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Forum topic by Bryan posted 07-30-2010 07:14 PM 3021 views 0 times favorited 18 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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51 posts in 3057 days

07-30-2010 07:14 PM

Hi Guys. I live in south ga and am trying to buy all the basic handtools i need for building furniture. I guess like many people I am looking for a bare bones list of the absolute necessary tools. But here is the problem I dont have 10000 bucks to spare but I also dont want to just buy cheap garbage, so I need to know the brands of the tools I guess I know a lot of that is personal prefrence but there has to be some good tools out there that last for under lie Nielson prices!

Also on issues of sharpening, man it looks like you could sure tie up a lot of money on sharpening stones and things. What is the abosulute necessities. I guess what I am asking is do I really need 5 water stones? Can you accomplish good edges with any paticular dimond stones I mean it seems like water stones wear out, would dimonds stones be cheper or better.

Maybe its just me but everybody I ask seems to give me info overload, Maybe I am not asking the question the right way, I dont know, I just want some basic answers if that is ok. And for you guys that love to say read books and and blogs, I have 19 books I have read and cannot tell you how much time I have spent on the internet, Honestly I have found nothing that is bare bones except a blog titled the “Dovetail Kid” but even there he makes no reference to brands any help would be a joy to me

18 replies so far

View spclPatrolGroup's profile


233 posts in 3094 days

#1 posted 07-30-2010 07:35 PM

My bare bones list would include, 4 planes (smoothing, jack, fore, and low angle block), 2 saws (dovetail, carcas (I prefer western back style but they are more expensive and a little harder to care for)), chisels (get a set of 5, there will be enough sizes to get you through the majority of your projects, a few various squares and straight edges, a marking knife, lots of clamps (price depend on size you will need), if you go to you can look at prices, I am a fan of their planes. The rest you can add later. If you spend 1000 bucks you can get some nice tools, if you spend 500 you will spend 1000 a few years down the road to replace the ones you just bought. Dont skimp on the planes, chisles are not that expensive, and if you use japanese saws they are less expensive, and stay sharp longer, but you cant really resharpen them, so they are throw away and replace, which is why I try not to use them.

For sharpening you only really need 3 water stones, corse, fine, and medium, and an edge guide to hold the correct bevels. You will also need a diamond plate for flattening your stones. Unless you like sharpening by hand I would recomend a work sharp type device, it costs about double what the stones would cost, but you will sharpen more often and take less time doing it.

View Bryan's profile


51 posts in 3057 days

#2 posted 07-30-2010 07:49 PM

All handtools my friends, I like the safe, minimial dust enviorment. I have a son that is 3 and loves to help dad, a table saw would be like a motorcycle almost! I like the quiet side, and power tools are very expensive I could see them in my future when my son and daughter gets older but for now I like doing things the simple way

View CoreyM's profile


41 posts in 3675 days

#3 posted 07-30-2010 07:55 PM

There is a lot to say on this topic. Opinions are all over the place, and a lot depends on the quality of work you want to do. If you want a plane that will perform exceptionally, you’ll need to buy Lie-Nielsen or Lee Valley, or spend a lot of time “tuning” an older Stanley which I don’t think will really save you much in the long run. Most likely you’ll want to replace the blade with a thicker one. There will be people that disagree with me, that’s fine, but in my 20 or so years of experience, the planes I reach for over and over are my Lie-Nielsens.

You’ll need some measuring and marking tools. Again, Lee Valley makes some nice affordable squares. A marking knife is handy, a cheap good one is the retractable blade types that snaps off, it’s thin, and if you sharpen it, can cut a very nice line.

Marples Blue handled chisels used to be very good and inexpensive. Don’t buy really cheap chisels, the steel is very soft and unable to keep an edge. There’s nothing more frustrating than sharpening a chisel just to have the edge fold over the first time you use it. Older chisels are fine if you can find them.

A good workbench is essential. Make one. It won’t be cheap, but it will be worth the effort.

