Frank Klausz's 'Your First Toolkit' - Popular Woodworking Magazine

Frank Klausz’s ‘Your First Toolkit’

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Screen Shot 2014-02-23 at 2.53.30 PM

I’m at work on a Sunday … procrastinating on a personal project in the shop. So, I’m spending a little time at my desk answering e-mail and trying to work up the energy to go back to my massive pile of plywood.

One question in my inbox today was, “What tools do I need to get started?” (It’s a question we get a lot.) I’m going to let Frank Klausz answer this one, with the basic kit of tools he recommended in an August 2006 article, “Your First Toolkit.” We’ve a joinery video coming out soon from Frank Klausz, and we’re delighted to be welcoming him to Woodworking in America 2014 (Sept. 12-14 in Winston-Salem, N.C.). So it seems fitting to put him in the spotlight here.

The Basic Kit of Tools
Below is a list of tools essential for good woodworking (editor’s note: pictured atop this post). These tools are widely available from a variety of sources, from your local home center, specialty stores and catalogs.
• Six bevel-edge chisels, 1⁄8″, 1⁄4″, 3⁄8″, 1⁄2″, 3⁄4″ and 1″.
• Two-sided oilstone (not shown).
• Nicholson No. 50 patternmaker’s rasp, Nicholson half-round bastard-cut rasp, mill file.
• Burnisher and card scraper.
• No. 4-sized smoothing plane (9″-long sole), No. 7-sized jointer plane (22″-long sole), low-angle
block plane.
• 16 oz. claw hammer, tack hammer, nail sets.
• Carpenter’s mallet (16 oz. ) for mortising, smaller-lathe turned mallet for chopping dovetails
and other light work.
• Veneer saw, small edge roller.
• Scratch awl.
• Cork-faced sanding block, felt block.
• Screwdrivers. #0, #1 and #2 Phillips screwdrivers plus at least fi ve straight screwdrivers.
• 10″ dovetail saw. I like a rip saw filed with 15 to 16 tpi. Either a straight or pistol-grip saw is fine. And if you prefer Japanese dovetail saws, that’s fine, too.
• Steel framing square, 8″ try square, 12″ combination square, 6′ folding extension rule. Tape measure (not shown).
• Marking gauge.
• Pliers, needle-nose pliers.

Screen Shot 2014-02-23 at 3.00.40 PMIf you’d like to build Frank’s tool box (pictured on the cover at left), download this free PDF:

— Megan Fitzpatrick

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Showing 14 comments
  • JosephNB

    How heavy is that polished cross pein hammer on the left? Thanks, Joseph

    • David Thiel

      Not sure about the exact weight on that one, but my shop experience says that it’s probably around a 4 to 6 oz. hammer. A nice light weight for the fine work, and a good add to any tool collection!

  • keithm

    Who am I to disagree with Frank Klausz? If I remember this article right, his kit was for his on-site and install work. It depends a lot on what you intending to do.

    I considered making this box as my travel kit, but decided weight, adaptability for future need, and access was a consideration. I just went to Home Depot and Lowe’s and picked out a lightweight nylon one with lots of pockets. I proved the concept with a bucket wrap that was less than ideal. And having just made two other traveling boxes for other tasks, time was of the essence. I do on-site repair work and my motto is “Be Prepared.” A trip out to the hardware store costs an hour or more.

    But for me, my work, etc., I’d make the following changes:

    – Three squares and two hammers are probably overkill if cost, weight, and space is a consideration, As are three planes if you are using s4s lumber (or have a jointer & planer).

    – Add a larger saw of some sort, e.g, cross cut.

    – Swap the carpenter’s rule for a tape measure. Add a 6″ easy to read metal rule.

    – Do people still use slotted screws?! I’d swap all the screw drivers for a multi-tip one, e.g., Pic-Quik. Bits double as bits for the cordless driver, below. Include a square drive #2 and #1 bit. If you really need all those slotted drivers, swappable bits take less space than a full screwdriver.

    – I’d add a couple of power tools initially a cordless drill/ driver. A set of drill bits, a small pocket hole jig, and screw pilot / countersink bits. For in-shop work add a random-orbit sander, and eventually a router.

    – Wrenches. My favorite is the 35pc Gear Wrench Microdriver. Has a lot of screw driver bits — square, slotted, Phillips, Torx, and SAE Allen wrenches, smaller socket wrenches for SAE and Metric. Low clearance for getting in the back of a carcase. Lots of leverage for those sticky fasteners. All in the size of a couple of bars of soap. If you have room, a small set of ratcheting box end wrenches 3/8″ – 5/8″, and 10mm-15mm. Add an adjustable wrench for times when you need two wrenches.

    – A small assortment of clamps and wood glue.

    – Pry bar, e.g., Painter’s pry bar.

    – Nail remover, I like “The Extractor”

    – Vice Grips (locking pliers). Not used a lot, but handy when you need it.

    – Magnetic pick up tool for retrieving lost hardware.

    – Assortment of screws, mostly #8 in various lengths. A few shorter #6 for hinges. Other fasteners as you might need – threaded inserts, T-Nuts, hanger bolts, nuts and bolts (1/4″ and 5/16″), nails, and dowel pins.

    – Chunk of paraffin for lubricating doors and screws.

    – Flashlight.

  • wb8nbs

    No saws? No drills?

  • pauls

    Where are the sharpening stones? What could be more basic to using planes and chisels than some means to sharpen them?

    • Megan Fitzpatrick
      Megan Fitzpatrick

      In the list, it’s alongside the chisels – I’ll break it out on its own line for easy spotting.

  • ArtieMax

    For all to many amateurs, the 2 tools on the upper right would be show stoppers. $300 to $500??? With modern CNC tools the costs should plummet,

    • Clay Dowling

      Modern CNC tools have just made them more accurate. Good steel and good machining still cost. Add in the fact that current production runs are very small, meaning there is a lot more time spent in job setup. Job setup is crazy expensive for any manufacturing process, because it involves a large amount of downtime when everybody is getting paid but nobody is producing salable product.

    • David Cockey

      They don’t need to be expensive if good used examples are purchased. Several articles and videos are available on selecting and rehabbing vintage planes.

  • Mitch Wilson

    Megan-any chance in getting Frank’s overall comparisons of the chisels he tried out? By the way, Footprint chisels are very good at a very reasonable cost. And the set of 6 I bought about five years ago, for under $60, were made in Sheffield.

    • Megan Fitzpatrick
      Megan Fitzpatrick

      Wow – I’ll ask him, but odds aren’t good that he’s kept those notes for eight years..

  • Jonas Jensen

    It is a nice tool box.
    Are the 2 vertical wooden dowels with a small horizontal wooden dowel in each designed to push open the drawers?
    Or can they be pushed down to lock the drawers in closed position?

    I know that you didn’t build the tool box, but maybe you could ask Frank Klausz?


    • gumpbelly

      Those pins would lock the drawers from spilling open. I’ve seen headless nails used as well. One thing that is also correct in the list of tools, but isn’t going to fit that width of a box,,is a #7 Stanley, at a true 22″ it won’t fit in that 3/4″ stock box, IF you use the tool holders along the sides. Now if you stretch it out to 26, 27″ you can get it done. It is a nice box, and a lot more practical for a normal person to carry if they are traveling with their kit. Some of the travel boxes I’ve seen on the blogs lately, you would need to be a Russian weight lifter to carry 5 feet.

    • exyle

      Hi Jonas! Those drawers have springs at the back…when you pull up the dowel they pop open. As you suggest they are re-secured by pushing them back into the chest and plunging the dowel back in.

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