PDA

View Full Version : I like good tools



John C Cox
02-08-2018, 11:40 AM
Hey guys,

As I continue my tool quests - I keep coming back around to one main thing....

I like using good tools. Honestly - I don't really care if they are new or old so long as they are good...

Good means they work right...

I like chisels that work right. I like planes that work right. I like saws that work right....

But therein lies my dilemma....

Most budget to medium priced new stuff is a "parts kit" at best... You have to do a lot of work to get to where you can find out whether it's good or not... HF chisels were a perfect example for me.... I got 1 useable chisel out of a pack of 6.. The rest were mush - but it took me too many hours to get there.... I recently exchanged a new Pfeil that was too soft and just sent back a brand new set of Two Cherries chisels yesterday because the backs were rounded and bellied from overzealous factory polishing...

But unfortunately - most old stuff is the same... You have to do a lot of work to get to the point where you can decide whether it's good or not..... I spent a ton of time on a couple old Pre-war Stanley planes only to find the casting on one was way out of square... So I am the proud owner of a parts-master plane... Pre-war parts on a 1980's vintage sole... But it works right now.... And you guys saw the old Sheldon chisel I have started on... The jury is still out on whether it's any good...

And now I am appreciating what the extra money on the "Premium" tools brings... They should only need the minor expected work - honing the edge or such - to make them useful... They don't lose the script taking perfect steel, perfect heat treatment, perfect grinding - and then rolling all the edges and burning it on the polishing wheel...

Thanks

John

Jeff Heath
02-08-2018, 1:46 PM
You have pin pointed the trade-off between buying new premium tools vs. rehabbing vintage tools. It's money vs. time invested.

I will point out though, and anyone who has restored a bunch of vintage tools already knows, that you will learn a lot about how to properly set up a tool by restoring/rehabbing it yourself. What I mean is, buying a (for example) perfect Lie Nielsen plane for $400, and spend 5 minutes honing the iron, and you're in business with a very nice tool that works perfectly.

Buy a $10 Stanley #5 that's been sitting on a shelf in a barn for 80 years, and now you've got some work to do. However, along the way, I think you will learn a lot about what makes a plane work well, and either not mind doing it, or have a greater appreciation for how a company like Lie Nielsen or Lee Valley sells tools that are truly ready to go right out of the box.

I used to teach beginning woodworking classes in my shop, and I always recommended starting out with a vintage used plane and chisel. Learning how to tune them up to work well is a good skill to have in your brainbox. After you've seen how much work is involved, you get to vote with either your wallet or your labor as to how you want to set up your shop moving forward.

For many, they just don't want to spend their shop time messing around with rusty tools to rehab. For them, buying new, if they can afford it, is definitely the way to go. Buy quality, though. I'd rather see somebody get 1 quality tool and save their money up for the next purchase than buy 5 chinesium junkers only to find out that 4 have to go back. Get the good stuff and cry once. You'll never regret it.

My chisels are all vintage. My hand planes are a mixture of wooden planes I made myself, several Lie Nielsen planes, and 4 Stanley planes, too. My saws are the same way, with 2 from Bad Axe, 3 from Mikey Wenzloff, and quite a few Disston's that I rehabbed myself. One of my 16" Bad Axe tenon saws cost more than 10 of my Disston's, though. They don't saw any better ( I know how to file) but they sure do like nice!

Frederick Skelly
02-08-2018, 6:35 PM
I do too. Old or new.
I think you nailed the pros and cons.

Fred

Brandon SPEAKS
02-08-2018, 9:28 PM
Im new to this type of hand tools so this all may change, but right now I find I enjoy tool rehab. Messing around with an old plane is nearly as much fun as a wood project. I that changes though I could see the value in paying for quality. Some things are worth buying cheap and looking at as good enough and disposable, some are not.

Jim Koepke
02-08-2018, 9:28 PM
Like so many endevors in life, you will either have to pay a price to have it done right or take the time to do it your self.

It is nice to have a few premium tools. If for no other reason than to have a benchmark of what a good tool can do. Though if there is another person in your area who can show you the goal posts it is often much more rewarding to get their on your own.

