Less need for hand tools with modern power tools?

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Forum topic by WOODIE1 posted 07-30-2014 11:01 PM 2315 views 0 times favorited 59 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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117 posts in 2280 days

07-30-2014 11:01 PM

Ok I am aware of where I am and no I do not mean to insult anyone.

So, I am getting back into woodworking and starting to accumulate the tools I need. I have plenty of general construction power and hand tools. I do some basic furniture building nothing of ultra high quality.

I have never had anything but general HD planes. I buy about $500 worth of what I consider nice hand planes. I now need $100 worth of sharpening equipment and probably $1000 in a good bench, hold downs, etc

Problem I am seeing is I am not sure I am seeing the better quality or even need for these tools? With todays modern saw blades, planers, etc are finishes getting to the point where maybe these tools are less needed? Think how much more accurate cuts at home are today.

Think about using a modern $125 saw blade vs 30 years ago when whatever was available was used and probably for life. Those cuts needed a lot of work. I can now take out my track saw with a nice blade and do nice glue ups with no work.

I know hand tools are used for different reasons but for someone else shopping for those so called needed tools I am going to think a little harder next time if they are going to improve my finished product vs giving satisfaction of being done by hand.

Just a little thought by someone lite in the pocket and think about a return policy. LOL!

59 replies so far

View Airframer's profile


3043 posts in 1954 days

#1 posted 07-30-2014 11:11 PM

You should look for a book titled the Hybrid Woodworker by I can’t remember who. I am sure someone else will chime in with that information.

I think it all boils down to what you want to get out of woodworking. For me it is a leisure time hobby so hand tools fit the bill nicely. If it take more time to do something it simply means I get to spend more time in the shop doing it. If I was trying to make money I would need to speed things up and yes, you are correct in that modern power tools will do a fine job in a fraction of the time. Still nothing beats the feel of a piece of wood smoothed with a handplane… my 0.02

-- Eric - "I'm getting proficient with these hand jobbers. - BigRedKnothead"

View pintodeluxe's profile


5664 posts in 2814 days

#2 posted 07-30-2014 11:16 PM

I certainly see the need for fewer hand tools. A jack plane and shoulder plane are great, and handy to have. A ROS and a small sanding block can accomplish the same tasks. It all depends on which way you want to go. The price of fine hand tools approaches that of power equipment.
I guess that is the beauty of woodworking, you can get a quiet workout hand planing a table; or you can churn out an equally fine project with power tools. To each their own.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View Loren's profile


10401 posts in 3648 days

#3 posted 07-30-2014 11:19 PM

A lot depends on the standard of work you do. I build
guitars and fine furniture. Hand tools are essential
to me in refining my joinery, shaping complex forms

Planes save time. Used properly they save a lot of sanding
time. A stroke sander is even more efficient at surfacing,
if you’re looking for that.

Compared to orbital sanding alone, hand planes tuned
properly save a lot of sweat. If you have a wide belt or
a stroke sander those machines are faster, but planes
trump orbital sanders. Both are useful to getting
quicker results in modern woodworking (which involves
the expectation of tear-out free surfaces).

As in most areas of life in woodworking it’s a good plan
to not miss the forest for all the trees.

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


15354 posts in 2619 days

#4 posted 07-30-2014 11:22 PM

Sounds like you’d be totally happy without hand tools and using good, general construction power tools for your projects. I say good on ya.

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

View TheWoodenOyster's profile


1317 posts in 1936 days

#5 posted 07-30-2014 11:29 PM

Hybrid woodworking is by Marc Spagnuolo, for the record.

I am all about what can get the job done in my shop. I have no religious views on which tool is better for the soul. That said, I have hand planes and use them a lot. I don’t think you need to buy a full set or anything, but I think a #4, a jack, a block plane, and a shoulder plane can really do wonders.

The thing that sets hand planes apart for me is the ability to remove .001 pieces of wood. Can you do it with a sander? Yes, but you are going to be rounding corners over. Hand planes in my book have no match when it comes to certain specific jobs.

If you aren’t a detail oriented guy though, and you don’t worry too much about your furniture being “fine woodworking”, you may not need them.

-- The Wood Is Your Oyster

View cdaniels's profile


1320 posts in 1502 days

#6 posted 07-30-2014 11:40 PM

in my own experience I like using hand tools more than power tools. that may be because i’m in a wheelchair and powertools are a lot harder to modify and control with that. on the flip side 2/3 of your power comes from your legs and I don’t have that anymore so everytime I do woodworking it’s like i’m also going to the gym! I feel like there’s a lot more skill involved in using mainly hand tools than power tools. plus it’s the way they did it historically and they made some of the most amazing furniture the world has ever seen. What are you gonna do when the power goes out in the middle of a project that you have a deadline for? you can also save a heck of a lot on your electricity bill plus reduce the amount of fine dust particles in the air by using hand tools. just my 2 cents.

