What hand tools do I need?

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Forum topic by pariswoodworking posted 10-05-2011 03:54 AM 2473 views 0 times favorited 31 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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386 posts in 2483 days

10-05-2011 03:54 AM

Topic tags/keywords: hand tools

I’m wanting to get more into using hand tools for everything and I was wondering, what hand tools do I need? Which ones are completely nessesary, and what do you recommend? I have things like braces, a hand powered drill, and a #5 stanley. I have my eyes on a few more planes but I was wondering what saws and chisels I would need if I wanted to make something using only hand tools. I’m willing to pay a good amount (later on) on quality tools (and I love vintage/antique tools) but I’m not wanting to do something like spend $200-$300 on a set of 6 chisels.

Any advice?

-- Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former. -- Albert Einstein

31 replies so far

View maljr1980's profile


171 posts in 2455 days

#1 posted 10-05-2011 04:58 AM

woodcraft has an 8 piece woodriver chisel set on clearence for 39.99 on their website, i think it would be an excellent starter set for very little money. try and find a 60 1/2 low angle block plane and a no.7 or no.8 on ebay. that would be a good starting point

View Arminius's profile


304 posts in 3802 days

#2 posted 10-05-2011 05:23 AM

The Narex bevel edge at Lee Valley are very good value, you won’t need to replace them for a long time, about $65 for a set of 7 (1/4” to 1”).

Vintage hand saws are a bargain if you are willing to learn to sharpen, one rip and one crosscut will get you started. For backsaws, the Veritas from Lee Valley are superb quality, the entire set of 5 (2 dovetail, a fine crosscut, rip and crosscut carcass) could last a lifetime (you don’t need all 5 to start) for about $275.

View yrob's profile


340 posts in 3651 days

#3 posted 10-05-2011 05:29 AM

I second the Narex. This is the first set I had. They are still doing good. I use them now for soft wood (I have LN chisels for my main set) as they tend to need sharpening often if you are working with maple or other such hardwood. Not a problem when you get started, because you choose easier woods to work with like poplar, pine and the like.

You can get more tools as your skills grow. No need to go out and buy a mountain of tools at once. As landog said, you may not need a full set either. Just tailor your projects to the sizes of the tools you have.

As far as saws, one crosscut and one rip panel saw to dimension lumber. Then one rip dovetail saw with fine teeths. And thats pretty much all you need along with a #6 plane (jack ) that you can use to joint and flatten and a #4 smoother to finish your wood. With just this small kit (and a gauge, a marking knife, a square) you can build a lot of stuff already.

-- Yves

View maljr1980's profile


171 posts in 2455 days

#4 posted 10-05-2011 05:43 AM

a no.6 is a fore plane. 5 is a jack btw

View Tomcat1066's profile


942 posts in 3794 days

#5 posted 10-05-2011 12:14 PM

My advice is to check out The Anarchist’s Tool Chest By Christopher Schwarz. He actually outlines a minimal tool kit that will do just about everything. That includes how to set up your #5 to do just about everything you’ll need. I honestly wish I had had the book when I was first gathering tools. Of course, the list is just one person’s list. Tweak as needed ;)

As for saws, yrob pretty much hit the nail on the head. Personally, I’d go vintage if possible, especially on the panel saws. As for the dovetail saw, if you can’t find a vintage one you like, check out the Veritas dovetail saw. $65 ain’t bad for a brand new saw.

-- "Give me your poor tools, your tired steel, your huddled masses of rust." Yep, I ripped off the Statue of Liberty. That's how I roll!

View Don W's profile

Don W

18715 posts in 2566 days

#6 posted 10-05-2011 01:05 PM

i’d go vintage all the way. It takes some time to find the collection, but if you enjoy finding and restoring them its a win-win choice.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View Don W's profile

Don W

18715 posts in 2566 days

#7 posted 10-05-2011 02:23 PM

I agree with Anji12305. If you don’t enjoy the restoration process, it could be a drag. To me, its part of the enjoyment. Wood, metal, dirt, gravel, I don’t care what I work with, its all good.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View helluvawreck's profile


31082 posts in 2865 days

#8 posted 10-05-2011 03:10 PM

A while back a new woodworker asked me that same question and I posted a forum topic about it and some of us had a good discussion about it. You may find it interesting yourself. Also if you did a search here on Lumberjocks you would probably find many more discussions about this because it is a common question.

