Saw. Chisel or Plane

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Forum topic by HamS posted 11-30-2011 02:06 AM 1507 views 0 times favorited 4 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1829 posts in 2560 days

11-30-2011 02:06 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question

I have decided that as I ‘mature’ I really would like to expand my repetoire of wood working skills. I have the knowledge of how to do things by hand, but not the experience, practice or quality tools. I am trying to decide which order I should upgrade my tools and decided that this forum might bring out an interesting discussion.

I have three chisels, 1/4, 1/2 and 3/4. the 1/4 and 3/4 are Sandvik that I bought in Germany in the ‘80s. The 1/2 is a unbranded one I bought in Berlin in 1975. I have a holzhoebel which is a smoothing plane and it is the hammer adjusted kind. My german tools all came from their equivalent of a big box store. They cut well, but are do not hold their edges as long as I would like. I also have a Stanley block plane I bought on Ebay and a cheap back saw. I will inherit someday, hopefully not soon, my granddad’s Diston panel saws that he inherited from his father. Dad has them now and I am not at all interested in speeding the inheritance process up. Grandpa was a sawyer and there were some interesting things in his shop.

I want to begin cutting joints by hand rather than with the router and table saw and start working without the scream of the machines. I am not ready to give up the speed of the jointer and thickness planer, but perhaps my waistline would benefit if I did.

I am inclined to think that the first thing I need to get (or make) is a decent marking gauge and to upgrade my saw to a good tenon saw filed rip. After the saw, to upgrade the chisels.

The questions I have are: is a $150 tenon saw really going to cut better, quicker,truer than a $35 saw?

Are the multi filed saws worth anything (crosscut and rip on the same blade).

Would it be better to perfect the skills with the tools I have now, or will their limitations frustrate the learning process?

I am eagerly anticipating a discussion.

-- Haming it up in the 'bash.

4 replies so far

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


15643 posts in 2790 days

#1 posted 11-30-2011 02:40 AM

The questions: Is a $150 tenon saw really going to cut better, quicker, truer than a $35 saw?
- Short answer is, to a beginner, no. Now the caveats. Either has to cut straight with little assistance. A properly sharpened saw will pretty much stray from the line only because of the user, believe it or not. If your $35 tool cuts a line that’s dead nuts, great. Second, does it cut quickly? That’s obviously more about set/pitch/rake but is also an indicator of sharp. So what I’d suggest is, if you don’t know how to properly sharpen a saw, send yours to someone who does. By hand. Then you’ll know how a good saw is supposed to cut and can go from there.

Are the multi filed saws worth anything (crosscut and rip on the same blade).
- Can’t answer, no experience here. Perhaps others will address this.

Would it be better to perfect the skills with the tools I have now, or will their limitations frustrate the learning process?
- Everyone has different experiences here, but let me say you’ll know, with practice, when the tools are holding you back. Depending on what you have and how their set up, you may be fine for some time before finding out, for example, your chisels aren’t holding an edge throughout a dovetailing drawer exercise OR that your smoother can’t be fettled to get the face of a board ready for final finish, no matter what you do to it. Then you’ll know it’s time to upgrade, and you will know what to look for in a quality tool.

Hope this helps get the conversation started, anyway.

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

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 3819 days

#2 posted 11-30-2011 02:42 AM

I recommend you make yourself a bowsaw and use a 22” butcher saw
blade, which is easily refiled to a rip profile, then stone each side of the
blade an equal number of strokes to remove excessive set. Finally,
wax the blade and away you go cutting dovetails and tenons very, very
straight with a minimum of expense.

View crank49's profile


4032 posts in 3142 days

#3 posted 11-30-2011 03:12 AM

Due to the age of your tools, I suspect they are of pretty good quality compared to “Borg” choices today. Maybe they are not up to top quality offered by woodworking speciality stores today, but the good stuff today often starts at over $200. The best bet for quality at a reasonable price is used classic tools.

You might want to try some Japanese pull type saws for jointery. I have a “Dozuki” (has a stiffening rib down the back) which I cut my first dovetails with. Cost of a good one is around $50, give or take. I also have a pair of Veritas dovetail and tennon saws, rip and crosscut, and they were about $79 each, nice tools, but I can’t see any improvement in my cuts with these versus the Dozuki. Your mileage may vary, of course.

For planes, a good used Stanley #5 jack plane on Ebay would probably cost no more than $40 or $50. For comparison, a new Veritas low angle jack is $219 I think.

You already have chisels that are probably pretty good steel. Get skilled at sharpening them if you haven’t already. I like the “scary sharp” method. Very fast, economical. Google it if you want to know more.

For turning out accurate work, I found the single biggest advancement in my accuracy and productivity came with the building of a good workbench.

View David Kirtley's profile

David Kirtley

1286 posts in 3169 days

#4 posted 11-30-2011 06:11 AM

If you go for a frame saw, Traditional Woodworker and Highland Hardware. I prefer the blades from Traditional Woodworker.

You don’t have to spend a lot of money. If I were starting over, I would get two of the continental frame saws from Highland Hardware ($45 each) and cut one down to hold the 15” blades from Traditional Woodworker (about $10). The long one is nice for ripping. Not so much for crosscut or joinery. It’s big.

Add to that a $8 Zona razor saw for fine work and you are set.

Add a bowsaw (kit from Grammercy Tools – and you will be set to cut just about anything.

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

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