-- Jesus was a carpenter... I'm just saying

View Don W's profile

Don W

18718 posts in 2568 days

#7 posted 07-30-2014 11:49 PM

whether its hand or power tools, its not the tools that make the project. There are plenty of woodworkers here who us power tools and plenty who us hand tool, and plenty that use both. They all turn out excellent products.

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

View CharlesA's profile


3323 posts in 1798 days

#8 posted 07-31-2014 12:04 AM

I’m a little confused by your original post.

If you have a jointer, you really only need a couple of planes (a Jack and a block), if not you need four (fore, jointer, smoother, block, but cheaper than a jointer)—those can be found easily used on Craigslist

You’ll need a workbench whether you use hand tools or not, so I can’t see that you’ll save anything there. I have a couple of hold fasts and several bench dogs, but those can come in handy whether you’re using hand tools or not.

So . . . I’m confused.

-- "Man is the only animal which devours his own, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor." ~Thomas Jefferson

View jmartel's profile (online now)


7900 posts in 2151 days

#9 posted 07-31-2014 12:19 AM

Hand tools are often faster than power tools, especially on smaller batch jobs. By the time it takes someone to set up the jig and the router bit for machined dovetails, another person can be finished with their first or second drawer when cutting them by hand.

Only using power tools or only using hand tools is foolish, in my opinion. Both have positives and negatives. How far you learn towards one side is a personal matter. Just like any other heated debate topic.

-- The quality of one's woodworking is directly related to the amount of flannel worn.

View CharlesA's profile


3323 posts in 1798 days

#10 posted 07-31-2014 12:25 AM

Here’s the article that convinced me to take up some hand tools as the best way to get the job done:

-- "Man is the only animal which devours his own, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor." ~Thomas Jefferson

View WOODIE1's profile


117 posts in 2280 days

#11 posted 07-31-2014 12:27 AM

Before this isn’t on the track I was going down….

30 years ago there wasn’t as accurate saws, blades, etc. which in turn meant more planing and need for hand planes. I am not signaling out planes but just trying to say with technology there are a lot of tools that are not as needed because another is doing it’s task so well that it kind of eliminates the need for it.

Home planers today probably rival the finish of shop dedicated set ups years ago. Block sanders? Not used as much with the better sanders out there.

My point is woodworking is expensive and with some better tools it eliminate the need for a lot of hand tools. Not saying it can’t be done with hand tools or that they might even do it better. But you might not even need that hand tool due to the work of the now better power tool.

Rethinking I probably wouldn’t have bought the 3 planes as no they were not needed. Also you need a lot sturdier bench to plane then to cut and assemble. Please no argument here just a little thinking out loud. Sometimes we think we need more tools then we do. I fell down that hole.

I respect everyones opinion.

View Loren's profile


10401 posts in 3648 days

#12 posted 07-31-2014 12:29 AM


This is an important issue. Since I care about the craft
I want to communicate with precision here.

The better you get at making fine things the more
you will need a refined approach to hand tools.

Machines save sweat.

The issue I see is people interested in woodworking
see the idea that cutting dovetails, for example,
is hard. It isn’t but it does take some practice
and dedication to learn to make nice ones.

It shouldn’t be a big deal too work at the craft,
but somehow the idea that one should instead
choose router jigs and stuff like that in the pursuit
of “easy” and “certain” results is a problem
because the subliminal message seems to be
that cutting joints by hand is too hard.

It’s not hard. It just requires tools tuned for
the job.

You can buy Japan saws that are excellent for
joinery for not much money. Chisels and stones
are all that you need otherwise.

The delight of doing joinery by hand, when you
need to, is that you’ll get better at it faster than
you can imagine if you just give it a shot.

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


15354 posts in 2619 days

#13 posted 07-31-2014 12:33 AM

Lots of ‘tools’ needed to set those precision power tools to gnat’s arse tolerances, don’t forget to add that on top of the coat of a $130 saw blade. It’s required to get ‘off the tool’ accuracy. And cut lists, and power panel upgrades to the shop space, and dust collection, hearing protection, etc. Etc. Etc.

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

View WOODIE1's profile


117 posts in 2280 days

#14 posted 07-31-2014 12:42 AM

Great article and it basically says what I am getting at here. With a good planer you would grab a smoother plane eliminating the need for a more aggressive hand plane. In hindsight I would not need the other plane.

Just as we don’t need dovetail jigs if we have a great way to cut them by hand we don’t need certain tools if the power tools are lessoning the need for their job.

Getting into woodworking is an expensive hobby even with Craigslist. Just trying to spark a little conversation.

View poopiekat's profile


4355 posts in 3735 days

#15 posted 07-31-2014 12:42 AM

Post some projects.

None of us know if you’re making elegant 17th century museum-quality reproductions…or hacking out rough Adirondack benches.

-- Einstein: "The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift." I'm Poopiekat!!

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