My planes that took the most effort to restore give me much more pride in use than any of my premium planes. The saw from a kit with a handle made by me means more to me than my one premium saw. Though the premium saw has special meaning of its own.

Saw filing isn't a difficult skill to learn. Being able to file a saw opens up a whole new world. Just don't let people know you can sharpen saws or they will be after you to sharpen theirs.

jtk

Frank Martin
02-09-2018, 1:33 AM
I too started with some new Stanley / Record planes as well as some vintage ones about 15 years ago. Ended up going mostly Veritas, some Lie Nielsen and couple others. These work for me because I did not want to spend time rehabbing tools sometimes with less than acceptable outcomes.

As mentined before, this is a very personal question and depends on how much time vs. money you are willing to invest.

steven c newman
02-09-2018, 9:41 AM
Getting sick and tired of hearing the same old ...whine. About not want to spend so much "time" rehabbing a tool......

Funny thing is.....once it IS rehabbed, it will take exactly the same amount of "upkeep" as a brand new toy.

All I ever ask of ANY tool is that it does it's job. That is all that counts...does it do the job I need it to do.

However...for those that do not "have the time.." WHO does the upkeep on YOUR shiny, new toy(s), if you don't have the time to mess with such "menial tasks"?

Too many sound merely like a sales spokesperson for a brand name. Some even sound likes Billy Mayse's replacement on late night TV Infomercials...( how many times have you heard the phrase.."I have that brand X tool, and LOVE it...) Really....?

John C Cox
02-09-2018, 11:14 AM
For me - honestly - it boils down to this:

What is your hobby?

If it's collecting and/or restoring tools - Fantastic! It's a super fun and rewarding hobby of it's own.. Embrace that and enjoy doing it... In this case - the ultimate ability of the tool to work matters less than the tool itself and how it fits into the collection and the larger collector universe... And working a tool generally hurts it's collector value.

If it's working wood... Fantastic. It's also a super fun and rewarding hobby.... Embrace that tools are a necessary means to the end of finished projects.. But spending too much time on these tools takes critical time away from wood working...

And so back to me.... I like working wood.... And tools are a means to that.

And I am inclined to be cheap... So if a $20 set of chisels or a $10 used plane works right - then I am happy.... But they often don't... But since they don't - that means I gotta go figure out what does work right for what I need... And that's a whole rat hole of it's own.... And ironically - I think it costs me more actual $$$ this way then if I just went straight to the good stuff...

But as you guys know - it's not that easy either.... Remember when HSS became all the rage... Best steel ever in the whole world! Yeah - me too... I have several and don't really like them for 99% of what I do....

Warren West
02-09-2018, 12:10 PM
About the old tools. Do you think back in the day they magically were good out of the box so to speak? Flat to within 10 thou across and 8 foot span as some expect now? I don't thnk so. It's only now with the top end tools that are available for purchase now that some peoples expectations have aligned with what they ship and extrapolated those standards to every other tool made in the history of man making any tool that falls short of the specs of the top tier tool, crap.

What was different with old tools is most of them, even the low cost ones were serviceable when new. The market was eductated back then. They knew how to use tools and how they should work and wouldn't put up with tools that didn't work. Much of today's low cost tools aren't worth the effort to throw them away. But they keep selling because there is a large enough audience of single purchase customers who buy the junk and conclude hand tools aren't for them, or it worked good enough for my project and I'm never going to need them again.

So mostly we end up with low cost junk and high cost good stuff and not much in between and many have the budge for low cost or in between and either get forced to purchase high end slowly over time or buy old stuff and restore. Personally I'm a mix of make due when it comes to things I use occasionally and high end if it's something I will use often. I value my time so I don't go in for restoration work much. It's cheaper to earn the money and spend it than save the money and pay in time restoring. For others restoring is part of the journey.

I think there are a lot of hobbiests in this field that come from IT and are very spec focused. I think they drive the market for the high end sellers more than the really talented woodworker making a full time living off his skills. They can pontificate and blog about the nuances of this saw or that saw. Real woodworkers need to get stuff done and collect money from their customer.

