Novice in need of some tool advice (long thread warning)

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Forum topic by OhDear posted 03-30-2012 06:04 PM 1543 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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10 posts in 2244 days

03-30-2012 06:04 PM

Hi there folks,

Just registered, seemed a great place to learn (been reading a lot of threads) and I had a couple of questions I wanted to ask too.

A bit of background: I’m a 23yr old trainee cabinet maker at college in the UK and I’m getting on quite well. Up until now I’ve been using only the tools in the workshop, so spending a lot of time regrinding and sharpening before being able to use a tool. I’ve wanted to get a few better tools for a while but haven’t had the money to do so. I’ve recently come-in to a small sum and am going to use a large portion of it to get me a few quality necessary hand tools.

One of the items on my list is a good plane. I know the maker I am interested in (QuangSheng, Lie Nileson copy from Workshop Heaven) but am unsure as to what size to get. I was dead-set on getting a No. 5 as it seems like a very useful size and able to do a lot of different tasks but a friend of mine at college (whose work I rate quite highly) suggested that the No. 6 would be considerably more useful (QuangSheng don’t produce a 5-1/2, which was his other choice, and I would like to stick with them).

What would you say? Should I go with a No. 5 or is a No. 6 really that much more useful? I should add that this will likely be my only personally owned plane for about the next 6 -12 months so, while I will buy atleast one more in the future, it won’t be next month or anything so soon so it will have to be fairly useable in a lot of situations.

The work I am mostly interested is very fine, high quality fine dovetails and fine tolerances, I won’t be working on anything too large for a while as I will mostly just be completing the college projects and one or two small projects of my own along with practicing at home.

I would also like to buy a nice dovetail saw but was unsure of what to buy. I am happy using the Japanese style saws but understand that this is generally not considered best practice for fine furniture makers who often prefer to learn proper technique with a European style saw instead. I would like to learn with a European saw if possible. I am familiar with a lot of the brands such as Lie Nielsen and Veritas but haven’t been able to actually try anything. While I would rather spend Veritas money, if something like a Nielsen would be that much better for me to learn with I could stretch to it. Any other suggestions would be greatly appreciated. I’m also a bit perplexed about the tpi as I would have thought for dovetails that the finer the blade the better (20tpi) but am seeing a lot more aggressive saws (14-16tpi) than fine ones, indeed Lie Nielsen sells their progressive saw with a blade graduating to 9tpi at the handle. Just wondering what advantages and disadvantages come with each choice.

Finally (for now…) I am going to get some nice chisels. I am unsure of wether to get a set of 6 or just the ones I think I’ll use the most. My college instuctor and the friend I mentioned earlier have swayed me slightly to the side of buying a full set but my initail reaction was to pick maybe 3 sizes and see how I got on. What do you think?

The only other things I’m buying at the moment will be a good 300/1000 Diamond stone (I will get a finer stone very shortly too hopefully), a marking gauge and two diveders for marking tails and pins. I already have a steel rule, a mallet and a tack hammer.

Hopefully, that’s verything covered.

I’d really apreciate your oppinions, Obviously (by the length of the post) I’ve tried to be as thorough as possible, sorry if you had to read it all, thanks for letting me join!


7 replies so far

View DocBailey's profile


584 posts in 2356 days

#1 posted 03-31-2012 12:48 AM

Hi OD,
A few observations:
From time to time, new Woodworkers, (or existing WW’ers who are new to hand tools) will inquire as to which plane model and or brand they should buy. I have seen and participated in many such discussions and can honetsly say that the name QuangSheng almost never comes up.
I see that you are willing to consider a LN saw, but not their planes.
I believe as a beginning woodworker the best thing you can do is buy a used Stanley/Bailey plane. God alone knows how many thousands (hundreds of thousands?) were sold over the years, but suffice it to say that they are plentiful. In every configuration, condition, size and price range. I’m not even suggesting that you buy one that needs help.
As far as the saw goes, I recommend the LV – it is a fine saw (most complaints center around its looks) and is a bargain.
Most real woodworkers will tell you that a saw, so long as it is straight and sharp, is not the limiting factor in producing good work. (it’s the operator)

View GenerationWW's profile


521 posts in 2245 days

#2 posted 03-31-2012 01:07 AM

I agree, it’s not the tool that makes a great carpenter, it’s what that carpenter can do with that tool that makes him great.

Stick to what you can afford. If you can afford to buy the set of six chisels, go for it. If your tight on cash, buy the one or two you need and then buy the others when you need them for another project. Remeber you don’t need the best of the best to start. Your still young yet and you have plenty of time to set yourself up the way you want.

-- list your handcrafted treasures @ for free!

View Loren's profile


10381 posts in 3644 days

#3 posted 03-31-2012 01:17 AM

I prefer the bowsaw to the backsaw for larger joints. For small
joints a dozuki works well but the sawdust in the kerf obscures the
line. You can make a bowsaw yourself with scrounged parts
easily enough… very traditional to both European and Chinese

A #5 is most useful in general board dimensioning. You’ll want
a shorter-soled plane for finish planing too. A #4 sized plane is
good. I made planes and marking gauges and bow saws when
I was starting out. Learned a lot from doing it.

Lots of good vintage tools available on at reasonable
prices. Shipping to the USA is a killer, but in the UK you have
marvelous access to quality old tools. Do understand that many
people embark on woodworking as a hobby, become discouraged
by the difficulty and end up selling their tools sooner or later.