I purchased my first hand tools 40 years ago and nearly all of them were hand tools. I’ve been collecting them ever since and in the last few years I have acquired a good many hand tools on Ebay.

It always makes me feel good to here people want to get into hand tools. Best of luck to you.

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View WayneC's profile


13754 posts in 4096 days

#9 posted 10-05-2011 03:47 PM

The New Traditional Woodworker is another book I would highly recommend on this topic.

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

View exelectrician's profile


2327 posts in 2426 days

#10 posted 10-05-2011 07:34 PM

Craigslist – tools – woodworking. But first establish the going price on ebay then buy cheaply – now it is time to get out the sandpaper, paint stripper, and elbow grease. Happy restoring – you will glow with pride at the results.

-- Love thy neighbour as thyself

View mafe's profile


11725 posts in 3088 days

#11 posted 10-06-2011 11:59 AM

If you have the time go for old tools, restore them and learn on your way (and do not cry over one or two bad buys on the way, it is still good cheap way to get quality tools).
If you are living from your work and have limited time, just buy fair quality, you do not need the full LN set to do the best, you need to learn to set up the tools, to sharpen and to use them correct. They buy part is the easy part. Fist buy I advice is Hooks book on sharpening, with this one you are half way to the goal.
To choose the right tools you need to find out exactly what you want to do, to just buy the Schwarz set is stupid unless you want to be a ‘vintage’ cabinetmaker.
Buy the tools as you need them if you are pro. Buy the tools as you desire or get curious if you are in for the joy.
Best thoughts,

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

View pariswoodworking's profile


386 posts in 2483 days

#12 posted 10-06-2011 07:59 PM

Thanks for the advice everyone.

I’m kind of wanting to go vintage on most of the stuff and I don’t mind restroing tools (I kind of enjoy it :) ). I looked at the Narex chisels at lee valley and I like them. I also like the woodriver set. There’s a HD pretty close to my home so I’ll check out the buck bros too. I think I may go vintage on the saws. What are some good vintages saw brands? Thanks for the advice on the planes. I’ll add them to my list. I’ll also add some books to it too.

The Anarchist’s Tool Chest By Christopher Schwarz-I have heard a lot about this book. Some good, some bad. So I’ll just get it to see what all the fuss is about. :)

Hocks book on sharpening-Thanks Mads, I’ve been wanting to learn more about sharpening.

The New Traditional Woodworker-Thanks Wayne, This looks interesting so it’s going on the list.

Thanks again for all the great advice everyone.

-- Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former. -- Albert Einstein

View Bertha's profile


13528 posts in 2692 days

#13 posted 10-06-2011 08:47 PM

Has anyone answered, “all of them”? That’s what my brain said when I read the title of this thread;)

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


15353 posts in 2617 days

#14 posted 10-06-2011 08:49 PM

The ATC by Schwarz really is a great book for starting a hand tool set. There’s other kool-aid in it that you can choose to drink or not, but at it’s core there’s great material inside.

Dare I say that any straight saw, sharpened well, will do. The key begins and ends there. Then there are sizes, tpi and cross vs. rip filings to understand. Again, Schwarz talks about those things in a minimalist framework so get that and read it then you’ll know.

A quality set of chisels is important, so I’d suggest a small set that you can add more sizes to as your needs (wants?) expand. Take a look at the 6pc SW 720 reissues, they’ve been great tools for me and I really like the socket-type chisel vs. tanged.

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

View Don W's profile

Don W

18715 posts in 2566 days

#15 posted 10-06-2011 09:21 PM

Smiity is right about the saws, but Disstons are about the easiest to find. Usually for a couple of bucks a piece. I agree on the chisels, but I haven’t figured out what is what yet. I’ve got a mis matched non set that serves the purpose. I know Al likes butcher, and hear a lot about Swan, so I’ll keep my eyes open while hunting the tool tables. Chisels seems to be the most expensive vintage tools for what I need. Everything else seems easier to find inexpensively.

What we need is a “I’m a chisel export, here’s what to buy” blog.

I agree with Mads as well. You need to work with the tools to figure out what you want for the tools. Its kind of a catch 22.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

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