In Chris Schwarz Blog, Woodworking Blogs

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The tools at the bottom of my chest are the heavy and expensive stuff – the planes and saws that get constantly used. At the back of the chest are my moulding planes. And the front wall of my chest has a tool rack that contains the stuff I need to grab without even looking at it.

Let’s start with that rack.

The Tool Rack
From left to right: My Lie-Nielsen chisels: 3/4”, 5/8”, 1/2”, 3/8”, 1/4” and a fishtail chisel for cleaning out half-blind dovetails. The truth is I use the 1/2” and the 1/4” chisels more than any other sizes.

There’s Czeck Edge traditional birdcage awl, which is quite handy when installing hardware. There are several small dividers and medium-sized dividers. Some are from Starrett; some are from other companies. Then there’s my Elemen’tary Design Screwdriver. It’s a lifesaver – one of my most worn and used tools.

Then you’ll find my Grace USA drivers. These are lifetime tools and remarkably inexpensive for the high quality (and they are made in the USA). You’ll pay about $35 for a set of five.

And finally, all the way to the right, are my Tite-Marks. Ridden to hell and back and still fantastic. Lots of people have ripped off Kevin Drake’s design and failed. Don’t bother buying a copy (you’ll sleep better at night, too).

The Sawtill
My sawtill holds five saws. The handsaws are from Wenzloff & Sons. The tenon, carcase and dovetail saw are all from Lie-Nielsen. I prefer the models with the tapered sawblades because they are less toe-heavy. While saws are a personal choice, I find that the Lie-Nielsens fit most human hands.

Also in my sawtill are tool rolls. I have my files and Auriou rasps there (a cabinet rasp, a modeller’s rasp and a rattail rasp). I usually keep my tool roll with auger bits in the sawtill as well (but it was out of the chest when I took this photo). I use WoodOwl augers and recommend them without any reservation. They fit in my brace and my electric drills.

The Moulding Planes
At the back wall are my moulding planes and my brace. The brace is a vintage Stanley that was made shortly after that company gobbled up the North Bros. Manufacturing Co. It’s a good brace and holds bits that are round, hexagonal and have tapered, square shafts.

Also back there are my moulding planes and a couple rabbet planes. I have more moulders than I need, but I keep all these on hand because I fought hard to buy them and am not ready to give them up (I could easily do with a set about half as big).

Aside from my rabbet planes, which get used the most, here are the moulding planes I use most frequently: a 1/2” square ovolo, a 1/2” Roman ogee, 3/16” side bead, 1/4” side bead, Nos. 6 hollow and rounds, Nos. 10 hollows and rounds. Most of my moulding planes are from Old Street Tool (formerly Clark & Williams) and M.S. Bickford.

The Bench Planes
The center well of my tool chest holds the workhorses – the bench planes, joinery planes and specialty planes I use most often. I have a lot of Lie-Nielsen gear here: a No. 8, a No. 3 in bronze, a large shoulder plane, a No. 51 shooting plane and a large router plane.

I also have my Veritas Combination Plane and my old Stanley Type 11 No. 5, which has been with me for more than 20 years.

There are some things I don’t store in my tool chest – sharpening equipment, for one. My stones are always out in the shop because I don’t want to have any excuse not to sharpen. I also left out my coping saw and fretsaw – they were on my workbench when I took these photos.

I hope this series has been helpful. Mostly, I hope you don’t despair at the price tag for all of this stuff. It was purchased during a 22-year period as I slowly upgraded my tools from stuff I bought at a flea market to what you see here. You don’t need all the best stuff to build things. But if you stick with the craft for a long time, you’ll probably end up like me with a crazy combination of tools old and new, expensive and cheap.

— Christopher Schwarz


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