View Brandon's profile


4152 posts in 2947 days

#4 posted 03-31-2012 03:23 AM

FYI for those who may be unfamiliar with QuangSheng—its the same as Woodriver but branded for the Uk. The Woodriver/QuangSheng planes are pretty good from everything I’ve heard—they’re basically remade Bedrocks but with strong castings. That said, I’d still recommend getting vintage planes—In your neck of the woods Record planes are plentiful and they came in nearly all the sizes. You can get way more bang for your buck with vintage planes than new ones.

If I had to narrow it down to three bench planes, I’d recommend a 4, a 5 and a 7. That way you have a smoother, a jack, and a jointer. Best wishes to you as you embark on this journey.

-- "hold fast to that which is good"

View Willeh's profile


228 posts in 2335 days

#5 posted 03-31-2012 01:01 PM

I’ve got a Wood River (Same as QuangSheng, that’s just the name they sell them under in North America) #6 and it is a great plane. the quality level is quite high (Check my review on that plane here: ) I really like the #6 and find it very useful. It is fine enough that it will do some great smoothing, but large enough that it will do a great job flattening and joining on shorter boards. It has enough heft that it works on some tougher grained woods with no problem. It is very comparable to the equivalent Lie-Nielson plane at a fraction of the price. I played with the LN #6 at a LN hand tool even yesterday and could not definitively say that it was much better in any way. I actually found that my Wood River was more comfortable to hold, and had smoother adjustment. As for size, there are a LOT of people who HATE #6 and find it to be the least useful, on the other hand, there is a group of people who love the #6. I say it depends on you… I’m a 6”2” 240lb guy and am quite strong, so I don’t find the #6 to be too cumbersome. I can plane with it all day and not get tired. If you are a small guy and not terribly strong, you may find it will get to be too much plane. I support your idea of getting a QuengSheng, i think they are a great value for a quality plane.

I just purchased the Lie-Nielson 15tpi thin kerf dovetail saw after playing with it at the LN tool show yesterday. It felt great in my hand, and cuts very fine and smoothly. I’ve played with the Veritas equivalent and didnt like it nearly as much… The LN was $125, and i think the veritas is about half that price.. For me it came down to feel.
I felt the 15tpi cut smoothly and easily enough in hard maple and made a fine cut. The LN salesman actually disuaded me from the progressive tooth model. Using proper technique it was no problem to get the straight 15tpi saw going in tough material.

I’m afraid I can’t really help you on that. I bought a set of the cheaper Narex chisels (a set of regular and a set of morticing) from Lee valley and am quite happy with them. Takes a bit of work to get them up to snuff in terms of lapping the back and sharpening them appropriately, but they do a great job.

Sharpening: I have the Norton 1000/8000 grit stone and find it does a great job for sharening my plane blades and chisels. Remember, 300 grit sand paper is easy to come by, 8000 is impossible. Until you can afford a 300 grit diamond stone to keep your water stone flat and do rough stuff, use a piece of glass and 300 grit sand paper for that use, and get the finer stone, you wont be dissatisfied.

Good luck look forward to seeing some of your work!

-- Will, Ontario Canada. "I can do fast, cheap and good, but you can only pick two... "

View OhDear's profile


10 posts in 2244 days

#6 posted 03-31-2012 10:10 PM

Thanks guys I loved all the advice. I posted the same question on the UKWorkshop forum too and the responses from both forums were fantastic!

Well, I’ve been a busy little buyer so I’d better update you on how things have gone!

I decided to go with the QuangSheng No.5 plane. I’ll let you all know how I get on with it if you’d like when it arrives. There were a few reasons for me going with this plane: the reviews were very good, I haven’t seen anyone say a bad thing about it yet and the resounding opinion seemed to be that a 5 was the way to go. I was seriously thinking about going vintage and getting an old Stanley but I am a compulsive buyer and I’m highly capable of convincing myself to purchase multiple items if I can find an excuse. The QuangSheng will likely require next-to-nothing to set-up out of the box except for a bit of sharpening and I can’t blame anything but my technique if things aren’t going well, haha. I really did appreciate all of the advice though and am certain that my next plane (either a smoother or a jack) will be an older Stanley.

A lot of people spoke about different saws and the benefits of different tpi’s as well as personal preferences to brands. One saw that kept getting mentioned though as being an excellent saw to learn with was the Veritas, specifically the 14tpi, so that’s the one I went for.

As for the chisels, the Iles set was what I was interested in but the difference in price between a set and just buying the same set of chisels individually turned out to be less that £1 so I decided to buy the three that I know I’ll be using the most soon. A 1-1/2 for 38mm hinge cutting, a 1/4” for removing waste from dovetails and a 1” because if I don’t have a 1” bevel edge chisel then goodness knows what I’d do, haha. Again, thanks everyone for the input, I think I went with the majority on this one!

I’ve also bought myself a Veritas wheel marking gauge (with fine adjustment), the cheaper twin pack of Veritas dovetail markers and a high quality 1000/340 diamond stone to flatten the backs of my chisels and to get a useable edge before I get a finer (likely wet, natural) stone at a later date for a really nice edge.

As you can imagine I’m going to have a fantastic time waiting for the post-man!

Thanks to everyone again for the help, like I said, if you’d like, I’d be happy to do a write-up on anything if anyone would like me to so I can share some of my good fortune!


View DocBailey's profile


584 posts in 2356 days

#7 posted 04-01-2012 02:53 AM

I’m sure I speak for others also when I say that I’d be very interested in your impressions of your chosen tools.
That’s a major part of what this forum’s about.

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