I want to build things with hand tools

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Forum topic by Bryan posted 09-06-2011 06:48 PM 3329 views 0 times favorited 26 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Bryan's profile


51 posts in 3032 days

09-06-2011 06:48 PM

I would like to buid things with hand tools, but there is so much out there that I am overwhelmed at this point I have found countless list on which tools to buy and all that good stuff. I have 1000 dollars and would like to use it all to buy me some starter tools. I have done wood work with poer tools and been exposed to hand tools but not so sure exactly what i need. I want to be able to build boxes, tables, and simple chairs not really looking to do a lot of curves yet. I have looked at lee valley tools and they seem nice. So here is my specific question If you had a 1000 dollars to spend on lee valley hand tools what would you buy to get started? Now I am aware that there are some exceptions (although I do not know what they are) I have been told you cannot go wrong with lee valley tools so try to keep in mind i am willing to buy another brand if you fill strongly you can get the same quality at a better price. I would like to stick with lee valley as much as possible though. So you guys have at it 1000 dollars all of your help with this decesion will be wonderful thanks a lot. you may post it here or you can email it to me and I will post it here, I have 3 friends looking to do the same thing. my email is

26 replies so far

View littleparker's profile


6 posts in 3078 days

#1 posted 09-06-2011 08:17 PM

I suggest you visit Rob Cosman’s site: and
He now has a online hand tood workshop, he is using hand tools to build a candlebox currently followed by these planned projects: hall table, lap desk; hanging cabinet; traveller’s chest; bookcase, cherry table.

Two other handtool woodworkers can be found at:

Best of luck.

View tirebob's profile


134 posts in 3028 days

#2 posted 09-06-2011 08:24 PM

You should read Chris Schwarz’ book, The Anarchists Tool Chest. He goes in detail about what tools are most important to have, then what is nice to have, to be able to accomplish most handtool tasks… Myself, I broke the bank in the beginning and bought a ton of really premium stuff all at once, and while I don’t regret it, I find today I use certain tools a lot, and others not so much, which means I could have gotten away with spending less money and still do all the jobs I do now. Still though, it was a ton of fun buying all those cool tools! lol!

If you are going to buy one plane, the low angle jack plane is an awesome starting point. You can buy a few blades and tackle the widest variety of jobs with that one plane. You can remove stock fast, you can flatten, you can smooth and you can use it for shooting. Just switch blades to match the job you are doing. If you have multiple planes in the budget, a dedicated jointer and smoother are nice. I also really like my shoulder plane and router plane. The next plane I am going to buy is a plow plane. If you plane on doing a lot of boxes, drawers etc, plow planes are great!

A full set of decent chisels are nice, but you don’t need to break the bank to get something functional. You would be better off buying a few common sized good chisels and add more as you need them, rather than a full set of crap ones. Thinking economy, the Narex bevel edged ones are good for cheap, but the new Stanley Sweethearts are probably a little better. If you can hold off, Lee Valley if supposed to unveiling their new premium line of chisels soon, but not sure what the price tag will be on those yet.

Get yourself some decent saws. The Veritas dovetail and carcass saws are awesome, especially for the dollar…

If you are buying handtools with blades, a decent sharpening system is a must! Even the best tools will work like crap if not sharpened properly. There are many different methods, but I prefer waterstones for cost vs quality. There are many who use sandpaper which is cheaper to start, but adds up over time. Decent waterstones are not too much money and can last a long time. A DMT plate is a nice luxury for keeping your stones flat. I like to use the Veritas MKII honing guide while others prefer freehand, but the guide is pretty foolproof and lets you repeat great edges time after time.

You will need a good marking gauge, measuring tools, squares etc. If you plan on doing dovetails the dovetail markers are handy.

There will be many different preferences, but if you stick to the basics you will be fine and can just add tools as you find you need them. There are multiple ways to skin a cat, so even though a certain tool might make a job easier, it isn’t usually the only way. Once you figure out you are doing a certain job all the time, you can consider upgrading to a specialty tool then…

Where are you located? Lee Valley has great tools (their Veritas line is exceptional!), but others love their Lie Neilsen tools, and you can start getting into the boutique manufacturers who specialize in their specific tool types… It never ends! Haha!

View AUBrian's profile


86 posts in 2846 days

#3 posted 09-06-2011 08:26 PM

It would really help to know what kind of work you plan to do…that can make a difference in what tools are recommended. If you’re set on going with New Tools at LV (Don’t get me wrong, I think they’re a phenominal company), then I’d go for the following:

Narex Bevel Edged Chisels – Set of 4 ($41)
Veritas 5 1/4 – $229 (A low angle jack could also be considered here)
Veritas Low Angle Block – $139
Set of 3 Veritas Saws – $159
6” Starrett Double Square – $66

Total – $634

That would cover your basics. Then you need to look more locally for a panel saw (You can probably find a nice Disston on Craigslist or some other site), you’ll also need stones, or a granite surface and sandpaper for sharpening. If you’re going for completely hand tools, you’ll also want to look for a brace and bits, and a router plane.

