100% Hand Tools or Mix it Up ?

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Forum topic by TDog posted 07-15-2012 06:41 PM 2934 views 0 times favorited 40 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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235 posts in 2349 days

07-15-2012 06:41 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question plane carving tool chisel tablesaw joining rustic traditional

I am considering selling all my power tools except for my skill saw and table saw and going almost completely with high quality hand tools to force myself to learn and improve on hand tool work to develop a business of hand made heirloom quality furniture…after much trial and error, learning, learning, and more learning and more trial and error. With our economy, dumping my power tools seems tough to do for the cost end of the hourly work.

So what do you guys and gals here on lumberjocks feel about the hand tool work and satisfaction furniture and project making gives for pieces to be passed down family to family versus the time saving efficiency of more power tool use to save on hourly labor time and provide a more competitive price in our current economy?

What do you here at lumberjocks feel about hand tool traditional joinery furniture making and power tool use?

Debating on going the mostly hand tool route and selling the “ranch” of power tools….

-- "So many little time..." Psalm 23

40 replies so far

View Marc5's profile


304 posts in 3461 days

#1 posted 07-15-2012 07:15 PM

This very personal and I am sure you will get a ton of responses going both ways. My father was a carpenter / furniture maker that worked in a mill as a pattern maker. He taught me most of what I know about this field and he was a staunch power tool user. He had knowledge and all of the necessary hand tools to build without power but choose not. When he taught me how to use a hand plane and handsaw he said the only reason you need to know this is just in case your project exceeds your tool capacity.

I am currently working on a jewelry box for my wife that is completely done with hand tools and I will be starting a dining room table that will be built with the aid of power. So for me it is a blend of both. Using hand tools has improved my skills as a wood worker even in the use of power tools. I guess it is knowing the processes and mastering the tools either powered or not.

-- Marc

View crank49's profile


4032 posts in 3090 days

#2 posted 07-15-2012 07:25 PM

I think it’s great to work with hand tools.

My favorite saw is a “Pony” pull saw by Jorgensen.
BUT, if I’m in a hurry, I don’t have any problem using a power tool.
Everything has its place.

You can get a superior smooth surface with a hand plane much faster than with sandpaper, for instance.

I do things with a chisel I don’t know how I would ever do with a power tool.

But I’d hate to think I had to rip 200 board feet of oak with a hand saw. That would be crazy.

View newwoodbutcher's profile


757 posts in 2970 days

#3 posted 07-15-2012 07:27 PM

I’m thinking many would be custom woodworking businesses are struggling to copmpete against low cost competition. It seems to me that the only people who would pay extra money for “truly hand crafted” furniture are the very rich (think 1%) or woodworkers (seldom buy). My way of thinking is that you must be able to improve your productivity to compete. Seems like 100% hand tool work is definitely going in the wrong direction. IMHO

-- Ken

View Ted's profile


2873 posts in 2331 days

#4 posted 07-15-2012 07:37 PM

Unless you already have a market, I think ditching most of your power tools would be a bad business decision. Get the market first, then decided if you want to commit to it. If you can’t get the market, you have your power tools to fall back on.

-- You can collect dust or you can make dust. I choose to make it.

View bent's profile


311 posts in 3788 days

#5 posted 07-15-2012 07:41 PM

have you ever gotten a commission and the buyer asked you to only use hand tools? i know i haven’t. it’s been my expirience, customers care about the end product, not the process.

View waho6o9's profile


8362 posts in 2696 days

#6 posted 07-15-2012 08:19 PM

You might want to acquire more power and hand tools and become proficient in using both.
This way you can be more efficient when making your heirloom pieces.
The heirloom pieces in your project section look great, keep doing the good work.

View rockindavan's profile


299 posts in 2755 days

#7 posted 07-15-2012 08:23 PM

My sister-in-law bought a dinning room table with “hand tool marks,” which was nothing more than tear out and blade marks. She could care less that these are only mistakes that should never show up in a final project. Also she has no idea that they built it cheaply with all power tools then as a last ditch effort came back with a dull handplane and roughed up the surface. Pure handwork is a hard sell unless you are well known like Roy Underhill or like that amazing Japanese guy.

View TDog's profile


235 posts in 2349 days

#8 posted 07-15-2012 09:39 PM


That’s similar to my background. My dad was a carpenter, framer, and finally, a contractor. He taught me to sweep slabs in the knee high years then power tools later from the skill saw on up. My grandpa and uncle were more cabinet and furniture makers that influenced me with hand tools. I am leaning to the mix of both power and hand tools to do furniture projects. I am tempted right now to buy the powermatic mortise machine. Clean lines look very nice. Then, the hand work creates the originality. Thanks for the reply. Many of my buddies are mechanics and, I just can’t talk much on alternators and pistons. LOL

-- "So many little time..." Psalm 23

View TDog's profile


235 posts in 2349 days

#9 posted 07-15-2012 09:42 PM

Crank 49,

I got ya on the ripping many feet by hand, looking forward to that sawstop cabinet saw after many more projects and savings. A whispering table saw is a great sound. I have a bench top craftsman but, I use my uncle’s powermatic cabinet saw a good bit, it cuts like a hot knife through butter.

-- "So many little time..." Psalm 23

View TDog's profile


235 posts in 2349 days

#10 posted 07-15-2012 09:45 PM


You have a very good point.
Im thinking, pieces to sell at flea markets or “commissioned” need quality and good prices.
Maybe just special gifts and such for Christmas by hand, mixed with the table saw of course.

Thanks for the comments and opinions

-- "So many little time..." Psalm 23

View TDog's profile


235 posts in 2349 days

#11 posted 07-15-2012 09:46 PM


Bingo. My dad and I have talked off and on about our tools in this economy.
If the regular job falls through, people usually need something fixed.
I have a state job currently, but I still don’t get to comfortable.

-- "So many little time..." Psalm 23

View TDog's profile


235 posts in 2349 days

#12 posted 07-15-2012 09:47 PM


good point, thanks.

-- "So many little time..." Psalm 23

View Newage Neanderthal's profile

Newage Neanderthal

190 posts in 2670 days

#13 posted 07-15-2012 09:47 PM

I only use hand tools, power tools annoy me and I don’t consider them “fun” or any of that jazz. Not at all for me as a hobbyist. With that said, if I was trying to feed my wife with woodworking, you can bet your ass I’d have as much power as I can get. At the very min I would have a jointer, planner, and BS to “rough” prepare the stock.

-- . @NANeanderthal on twitter

View TDog's profile


235 posts in 2349 days

#14 posted 07-15-2012 09:50 PM


Thanks for the encouragement. Im at the point of
“the only way you truly learn how to do something is just go do it”
with as much advice and research from those in the profession (woodworking) as possible
Not waiting for everything to be just right, because it of course never will be…

-- "So many little time..." Psalm 23

View Don W's profile

Don W

18938 posts in 2687 days

#15 posted 07-15-2012 09:50 PM

I’m all for all hand tools. But I don’t do it and I’m not trying to make a living at it. Its ok to take the no power projects, but make sure you can get enough of them if its making the payments. Even then, stick the power tools in the back room, you’re gonna want them again.

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

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