There’s much more you’ll need, but my advice is this: choose something to build, then try building it. You’ll learn a lot about what you need and don’t need. If I were just beginning, I’d try to build something using wood in standard thicknesses, so you won’t immediately need a planer and jointer. I would also make it small so you won’t need to glue up wood, which would require a way to joint it, and clamps. Maybe a small box, or tool carrier would be a good first project. A small table would work too, maybe.

good luck.


-- Corey

View Viktor's profile


466 posts in 3618 days

#4 posted 07-30-2010 08:19 PM

#1 – Band-Aid! Just kidding.
- Saw, general purpose and fine: western or Japanese (prefer the latter one). I would not get a finer saw from a big box store.
- Plane. Almost any will do. Get a 9” long first. I am risking to be expelled from LJ for this heresy, but plane is just a blade holder. Brass knobs and rosewood handles have no effect on the quality of your work. Yes, lie Nielson is easier to adjust than a $25 plane, but fitted with the same blade both will produce exactly the same surface. High quality blade is more important.
- Bench chisels. Several from ¼” to 1” wide. Marples are affordable and of decent quality.
- Mallet to work with chisels. Don’t have to buy, could use a heavy block of wood.
- Sharpening stones. Try diamond ones. You could also use various grit sand paper (220, 600, 1200) glued to a flat surface like glass or granite tile. Don’t turn sharpening into semi-religious experience like many woodworkers do. It’s just sharpening.
- Clamps. Large (3-5 ft) pipe clamps and half a dozen smaller F-clamps
- Rasp. Any will do.
- Drill, screwdriver, ruler, square, sandpaper, glue, brushes are self-evident.

With this list some patience and attention to details you can do 99% of projects posted on this site. OK, except for turning .

Having said that I never plan buying tools, always do it when a necessity comes up. You never know in advance what you will like to do.

View spclPatrolGroup's profile


233 posts in 3094 days

#5 posted 07-30-2010 08:37 PM

A plane is a iron holder as a table saw is a blade holder, so a $299 Ryobi works as well as a Unisaw as long as you install a forrest woodworker 2, of course there are a lot of levels inbetween :) Also hiting a chisle with a mallet makes a sound like nails on a chalkboard, unless it is a mortise chisle. Anyway that is my opinion, and you know what they say about opinions.

Stanley came out with a new line of sweetheart planes, they are pretty affordable compared to Veritas and others, looks like they would make a nice starter set or as entry level premium planes (I think the jury is still out). If you want to look at tools, go to the reviews section of this site, there are many differnt brands of planes reviewed.

View swirt's profile


3420 posts in 3172 days

#6 posted 07-30-2010 09:01 PM

Viktor’s list is very good and complete. The only thing I can add is that part of the answer depends on whether you get any enjoyment from rehabing old tools. It can be a great learning experience and can save some money but still end up with some great tools. But if you have no interest in it…. avoid it.

-- Galootish log blog,

View David Kirtley's profile

David Kirtley

1286 posts in 3198 days

#7 posted 07-30-2010 09:25 PM

If I were on a limited budget and doing hand tools exclusively, this would be my starter set:

I would suggest that if you only get one plane, get a nice low-angle adjustable-mouth block plane (I don’t remember the current model numbers). They are pretty versatile and they are cheap and easy to care for. If you want a higher angle, get another blade and sharpen it to a steeper angle.

I would get a cheap set of hardware store chisels to work with and fill in good chisels one at a time as you can afford. The only real problem with cheap chisels is the edge retention. You will also want to have a beater set that you won’t be upset if they are damaged anyway.

A spokeshave. They are not expensive and very versatile.

a contractor grade Japanese style saw. Irwin, SharkSaw or the like.
a flush cutting Japanese saw.
A nice coping saw and set of blades.

I would go with a cheap set of diamond stones for rough work and maybe either sandpaper or a waterstone for fine honing. Don’t forget a stop and compound. These are more important than the stones. If you keep them sharp, strop them often and you will rarely need to go with a full sharpening.

A good marking knife. Could even be an exacto knife. You want a blade with only one side beveled.
A square.
A marking gauge.
A bevel gauge.
An accurate tape measure in your units of choice.
A few clamps.
A brace and set of bits.
A rasp
A scraper

You could fill a lots of books (they have) with all the extra stuff and specialty tools but they will just be refinements of the above.

