Hand Work Hand Tool Blog

Hand Work Hand Tool Blog

New Hand Tools: Happy Holidays to Me

comments (11) November 30th, 2009 in blogs

patrick_mccombe Patrick McCombe, contributor
thumbs up 8 users recommend

Fine Woodworking’s Art Director, Mike Pekovich let me use his Lie-Nielsen dovetail saw a couple weeks ago. After trying several lesser tools, using it was an epiphany. It has a wonderful grip, it cuts fast, and it tracks straight as an arrow. It’s definitely my favorite purchase. Some of my peers admonished me for sullying its handle with my initials (written with a fat Sharpie marker), but I just couldn’t risk losing it.
Although I already had a coping saw, my home-center model wasn’t up to the job, so I decided to get this version from Groz. It’s great for cleaning away much of the waste when you’re hand cutting dovetails.
Lee Valley’s 4-inch Double Square (Left) is ideal for measuring and marking joints. I like that it has two 90-degree sides instead of a 90 and a 45. Associate Editor, Matt Kenney suggested I get the 6-inch pocket rule from Shinwa (Right). Besides being the perfect size, it has a very useful end scale that’s ideal for setting up machines.
The stardard model wheel marking gauge from Veritas is a vast improvement over laying out joints with a combination square, which is what I was doing previously. My coworkers have differing opinions on marking gauges. After trying a couple different types, I found this standard-size wheel gauge easiest to control.
Coming from a carpentry background, I was more familiar with FastCap than my coworkers. The company makes a number of unique tools for trim and finish work. As the name suggest, their Flat Back tape measure lies flat on the stock for more-accurate measurements and the built-in pencil sharpener works sursprisingly well. You can jot dimensions on the case and mark the blade for repetitive measurements. 
Fine Woodworking’s Art Director, Mike Pekovich let me use his Lie-Nielsen dovetail saw a couple weeks ago. After trying several lesser tools, using it was an epiphany. It has a wonderful grip, it cuts fast, and it tracks straight as an arrow. It’s definitely my favorite purchase. Some of my peers admonished me for sullying its handle with my initials (written with a fat Sharpie marker), but I just couldn’t risk losing it. - CLICK TO ENLARGE

Fine Woodworking’s Art Director, Mike Pekovich let me use his Lie-Nielsen dovetail saw a couple weeks ago. After trying several lesser tools, using it was an epiphany. It has a wonderful grip, it cuts fast, and it tracks straight as an arrow. It’s definitely my favorite purchase. Some of my peers admonished me for sullying its handle with my initials (written with a fat Sharpie marker), but I just couldn’t risk losing it.

One of the great things about being a new Associate Editor for Fine Woodworking is I get to draw on the talent and experience of the many fine furniture makers that work here. Based on their input and willingness to let me try their expensive saws, planes, and chisels, I’ve been gradually tooling up with hand tools. I was pretty well equipped in my former life as a carpenter, but I’m definitely catching up when it comes to fine woodworking. To date, I’ve spent about $567, which doesn’t include any planes or bench chisels. Chisels are my next big purchase.

In addition to the tools shown, I bought four other big-ticket items, including a pair of Japanese dovetail chisels, a Veritas honing guide, and a Norton water stone.  The breakdown is as follows:

16-pocket Tool Bag  $21.50
16’ Flat Back Tape  $8.95
X-acto Knife $6.99
3-piece Scraper Set  $15.99
Coping Saw $15.50
Coutersink Set $19.99
Lie-Nielsen Dovetail saw $129.99
Mk II Honing Guide $62.50
Wheel Marking Gauge $28.50
4000/8000 Water Stone $79.00
4” Double Square $36.50
6” Rule $9.50
1/4” Dovetail Chisel $64.00
1/2” Dovetail Chisel $68.00

Total $566.91

Of course, my new tools are just a start, so if you have any tool suggestions for somebody who’s just getting into hand tools, I’d love to hear them.


posted in: blogs

Comments (11)

roc roc writes: Hey show those turkies that don't care for your calligraphy with the magic marker (I must admit to being one of them) and add a chip carving knife to your list. It is super easy to chip carve your monogram into the handle. That way it will still be legible later as well.

I am not belittling chip carving. Chip carving in it's higher form takes skill and planning, as far as I can tell (I am not much past monograms myself). : )
I like the plastic handled folding carver knives. I was caring one in my back pocket when I had a major bicycle crash. I slid on that instead of my ass. Saved a lot of skin. Hardly marked the handle and still works great ! Tough knife. I tried to find a link but oh well; black reinforced plastic handle, brass rivets, good blade, inexpensive.

Hey, and thanks for the reminder to get one of those flat tapes.

Thanks for your blog
Posted: 12:36 pm on November 7th

eric8509 eric8509 writes: Mr. Pekovich, where did you find the chip carving knife with the triangular cross-section? Lee Valley doesn't appear to carry such.
Posted: 2:19 pm on October 8th

michael2160 michael2160 writes: I fell in love with Lie-Nielsen tools about ten years ago. I now have 14 planes, 2 saws, a set of bench chisels and 4 mortising chisels.
My Grandfather was a pre-WWII boat builder (much like Lie's father) and between my brother and myself we inherited a bunch of Stanley planes. The L-Ns are clearly superior to the older planes and the newer Stanleys feel too light.
I have compared my L-N planes to the Wood River stuff at Woodcraft and while they are close to a L-N, they are only close. I think the Cliftons are closer in quality and feel in the hand than the Stanleys or Wood Rivers.
The L-N chisels feel nice in the hand, but are bit too small for larger work. They are definitely bench chisels.
I have started collecting Japanese saws and they are the ones I pull out of the cabinet these days.
Posted: 1:26 am on October 6th

Teton_Bound Teton_Bound writes: Sorry about the last comment - my laptop jumps around (cursor) and typing goes all over. If I fail to proof I get the random cut and paste seen below.
Posted: 2:01 pm on October 5th

Teton_Bound Teton_Bound writes: Tools are such a personal decision. My wife thinks I have I agree with chisels being next 2 of hand tool know to
God and mankind (not true BTW). Chisels are a good next choice as long as scrapers and planes are not far behind.
Posted: 12:00 pm on October 5th

stinkygarage stinkygarage writes: I own a lot of stuff form Lee Valley/Veritas, so I can comment on a few of your purchases. I love the wheel gauge. I have their small double ended gauge as well and some other traditional gauges. The wheel (with graduations and micro adjust) is my favorite, although I completely ignore the graduation.

The Mk II honing guide is very useful; it takes a lot of stress off the sharpening process, as far as keeping bevel angles consistent. Once you've mounted the blade, it's very easy to switch form stone to stone.

I just bought the Lee Valley dovetail saw (14tpi), with the composite metal/plastic/glass fiber spine. I love it as much as a person can love a tool. I haven't tried the Lie-Neilson, but the LV saw was about half the price.

I find the Japanese chisels are best for softwood or finishing cuts. The edges are hard and somewhat brittle (and very sharp!). They hold a fantastic edge, so they're best for very fine work. They chip a litle too much in heavy work. I use the Marples Blue chisels for heavier pounding, since the steel is a bit softer and more durable in harder woods. They dull faster, but don't chip as much.

The 6" rule lives in my pocket. It's very handy. I also have the 12" hook rule, which is incredibly handy. The hook lets you line up the rule with a board edge and take measurements quickly. Sort of like a rigid tape measure.

Many of the other items are just basics - tape, coping saw, square, scrapers, x-acto knife, etc. Kind of line buying milk and eggs at the grocery store.

Enjoy the new toys!
Posted: 1:01 pm on January 21st

cocobolo1 cocobolo1 writes: Patrick:
I just joined up here, and you have the privilege of getting my first post, you lucky dog you.
I've been messing about with wood for more than 50 years, and I was trying to think which tools I use the most and couldn't live without.
Luckily, most of my tools have been in the stable for a few years and didn't cost anywhere near as much as they do today.
As far as hand tools go, chisels are at the top of my list. I have the cheapest and the most expensive and everything in between. Any of these guys can be brought to a good sharp edge given a little care and time. I have a pretty good selection of water stones and the stone pond from L.V. It's nowhere near as good as they would have you believe. Save your money.
You need something to keep the stones flat, so the nagura helps there.
I don't have that lovely dovetail saw you have, I have been using Japanese saws for years and quite like them.
As far as planes and scrapers go I've lost track of how many. I often seem to gravitate to my low angle block plane, definitely couldn't be without that. Have a few old Stanleys and several newer planes and shaves. I must admit I don't use scrapers that much, but I'm just getting into building bass guitars, so that may change pretty quick.
Mustn't forget to mention marking and measuring tools. I much prefer to use a good steel rule over a tape measure (when it's long enough) and must have at least a dozen of them, the longest I think is either 30 or 36".
And a nice accurate small square is indispensable. I have the steel ones (again from LV) and some nice wood ones I made up some time back.
Now what I really need is time. Where can I get more of that?
Posted: 10:46 pm on January 1st

