If you had to start over would you start with hand tools instead of power?

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Forum topic by James posted 07-18-2010 10:02 PM 2352 views 0 times favorited 47 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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138 posts in 2891 days

07-18-2010 10:02 PM

I have been pondering this question for sometime now. I am still a fairly new woodworker and am getting ready to by some new power tools, table saw, bandsaw, jointer but I have seriously given consideration to putting off the power tools for a couple of years and just work with hand tools instead. I am just a hobbyist and have no need for efficiency, in fact I have the rest of my life to learn woodworking and do not feel like I should be in a rush to equip a shop full of power tools. I am curious to see what everyone else has to say.

47 replies so far

View Ger21's profile


1074 posts in 3097 days

#1 posted 07-18-2010 10:16 PM

There are two kinds of woodworkers. The ones that uses power tools, and the ones that don’t. It’s not really about efficiency.

Some people prefer to use and really enjoy hand tools. And others would rather let a machine do the prep work so they can get to the building.

I’d never give up my power tools, but I’ll reach for a hand plane every now and then. But no way am I going to prepare rough lumber with hand tools. That’s like two separate projects.

-- Gerry,

View Steven H's profile

Steven H

1117 posts in 3026 days

#2 posted 07-18-2010 10:22 PM

I like both. Get use to using hand tools first for a while then use power tools. So this way you’ll know when is best to use hand or power.

View David Kirtley's profile

David Kirtley

1286 posts in 2963 days

#3 posted 07-18-2010 11:02 PM

Hand tools and power tools are not mutually exclusive. One other alternative is a combination. I use power tools to do some rough prep work and hand tools to get stuff how I want it. This means I don’t really have to spend the extra money for high precision machinery. I can get close enough with my band saw and my miter saw and bring things down to the exact size with hand tools. I don’t expect a power saw cut to be a finish cut or glue ready.

Sometimes it takes a little longer but it is not always a given that power tools are faster. When you consider setup time and test cuts, the only real time the power tools win hands down is if you are doing a production run. When you are doing one-offs, things are a lot less definite. The only time I personally will always vote for power tools is ripping stock and resawing. That is only because I don’t have a decent rip saw and it is so easy to walk over to the bandsaw.

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

View Sailor's profile


543 posts in 3230 days

#4 posted 07-19-2010 01:36 AM

I use power tools! I will always use power tools no doubt. The only reason I can see for working with hand tools is that fact that you can say you that you built it all with hand tools. Now if you are going to use even ONE power tool then you can’t say you built it all with hand tools.

Seems like to me it is silly to use hand tools only unless you just enjoy using handtools.

If you want it to take you weeks to build a project that it could take you three days to build then use hand tools. If you want to get projects done and move on to the next one then use power tools, and if you want to have cool tools to show to your friends you need to have some power tools.

I mean, how does this sound?
“Hey man, come check out my new 36” hack saw!”
“Hey man, come check out my new 3hp cabinet table saw!”
Go with power tools man!

-- Dothan, Alabama Check out my woodworking blog! Also my Youtube Channel's Facebook page

View rance's profile


4255 posts in 3126 days

#5 posted 07-19-2010 01:56 AM

Same as Gerry & Sailor. I’m a power tool guy but I recently started teaching a hand cut dovetail class just to MAKE myself learn some HT. Only reason to make something with HT is to tell someone you did it with HT. Nothing wrong with only using hand tools, I’d rather get it done quicker and more accurately though. Less sweating too. :D

There’s a place for hand tools alongside power tools, but God invented electricity for a reason. We also use a microwave at our house rather than fire.

One day real soon: “Hey, come check out my micro mill converted to CNC.”

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

View araldite's profile


188 posts in 3369 days

#6 posted 07-19-2010 02:00 AM

I started with hand tools and moved on to power tools. Now I’m more and more going back to hand tools. Why? Because there’s a lot of things I can do faster, safer and with less dust and noise with hand tools. But there’s still a lot of things that are best done with machines, particularly if you have to do a lot of the same thing or if it is just too difficult to do by hand. Like why would you re-saw a board by hand if you have a band saw. So for me it’s a balanced blend of both.

-- Failure is the road to success if you learn to learn from your mistakes - Vince, Greenville, SC

View ChuckV's profile


3110 posts in 3493 days

#7 posted 07-19-2010 02:25 AM

I too am in the “hybrid” camp. As a hobbyist, I like that I can use machines to get my rough stock ready to go. But, I also really enjoy using hand tools. For instance, I like to hand cut dovetails, and will always do so. And as others have said, many quick tasks and fine finishing tasks just seem to make more sense with hand tools.