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3315 days

#8 posted 07-30-2010 09:28 PM

a good study workbench and a sawbench
pen and paper
layout tools
1/4 , ½ , 3/4 , 1 cheisels
jackplane , smoother , low angle blockplane ,
a few scraperblades (a file and a punisher to set them up)
a ripsaw fine
a cross cut saw fine
one panelsaw rip and a crosscut
a mallet
some clamps
a sharpening system thats work for you)
first aid kit (just in case)
and from there you buy if you need a speciel tool to make a project one at a time

read books/sea vidios /lumberjock all about how to use/maintain/set up the tools
find one who is whilling to learn you some basic
but nomatter what you do it´s the practish in the shop that will bring the real knowledge under your skin

good luck with your joúrney in woodworking


View Viktor's profile


466 posts in 3618 days

#9 posted 07-30-2010 09:48 PM

Comparison of a plane with a power saw is not valid because plane does not have moving parts. Once you set the blade to a correct depth (which I admit could be a hassle in a cheap plane) a fancy plane will produce exactly the same surface as a cheap one (given the blades are the same). I would challenge you to tell the difference by looking at the wood. Look at what can be done with Japanese plane, which is a slotted block of wood certainly not precession machined. The secret is the blade. Similarly a Lee Valley square is the same 90 degrees as a no-brand square.

View CoreyM's profile


41 posts in 3675 days

#10 posted 07-30-2010 09:57 PM

Cheap planes are an exercise in frustration. A cheap plane does not provide solid contact between the frog and the blade, the mouths are generally not tight enough for fine work, the soles are rarely flat, and adjusting them is a pain. Besides that, though, they are practically the same.

-- Corey

View paratrooper34's profile


915 posts in 3151 days

#11 posted 07-30-2010 10:07 PM

For bare bones huh? Well, first I would say a workbench is top priority. If you are going to work with hand tools, you need a good bench. You cannot work with hand tools without a bench to hold the wood you are working on. Whether you build something from some dimensional lumber and a plywood top or buy something pre-made, make sure it is tough and up to the task. It must withstand punishment from chopping with chisels and planning operations and it must have some good holding mechanisms. There are lots of low budget bench designs that are still capable of handling all of the abuse. In fact, FWW has a decent low budget bench video on their site that I used to build my bench. Done as they show, it is very stout. Bottom line: you need a good bench for hand tool only woodworking.

You will also need some decent clamps: F-type and wooden handscrew type. My clamps get as much of a workout as the other tools. Holdfasts as well. You will need things to hold the wood when you work it.

For cutting, planning, sawing etc you will need: rip and crosscut panel saws to dimension lumber. A dovetail saw (or Japanese equivalent), and a carcass saw (I recommend a rip type for with the grain cuts, the dovetail will do your cross grain cuts on smaller pieces). For planes, a jack, a jointer, and a smoother will take you through almost all dimensioning and finishing needs. A good set of chisels from ¼” to 1”.

You will need some marking tools. I suggest a pin type marking gauge and a blade type marking gauge for layout. Also a bevel gauge and a marking knife. With those tools, you can layout almost any type of joint. A combination square will round out your marking needs.

Last, you will need something to handle drilling functions. Someone could write a book on that, so use your imagination there. There are SOOO many options out there for drilling.

For sharpening, I got by at the beginning with a 1000/8000 combo stone only. Yup, just one stone and it served me well. For cutting new bevels and reworking blades that needed more than just honing, I used sandpaper attached to a piece of thick tempered glass. Very low budget but I got razor sharp results with just those items. Since then, I got a couple of diamond stones (great for flattening your waterstone) and some good honing guides (Veritas, makes sharpening so much easier). A leather strop helps out to lengthen time between honing.

On the cheap, you can make some things from scrap to make your work better. A shooting board should be high on that list. It will greatly increase your accuracy and cost is cheap! A bench hook will help your fine sawing and other things.

To save yourself some money, do like I did and purchase good quality USED tools. You will put in a little time getting them ready, but you learn your tools and you save a bunch of money. As you develop your skills and determine more needs for tools, you purchase them one or two at time to save breaking the bank.

