Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 15 of 24

Thread: Cheap tool suggestions wanted!

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    Boston, Massachusetts
    Posts
    70

    Cheap tool suggestions wanted!

    Hey folks. I recently started writing a sequence of articles titled "Woodworking on $1.50 per day", as both an exercise that amused me and a serious guide to starting woodworking on a college-student budget. Each installment covers purchases for one month: what can you do with $45? As it turns out, if you're willing to compromise on quality you can do quite a bit.

    Before I give links and ask for suggestions, let me deal with one complaint I'm already expecting. The tools I'm recommending are, for the most part, not very high quality. They're largely things I expect people to outgrow within a year or two at most, and they will never work as well as high quality tools. Why, then would I recommend them at all? Because some people who want to start woodworking don't have the tools to buy a full kit from Veritas or Lie-Nielsen, and don't have the ability to buy and restore tools from flea markets or eBay. These articles are written for those sorts of people: the kind I was when I started about five years ago. I was never able to find solid recommendations for cheap tools that would work without driving me insane, and now that I have (some) of the knowledge necessary to make those recommendations, I felt like I was obligated to do so.

    The lists are organized in favor of being able to get started quickly, with greater precision and higher quality following a fast entry. There are a lot of other ways I could have gone, but I'm committed to this one now!

    Part 4 hasn't been posted yet, but will be in two parts: recommendations on how to look for used hand planes (at $45/month, it would be a year before a beginner had anything like a set of usable new planes), and a recommendation for a drill and drill/driver bits. Also in my plans are a wooden rabbet/shoulder plane (one of the odd hybrids that are mostly made by Mujingfang), and possibly a plow plane. I'd like to try one of them before recommending it, but it might be a while before that happens.

    So the question I have is: what would you add? What inexpensive (no more than $90, for lack of a better definition) tool would you add, somewhere in the second half-year of someone's woodworking career? How do you feel about wooden planes for a beginner? Saw files and a flea-market saw?

    I'd like to fill this out to twelve months, but I'm definitely reaching a limit on what I can honestly recommend for low prices.
    Last edited by Keith Outten; 04-21-2016 at 6:13 PM.

  2. #2
    Apparently Nicholson files are good again. Hopefully that extends to the 4-in-hand.

    For a plane, the $9.99 Made in India jack plane from Harbor Freight apparently tunes up well.

    Grooving and making dadoes is always a challenge — making an old widow’s tooth by grinding down a hex key? I’ve long thought that someone should work up a grooving plane design which uses an inexpensive (but decent quality 1/8" chisel).

    Workholding? Making a set of wooden cam clamps?

    Unfortunately, as was pointed out when I asked a similar question a long while ago, a woodworking shop can’t be self-sufficient in the way that a metal-working shop can be.

    Interesting approach, and some thoughtful suggestions thus far. Looking forward to seeing more!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2015
    Location
    Chicago Area
    Posts
    45
    The easiest thing has to be a cross cut or rip saw. I bought a disston d7 for $6 and dropped another few dollars on a file. Sand paper, MDF and a little spray glue can do a lot to tune and sharpen tools. Then there is making stuff....squares, marking gauge, mallet etc. old drafting tools are a cheap way to find a divider and compass. A machinist's square isn't adjustable but it is cheap and solidly square. It is pretty easy to find a Stanley #4 or #5 bench plane is simple. How about a router plane? An old Millers Falls isn't very expensive (mine was $30). I've found good used chisels tough to find, but older ones with a celluose handle like Craftsman aren't as bad as they seem. The problem with all these things is that it takes time and effort to find these things. Garage and estate sales are great so long as you can tell what quality looks like.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Location
    Tokyo, Japan
    Posts
    433
    For joinery, you might want to build a bow saw, or get a small dozuki, or a tenon saw, if you find one. The Ryoba should work pretty well though.

    I love wooden planes. Haven't tried a proper western style wooden plane, but I have a small kanna and a home-made block plane, and enjoy them both.

    The harbor freight plane with the spokeshave adjuster, as people have recommended, will work. I have a similar one made by stanley, but, as a fair warning, I rather hate the adjustment mechanism. Prefer my wooden planes by far.

    You should look around flea markets and antique stores. You can find some good deals on hand planes sometimes; be on the lookout for any stanleys, or any wood planes (though, they're hard to find in useable condition). Also look for things like auger bits and braces (the bits, by the way, are numbered. The numbers indicate the fraction of a 16th, so an "8" would be a 8/16th, or 1/2". I'm telling you this because it's information that I would have found helpful in the past . Also, egg-beater drills, or gimlets could be nice.

    A half round rasp and/or file is very useful. Also, a Shinto saw-rasp is quite handy.

    Not tools, per se, but you might also consider making:
    - A Bench, Bench Hooks, Shooting Board, Saw Horses
    - Clamps
    - A Mallet
    - A Strop. MDF or Leather. Or, if you prefer, MDF and Leather! I like either, depending on how much I want to preserve the original geometry of the blade. I recommend the green compound (Chromium Oxide, I think it is?)

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2015
    Location
    SE Michigan
    Posts
    2,003
    Regarding sharpening; in addition to granite or tile, plate glass can be used...check with a local glass company for cut offs; 3/8"-1/2" works well.

    Regarding planing; nothing is more frustrating or exhausting than a work surface that moves when you plane. A cheap workmate clamped to something secure can work, or a fairly heafty board (flat 4x6) with one end up against a wall with a planing stop will be a big improvement (search planning beam for ideas). You may even want to consider the Japanese methods...
    Make a set of winding sticks. Use an existing granite counter top to check for flat.

    Regarding saws; to start out, and be less expensive, I'd recommend Japanese saws for finer work, and big box multi-purpose saws for larger work. Neither can be sharpened, but last a long time. I enjoy buying flea market/auction site saws and refurbishing them...but a bit of a learning curve, and requires files (not expensive), a vise (can be made), a saw set (not too expensive), good lighting, and for those of us over the half century mark, magnification.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    Boston, Massachusetts
    Posts
    70

    Thumbs up

    Thanks, all! One thing that occurred to me this morning is that making a "Milkman's Bench" (from Popular Woodworking) would be fairly simple with douglas fir two-by stock. Replace the screws with wedges, and it's a pretty easy build, and would give a good work surface clamped to a desk or table.

    Quote Originally Posted by William Adams View Post
    Apparently Nicholson files are good again. Hopefully that extends to the 4-in-hand.

    For a plane, the $9.99 Made in India jack plane from Harbor Freight apparently tunes up well.

    Grooving and making dadoes is always a challenge ó making an old widowís tooth by grinding down a hex key? Iíve long thought that someone should work up a grooving plane design which uses an inexpensive (but decent quality 1/8" chisel).

    Workholding? Making a set of wooden cam clamps?

    Unfortunately, as was pointed out when I asked a similar question a long while ago, a woodworking shop canít be self-sufficient in the way that a metal-working shop can be.

    Interesting approach, and some thoughtful suggestions thus far. Looking forward to seeing more!
    I'm trying to avoid suggesting making tools that require specialty tools. Grinding down a hex key is pretty tough if you don't have a good grinder, which is why I never made a router plane that way. Clamps are a good suggestion, and something I hadn't thought of, as is the 4-in-1 rasp/file.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Fisher View Post
    The easiest thing has to be a cross cut or rip saw. I bought a disston d7 for $6 and dropped another few dollars on a file. Sand paper, MDF and a little spray glue can do a lot to tune and sharpen tools. Then there is making stuff....squares, marking gauge, mallet etc. old drafting tools are a cheap way to find a divider and compass. A machinist's square isn't adjustable but it is cheap and solidly square. It is pretty easy to find a Stanley #4 or #5 bench plane is simple. How about a router plane? An old Millers Falls isn't very expensive (mine was $30). I've found good used chisels tough to find, but older ones with a celluose handle like Craftsman aren't as bad as they seem. The problem with all these things is that it takes time and effort to find these things. Garage and estate sales are great so long as you can tell what quality looks like.
    It also helps to know how a "good" tool feels. Until I took a class using provided tools, I hadn't realized how badly set my cheapo backsaw was. I had a similar experience with hand planes, so I hate telling people to start with used planes. There's really no other option here, but still.

    I think a used rip saw is going to make it onto the list... a large-toothed saw is a good place to start learning to sharpen, and while I love my ryoba, I'll choose the 5TPI Disston every time for thick material.


    Quote Originally Posted by Luke Dupont View Post
    For joinery, you might want to build a bow saw, or get a small dozuki, or a tenon saw, if you find one. The Ryoba should work pretty well though.

    I love wooden planes. Haven't tried a proper western style wooden plane, but I have a small kanna and a home-made block plane, and enjoy them both.

    The harbor freight plane with the spokeshave adjuster, as people have recommended, will work. I have a similar one made by stanley, but, as a fair warning, I rather hate the adjustment mechanism. Prefer my wooden planes by far.

    You should look around flea markets and antique stores. You can find some good deals on hand planes sometimes; be on the lookout for any stanleys, or any wood planes (though, they're hard to find in useable condition). Also look for things like auger bits and braces (the bits, by the way, are numbered. The numbers indicate the fraction of a 16th, so an "8" would be a 8/16th, or 1/2". I'm telling you this because it's information that I would have found helpful in the past . Also, egg-beater drills, or gimlets could be nice.

    A half round rasp and/or file is very useful. Also, a Shinto saw-rasp is quite handy.

    Not tools, per se, but you might also consider making:
    - A Bench, Bench Hooks, Shooting Board, Saw Horses
    - Clamps
    - A Mallet
    - A Strop. MDF or Leather. Or, if you prefer, MDF and Leather! I like either, depending on how much I want to preserve the original geometry of the blade. I recommend the green compound (Chromium Oxide, I think it is?)
    A mallet is a good idea, and it's good to know that people are having luck with wooden planes. I take it you started that way? How hard did you find it to learn to adjust them?

    Gimlets! I knew I was missing something obvious!


    Quote Originally Posted by Phil Mueller View Post
    Regarding sharpening; in addition to granite or tile, plate glass can be used...check with a local glass company for cut offs; 3/8"-1/2" works well.

    Regarding planing; nothing is more frustrating or exhausting than a work surface that moves when you plane. A cheap workmate clamped to something secure can work, or a fairly heafty board (flat 4x6) with one end up against a wall with a planing stop will be a big improvement (search planning beam for ideas). You may even want to consider the Japanese methods...
    Make a set of winding sticks. Use an existing granite counter top to check for flat.

    Regarding saws; to start out, and be less expensive, I'd recommend Japanese saws for finer work, and big box multi-purpose saws for larger work. Neither can be sharpened, but last a long time. I enjoy buying flea market/auction site saws and refurbishing them...but a bit of a learning curve, and requires files (not expensive), a vise (can be made), a saw set (not too expensive), good lighting, and for those of us over the half century mark, magnification.
    It's hard for me to recommend Japanese or Chinese methods, just because I know so little about them. They're clearly effective, and in some cases may well be better than the ways I know, but I don't feel like I can responsibly suggest them without actually knowing what I'm talking about.


    Keep the suggestions coming! I've got a lot of columns left to write, and I'm only going to be able to come up with so many ideas!

  7. #7
    Absolutely agree on the Milkman's Bench workbench --- I think working up and adjusting the whole series so that it naturally progresses from minimal tools, to building some things, to buying more tools, &c. is a great idea, and really look forward to seeing the balance of it.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    Boston, Massachusetts
    Posts
    70
    Quote Originally Posted by William Adams View Post
    Absolutely agree on the Milkman's Bench workbench --- I think working up and adjusting the whole series so that it naturally progresses from minimal tools, to building some things, to buying more tools, &c. is a great idea, and really look forward to seeing the balance of it.
    The downside to that, of course, is that I'll have to do all of the builds myself, and buy any tools I recommend that I don't already have. You know, just to make sure I'm saying the right things? It's going to be a terrible hardship, buying all those tools and spending time in the shop....

  9. #9
    The wooden planes from ECC are good. Get the simple wedged ones, they are cheaper then the primus planes.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    Boston, Massachusetts
    Posts
    70
    Quote Originally Posted by Kees Heiden View Post
    The wooden planes from ECC are good. Get the simple wedged ones, they are cheaper then the primus planes.
    Thanks for the pointer. They're still pretty pricey on a $45/month plan, though... at Highland Woodworker the ECE Jack Plane is $100 at regular price. That's more than two months worth of the budget. They're far nicer tools than are available at a lower price, but still not easily affordable.

  11. #11
    clamps. The HF 12" quick release clamps are a very good buy. With a good set of cauls and only a few cheap pipe clamps, you can handle most glue up situations.

    Card scrapers are cheap and useful.

    I also love all 3 of my rosewood contour planes from Lee Valley. I think each one was < $20 and they make very passable spokeshaves.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Location
    boston, usa
    Posts
    15
    The North Bennet Street School has an "into to woodworking" course that is all hand tool use. They give you a list of basic tools to come in with and show you how to use each of them properly- nothing fancy, a $16 gent's saw and a norton india stone, but a good solid list for starting out. The idea is that you don't need a bunch of fancy stuff to get started, and many things on this list have cheaper versions out today. Your question reminded me of this list of basic tools, not much that has not already been mentioned but wanted to post it up to share.

    The main things they do not list are the benches and vises. But adding the wooden screw clamps to a list like this would help a great deal.

    (this list is from 5 or 6 years ago and is likely out of date, but you get the idea)

    pps- a great class in a great school.


    Matt

    ______$6.00 - Safety Glasses – REQUIRED (#1535)


    ______$80.00 - 12" Combination Square (Starrett) (#5)


    ______$68.00 - #4 Bench Plane (Stanley) (#514)


    ______$32.00 - Cutting Gauge (Crown) (#306)


    ______$11.95 - 6 Inch Card Scraper (#398)


    ______$10.50 - 16oz. Honing Oil (Norton) (#38)


    ______$7.00 - Burnisher (#226)


    ______$16.00 - Dovetail Saw (fine tooth at least 15T per inch) (#388)


    ______$28.00 - Sharpening Stone (Norton Fine India 8”x2”x1”) (#1509)


    ______$14.00 - Mill File with Handle (#516)


    ______$16.50 - Protractor (General) (#25)


    ______$17.00 - Bevel Gauge (#515)


    ______$52.00 -Set of 4 Chisels (Irwin) (#265)


    Also available individually; please check if not buying complete set:


    ______$15.00 - 1/4” (#262)


    ______$15.00 - 3/8” (#264)


    ______$15.00 - 1/2” (#261)


    ______$17.00 - 1” (#260)

  13. #13
    Isn't that the school whose students' tool cabinet projects were featured in Jim Tolpin’s The Toolbox Book: A Craftsman's Guide to Tool Chests, Cabinets, and Storage Systems

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Longview WA
    Posts
    19,386
    Blog Entries
    1
    There are inexpensive chisels available through many sources.

    One of the common problems often seen with many woodworkers is absolutely no desire, knowledge or experience with metal working. Yet one of the most important parts of wood working is the metal work of sharpening a blade.

    In my opinion, if someone wants to do wood working on a less expensive basis they need to learn some basics about using a screwdriver to be able to loosen the screws on a frog that needs adjustment.

    Any course to help people get started in woodworking needs to cover at least the simple basics of sharpening. I would hope no matter what tools they are using they would also learn some basics about how a plane works and how to proceed when something doesn't work.

    Many of my woodworking tools were picked up for less than the $45 monthly expenditure cap in the original post.

    Your audience may be better served by a yard sale find and an hour or two than buying something from Harbor Freight that needs adjustments they do not understand. If there is no knowledge of the mechanical workings of things the yard sale find and the Harbor Freight purchase will be equally confusing for a newbie.

    I have bought many planes that were used at one time and set on a shelf for a decade or more. All they really needed to perform adequately was a sharpening and a dusting.

    If any of your audience is going to sharpen a blade on a plane with a chip breaker you will need to cover some of the mechanics of how a plane works.

    BTW, I have seen some of the cheap tools available in some hardware stores. In some cases the Harbor Freight planes are better made.

    jtk
    Last edited by Jim Koepke; 04-19-2016 at 1:03 PM. Reason: monthly expenditure
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

  15. #15
    Andy,

    Great idea -- as you can see from all the responses you are getting here. I agree with your concept and with most of your suggestions, for example, I think your suggestion of Sears for hand tools is good, and I especially agree with your suggestion to get two chisels instead of a set. But I do have a few constructive suggestions
    (1) You should mention looking for used tools at antique malls, garage sales, ebay, etc. The world is full of used hammers, screwdrivers, pliers, etc that are as good as or better than cheaper new ones.
    (2) cheaper tools are not necessarily a "waste of money". For example, a somewhat cheaper chisel may not hold an edge as long as a more expensive one but that just means that you might need to sharpen more often, not that you are wasting your money. Same for hammers, etc.
    (3) I happen to be a fan of sandpaper sharpening, and not just for a beginner. Also, I don't find that sandpaper wears that fast or is that expensive. The idea that SS is more expensive in the long run seems to be received wisdom without a basis in fact. Yes, you can buy a three-in-one or double-grit oil stone, but it probably will not be flat when you buy it and will not stay flat after you use it. Trying to sharpen with a cupped stone will be very discouraging to a beginner, So to be realistic you should add in the cost of a diamond stone for flattening. That changes the economics.
    (4) Handplanes are a real problem for beginners because a poorly fettled, dull plane is extremely discouraging to use and a new, properly fettled one is a budget buster. Consider recommending that they buy re-habbed planes from one of the sellers on a WW forum like SMC or Woodnet.

    Just my two cents.

    Keep on

    Doug

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •