And so it begins. #1: Picking sides.

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Blog entry by Navtrtl posted 12-28-2009 07:42 AM 1553 reads 0 times favorited 12 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of And so it begins. series Part 2: Catch 22. »

As some of you may have read on my profile page, I have been wanting to get into woodworking for a long time now. I have been reading the magazines, watching the shows, and reading on forums for years. I had not been able to take the plunge due to budget and space limitations. Not to mention that when I was in the Navy, I didn’t want to have to worry about shipping my equipment every time I changed commands. It seems that no one ever really makes it through a government relocation without some major damage to personal items. Now that I am out of the Navy and in a semi permanent location, I may be able to take the plunge.

If you look at my workshop page, you will see that my selection of tools is very limited and fairly pathetic. Most of what I have was purchased with home repair in mind. The drill press and angle grinder were purchased for fabricating parts for my RC cars. The only woodworking power tools I have are the Craftsman router and Ryobi table saw. Those were given to me after my uncle died. Not exactly what I would have purchased myself, but they were free.

Needless to say, I need to outfit myself with some tools. I don’t want to buy junk, but my budget is VERY limited. I had just sold back some vacation time and my wife gave me $400 to spend on tools. Let me tell you something you guys probably know all too well. That kind of money isn’t much when you are starting fresh. It is more of a teaser than anything. I looked at all kinds of options. I couldn’t really come up with any good ones though. I have 150 acres of 40% wooded land which contains Cedar, Oak, and I believe Maple. Due to my budget, I had intended to get my own lumber from around my house. So, that would mean a Jointer and surface planer were in order. I thought that if I could find a jointer and a surface planer within my budget, then I was going to just make my table saw work for now. With a bit of research, I discovered that it wasn’t going to happen.

But I didn’t give up. I kept reading and searching. Before I ever came up with an answer for my needs, I started reading about some recent table saw injuries. That did it for me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not scared, but I don’t want to risk my fingers to a $100 table saw. I also know that many people never loose a finger and some go 30+ years without an accident, but I don’t want to trust cheap tools and can’t afford the good stuff. So, with my current budget in mind, a solid table saw was not happening.

So my decision to become a super stealthy ninja lumber assassin was made. I’m going to do it all with hand tools. Well, almost all. I started reading up on the various planes and again, budget had to play a role. I decided to make the nearly two hour drive to Woodcraft to check out the Groz planes since they were fairly cheap. Turns out, they were on sale this weekend. I know that you get what you pay for, but I needed to see these things first hand. I left them on the shelf for someone more desperate than me. I couldn’t see wasting my money on them. But I did not come home empty handed. I purchased a couple of video’s by Rob Cosman. The first one was Rough to Ready. It takes you through the steps of preparing rough lumber with hand tools. The other video was Hand planing and sharpening. I figured that it would be needed if I intended to be able to accomplish anything worth while.

I still needed to come up with a way to afford the different planes needed to work the wood. That’s when I remembered the Hock wooden plane kit. For $108 I could have a plane with a good iron and it could be as long or short as I wanted. I could also make several different planes and just swap the iron from one to the other until I could afford more irons. That’s when one of the sales guys showed me David Fincks book called Making and Mastering wood planes. Couldn’t get much better than that. I’ve been watching his videos on YouTube for a while. To make a good wooden plane, it helps to have a good plane for truing the sole and sides. So I picked up a Stanley SW 60 1/2 LABP.

Now, I just need to get the Hock kit, finish reading the book, and get to making planes. The way I see it, I’ll begin with making a scrub plane, #4 bench plane, #7 or #8 Jointer, and some kind of shoulder plane. By the time I am done with that, I should have a bit more saved up for some other hand tools. My first projects after making the planes will be a shooting board, my work bench and a sawing bench. Maybe some Krenov style saw horses could be worked in there too.

Sorry for being so long winded, but a lot went into deciding the direction I would be going with my woodworking endeavors. Traditional woodworking should be much cheaper, and if all I ever do is make a few hand planes, so be it. If more money comes my way and I can afford a good table saw and some other power tools, then I may venture into working with power tools. Also, I will be doing a tool review on the Stanley plane from a novice woodworker point of view. I have a few things to say about it but need some time to take pictures and figure out how to post them on this site. I will also review the books a videos.

