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!