As I was thinking about this blog my initial plan was to make it a scathing one dealing with the lack of quality found in woodworking tools today. These thoughts came about as I was working with my hand tool class, trying to teach them how to properly sharpen and then set up a woodworking plane. The frustrations many of them had were due to the poor quality of the machining of those tools! Incredible, I wouldn’t allow anything like those to leave my shop, even when I taught junior high school wood shop I demanded that my students work had a certain level of quality to them. It really saddens me to see that the quality of a tool is trumped by the profit margin. I’m well aware of the adage “time is money” and utilize it in my own commissions but, that being said; my bottom line is the quality of my work. I suppose that being a one man shop makes that easier than being a large company with the “bean counters” cutting corners wherever possible to boost the bottom line. After the students had left, I was talking with Jamie, the owner of Wood It Is where I’m teaching the class. It does seem that the quality of so-called entry level hand tools is lacking. It’s very hard for someone to spend upwards of $100.00 plus for a tool when they don’t know whether or not they’ll even enjoy woodworking. On the other hand though, if they purchase a poor quality tool chances are they’ll be so frustrated trying to use it that they’ll give up. It’s a conundrum for sure!
I just sold my Stanley Jack Plane that I bought in the late 60’s and have built many pieces with for $60.00. Probably more than what I paid for it back then but it has a relatively high degree of quality. I sold it to one of my students and am sure it will serve him well. I was looking at my first set of chisels that I used to knock out 2″x4″‘s for let in braces when I was a carpenter. You can see the top of the handle is all chewed up from the framing hammer but it can still be sharpened, hold a pretty decent edge, and mortise out for a door hinge.
This really is a pretty pointless rant, I just wish that those who want to get into hand tool woodworking were able to buy some decent quality tools to get them started without having to take out a second on their home. If any of you have tool recommendations I’d love to hear them and share them with the class. We’ll be meeting for the next 5 Saturdays so give it some thought — thanks!
One of the tools that caught my attention was Narex Classic chisels available at Lee Valley. I was very impressed with the quality, ease of sharpening and ability to hold an edge. They are a great value.
Thanks, I’ll pass that on to them Saturday — we’re starting to cut dovetails then!
the used market is full of good old Stanley tools… I will be teaching woodworking soon and all the tools in the students chest are mostly all old tools but I bought a set of cheap china chisels . my thinking on this is students need to learn to sharpen ,I think its one of the most important things to learn. I wont mind watching them ware away a chisel that cost $19.99 for a 6 piece set.
finding good hand tools at a good price is tough there is a lot of junk out there.so buy the best you can afford and tune them up.
Couldn’t agree with you more! Good luck with your class and thanks for for comment. We have a few members in our local group that find good stuff on Ebay, unfortunately there’s also a lot of junk! Do you advocate sharpening by hand or machines? I’m of the hand sharpening group, you can mess up an edge really quick with a grinder!
always by hand on oil stone. when I get a plane or chisel it goes in a jig so it gets the right angle on it from the start. also I use a 4 sided 200,300,400,600 diamond sharping block to get it started then oil stone. after that its free hand on oil stone.
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I will second the call to used tools. Depending on location, they can be cheap and abundant. In the last few months, two Stanley #9-1/2’s, a #5 jack, two millers falls #14 (jack), a millers falls #9 (#4 smooth) two Stanley #4, a #3, and an assortment of others. None over $10, most under $5, all easy cleanup and tune to use. A couple for me, and others for students and a friends kid (10 yrs old) Won’t talk about the chisels, saws and so on. All good vintage and good name. I am advantaged by location (northeast), but have also grabbed a few tools for people in less advantageous locations.
Ebay, on the other hand, is where the stuff even a bottom feeder like me won’t buy goes to, usually for a lot more money, as well as a few good things.
I agree with you in regards to buying used when possible and also Ebay having found some good items there myself as well as selling things. Unfortunately I’m in one of those “disadvantaged location” — Las Vegas. Nothing is old here other than the retirees who flock here after selling all of their tools!
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