Woodworking by Hand #1: Thinking of finally selling all the power tools!

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Blog entry by BerBer5985 posted 01-24-2015 04:52 PM 1783 reads 0 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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Ok, let me preface by saying that when I first got into woodworking, I started buying up every power tool there was (Mostly craigslist buys) and every nifty jig from taper jigs to dovetail guides to router bits, etc. In growing up in a house where my dad had essentially one main power tool in his shop (Not a woodworker, but a DIY handman contruction type shop.), a radial arm saw and then occasionally an old makita 10” miter saw, I had a love for power tools. For christmas and birthdays as I got older, my parents would buy me power tools. Miter saws, a cheap table saw, power drills, etc etc. I was raised in a world where things weren’t done by hand. I had the impression that power tools were way more accurate and faster than any hand tool could ever be. I’m sure, most beginner woodworkers assume that’s the case before they find the light of hand tools. I started getting into woodworking naturally from having these tools and wanting to build a few things around the house. My first projects were crude made with mostly plywood or mdf and then basically nailed together. It’s what opened the door. It became exciting. I wanted to learn more. I started reading magazines and watching videos and reading forums and started buying up all the power tools I could find. It started with a $75 Delta contractor saw, then a $150 grizzly bandsaw, then a $250 Ryobi lunch box planer (bought new on sale), then a little 6” really old craftsman jointer which I sold and then upgraded to an 8” delta DJ-20 jointer which I installed a shelix cutterhead for, and the list goes on and on and on. I can’t tell you how much money and time and effort I wasted restoring older power tools that made my 400 sq ft garage seem like a storage closet in size by the time I crammed it all in there. I ran 240v electric out there even.

Then I went to a woodworking show loaded with power tools to stumble across little humble Paul Sellers over in the corner. I watched him as he assembled his bench and created a shooting board for his presentation all with hand tools. I watched in amazement. No miter saws?? No routers? No table saws?? How is this possible?? I sat in on the 30 min presentation and my life with woodworking was forever changed. I bought his book and video series and I went straight home. Then I started watching video after video, buying book after book. I visited Williamsburg and watched them work, and being drawn in to the efficiency of how they worked and the quality of work they could put out without any electrons floating around. I find myself inspecting old furniture when I come across it and looking at the methods of their work. I find myself intrigued by very old buildings and how the doors, trim, and woodwork in the house were made.

So 3 years later, here I am, pretty much a “neander” woodworker. My jointer with it’s fancy shelix cutter head sits behind my bench and serves two purposes: storage of junk, and occasionally I use one of the flat beds to affix sandpaper to for flattening of old hand planes. My table saw has been out of the shop for almost a year now and moved to my work warehouse where it also serves as a nice flat surface to store crap on. And the miter saw (which occasionally gets used here at the work warehouse to quickly cut down whatever) is also not in my home shop. Even the bandsaw sees little use (mainly because it’s not a great one and adjusting it for a cut is not great. It could use an upgrade, but because it’s finicky to set up, I hardly use it as well. Now my hand saws see more and more work. And my hand planes stay sharp and dimension boards to a clean and smooth finish essentially ready for finish right after glue up. My jointer and lunch box planer and dust collector all take up valuable room!

So after my looooooong story which I’m sure is similar to most neander woodworkers in today’s world, I’m thinking of selling all these items and just investing the money from the sale of them into one good new bandsaw (which I think would get more use if it was a better model), or putting it towards some sort of vacation (haha!). Part of me is scared to take the plunge because I keep thinking, “What if? What if I need them What if??” But the more practical side of me is thinking “They’re taking up valuable room, dammit! Why are you keeping them!!” The truth is, the more I work with hand tools and saw by hand and hand plane, the faster and more efficient I become with them and the less I feel like I need the power tools to compensate for the work I’m not great at. I’m in no means GREAT at any woodworking I do, I’m still a beginner by a long shot, but I find I continually get better and better and faster and faster to where it’s becoming more and more second nature. Not to mention the pure safety aspect of it plus the great reduction in noise and dust is wonderful!

So after my long post, I’m thinking I’m going to take the plunge and sell them off and force myself to never have to double think about “What if I need them??” It’s a tough decision!

