In Shop Blog

We may receive a commission when you use our affiliate links. However, this does not impact our recommendations.

KitchenToolsAs many of you may know, I’m the midst of redoing my kitchen; its age and decrepitude (“drecrapitude?”) was a common “complaint” about the house during my months last summer of trying to sell it. (I suspect that, once I get the kitchen done, the lack of a driveway will take primacy, but there’s only so much a girl can do.)

So I’ve been tearing our cabinets and flooring, building cabinets and deciding on new flooring, fretting about hardware, fainting at the cost of drawer slides, etc., for the last couple months. But it hasn’t been too bad, really – after all, I have a nice, large shop in which to work (would that it were in my backyard, though), access to excellent tools and a couple of fellows in adjacent cubicles who are always happy to respond to any questions I might have (with differing answers – that’s fun).

But I can only do so much of the work at work (and only, of course, after hours and on weekends). Much of the case assembly has been done at home because my Subaru can’t fit the larger cabinets. And the face frames (and soon, goddess willing, the doors and drawer fronts) have to be built and fit at home (because I don’t trust my measurements – I like to show the work to the work).

So I’ve developed quite a shopping list of tools I wish I had – not that I can’t do what needs to be done with my current complement of stuff…but there are certainly things that would make it faster, easier or both.

I could use a full-size table saw with a nice, large outfeed table, an 8″ jointer and a planer – not to mention a dedicated assembly table – but there’s no place in my house to put them. (The kitchen floor is my assembly table.)

I have a perfectly serviceable vintage Stanley No. 5 and shooting board setup that I’m using to shoot the rails and stiles for a perfect fit…but a Lie-Nielsen No. 51 or Veritas Shooting Plane would come in awfully handy – that way I wouldn’t have to keep switching blades in my one jack. But I’m parsimonious…and anyway, I’ve spent all my available cash on hardware and drawer slides.

A chisel plane would be awesome for flushing the case fronts for the face frames…and what bites is that I had one but sold it – because I never used it (there’s the lesson in this post). Instead, I’m using a block plane, and it works…but it gets a little tricky to hold down at the toe kick end of things.

Believe it or not, I could also use a 1/2″ or larger chisel – a cheap one. I have a set of Lie-Nielsen bevel-edge chisels, which I adore. But I love them so much that I refuse to use them for what they were needed in the kitchen: chiseling out plaster for new outlets. And instead of heading to a home center for an inexpensive tool, I used a flathead screwdriver that I ground to a sharper edge. Yeah, it worked – but not as cleanly as I would have liked…plus it took a while to work my way around the knifed-in lines with a 1/4″ tool.

Tomorrow, I need a hammer drill; I’m taking the day off and my kindly electrician neighbor is coming over to install some new GCFI outlets along the sink wall…which is plaster over lathe over brick. Simultaneously (or almost so), I’ll be installing the new cabinets, the sink and the disposal. I’m guessing I’ll be short a plumbing tool or two.

Let’s not forget clamps – man would I love to have a lot more clamps. (Also, I’d like to have a electrician and plasterer at my beck and call…and a proper cabinetmaker to build these for me so that I can spend my time building what I like: furniture…but my checkbook won’t allow it. )

Also, one or two more tape measures…because the two I have keep getting buried.

And time – that’s what I need more than anything, but it seems not to be for sale. I was hoping to have the house back on the market on April 1 – not gonna happen.

I guess it’s good that I’m learning all of these things I need now – if/when my house sells, I’ll use a little bit of the profit to buy them. Because when I move, I’ll be moaning about a whole new set of tools I’m missing. That “new” house is likely to be at least 75 years old and in need of … everything. I suspect a drywall lift and a good therapist will then top my list of needs.

— Megan Fitzpatrick


Product Recommendations

Here are some supplies and tools we find essential in our everyday work around the shop. We may receive a commission from sales referred by our links; however, we have carefully selected these products for their usefulness and quality.

