hand tools or power tools

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Forum topic by motthunter posted 04-06-2008 03:00 PM 1380 views 0 times favorited 20 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2141 posts in 3824 days

04-06-2008 03:00 PM

Topic tags/keywords: hand tools power tools usage technique

Fine Woodworking Magazine this month (June 2008) shows the results of a study showing the responses from readers as to what percentage of their woodworking is done with hand tools and or power tools. They show as follows:

2% use only hand tools
18% use hand tools for everything except dimensioning lumber
24% use hand tools to prep surfaces and trim joints
41% use chisels a lot and handsaws and planes only occasionally
13% hardly ever use hand tools
2% other (whatever that means)

I personally fall in the 41% gap but would like to learn more hand techniques so that I can use hand tools more for custom shaping and carving.

I am curious where others fall on this chart and where they aspire to be.

-- making sawdust....

20 replies so far

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 4013 days

#1 posted 04-06-2008 03:21 PM

After thinking back on all my projects I’d have to say I’m in the 13% bracket.

I think I only use hand tools when nothing else will work.

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View trifern's profile


8135 posts in 3792 days

#2 posted 04-06-2008 03:28 PM

I am in the 13% bracket also. I would like to learn more hand tool skills. There is something about a well crafted, done by hand piece that can never be duplicated by a machine.

-- My favorite piece is my last one, my best piece is my next one.

View Eric's profile


875 posts in 3809 days

#3 posted 04-06-2008 03:35 PM

I’m in the 2% “only hand tools” group. Partly it’s for the challenge, but mostly it’s because my shop is 6×8 and I live in a country that doesn’t sell table saws, jointers, planers or band saws. I did see something that acts as a drill press (you secure your drill into a fixed base), which is new.

I have to say, I really enjoy the challenge of working solely with hand tools. It really adds a problem-solving element to woodworking that I believe doesn’t exist with big power tool users. Of course, my production speed sucks…

-- Eric at

View Thuan's profile


203 posts in 3843 days

#4 posted 04-06-2008 03:52 PM

Between 18 and 24%, I use hand saws and chisels equally. Hand planes half as much. I’m not ready for the stationary power tools commitment…YET. Though I’m a big fan of portable hand held power tools. I buy dimensional lumber at the box stores, it’s like hiring people to do that part of the job leaving more space in the garage to build. I treat woodworking as as a self supporting hobby so economics has to do with my decision.

-- Thuan

View gizmodyne's profile


1780 posts in 4115 days

#5 posted 04-06-2008 03:58 PM

Interesting.. I am in the 41% group.

I use chisels and my block plane a ton. I also use the shoulder plane to trim joints though.

Mostly power tools though. I want to learn to use a scraper more effectively.

-- -John "Do I have to keep typing a smiley? Just assume it's a joke."

View Doug S.'s profile

Doug S.

295 posts in 3733 days

#6 posted 04-06-2008 04:24 PM

I took that poll and cant recall whether I voted in the 24 or 41% bracket. But if there had been another choice for use chisels and planes a lot and handsaws only occasionally
that’s probably the one I would have chosen

-- Use the fence Luke

View Recycler's profile


40 posts in 3790 days

#7 posted 04-06-2008 04:40 PM

I think polls like that tend to oversimplify things, but I’d say I’m in the 18% group. In practice, though, it’s not like I set out with the goal of doing X by machine and Y by hand—I just look for the best way to get the result I want, preferably with the least hassle and the most fun. Sometimes this leads to a hybrid approach, like routing a mortise, then squaring it with chisels and handsawing the tenon.

View 8iowa's profile


1580 posts in 3786 days

#8 posted 04-06-2008 04:52 PM

I have been “re-discovering” hand tools and expect this trend to continue.

-- "Heaven is North of the Bridge"

View ND2ELK's profile


13495 posts in 3799 days

#9 posted 04-06-2008 04:59 PM

I fall in the 13% group. Now that I am retired, I would like to move towards the 41% group more. I always had a due date to make. NOT NO MORE!Thanks for posting.

God Bless

-- Mc Bridge Cabinets, Iowa

View jcees's profile


1060 posts in 3824 days

#10 posted 04-06-2008 05:02 PM

I’m between an 18 and 24% er. I use machines to dimension lumber but I’ve yet to do a project without perusing hand tools extensively. Even if I’m just running trim, I’ll have to relief file a cope or block plane something into place. Heck, I’m not above using my pocket knife [I keep it sharp too] if I’m too lazy to fetch that fancy schmancy marking knife I keep in a drawer.

There is an intimacy with the material that cannot be had any other way. It’s a tactile thing. I’ve also discovered that by learning to sharpen my tools quickly, as in WITHOUT jigs, that I can turn to a hand tool without reservation at just about any stage of a project. I ain’t skeert anymo.

I do have to admit that I’m an abrader darned near all the way when it comes to working tropical hardwoods. Hand work is done as have-to. I might edge joint or put a final sanding on it by hand… maybe.

So the bottom line for me is, whatever it takes for me to achieve my ends. Some projects demand the use of hand tools while others can be adequately accomplished via any other means including electricity, water, air, gas [phew] or harnessed horse [watch your step] power.

In the end, who cares as long as we can gitter-dun OUR way!


-- When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world. -- John Muir

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3847 days

#11 posted 04-06-2008 05:02 PM

I’m definately in the 13% group but am making a concerted effort to improve my handskills. But at the rate I am going with dovetails I may have to go ahead and get an omnijig and give up on hand cutting. :)

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View sharad's profile


1117 posts in 3830 days

#12 posted 04-06-2008 06:14 PM

I am in the 2% category mainly because I dont get the sophisticated power tools easily in my country. This definitely affects the time taken to complete projects but it certainly helps to put all your skills in doing your job. It is like calculators doing your calculations fast but then you become dependant on them and can’t do your arithmetic orally. In my opinion you must use both to maintain your skills. Hand tools must be used occasionally.

-- “If someone feels that they had never made a mistake in their life, then it means they have never tried a new thing in their life”.-Albert Einstein

View bfd's profile


502 posts in 3832 days

#13 posted 04-06-2008 06:19 PM

I currently fall in the 41% and pushing myself toward the 24%. I use chisels a lot along with japanese style handsaws for to handcut dovetails. I just started using card scrapers and I have to say that is highly enjoyable for me. I am trying to teach myself how to properly tune, and use hand planes and I think once I get the hang of that I will use planes a lot more. in fact just yesterday I purchased a Stanley #4 and added a Hock blade and chipper. If I become proficient with it I will treat myself to a L-N plane but baby steps for now.

View tenontim's profile


2131 posts in 3770 days

#14 posted 04-06-2008 09:02 PM

I’m in the 41% or the 2%(other) category. I use chisels a lot and handsaws quite a bit too. Hand plane use depends on what I’m doing. Even though 90% of my work is on commission, I still like to make time to do some of the steps with hand tools. Helps me keep my vision. Wouldn’t want to spend the day just punching out parts with power tools.

View Dadoo's profile


1789 posts in 4016 days

#15 posted 04-06-2008 09:17 PM

Since I use whatever it takes to get the job done, and then go grab the biggest hammer to undo all my screwups, I guess I fall into that “2% other” group!

-- Bob Vila would be so proud of you!

showing 1 through 15 of 20 replies

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