-- Greg, Owner, Quality Carpet One,

5 comments so far

View leafherder's profile


1970 posts in 2873 days

#1 posted 01-24-2015 06:03 PM

I am the opposite – In middle school I had to take woodshop and learn how to use all the fancy power tools and I was so bad that it turned me off until after grad school. Then a branch fell off a tree in a windstorm and it looked like a cane but the only tools I had were a file and sandpaper – I was hooked. I can do quite well with hand tools. I do own a Dremel rotary tool that gives me some help occasionally but I like the fact that it is small and handheld. Then a year ago I won a Dremel SawMax in their monthly newsletter drawing – I am still learning how to use it, but do not anticipate it taking on a very big role in my projects. I enjoy the quiet meditative feeling of woodworking with the simple hand tools and as you say – much less dust. I do not count my chainsaw as part of my shop because I only use it when absolutely necessary (last time was the summer of 2013 when a storm brought down a 5 inch diameter walnut limb).
Best of luck in your “unplugged” endeavors.

John (the leafherder)

-- Leafherder

View Tim's profile


3859 posts in 2882 days

#2 posted 01-24-2015 06:29 PM

I’m all hand tools right now. In fact the only power tools I own are a drill, reciprocating saw, and angle grinder. But I can see the benefit of a hybrid shop where the rough dimensioning is done by power tools such as band saw, planer, and jointer, and the rest such as joinery is done by hand. That way you can do the rough dimensioning including riving a board from a log when you want to or start from rough lumber and dimension it with power tools or whatever mix you want. I figure even most of the old time shops the master joiner didn’t do all the dimensioning by them self even if the story of an apprentice doing all of it all the time is a myth too.

The other thing I’ve considered power tools for is home maintenance type stuff where it’s not hobby work I’m doing for fun. That stuff I’d rather get done as fast as possible. But if you are happy with the amount of projects you are getting done and enjoying yourself though that’s all that really matters.

View JeremyPringle's profile


321 posts in 3395 days

#3 posted 01-25-2015 01:07 AM

Being a knuckle dragger myself… I vote for a tool sale. I don’t know where you are in your hand tools buying and experiences, so I can only offer one thought… don’t waste money on cheap hand tools.

View handsawgeek's profile


663 posts in 2316 days

#4 posted 01-29-2015 11:26 PM

Ah, Yes. Another convert from the dark side.
I have totally switched over to hand tools in my project shop as well after being a power tool user for a lot of years. Haven’t looked back, since.

I do agree with Tim above – power tools have their place when it comes to doing home maintenence stuff. I’m working slowly on finishing my basement, and will not give up the chop saw or power drills for that. I just can’t see crosscutting all those framing 2×4s with a hand saw, no matter how good I get at it.
As it stands, I have a lunchbox planer, band saw, scrollsaw, drill press, and the entire gamut of hand power tools- all of which I have not used in over a year. The table saw was sold last summer. The only power tool I still use is the lathe, but I’m strongly considering replacing that with a pole or treadle lathe, Roy Underhill style. I will retain the electric lathe only because the Missus uses it a lot. I don’t think she would like using anything different.
Anyway, enjoy your newfound Neanderthalism!

-- Ed

View Tim Royal 's profile

Tim Royal

321 posts in 2407 days

#5 posted 07-15-2015 07:01 PM

I am a hybrid woodworker… I can only envy a 400 square foot shop LOL! My entire hobby has to be mobile as I roll it in and out of the 120 or so square feet that it takes up in a shared 1 car garage. I will never be able to fit a jointer or even a lunchbox planer and so my dimensioning is done by a 1954 craftsman table saw with a VEGA fence an 11” bandsaw and handplanes that suffer from inadequate workholding. Right now I am building a knockdown semi-Nicholson bench (52 inches long) that will be broken down and lay on top of my tablesaw router station as I roll it in and out. I am also building workholding into my station itself. I am actually limited by weather from having a true handtool shop as everything has to be cleaned up and rolled in and out when I work. Living in N. California is a blessing here because most days are good to work outdoors and the seabreeze makes a nice dust collection system! It also sweeps up those nice hand planed curls!

Sometimes you get to work with what you have and your time and money constraints… yet I am finding that the desire to work with wood and feel the pleasure of creating is reward enough to make me creative in how I work as well as my tool choices. A 400 square foot fully handtool shop should work really well. Good luck and I wish you great pleasure in going fully Neanderthal!

-- -Tim Royal -"Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real." -Thomas Merton

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