Canadian Woodworking

Top 10 hand tools for a machine enthusiast

You can divide woodworkers into two camps: hand tool lovers and machine enthusiasts. If you’re in the latter camp, consider boosting your speed, quality and accuracy with these 10 hand tools.

1. Block Plane

A great tool for chamfering edges and smoothing smaller, shorter surfaces, a block plane should be in every woodworker’s shop. Even if you inherited your grandfather’s block plane years ago, as long as it’s tuned up and has a sharp blade, it will work pretty well.

2. Rasp

A rasp will roughly shape edges to just about any shape. Square corners are fine, but sometimes you need to add some shape to a piece of wood. Rasps are also a lot of fun to use.

3. Jack Plane

I’m not trying to turn you into Tom Fidgen here, but a jack plane will help out with flattening larger surfaces. If you don’t have a 36″ wide planer, and you have to glue multiple dressed panels together to create a table top, a jack plane will help you flush the joints. You’ll also need one for dozens of other shop tasks.

4. Spokeshave

Like a rasp, a straight, round-bottom spokeshave is perfect for adding curves, creating chamfers and adding some shape to a piece of wood. Think of a spokeshave as a plane that can create curves in wood. If you enjoy using it, look into getting a flat and concave spokeshave as well.

5. Ryoba Japanese Saw

Even if you don’t want to cut joints with Japanese accuracy, you’ll be thankful to have one of these saws near your bench. It can make through cuts while ripping or crosscutting. Don’t treat it like a super-beefy western style saw – use it a bit more delicately and be rewarded.

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6. Awl

An awl will help you out with so many simple jobs around the shop; they’re not expensive and they’re very easy to use. This might be one of those tools you inherited from your grandfather, along with your block plane. If that’s the case, a simple sharpening on a fine belt sander and a quick clean with some steel wool and wax will make you want to reach for this simple tool.

7. Coping Saw

Tight curves are not always easy to do. Even with a bandsaw, some curves are too tight to complete. A coping saw might not cut as fast as a bandsaw, but it will excel when your bandsaw reaches its limits.

8. Simple Carving Knife

You can get a dedicated marking knife if you wish, but if I was only going to have one quality knife around my shop, it would be this. It can do a lot of different cuts, and will also open boxes and do more rudimentary tasks around the shop.

9. Shoulder Plane

There are a number of different sizes of shoulder planes on the market, but I would recommend a medium-sized version for most woodworkers. They’re great for fine-tuning the fit of a tenon to a mortise, deepening rabbets and dadoes, and many other random shop tasks.

10. Sharpening System

In order to get a number of these tools to work properly you will need to invest in a sharpening system. If you opt for a set of stones, I’d go with 1000 and 4000 grits right away, and add an 8000 grit stone when you want to sharpen your performance even more.

Rotary sharpening systems also work great, but have their pros and cons. With a bit of research, and some practice, you’ll have sharp, useful tools for the rest of your life.

Rob Brown - [email protected]

Rob is a studio furniture maker and the editor at Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement. Instagram at @RobBrownTeaches

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