (probably going to build one in the future) and/or a scraper plane. I really need to install bench dogs into my bench, and that should happen shortly, but a good bench clamping system is critical to the successful use of any set of hand tools. I know there are more, but those are on my immediate radar.

Good luck with your upgrades!

PS D@mn right, Roll Tide!

-- David from Indiana --

View skidooman93's profile


36 posts in 3484 days

#7 posted 03-06-2010 04:33 PM

Watch ebay. And buy yourself an older stanely 60 1/2 block plane, a #4 smoother, and a #5 jack and start there. I think those are the 3 most usefull planes along with a good medium shoulder plane. Those are hard to find on ebay for a good price. I have a veritas medium shoulder that is an excellent tool. You may want to add a #7 jointer to your collection but I would start with the first three. Old stanleys are good tools, there is a learning curve but just like anything else.

The most important thing with any hand tools is sharpening. A cheap chisel works decent if it is razor sharp, along with a hand plane. But if they are dull they work like garbage no matter how good a tool they are. I suggest the worksharp 3000 it is super simple to use and much less time consuming than water stones, and I get better results with the worksharp.

View bigike's profile


4055 posts in 3528 days

#8 posted 03-06-2010 04:37 PM

What hand tools do u have now like what kind of planes do u have? I have three stanleys i’m tring to get rid of all three for $150 two #5’s and a #6 the person buying has to pay shipping too unless they can pick them up.

-- Ike, Big Daddies Woodshop,

View JayPique's profile


61 posts in 3528 days

#9 posted 03-06-2010 05:22 PM

Buy the best and only cry once.


View swampjack80's profile


53 posts in 3289 days

#10 posted 03-07-2010 06:05 AM

Thanks everybody for the input. I agree with the “buy the best” but I guess I’ll have to just figure out what the best is. I know I won’t be buying a 100 dollar plane right away though. I try to stick with the best that I can justify buying. For example I bought the ridgid r4511 table saw and feel like I got a good product without dropping 1500 on a good tablesaw. Same for the freud diablo dado blades I bought today. Better than the cheapos but not a forrest blade. No way I could justify dropping 250 on a saw blade. Guess what I was asking in the original post is what is the best planes, or any hand tools for that matter, for the least amount. I try to stick to the middle of the road products I guess. I don’t want to buy junk but this is just a hobby so I try not go crazy on the spending. How are the lower end stanley planes? Are they of decent quality or are they not worth getting?

-- "I believe that our Heavenly Father invented man because he was disappointed in the monkey." - Mark Twain

View dfdye's profile


372 posts in 3277 days

#11 posted 03-07-2010 08:50 AM

I was in Woodcraft today buying a plane blade (and too much other stuff!), and I specifically got out the Woodriver and Lie-Nielson #5’s side by side to compre them. Though the LN did seem marginally better, the Woodriver was VERY well made and seem to use very good materials. The fit and finish was exceptional. There was no comparison with the Groz, wich looked like a toy in comparison. All three of these are based on old Stanley designs, so comparison is really easy.

I also took a closer look at the new Stanleys, and they are a slightly different design, but I liked the depth adjustment mechanism. I wasn’ impressed with the quality of a few parts, but the overall quality was pretty good too. The low end Stanleys look like a LOT of work, but I do have a new bailey block plane that I like very much after getting it tuned.

Just my $0.02

If you are interested in price/performance, I cant

-- David from Indiana --

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