And that’s just trying to get you a basic set that can do a little of everything. You may want to do more mortise and tenoning, in which case a nice tenon saw and mortise chisels would serve you well. Actually, mortise chisels are always handy…But then you’d also need a mallet. But then you could make it yourself…

And don’t foget some money for lumber…what good are tools if you have nothing to build with?

View AUBrian's profile


86 posts in 2846 days

#4 posted 09-06-2011 08:27 PM

Looks like Bob and I agree…he just beat me by 2 minutes…. ;o)

View Bryan's profile


51 posts in 3032 days

#5 posted 09-06-2011 08:59 PM

U guys are awesome. I live in Fort Valley Ga, Its about 70 miles south of atlanta.

View Brit's profile


7522 posts in 3017 days

#6 posted 09-06-2011 09:45 PM

Hi Bryan – RGTools is doing a great blog at the moment on a hand tool build where he discusses the basic hand tools and their uses. I would encourage you to check it out. Here is the link to Part 1.

-- - Andy - Old Chinese proverb says: "If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it."

View Brandon's profile


4152 posts in 3126 days

#7 posted 09-06-2011 11:00 PM

Bryan, it might be worth it to take a drive up here to Atlanta and visit Highland Hardware. They have a very good selection of hand tools that you can take a look at in person before you buy them.

-- "hold fast to that which is good"

View maljr1980's profile


171 posts in 2631 days

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

we dont know what you have as far as hand tools to start, youre going to need a couple of hammers and mallets, deadblow, some measuring devices and squares, clamps, pliers, screwdrivers, maybe some nail sets, chisels, a couple planes, maybe a japsaw or two, sharpening supplies, maybe some miter clamps and pinch dogs, maybe some dowel centers, kreg jig, countersinks. thats just to name a few of the things in my tool chest at work

View jusfine's profile


2422 posts in 3100 days

#9 posted 09-07-2011 05:10 AM

Once you enter the doors at Lee Valley, you may never come out… :)

Great advice above, welcome to the dark side!

-- Randy "You are judged as much by the questions you ask as the answers you give..."

View WayneC's profile


13776 posts in 4272 days

#10 posted 09-07-2011 06:20 AM

I would also recommend reading the New Traditional woodworker by Jim Tolpin. Great advise on building furnature with hand tools, tool selection and projects.

I would get informed before jumping into a bunch of expensive tools. Vintage tools can save you a lot of money if you know what your looking for and can resist the urge to collect everything in sight.

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

View Arlin Eastman's profile

Arlin Eastman

4249 posts in 2736 days

#11 posted 09-07-2011 06:33 AM

It seems the more I buy hand tools and use them, the more I do not use the big stuff.
I guess I am falling in love doing woodworking by hand.

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

View Gary Roberts's profile

Gary Roberts

140 posts in 3196 days

#12 posted 09-07-2011 08:07 AM

I agree on the Jim Tolpin book. Very down to earth. Overall, I would recommend buying only what you need for a project. Buy too much and you may find yourself with tools you rarely use, not to mention overwhelmed with to much stuff.

Along with using the tool, you need to learn how to adjust and sharpen it. I’m not sure how to go about this part as I’ld recommend two books that people have really liked. Problem is, I’m the publisher of them! So, I’ll send you an email off-forum.

Don’t get sucked into the whole dollar game of buying tools. A $200 plane won’t make you a better craftsman, it will just make your wallet lighter. Learning the how’s and why’s along with technique is the best place to start.


-- Gary Roberts,

View parkerdude's profile


182 posts in 3626 days

#13 posted 09-08-2011 12:12 AM

I vote with Gary,

Lots of woodworkers advocate high quality tools, that command high prices. There are legions of hand-tool guys that can’t cut a straight line. Remember “you can’t buy a game”.

Take your time, read a lot, consider some lightly USED tools. Find someone that will help you figure out which ones.

After looking for a while I bought a used Stanley #5, 2 years ago, that was almost as nice as the Record #4 that I bought new 25 years ago. Come to think of it it was actually slightly cheaper too.

Try a couple of small projects, let them guide your search.

Good Luck!


-- dust control

View Dunelm's profile


32 posts in 2662 days

#14 posted 09-08-2011 12:46 AM

Many years ago I purchased a relatively good quality adjustable mitre box and accompanying 26 inch mitre saw. I don’t know if they’re still available but it would be near the top of my list for handtools if you want to make accurate crosscuts without any type of power saw.

-- Bruce -- Canada

View tirebob's profile


134 posts in 3028 days

#15 posted 09-08-2011 03:02 AM

While I agree that great hand tools will not make a great woodworker, I believe you should have at least one really premium tool (or at least experience it) so you will know how a tool is supposed to perform, so then when you are buying vintage tools etc, you will know where you are at versus where you need to be. If you don’t know something is performing like crap, you might tend to blame yourself for things that are related to the tuning of the tool, and if you don’t know what good is, you won’t know what bad is either. This leads to frustration and frustration leads to giving up. Don’t be scared to buy premium tools if they fall within your budgets. There is nothing wrong with that at all, but if your budget is a little tighter, don’t be scared of quality vintage stuff. Just know what you are buying and how it should perform…

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