Good Luck!

-- Mike

View Div's profile


1653 posts in 3140 days

#12 posted 07-30-2010 10:18 PM

“Don’t turn sharpening into semi-religious experience like many woodworkers do. It’s just sharpening.”

Well said, Viktor! For many years I got by with a cheap bench grinder, a combination oilstone and a leather strop. Heck, just some wet-and-dry sandpaper and a flat surface will do it.

I am all for rebuilding old tools. The majority of my hand tools were found in junk shops. You can find yesterday’s quality at bargain prices. The trick is to know what to look for!

-- Div @ the bottom end of Africa. "A woodworker's sharpest tool should be his mind."

View Div's profile


1653 posts in 3140 days

#13 posted 07-30-2010 10:23 PM

At the other end of the spectrum, I have seen some tribal dudes here in Africa who turns out unbelievable work using just a selfmade adze. Some of the blades I have seen were just a flattened six inch nail that gets sharpened on a piece of natural stone!

-- Div @ the bottom end of Africa. "A woodworker's sharpest tool should be his mind."

View Viktor's profile


466 posts in 3618 days

#14 posted 07-31-2010 01:30 AM

I know what you mean. Look at this one:
A typical western woodworker would not even approach such project without investing $1000 in lathe, a dozen gouges with rosewood handles and a fancy caliper.
What is the RPM range on that guy’s lathe and does it have a soft start? I bet his tool is not perfectly ground to 30 degree with mirror finish either.

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 3308 days

#15 posted 07-31-2010 02:40 PM

Bryan, upon reading your post, I am assuming you want brand names that are affordable but have given good results. Not necessarily a bare bones list of the tools themselves.

Chisels – Go to Highland woodworking. You can get a nice set of 4 Narex bench chisels and 2 mortising chisels delivered for about 80 bucks. Nice steel, holds an edge when properly sharpened, and are quite a bargain compared to the more expensive two cherries chisels. Plan on spending some time honing and flattening though.

Planes – Cheap planes can be frustrating. Try and find old used Stanleys. If you are going new, avoid Buck Brothers. Stanley block planes come out in a few different models. There are some in which the blade is un-honed but the steel is from England. The cheaper models are made in Mexico, go with the 40 dollar versions that are easier to adjust but require some work to hone and flatten. You are trading elbow grease for cost savings. You can save a lot of money if you avoid big box store pre-planed lumber. To work with rough lumber, you are going to need a jointer plane. Try and find one used as these are very expensive new. Again, expect to spend some time honing and flattening.

Measuring tools – Highland woodworking is a good resource for products that are more professional but are a little less expensive. Great customer service there.

Saws – Crown tools makes a decent dovetail saw that had high rankings in Fine Woodworking magazine even though the cost was substantially less than other brands. Marples also makes a few Japanese style saws in the big box stores, that are manufactured in conjunction with Irwin. Some of these have replaceable blades on the handle. The blades are thin and will dull over time but can give you some fine cuts for awhile.

Clamps – Harbor Freight sells decent wood screw clamps, pipe clamps, and F style clamps at a very reasonable price. The quality is decent. Look for clamps that have the Pittsburgh label when buying F clamps there. Avoid the plastic bar clamps. They are very cheap but I usually have problems getting enough torque from them without breaking the heads off. Home Depot has been carrying 8 pack clamp sets for around 20 bucks that have two 12 inch, two 6 inch, two 4 inch, and two smaller clamps made by Irwin. The clamps are not heavy duty, but they would be good for glue-ups on many small to medium sized projects. 3 sets of these would do you well at the start. You will find, though, that you never have enough clamps.

Sharpening – There is not going to be any one stone that will do it for you, but look up the “scary sharp” sharpening method. You will need various grits of adhesive backed sandpaper and a piece of flat glass. You can get the sandpaper in rolls. Get an abrasive cleaning stick and your sandpaper will last much longer. It looks like a big rubber stick that you rub across the paper and it unclogs the abrasive particles. I believe Lowes carries them for around 5 bucks, or you can find them online.

Hope this helps,


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

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