Jim Koepke
02-09-2018, 1:18 PM
What is your hobby?

No one told me we could only have one.

In the last few days my enjoyment has been to remove a handle from a broken shovel to put it on one with a broken handle. Put a new handle on another shovel head. All part of getting ready for gardening season.

Then there was the replacing of a switch in a small wall wart that went bad. The replacement switch was taken from an inexpensive LED candle light with a dead battery. We bought a pack of these in a post Christmas sale as a pack of 18 of them made the batteries less expensive than new. The batteries are ones we need for our glucose meters. We also use the lamps when we have a power failure.

One of my great joys in life is to putter around with things that aren't working and making them work well.

Another one of my great joys is to make useable furniture and other things from wood.


What was different with old tools is most of them, even the low cost ones were serviceable when new.

Another difference is there weren't so many distractions like TV and gameboys a century ago. Kids were often at work with their fathers in the barn or workshop and learned how to use tools. They likely learned to sharpen their own pocket knives and a hatchet or an axe before chopping firewood.

A century ago most workers likely learned to use tools that were not made to today's levels of perfection and were able to turn out decent work with a less than optimum tool.

jtk

Jeff Heath
02-09-2018, 2:02 PM
About the old tools. Do you think back in the day they magically were good out of the box so to speak?

They sure weren't. I got lucky about 20 years ago, or so. I was in the oldest hardware store around this area (over 100 years in business, and a real hardware store....not like the stores today.), looking for a gear sprocket. They carried that sort of thing, along with a lot of old tools. They had shelves of the stuff down in the basement. If I had half a brain back then, I would have cleaned them out.

Anyway, long story short (as possible) I saw a box on the shelf, covered in dust, that said "Greenlee butt chisels". $29 for a set of 5, including the box and useless red plastic chisel wrap. Probably sitting on that shelf collecting dust for 40 years. Really great steel, and I still have them. They were an absolute bear to get flat. The backs were not even close, and if I had to guess, I spent an average of over an hour on the 1" and 2" getting them flat. Of course, the bevels were not ground straight, either, but that was easy with my Tormek to fix ( I think I have one of the very first Tormek systems sold around here, still works great. I'm on the 2nd stone).

During the day, I make furniture and hand planes. After dinner, I go back up to the shop, and I enjoy restoring vintage machinery....woodworking and metalworking. My entire shop is fitted with vintage American industrial machines that I've repaired or restored myself. I'm working on a 1936 Yates American Y30 snowflake bandsaw right now.

What can I say, during the warm months, I like to fish. Winter is restoration season for me, with a little hunting thrown in.

maximillian arango
02-09-2018, 2:17 PM
The way I see it is I want to buy wood and buying new tools keep me from that because of initial cost. I think the most money I've spent on a plane is $70s for a number 7, I have around 10 planes together they all cost less the a LN #4. With a 1 year old my time is limited but I'm not into hand tool woodworking because I can do more with less time so rehabbing old tools lets me buy more wood and more tools to to help me do more with wood. Flattening a soul takes lest the 20 minutes and bringing it to a mirror polish takes less then 35 minutes, rehabbing the rest of a plane is almost optional after you get the rust off. When I'm not playing with my son my time is not worth very much so it is hard to justify new tools at this point of my life.

Frank Martin
02-09-2018, 3:51 PM
Getting sick and tired of hearing the same old ...whine. About not want to spend so much "time" rehabbing a tool......

Funny thing is.....once it IS rehabbed, it will take exactly the same amount of "upkeep" as a brand new toy.

All I ever ask of ANY tool is that it does it's job. That is all that counts...does it do the job I need it to do.

However...for those that do not "have the time.." WHO does the upkeep on YOUR shiny, new toy(s), if you don't have the time to mess with such "menial tasks"?

Too many sound merely like a sales spokesperson for a brand name. Some even sound likes Billy Mayse's replacement on late night TV Infomercials...( how many times have you heard the phrase.."I have that brand X tool, and LOVE it...) Really....?

Steven, I enjoy your posts and have a lot of respect for you looking at your work. However, these things (like a lot of others) are very personal decisions. There is no universal right or wrong for a given person. In fact, even for me, when I retire one day, I may become very interested in rehabbing old tools again if I think that is a good use of my time. So, no need to label people who make different decisions as salespeople for brands.

