One problem an aspiring hand tool galoot is faced with is which tools to buy.
If you ask around in woodworking forums, the answer usually is: "Buy the best tools you can afford." The reasons are manyfold: many cheap tools are not even close to actually being usable; inexpensive tools may require a considerable amount of fettling, and a beginning woodworker will not know how to get them into a usable condition; bad tools might put you off woodworking for good; if you buy a cheap tool, you will soon discard it and buy a higher-quality tool anyway; and finally, somewhat arrogantly, "my time is too valuable for bad tools."
All of these are valid reasons, and I sympathize with most of them. I also agree that many of the hand tools on the market, particularly those in the big box stores, are junk. But I still think that going for "the best tool I can afford" is unrealistic. Someone who wants to start woodworking may actually be able to afford a $400 Lie Nielsen plane, a $230 Colen Clenton marking gauge, a $350 damascus steel chisel forged by a Japanese master, a $300 handmade Japanese saw, and a $200 Starrett combination square (I'm not making this up, these prices are real). I doubt, though, that it would make any sense for a beginning woodworker to buy any one of these tools.
In the following, I will show some of the hand tools that have worked well for me and that are, on average, one-tenth of the price of the aforementioned high-end options.
These are the tools I would consider the bare minimum if you want to make hardwood lap joints with hand tools. Starting clockwise from the top left, we have:
These are some tools that, while not strictly necessary, I consider very useful for making lapjoint boomerangs. More or less from top to bottom, these are:
As lap joint boomerangs consist mainly of two thin
strips of hardwood, I need a way of fixing those small pieces to the
bench while planing. Unfortunately, clamping does not really work
because all clamping mechanisms I know are way too bulky to get out of
the way on such small-scale work.
The solution I use is a simple piece of multi-ply birch scrap that can be fixed to the bench on one side, and has some sand paper spray-glued to the other side. The sandpaper produces enough friction to keep the wood in place while planing.
|On the bottom of the planing aid, I have drilled two holes that slide over two bench pups. This way, I can quickly pop the planing board in place without fiddling around with clamps. Furthermore, no clamp gets in the way of the plane.|
Anyone who wants to use edge tools such as chisels or hand planes
needs to know how to sharpen them. While sharpening as such would go
beyond the scope of this article, I'd like to point out two
alternatives to get started. One method that can be done with household
items is the Scary
Sharp system, which uses sandpaper on a flat surface
(such as a sheet of glass) as an abrasive to sharpen and hone cutting
While Scary Sharp worked well for me at the beginning, I now prefer
to use Japanese waterstones. An inexpensive
combination stone for
sharpening and honing can be obtained for as little as 17 €. I
recommend getting separate stones, though. Currently I mainly use an
800 grit King
for sharpening and a 10000 grit Naniwa
For sharpening western style chisels and plane irons, I recommend
getting a honing
guide. Japanese chisels are rather
easy to hone freehand due to their wide bevel and hollowed back.
Even though the dangers of working with hand tools are minuscule
compared to what you can do to yourself with a table saw or a router
table, you still need to keep your wits about you. Never work any edge
tool towards any part of your body; always think about where the tool
would end if it slipped. This also extends to other tools, by the way -
you can chop nasty chunks out of, say, a hand plane that is lying
around in the path of your chisel.
When working close to your eyes, wear some sort of eye protection. I
wear safety glasses when I fret-saw the shape of the boomerang, because
I tend to break fret saw blades and there might be pieces of blade
flying around. If what you're doing involves dust or toxic fumes, wear
breathing protection. I use a dust mask, for example, when I am hand
That said, I think that one of the best reasons for working with
hand tools is that they are relatively safe to work with and generate
much less noise, dust, and other safety hazards than power tools.