In Shop Blog

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

I am asked on a regular basis about the hand tools I keep in my tool chest. In fact, when people visit my Covington, Ky., workshop during the days we are open to the public, some people have photographed every tool in my chest.

I’m going to list brand names. But I want to be clear about something: This is not a sponsored post. All my tools are my own, and I paid full retail for them. So if you think I’m shilling for someone, you’d be dead blinking wrong.

About the Top Till
This till contains tools that I use dozens of times a day. It mostly contains by block planes, my hammers, card scraper, endless pencils, marking knives and measuring tools. Let’s start with the block planes.

Block Planes
I have two block planes. Not because I need two, but because I share my tools with two other people in my shop. One of my block planes is the Lie-Nielsen 60-1/2, the best dang block plane ever manufactured. I’ve had mine since the 1990s and love it. The other “block” plane is a small handmade infill chariot plane built in England and given to me as a gift by a dear friend (so yeah, I didn’t buy that one).

I have two hammers, both vintage examples, made by C. Hammond of Philadelphia. One has a 16 oz. head for driving nails for carcase work. The other has an 8 oz. head for driving pins and adjusting planes. Under my hammers is my ear protection. Handwork is not quiet – a room full of mortising or dovetailing will fix you of that notion.

Card Scraper
I have an old Sandvik scraper that I bought in 1996. It is shear (and sheer) perfection. Sandvik used to make these scrapers by the thousands with accurately milled edges and faces. They stopped in the 2000s. Why? I asked a Sandvik employee and he had a simple answer: “The machine that milled the scrapers broke and we couldn’t fix it.” So modern Sandvik scrapers aren’t just the same. (Here ends the crotchety old man section of the blog entry).

Pencils & Knives
I have too many of these to list individually. Here are the highlights. I lost my Blue Spruce Toolworks knife a couple years ago while overseas. And in a pinch I replaced it with two of the Veritas Workshop Striking Knives. They work so well that I can’t even complain about the plastic handles.

I also have a vintage Stanley No. 199 utility knife, which suits my personality. It is non-retractable and feels good in the hand. I also have a Kershaw Link knife that I adore. Made in the USA, it is tough and inexpensive.

Among the pencils, I have only one to call out for special mention: The Art Alternatives lead holder. It’s my favorite way of marking out rough lumber without worrying about breaking a pencil lead.

Measuring Tools
I have more than I need, but here we go. I have the Shinwa 6” 4R rule. Starrett combination squares in 6” and 12” lengths. Two small 4” sliding bevels and one 7” sliding bevel from Chris Vesper. Bevels are critical to my chairmaking efforts. Also from Vesper, I own one of his double squares and a 7” try square. Oh and random 16’ tape measures.

What else? Ah, my Sterling Toolworks 1:4 Saddle-Tail for marking out dovetails.

In the top till I also keep my beloved 16 oz. Blue Spruce Toolworks Round Mallet. My Lie-Nielsen Dusting Brush. And my cut-anything Clauss scissors (only $20).

— Christopher Schwarz

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

Start typing and press Enter to search