Recent Posts
Showing 20 comments
  • R.L. Kocher

    Sorry I don’t live next door. If so you would have all tools you are seeking. I do admire your ingenuity and improvision. I would caution old lath plaster walls can have asbestos as a binder. Please use a mask and wet down the demo area to prevent the fibers from becoming air borne.
    I know your remodel will look great.

  • abt

    I took the plunge a couple years ago and purchased the Festool T75 track saw. Combining it with their parallel guides allows fairly painless cabinet construction in small spaces. It’s also good for cutting parts for the ‘Weekend’ version of Chris Schwarz’s English style tool chest. The guides make making parallel cutting pretty easy, especially for repeat cuts. And, it’s not nearly as heft-inducing as setting up table saw outfeed tables. Still have my chisel plane, and took the plunge on shooting plane. That’s a damn handy tool for not having to worry about ‘the little things’ anymore.

  • jerryt

    Megan, I’ve been through this a couple of times and it sounds like you are doing very well. I’m still learning
    about doing all the ‘little’ jobs involved and there is no substitute for brains and friends who know. (I have a
    half inch chisel that I use for dirty jobs but I always resurect it from whatever I have done.) Making do and
    putting together your own tools, hooray for you. Buying a very expensive tool to use once, rent it. jerry.

  • rwyoung

    Little known fact : the line “The parsimoniousness is strong in this one.” ended up on the cutting room floor during the final editing of “Kitchen Wars : A New Level Of Hopelessness”.

  • BLZeebub

    Forget the therapist. Treat yourself to a pedi and a professional massage after you’re done. I’d normally recommend the mani too but you’re a woodworker and you’d just screw it up. In between now and then, I recommend a nice bottle of Bulleit Bourbon. Small batch stuff, smooth as a baby’s behind. Way cheaper than therapy. BUT PLEASE, wait till after you’ve called it a day. Sharp tools and bourbon do not mix well.

  • ronb

    As usual, you forced me to look up another word. Couldn’t you have just said, “I am frugal” Or “Cheap” :):) I won’t even try to spell it. One or two syllables is my limit. 🙂
    Plaster over lath over brick. Sounds like a good place to anchor French cleats for hanging cabinets.
    Funny thing about tools for working on houses. They sit around collecting dust for months, sometimes years. Hmmm, speaking of which. Would you like to buy a barely used 5hp shaper? Of course, as soon as you sell them, you need them. Best wishes and have fun.

  • jamierodg

    Poverty + Festool = Abject Poverty. Ancient proverb: woodworker who sharpens screw driver will never buy tracksaw. (I love my domino joiner, but don’t tell Roy Underhill!)

  • jamierodg

    Here’s a happy word for you Megan. Replay “buy” with “borrow.” (aka “free stuff) Even better is, “Can you show me how to use it?” (aka “free stuff and labor”) if you say it just right this can ofter turn into, “You do that so well!” (which sometimes turns into the job getting done while you sit in a chair. Track saw is a great idea but hard financial times are never solved by Festool. Geez, Megan sharpened a screwdriver, she ain’t going to buy a track saw! (keep this message under your hat, I wouldn’t want Roy Underhill to find out I own a Domino joiner!)

  • xMike

    As you may be space challenged for the foreseeable future, you might consider getting a Festool Tracksaw. Used as directed it is a precision instrument. It requires a different mindset and set of skills as apposed to the table saw, but you can put a 4×8 sheet of blue insulation board on the kitchen floor and easily and accurately cut plywood for cases and maple (or walnut) for face frames. Connected to a shop vac and it’s dustless as well.

  • rwlasita

    How come you didn’t make a Bender build them? Looking forward to seeing the finished project.

  • WiseGuy81

    Two things;

    1. Sounds like I’ve missed a lot, I will add your blog to my reading list.

    2. Why, why, why haven’t you been writing about your kitchen in the mag? Cabinets are so “popular” that everyone has them, hence it should be in the magazine. Kitchen cabinets may not be “fine” woodworking but they ARE important. Seriously, please think about it.

    Thank You


  • pmac

    How come you didn’t build them at work and rent a truck to haul the completed cabinets home?

Start typing and press Enter to search