To give you more context, we have only one kid, a 12 year old son. My wife and I both work, so our time is very limited. We have a sitter who picks up our son from school to bring home, because we are not able to do it. I have very little time for actual woodworking (not including time to read forums or other material here and there while away from home, etc.), probably no more than total of 50-60 hrs per year as I prefer to spend most of my weekends with my family and friends. I happen to enjoy woodworking more than tool rehab, so for me spending the little woodworking time on tool rehab is not at all attractive. I would rather spend it on building something. One way to get there is to invest in tools that enable efficiency. Same reason why I have a Domino, a European combo machine, etc. Of course, none of these are a match for talent. There are far more talented people than I on this and other forums making far better pieces than I probably ever will with a fraction of the cost in equipment.

Prashun Patel
02-09-2018, 4:01 PM
Rehab if you want, buy new if you want. Spend your time on money or tools however you want.

Just don't disparage anyone or their choices here specifically or as a group.

Take any judgments like that to a different forum.

steven c newman
02-09-2018, 4:04 PM
IF I have a project going on....little if any rehab gets done....when I am between projects (like now) I can do a bit of rehab...IF I find something.

Right now, I am about 1-2 weeks away from starting a new project. Yard Sales don't start until...April or May around here..

Was just wondering how some, that say they "Just don't have the time.." maintain the tools they do have. Because, while I am between projects, I can use that time to maintain the users I have in the shop. Maybe 10 minutes per tool is all I need...if that. While I would rather build something...doesn't make much sense to do so with poorly maintained tools, does it. Most of my shop budget goes towards lumber, and hardware....and a few needful items. Already have all the user tools the shop needs. Took a LONG time to get to that point, but once I did, all I need to do is simply maintain them. Have no need to go chasing the latest glitzy new toy.

Dewayne Reding
02-09-2018, 4:34 PM
I enjoy a combination of old and new tools. I have the skills to repair most anything. Rehabbing old planes and chisels makes sense. So would an old tablesaw. That 70yr old Dewalt RAS saw I bought, not so much. After days or disassembly and cleanup, I figured out what it was really going to cost in time and parts. It just wasn't worth losing a half a season of woodworking time and the expense for a tool I likely wouldn't use all that much in the end. Didn't matter the saw was almost free. It took a ride to the scrap yard. I kept the stand and the motor. Probably had a few parts somebody else could use so I even regret that hasty decision. :)

Matt Lau
02-09-2018, 10:27 PM
I don't have Dewayne's skills, but I totally agree.

If it's not fun, don't do it!
If you don't like it, sell it! (I'm in the process of selling stuff).
If it's great, enjoy it!

We're here to have fun, right?

I got into this hand tool thing because I wanted to build guitars, and didn't have $20,000 in power tools. After playing around a bit, it got super addictive to take rough wood and make it into something pretty...the feeling of perfectly planed wood is something you can't normally buy.

Dewayne Reding
02-10-2018, 9:23 AM
If it's not fun, don't do it!
If you don't like it, sell it! (I'm in the process of selling stuff).
If it's great, enjoy it!

We're here to have fun, right?



I am a man of many hobbies and I frequently have to remind myself of what you just stated Matt. It is indeed completely about personal enjoyment. That is my definition of a true hobby. I visit a lot of hobby forums, and several are friendly like SMC. The potentially troublesome threads almost always have a similar theme.

"Why would you spend a ridiculous amount of money on a hand plane or a fly fishing rod when there are far less expensive options?"

"Why would you waste so much time dealing with something old when you do not have to? Is your time worth nothing?"

After 25 years on hobby forums, I am sure of one thing. Any time I spend being overly concerned how somebody else thinks, or enjoys the hobby is a true waste of time. We should all choose our own course, with full freedom to change our viewpoint to reflect what makes sense now. I used to have a substantial income, and now I don't. Now I have have substantial free time. That changes many things. What it doesn't change is my ability to fully enjoy my hobbies, and I hope it never does.