I am in the process of revamping and updating my shop. I’m in good shape as far machines go, what I am revamping is the workbench and hand tool area. Because money doesn’t grow on trees and we have a budget to stay inside (bummer), how would you prioritize these items : workbench, sharpening gear (stones, etc.), hand tools. Feel free to add other items not included.
I'd start by making sure there was bright & even light everywhere, especially over the bench area. Nothing's worse than working in your own shadow.
I'm a big fan of LED flat panels.
I just replaced 25 48" T8 florescent bulbs with LED direct wire units. Ballast by pass. Non shunted end caps. Went from 30 W down to 15 W/bulb. 5000K. Very nice and even light. If you are going to do your own lighting, LED's are the only way to go IMHO.
I echo the LED recommendations but will add that you need to be very selective. LEDs like fluorescents can distort colors, look for bulbs that have CRI index of 94-95 which is the highest I've found. The color rendering index considers the light of a halogen bulb to be perfect at accurately displaying colors and gives them a score of 100. Many LEDs have scores in the low 80s or even less.
I'd go with a bench matched to your comfortable working height.
You leave a lot to the imagination, since while you mention you are satisfied with your power tools and ask specifically about a bench, sharpening tools, and the all encompassing but generic hand tools, without giving any clue of what you currently possess.
My priority would always be a rock solid bench. A solid bench is the keystone for any quality and enjoyable hand tool work. I prefer the mass of a Roubo style bench complete with leg vice but to each their own just so it is heavy and won't rack or slide around when you're try to plane that Hickory slab with your #6 Jack Plane.
Since you can put together a very serviceable sharpening system. For between $100-200 that is the least of your concerns.
Hand tools would be my second priority starting with a top notch combination square, Starrett, Woodpecker or equivalent, not big box store junk. A good set of bench chisels would be next, I love my Veritas VM11s but on a budget there is only one choice, Narex Richters, in my opinion. After this handplanes would be my next upgrade with Lie-Nielsen and Veritas being the leaders of the pack, but on a budget a well restored flea market Stanley or Record can perform beautifully. I would start with a #4 smoother, low-angled block plane adding a #6 Jack and a medium sized rabbet plane like the Veritas when I could. A jointer would be nice but it could depend on the work you do and if you get a few blades for the #6 and sharpened them at various profiles it can serve as a scrub plane, shooting plane and even a jointer in pinch. After that a couple of good hand saws are essential to hand cut joints whether it be mortise and tenons or dovetails. In my opinion a budget Japanese style saw is better than a budget western style saw and if the budget is real tight a medium sized Royba saw has both rip and crosscut teeth sets and can be had in decent quality for less than $50. Throw in a decent marking gauge and marking knife and you have everything you need to start cutting most common wood joints.
Thank you for such a thoughtful reply. I purposely didn't dispose of my current tool collection as I was wanting views on the bigger picture which you gave. I need to build a new bench and am thinking that is where I am going to start. My old bench is not as stable as I would like. I am considering a variation of the Shaker bench that Mike Pekovich and Matt Kenney did in Oct 2015. I need something solid with storage as I have outgrown my shop (my 3rd car garage) and need all of the storage help I can get! I am leaning towards a twin screw vise rather than a leg vise and am considering a wagon wheel tail vise from Benchcrafted on the other end. When I checked on lumber prices recently, Beech was more affordable than Hard Maple, so I am leaning towards a Beech top and possibly Cherry for the base.
Following the workbench, I intend to finish upgrading my planes and saws and then possibly upgrade some of the sharpening stones. I have stones that work well for now, but will upgrade to the Ohishi stones from Lie-Nielsen down the road.
I built my Roubo using Benchcrafted hardware including the wagon wheel and will attest to its quality. I've never worked with Beech but it is a great top choice, although I believe North American Beech is prone to more movement than the European varieties and Hard Maple so be sure to account for that.
I personally have eschewed expensive stones in favor of glass plates and 3M film for a fraction of the cost and don't feel I sacrifice anything in my ability to achieve a shaving quality edge.
I might suggest saving the money and picking up a Lie-Nielsen #6
Glad to hear of the testament towards the Benchcrafted wagon wheel - I haven't spoke with anyone who has actually purchased their products. The Beech I am looking at is European Beech - my supplier happens to have some available for a fair price.
With regards to the Taytools lapping plates - thanks - I'll check them out.
I picked up a Lie-Nielsen 62 low angle jack plane this spring. It is a wonderful plane and cuts beautifully. I had been thinking of a No 5 standard jack plane rather than a No. 6 as I already have a No. 7 Jointer and wasn't too sure if they were too close in size to make sense in the collection.
The 62 is one of my favorite planes and one of when in doubt go to options. This is where not knowing what you owned limited recommendations. In your case I would forego the 6 if you have a 7 jointer and get the Lie-Nielsen #4 smoother another great plane. Picking up different blades and frogs for the 62 can make it a very versatile tool indeed.
Don't forget a good rabbet plane, I like the Veritas Medium if I can only have one and a block plane. Eventually think about a dovetail plane as well here again I lean towards Veritas but Lie-Nielsen is also fine.
I did Bench first. Then sharpening stuff.
It is amazing what to can do with a mid-range jack plane if it is kept sharp and if you work on a solid bench! Plus bench building can be so fun!!
Even nowdays you can but nice replacement plane blades that are an improvement. I have since upgraded my planes and chisels.
Just curious since you said you did sharpening second; what did you sharpen? ;-)
Crappy older tools ;)
I would buy whatever you need to do the next project, but if you had some spare $$ to spend then a bench would be my go-to.
I have two - a small bench bolted to the wall made of 3/4 inch plywood and 2x4 timber with a 2x6 apron and cast iron vice, and a nice flat torsion box assembly table.
The bench used 1 sheet of ply.
The assembly table is a larger version of the Wood Whisperer's table - I do big stuff so needed a large flat area. That was more expensive though - the top alone is 3 sheets of MDF and a sheet of hardboard. The underside needed 4 2x4s and 4 sheets of ply.
After the bench and sharpening, a bench top bench for dovetailing, routing, inlaying, carving, and working closer to eye level might be a good thing.