Expensive hand tools

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Forum topic by MrRon posted 02-03-2015 08:22 PM 2167 views 0 times favorited 35 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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3891 posts in 2663 days

02-03-2015 08:22 PM

Topic tags/keywords: discussion

When speaking about high quality hand tools like planes and chisels, Lie Nielsen’s name pops up. They are expensive and out of reach to most woodworkers of moderate means. Two other tool companies are hardly ever mentioned in polite company. They are Bridge City Tool Works and St James Bay Tool Works. Has anyone ever bought anything from them? Their prices are 3 or more times the cost of Lie Nielsen products. Do you think the prices they ask are justified? The companies have been around for a good number of years, so someone must be buying from them.

35 replies so far

View Woodbum's profile


716 posts in 2485 days

#1 posted 02-03-2015 09:52 PM

My LN tools are “heirloom tools.” That means that whoever gets them when I drop dead will say: “I can’t believe that dumba** paid that for a plane. Oh well, my money-I worked hard for it and I can piss it away if I like. Excellent tools from a great American crafstman. It doesn’t get any better than that. I merely covet Bridge City tools.

-- "Now I'm just another old guy wearing funny clothes"

View Buckethead's profile


3140 posts in 1288 days

#2 posted 02-03-2015 09:56 PM

Bridge city tools seem superfluous to me. Just too over the top. LN does it right, in my view.

-- Support woodworking hand models. Buy me a sawstop.

View ColonelTravis's profile


1155 posts in 1314 days

#3 posted 02-03-2015 10:22 PM

St. James Bay prices never seemed outrageous to me. Expensive, yes, but I’d put them in the L-N price category. I’ve been tempted to buy their stuff, just haven’t. I agree with Bucket about Bridge City. Tools look very well made but I’d never pay that kind of money for them.

View JoeinGa's profile


7366 posts in 1427 days

#4 posted 02-03-2015 10:25 PM

Well….... if money’s no object, and you’re trying to impress the neighbors …...
Why NOT? :-)

-- Perform A Random Act Of Kindness Today ... Pay It Forward

View Don W's profile

Don W

17875 posts in 1987 days

#5 posted 02-03-2015 10:39 PM

And why not Ron Brese, and Marcou, or Anderson. There are many plane manufacturers out there with varying pricing and Quality.

But lets face it, when you get in that league, its a different playing field. Its about disposable income and a need to spend it.

If the question is “are they worth the extra” it depends on your perspective. The high price tools hold there value, so if you have it!!!

From a pure woodworking perspective I don’t think they are worth it, from a financial perspective its probably different.

-- Master hand plane hoarder. -

View daddywoofdawg's profile


1006 posts in 994 days

#6 posted 02-03-2015 11:31 PM

I’ll take a stanley,some of their planes are over 100 years old and work like new;Sure there are prettier planes LN etc,but in the end they are tools for work.

View Texcaster's profile


1103 posts in 1093 days

#7 posted 02-04-2015 12:22 AM

Tools don’t make the craftsman …. that said buy the best you can afford. I wouldn’t be without my Veritas DX60 but I’m also very happy with my $7 ” Hong Kong ” planes.

-- Mama calls me Texcaster but my real name is Mr. Earl.

View TravisH's profile


438 posts in 1355 days

#8 posted 02-04-2015 12:28 AM

I have no issues with them pricing their tools however they want.

Would I drop the money on any of them, without a doubt. The issue for me is simply I don’t get the time in the shop to really ever enjoy them so won’t spend the money on it. Several hundred dollars for something I used frequently isn’t hard to justify. I just can’t get the time in the shop so don’t spend the money on the tools. If I managed to get out in the shop on most days I would build a new shop and replace about everything I have now, with a few exceptions.

View Loren's profile


8159 posts in 3067 days

#9 posted 02-04-2015 12:45 AM

I have some Barr chisels and they are badass. They
hold an edge.

Other than that you get heavier castings with premium
planes, which adds mass. The well-machined soles
combined with the mass make for good results out
of the box. For some people, a premium plane is the
only way they are likely to experience what a plane
can really do.

If you’re willing to read up and go through the steps
to tune a Bailey, really tune it up, you’ll get real nice
performance. It still won’t feel as nice as a heavier
premium plane but the woodworking results will be

View Jake's profile


850 posts in 1050 days

#10 posted 02-04-2015 12:03 PM

As someone who don’t have the luxury of getting quality old tools as you do. I definitely am in favour of high quality tools. Got myself my first Veritas LA jack a month ago or so. – best decision i ever made, I hardly use any of my other planes now. Except for a dedicated smoothing plane which is a heritage tool from my great-grandfather.

In my case the high price tag is definitely worth it, instead of wasting time trying to get the crappy planes to plane some-what consistently, I can just grab the Veritas and get on with it. I enjoy it immensly!

-- Measure twice, cut once, cut again for good measure.

View bobro's profile


308 posts in 730 days

#11 posted 02-04-2015 03:56 PM

In a world where plenty of people party away a grand in a weekend, the idea that handmade work of art hand tools are overpriced is pretty much absurd.

-- Lao Ma: You are so full of anger and hatred. Xena: Everybody's gotta be full of something.

View AlaskaGuy's profile


2392 posts in 1729 days

#12 posted 02-04-2015 08:10 PM

If a tool does what it is supposed to do, and dose it well, and does it out of the box, it’s worth the price.

-- Alaskan's for Global warming!

View bandit571's profile


14063 posts in 2103 days

#13 posted 02-04-2015 08:16 PM

Out of the box, or time to rehab a tool? Doesn’t really matter after awhile. After a hard day of use, both will need some maintainence work to STAY that way. In the til I have, the total SPENT for all those planes MIGHT add up to ONE L-N plane. Tain’t no way ONE plane can take the place of 15 planes…..

Maybe $200 sitting there. All ready to go to work as designed by their builders.

Cheap? Or, just Frugal?

-- A Planer? I'M the planer, this is what I use

View Richard's profile


1871 posts in 2110 days

#14 posted 02-04-2015 08:31 PM

Maybe $200 sitting there. All ready to go to work as designed by their builders.

Cheap? Or, just Frugal?

- bandit571

I think I would call it Smart.

View ElChe's profile


630 posts in 756 days

#15 posted 02-04-2015 08:36 PM

Some day I will own something from Bridge City tools. I think they are functional works of art. As to premium new tools vs refurbishing old tools I can afford new premium tools so I buy them if the need arises and sometimes just because I want it. I have refurbished a couple of Bailey planes that work real nice. If I made a living with tools my approach might be different. I also like to support the various businesses that make premium tools as even ten years ago the craft of making hand tools was rapidly fading away. Nice to be able to buy a tool that is well made and works great without having to mess around with it to get it to work. Lie Nielsen, Bad Axe, Blue Spruce, Wenzloff, Bontz, Bridge City, etc. All make great hand tools and I appreciate having their businesses around.

-- Tom - Measure twice cut once. Then measure again. Curse. Fudge.

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