-- US Navy Veteran Morgantown, KY

12 comments so far

View David Murray's profile

David Murray

187 posts in 3562 days

#1 posted 12-28-2009 03:30 PM

Check out auctions and online classified ads for used tools sometimes you can pick up a good deal, but you have to be careful. Everyone here at LJ’s are helpful and supportive.

-- Dave from "The Sawdust Shed"

View gizmodyne's profile


1780 posts in 4537 days

#2 posted 12-28-2009 06:20 PM

I like your style. Just a heads up: scrub planes are ground completely different from the other planes. You might also think about buying a couple used Stanley planes and restoring them. You can probably get two or three for $110 by browsing sales or ebay.

-- -John "Do I have to keep typing a smiley? Just assume it's a joke."

View WayneC's profile


14358 posts in 4545 days

#3 posted 12-28-2009 06:33 PM

You could replace the scrub plane with a #5 with an agressive camber in the blade. They are alot more common than scrub planes and would be less expensive. I agree with Giz, restored pre-WW2 stanleys would be the way to go to build out your plane collection for less money. There are quite a few plane restoration posts on the site. You can trade a little effort for cash. For a shoulder plane look at the ones from Lee-Valley. Stay away from new Stanley, Groz, etc.

If your looking at books, take a look at fellow lumberjock Tom Fidgen’s book Made By Hand: Furniture Projects from the Unplugged Woodshop. Blake just did a review of it.

You will also need to conisder saws, measuring and marking tools, chisels, etc.

To effectively work with your planes and chisels, you will need to master sharpening. I suggest you check out the scary sharp method where you use sandpaper to sharpen your blades.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View WayneC's profile


14358 posts in 4545 days

#4 posted 12-28-2009 07:00 PM

The other thing to consider if your going the hand tool route is a good workbench. A manufactured workbench might be a good $400 investment to get started…

look for a sale at woodcraft or rockler

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View John Gray's profile

John Gray

2370 posts in 4333 days

#5 posted 12-28-2009 07:26 PM

If you are going the hand plane route I’ve listed 2 links that offer a wealth of information about hand planes, you should find them very useful.
And a book that I highly recommend about planes is “Hand Plane Essentials” by Christopher Schwarz. It is one of the best books I’ve found about hand planes.
FYI – IMHO get pre-WWII Stanley planes in good condition do not by planes that need restoration. If you buy planes that need restoration you will be opening “Pandora’s Box” of problems.

-- Only the Shadow knows....................

View WayneC's profile


14358 posts in 4545 days

#6 posted 12-28-2009 07:45 PM

By restoration, I mean some surface rust, loss of japanning, etc. No cracks, chips, missing or damaged parts. I would agree with John to be very selective in what you take on.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View Navtrtl's profile


17 posts in 3528 days

#7 posted 12-29-2009 02:32 AM

Thank you guys for all the info. This site still amazes me with all the very knowledgeable and helpful members. As far as buying used used goes, I am avoiding that due to the lack of first hand knowledge regarding the tools I need. I can usually tell if something is rusted beyond repair, and if parts are broken or missing. What I am not comfortable with is determining whether parts have been replaced with improperly fitted or nonfunctional parts. I don’t want to spend $35 on a plane that MAY be tunable just to find out it isn’t. If I find something locally, and can get my hands on it, that’s one thing. Craigslist and eBay are off the radar for the moment. Especially since I don’t buy anything without lots of detailed pictures, and being on dial-up, I really can’t look at any listing that contain lots of detailed pictures. Kind of a catch 22.

WayneC, I am already looking into purchasing Tom Fidgen’s book. I let his site load for almost an hour just so I could look at all the pretty pictures of his sharpening bench. Amazing work. I actually looked for it at Woodcraft the other day when I picked up all that other stuff.

I looked into buying a woorkbench, but after buying one, I would be left with absolutely no money for ANY other tools or material for a while. I’ve already designed a bench in Sketchup and scaled it down so that I can start by making a 1/4 scale model. I will have to use my 2’ x 10’ workbench that I have in my shed for now. It ain’t much, just 2×4’s and particle board.

I do have some saw’s already. Nothing fancy, just what I was able to get cheep. I have a Stanley handsaw with a crosscut pattern, and an older Craftsman with a 10 tpi rip setup. I recently jointed the teeth on the Craftsman and started filing the points. This will be my first attempt at sharpening a hand saw. If the cross cut needs it, that’s getting sent to a sharpener. Too many angles for me. Then again, I may just try it. I also have a flush cut saw and a back saw with a rip tooth pattern. I will use these until I get good enough at sharpening to justify buying a really good set of saws. Ultimately, I want to be very self sufficient. I don’t really like paying someone to work on anything of mine. I do all my own automotive, electronic, electrical, and general home maintenance work.

Now, when it comes to my irons and chisels, I can get a shaving edge on my cheap planes iron and on my harbor freight chisels. I made myself learn to sharpen before buying a good plane.

I will be making some of the marking tools and buying some as skills and money allow.

-- US Navy Veteran Morgantown, KY

View Walnut_Weasel's profile


360 posts in 3669 days

#8 posted 12-29-2009 05:23 PM

I have been going through the exact growing pains that you are – very little startup money – so I thought I would share the path I have chosen. Like you, the cost of quality power tools is just too far out of my reach which made me decide to give hand tools a try. I made the mistake of buying a groz plane that was on sale. In the amount of time I spent tuning it I could have knocked out a project and even then, it was very frustrating to use.

I was about to gear up and start purchasing used Stanley planes to restore when I read an article in (I think) Popular Woodworking about bevel up planes. Not long after reading that article I was lucky enough to be able to attend one of the Lie-Nielsen free hand tool events. At that event I was able to get my hands on several high quality planes including their bevel-up jack plane. I was amazed that – as they claim – you really can take a board from rough to ready for finish with just that one plane. I highly recommend you read up on the advantages of the bevel up planes. You may pay more for a single plane, but that one plane (and perhaps spare blade or two – I still only have one) can replace multiple planes in your shop.

I am currently working on a small box that I have made entirely with just my bandsaw to rough cut the stock, the bevel-up jack plane, a 3/8” chisel, a 1/4” router plane, and a shooting board. If I had not already purchased the bandsaw I could have just as easily rough cut the stock with a handsaw. I have spent just over $300 on the plane, chisel, and router plane but they were all ready to use within an hour of opening the box and they are tools that will be around long after I am dead and gone. To me the extra money spent was also justified in knowing that when something gets screwed up it is due to my learning curve and not due to a sub-par tool.

It is taking me a very long time to work through this project but I contribute that to my lack of abilities and not the hand tools. However, I am also doing all of the hand tool work inside (where it is warm) at the kitchen counter. All of the shavings and chips are easily cleaned up.

I must say that I started down the hand tool path due to money, but it is so much fun working without safety glasses, ear plugs, and dust mask that I may not be purchasing many power tools at all. It is a LOT of fun!

Regardless – It sounds like you are off to a good start. I hope you have fun. I know I have been!

-- James -

View PurpLev's profile


8551 posts in 4096 days

#9 posted 12-29-2009 05:34 PM

sounds like a good start, and like you’ve done your homework.

as other’s have mentioned – keep an eye on eBay and craigslist for used older Stanleys – you can get some decent planes for pennies. little cleanup (rust) and they are as good as new, and even better than some of the ‘new’ brands in the market today.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View Walnut_Weasel's profile


360 posts in 3669 days

#10 posted 12-29-2009 05:39 PM

BTW – Check out Dilo homepage, projects, and workshop. Talk about small shop inspiration!

-- James -

View Navtrtl's profile


17 posts in 3528 days

#11 posted 12-30-2009 07:09 AM

Thanks for the recommendation. That shop is very inspirational. I had a bedroom smaller than that when I was a kid. Slept on a cot and couldn’t even get the door to close. It was actually a walk in closet, and the bedroom was turned into a dining room since it had a door leading into the kitchen.

The guy at the store that helped me out with plane info explained to me the benefits of a bevel up plane. I could only pick up the block plane at the moment, and I have yet to purchase any extra irons due to a lack of funds. I am looking into the idea of the Jack plane. Especially if it is that versatile. Thanks again guys. You manage to always give me more to think about. No matter how much research I do, you guys always seem to have other options to show me. Thank you. I wish I could help you guys as much as you have helped me.

-- US Navy Veteran Morgantown, KY

View Yannick's profile


2 posts in 3531 days

#12 posted 01-07-2010 07:53 PM

I also want to learn hand tools. Money is not the biggest limitation in my case, but space and NOISE (I live in a townhouse, so a planer is pretty much out of the question). I’ll be following your journey.

For the workbench, you might want to try to build this one:

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