the_tool the_tool writes: Well if you need any parts for the tools your looking for I know www.eReplacementParts.com has parts for some incredible woodworking tools. I believe they also do repairs in case you get in trouble with one, so just a heads up on it. Sounds like you are on the right back though with all of it!
Posted: 4:22 pm on December 15th

wester wester writes: I have a fascination with old tools,well any tool to be honest.Some of the best tools I have are from yard sales.
Oh yeah,doing some favors for friends like repaires or just building heirlooms have scored some dandies also.The point I am willing to share is we do the best with what we have,and if we don't have it then make it.I use cheap buck chisels and use the scary sharp method to keep them puppies sharp.Is it as good as japanese steel? ofcourse not,but they work just fine just ask my poor fingers.I never have to explaine what tools I used,but I do have to tell about the wood, finish and methods.I am not sure that people care about the tools as much as a true craftsman does.That said I enjoy what the Good Lord has allowed me to have,and for these reasons I am greatful.I turn out products that are loved locally and never seem to have any trouble staying busy.All done on a budget of less than $2000.00.I do look foward to getting upgrades in some tools in the future but in good time.Merry Christmas to all who read this.
Posted: 12:03 am on December 13th

MKenney MKenney writes: Patrick,

You've been holding out on me. I didn't see all of that stuff. I applaud the tools you bought at my recommendation. And that flat back tape measure is fantastic. I will be getting one myself.

Matt K.
Posted: 4:17 pm on December 3rd

woodchuck1954 woodchuck1954 writes:
Whacha spend the other nine cents on? Anyhoo, I bought the MK2 guide about three years ago, with the 1K/4K combo stone, as a set, straight from Lee Valley, for under $70. Just about the best decision I ever made. Using the guide is as simple as it can get. The only thing was, when I got mine, my chisels were already a few years old and I had no other means to sharpen anything, outside of sandpaper. Soon afterwards I purchased a 250 grit stone to quicken the job. After using them I realized I needed one of those grooved stones to flatten the other two.
The 250 stone and the flattening stone cost around $50, together. When I went to flatten the 250 stone I decided to try out my 12" disc sander. Even with a 60 grit disc, it took quite a bit of time to flatten it completely. Once I was there, then I used the grooved stone to dress the two faces.
I have no idea if technically I did right or not, but everything seems in good working order and frankly its a lot cheaper running through a disc than doing the whole job on a $25 stone. I have a good-sized plastic tub, with a sealable lid, to keep all three stones under water. If I were to start all over, I think I would try the MK2 with the scary-sharp method, to keep costs lower. I'm sure the guide would do well, as long as you had a flat-solid surface to work on.
I have the six piece set of Marples Blue Chip chisels, that I bought several years ago, long before they started making them in China. They are okay, but you can probably do a lot better, with about the same amount of money, especially now that they left England. I believe it was Fine Woodworking that did a tool test on chisels, two or three years ago. They rated western chisels seperately from Japanese chisels. The Japanese set from Grizzly got rated best value. Seems to me the set cost was lower than $15 per chisel, on average. You probably have direct access to the author of the article, to get some first-hand comments, at least more than the average Joe, on the outside looking in. If nothing else, You could always buy one of those chisels and try it out, before committing bigger bucks for the whole set. Everybody has different hands. A tool that feels good in my hand may not fit yours.

"A legend in his own mind"
Posted: 2:57 pm on December 1st

You must be logged in to post comments. Log in.

Save up to 51% on Fine Woodworking


Become a Better Woodworker

About This Blog

Get the latest from the hand tool world with tips, techniques, reviews and more.

Blog edited by Fine Woodworking associate editor Matt Kenney.