Last winter, I built a pie safe. I am now building another one. In the meantime, I got a Powermatic mortiser. To be honest, I did not miss hand cutting the mortises one bit. I still used my chisels to clean them up, and that is the most enjoyable part for me anyway.

I like having options for how to best do a task.

-- “Big man, pig man, ha ha, charade you are.” ― R. Waters

View Mogebier's profile


170 posts in 2998 days

#8 posted 07-19-2010 02:29 AM

I like my power tools. I have 2 hand planes that I have never used and don’t really plan to either.
I love gadgets and gizmos and things that run on power.

-- You can get more with a kind word and a 2 by 4, than you can with just a kind word.

View a1Jim's profile


117063 posts in 3543 days

#9 posted 07-19-2010 02:57 AM

I would have started with hand tools to get a good grasp on their use,but I would still use power tools after learning about hand tools proper use.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View Rick  Dennington's profile

Rick Dennington

5807 posts in 3160 days

#10 posted 07-19-2010 03:20 AM

Greetings j,

I’m a power tool junkie from the very start….never had much use for hand tools…
Never said I didn’t know how to use them though….......

-- " At my age, happy hour is a crap and a nap".....

View SnowyRiver's profile


51457 posts in 3446 days

#11 posted 07-19-2010 03:23 AM

I agree with a1Jim. When I was in carpentry school, they first taught us to use hand tools, then switched to power tools. Although I am a power tool guy, I think its nice to know and be skilled in hand tools.

-- Wayne - Plymouth MN

View spclPatrolGroup's profile


233 posts in 2860 days

#12 posted 07-19-2010 03:28 AM

I am a fan of using the best tool for the job, often its a combination. It is a myth that hand tools are slower, unless you are doing the same action again and again. One case for hand tools is that they are more accurate, dont belive me, try setting your jointer to remove .001”, its easy to do with a hand plane. Want skinny posts on your dove tails, you can cut them by hand in ways no template and router can match. The fact there is no jig to setup, or test cuts, just draw a line and start sawing makes them very fast. If you have a pannel that doesnt fit, your side plane sitting on your bench will make quick work, rather than going back and forth between tools and checking it.

With that being said, I consider myself more of a power tool guy, but I am starting to use hand tools more and more since they are accurate, and often faster to use than setting up a power tool and running back and forth betten the tool and your bench. I think both have a place in the shop, and if you really want to do fine work, you need handtools.

View SST's profile


790 posts in 4160 days

#13 posted 07-19-2010 03:56 AM

When I was in wood shop in junior high & later in high school, the first thing we learned to do was to cut a board square with a handsaw & then to hand plane it square in all directions. I used a chisel, not a router for hinge mortises. After learning those basics, we gradually moved on to the power tools.

I use both hand & power tools now & am glad I know how to use both.

My point is, I think a good way to learn woodworking is to start with the basics, as in hand tools, and, unless you’re in a hurry to go into production work or just build a ton of stuff in a hurry, work with them until you’ve mastered them & then move on to power tools (if you still want to).

I believe hand tool skills form the foundation for all woodworking…power tools simply add efficiency. (and for some people, reduce satisfaction) -SST

-- Accuracy is not in your power tool, it's in you

View Dark_Lightning's profile


3146 posts in 3074 days

#14 posted 07-19-2010 04:19 AM

I’m with all of you in this way:

Hand tools will teach you what can be done with a hand tool. Once you know how that sort of thing works, you might move to power tools that do the things you used to do with hand tools, but faster.

However, power tools may do things you didn’t want, like getting hurt, based on your experience level. You really need to be on your game with power tools, even sanders!
Other hand tools can bite, as you may have noticed with really sharp (or maybe not so sharp) chisels.

Personally, I lean towards power tools, as I design/make a lot of tools and components with milling machines and lathes. Note that this doesn’t stop me from relieving the edges on a set of shelves with a plane and sandpaper (and believe me, that radius is going to be really nice! Each tool in its own place.

By the same token, the small boxes I make are usually hand- sanded on the faces and edges.

-- Random Orbital Nailer

View yarydoc's profile


417 posts in 3110 days

#15 posted 07-19-2010 06:26 AM

First you need to find out what you enjoy and work with it. Personally buying tools is a great part enjoyment and I seem to go more towards the power tools. The hum of the motors and wanting to keep all my fingers takes my mind off all my problems. If it doesn’t I go back in the house.

-- Ray , Florence Alabama

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