The Core Hand Tools - Popular Woodworking Magazine

The Core Hand Tools

 In April 2016 #224, Popular Woodworking Magazine Article Index

CoreToolsFor the cost of one quality piece of large machinery, you can set up a complete shop.

by Deneb Puchalski
pages 43-47

Setting up a hand-tool-oriented shop is a fraction of the investment of setting up a power-tool shop. For the price of one large quality piece of power machinery, you can buy all of the hand tools you need to build things – from rough lumber all the way to assembly and final surface finishing. And that is if you are buying the best-quality new tools available.
To do the same work with power tools, you’d need three to four machines, a bunch of small powered hand tools, plus good dust collection to deal with all the small particles. On top of that, you need the space to put everything.

And for the home woodworker, hand tools can be just as fast as power tools. Woodworking as a craft was fully formed long before the advent of machinery and electricity, and people did not work slowly or inefficiently.

It may take some time to develop the skills to be proficient with hand tools, but it is actually easier to get started with them than it is with machines. As long as your tools are sharp they will give you results, and the more you use them the better you will become at controlling them.

One reason people have turned so readily to power tools is that they’ve been convinced it’s much easier to learn how to set up a machine to do a task that it can then repeat over and over than it is to learn the hand skills to be proficient at that same task. Nothing could be further from the truth – even your earliest attempts with a hand tool will give you better results than the first attempts to do the same thing with machines. And it comes at a much lower initial cost.

The list of hand tools you need for efficient work is nowhere near as daunting as you might think. As you build your kit, it is important to understand that the individual tools do not matter as much – the key is that you have the right group of tools.

Video: Watch the author demonstrate how to sharpen plane irons.
Blog: Learn how to make a jig that helps you set the perfect sharpening angle, every time.
In Our Store:The Last Word on Sharpening,” a video by Christopher Schwarz.
To Buy:Mastering Hand Tools: Basic Skills for Balanced Woodworking.”

From the April 2026 issue #224

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