the humble house workshop #6: Cheap saws bad, cheap planes good

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by kiwi1969 posted 05-19-2009 01:45 PM 1463 reads 0 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 5: LOVIN' IT!! Part 6 of the humble house workshop series Part 7: Torrential rain and broken baileys »

Only did about two and half hours today which meant I got the dovetails and all the mortises for the slat done. Is this time about right for hand tool work? Love to know if it is as I felt I could have done better.
Another thing that i,ve discovered since I started doing hand tool work is the importance we place on the handplane seems to be a little overdone. My previous postings show piles of shaving that have come from out of the box Stanleys but in these simple projects once the initial work is finished they go back in the box as their job is done. The more important work of joint cutting now begins and for this the quality of the saws and chisels become all important. If you can,t work to your marked lines cleanly and accurately then all the effort you just spent planning your stock is wasted. My budget saws very quickly showed up their limitations and these will be the first to go when cash allows. Not being able to cut to a line means leaving a lot of waste that then has to be pared away with a chisel if I wanted any thing like an accurate joint, costing sweat and time. The chisels I have, also Stanleys, are actually reasonably good but they too will be replaced before I even think of ditching the Stanley planes for something better. Obviously good handplanes are important but for a Handtool newbie like me a good saw and chisel set will take me further for less. Just my thoughts on this, any other opinions are most welcome.

-- if the hand is not working it is not a pure hand

9 comments so far

View John Stegall's profile

John Stegall

558 posts in 5016 days

#1 posted 05-19-2009 02:05 PM

Speed comes with practice and the type of wood you are using as well as having sharp tools of high quality. I spent a year teaching a group of (shall we say) disadvantaged youth how to hand cut mortises. I started out with sx and ended up with one. The others moved away or became long term guests of the state.
The two boys with the most interest and the highest skill level one liked to watch things burn. The other liked to inhale.
I spent my own money to get some good quality tools for them to use but except for using them myself, it was wasted. I promised my last student that I would help him patch all of the holes in the wall of his mother’s house if he would just learn to cut one mortise…never happened.

-- jstegall

View kiwi1969's profile


608 posts in 4941 days

#2 posted 05-19-2009 02:14 PM

I stopped inhaling years ago and the only thing I burn is BBQ, hope you still enjoy your tools.

-- if the hand is not working it is not a pure hand

View woodworm's profile


14477 posts in 5090 days

#3 posted 05-19-2009 03:33 PM

You did alot in 2-1/2hrs – mortises & dovetails.
I seldom use chisel to make mortises, coz never got it straight & square.
The hand tools that I use most are hand plane and hand saw. They quietly work with me.

-- masrol, kuala lumpur, MY.

View PurpLev's profile


8654 posts in 5148 days

#4 posted 05-19-2009 04:24 PM

for 2.5 hours that is a very good accomplishment.

as far as quality tools- yes you are correct, not only handplanes should be of good quality. (PS. stanley plances are good quality – I wouldn’t underestimate them, nor have plans to replace them too soon, if ever). the thing that gets handplanes into the “headlines” is the fact that unlike a dosuki saw that you buy – and use (no real maintenance/tuning/etc) handplanes have many parts and preparations and tuning that can be done (and should be) on them – the soles, the throat, the frog, the chip breaker, and the blade are just the more common ones… so a whole cult is formed around them. and since you put so much effort and work into finessing them, they become a bit more ‘special’ in a way. but as you mentioned – you can get a board perfectly flat , but unless you have quality tools to take it into the next step – you are nothing but a board maker… lol

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

View a1Jim's profile


118334 posts in 5076 days

#5 posted 05-19-2009 04:31 PM

You’ve done a lot considering the lack of power tools you have . I’m so impressed with you and others and the work you do with no shop and limited tools.


View longgone's profile


5688 posts in 4808 days

#6 posted 05-19-2009 04:47 PM

You are doing an excellent job with hand tools.
Learning correct hand tool techniques is the best way to build a strong foundation to further build your woodworking skills upon. I learned to use had tools when I was a little kid and it certainly gives you a different outlook on woodworking than someone who has only used power tools.
I have a friend who is a carpenter and has been successfully building and renovating houses for many years…but he doesn’t know how to use fine hand tools, he doesn’t own a hand plane and his only chisels would make a furniyure builder cry.

View Francisco Luna's profile

Francisco Luna

1052 posts in 4893 days

#7 posted 05-19-2009 06:21 PM

Nice work, I’ll probably spend the whole day doing your two and a half hours work. Your Joinery is Sharp.

Reading your blog entry, one thing comes to mind: The contemporary woodworker, the post-Industralization craftsmen have lost the most esential skill he has ever had: Toolmaking.

Most of the times we work with tools we found available from toolmakers, but no necesarily those are the right tools for us. For instance, we use clothing we find in stores, but a completelly different thing is going with a Tailor.

I think every Galoot,MUST build his/her own tools.

-- "Menos es mas" Ludwing Mies Van Der Rohe

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4833 days

#8 posted 05-19-2009 08:39 PM

If you continue to use hand tools and you know how to tune and maintain them it won’t be so long before you love them. There are many instances when a hand tool can do the job quicker and better, especially if you are making one-off things. A lot of time can be used in setting up machines and making test cuts and often it isn’t worth it for just one piece. But if you are enjoying working with your machines at this point, what could be better. And it looks like you are getting the job done pretty darn well.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View kiwi1969's profile


608 posts in 4941 days

#9 posted 05-20-2009 02:00 AM

Thanks everyone for the positive comments. I,m seriously enjoying my woodworking again after all those years in factories and learning all this new/old stuff is a wonderful change.

-- if the hand is not working it is not a pure hand

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics