An 1839 Answer to “What Tools Should I Buy?”

Schoolbox-(Opener)-(DuotoneI’m in the midst of trolling through the deep dark past of Christopher Schwarz’s blog, as I gather information for a forthcoming book (assuming we can convince marketing that anyone will want to buy it) that is tentatively titled “Handsaw Essentials.”

In my travels back through time, I came across a post Chris put together in preparation for an appearance on “The Woodwright’s Shop” to introduce his 1839 School Box (one one of the three projects the hero, a young woodworking apprentice named Thomas, builds in the excellent and entertaining book “The Joiner and Cabinet Maker“). Chris listed the 41 tools Thomas uses as we follow his journey from apprentice to journeyman:

2′ rule
Try square
Chalk
Chalk line
Handsaw
Ripsaw
Bench brush
Two sawbenches
Pencil
Striking knife (a joiner’s marker)
Jack plane
Trying plane
Smoothing plane
Rubstone
Wooden straightedge
Marking gauge
Panel gauge
Brad awl
Hammer
Piece of iron or steel for clenching/straightening nails
Nail set
Broad chisel, dullish (for scraping glue)
Sash saw
Shooting board
Bench hook
Dovetail saw
Chisels (a dozen, 1/16″ up to 1″; then two or three wider than that)
Rattail file
Turnscrews
Brace
Countersink
Rasp
File
Sandpaper
Mallet
Name stamp
Rebate plane
Plow plane
Mortise chisel
Mortise gauge
Frame saw (bowsaw)

This list doesn’t include all the tools one might want – but it does include all the tools one would need to build projects ranging from a nailed-together packing box to a chest of drawers. So it’s a good, historically sound starting point.

The next time someone asks me what tools to buy, I’ll point them here to begin. And then tell them to add a router plane to the list – that’s one tool I’d sorely miss. Oh – and the list reminds me that I’ve been meaning to acquire a stamp – but I don’t want to use my name (too darn long), and I just can’t bring myself to actually brand my work as “Crazy Cat Lady” – so that’s out, too.

— Megan Fitzpatrick

If you haven’t already, I strongly encourage you to read “The Joiner and Cabinet Maker” – The 19th-cenutry text (reprinted in it’s entirety in the Lost Art Press edition) is a fascinating – if idealized – look at the life of an apprentice; it was written to encourage young men to consider woodworking as a career. Plus, Joel Moskowitz adds a section offering a historic glimpse of England at the time the original text was written, and Chris builds the three projects that Thomas built, but using modern hand tools and methods.

 

17 thoughts on “An 1839 Answer to “What Tools Should I Buy?”

  1. tombuhl

    re: “The Joiner and Cabinet Maker”
    The addition of notes are interesting and valuable addition to the original.
    A great contribution to my library.
    Much appreciation to Chris and Joel

  2. griffithpark

    Strongly consider a ‘snugthejoiner’ stamp (I gather it’s your twitter handle).
    That way in the future those who benefit from finding your work will be those who actually know your story.

  3. blefty

    I use the book as a reference and I have built the packing box. I plan to build the other two projects soon. I think it would be informative if Chris would revisit some of his past projects. I thought of this after having seen my packing box lid open up some this winter at the joint that was nailed together without glue. The clinched nails hold the lid parts together. I would think that most packing boxes built this way will probably show some movement here. Or am I incorrect?

      1. tool nut

        How about “Meg Fitz”? I know about the lenth of our last name ( 11 letters in Fitzpatrick ) so I go by Tom Fitz when ever I can. Thomas Fitzpatrick, …no relation to Megan as far as I know;
        except our Celtic heritage,

          1. tool nut

            Yeah I know, we Fitzpatricks are a prolific clan; and that’s not counting
            the other clan members like the Fitzgeralds and all the other Fitz’s in between that and the Fitzwiilliams!

            Tom

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