An 1839 Answer to “What Tools Should I Buy?”
I’m in the midst of trolling through the deep dark past of Christopher Schwarz’s blog, as I gather information for a forthcoming book (assuming we can convince marketing that anyone will want to buy it) that is tentatively titled “Handsaw Essentials.”
In my travels back through time, I came across a post Chris put together in preparation for an appearance on “The Woodwright’s Shop” to introduce his 1839 School Box (one one of the three projects the hero, a young woodworking apprentice named Thomas, builds in the excellent and entertaining book “The Joiner and Cabinet Maker“). Chris listed the 41 tools Thomas uses as we follow his journey from apprentice to journeyman:
Striking knife (a joiner’s marker)
Piece of iron or steel for clenching/straightening nails
Broad chisel, dullish (for scraping glue)
Chisels (a dozen, 1/16″ up to 1″; then two or three wider than that)
Frame saw (bowsaw)
This list doesn’t include all the tools one might want – but it does include all the tools one would need to build projects ranging from a nailed-together packing box to a chest of drawers. So it’s a good, historically sound starting point.
The next time someone asks me what tools to buy, I’ll point them here to begin. And then tell them to add a router plane to the list – that’s one tool I’d sorely miss. Oh – and the list reminds me that I’ve been meaning to acquire a stamp – but I don’t want to use my name (too darn long), and I just can’t bring myself to actually brand my work as “Crazy Cat Lady” – so that’s out, too.
If you haven’t already, I strongly encourage you to read “The Joiner and Cabinet Maker” – The 19th-cenutry text (reprinted in it’s entirety in the Lost Art Press edition) is a fascinating – if idealized – look at the life of an apprentice; it was written to encourage young men to consider woodworking as a career. Plus, Joel Moskowitz adds a section offering a historic glimpse of England at the time the original text was written, and Chris builds the three projects that Thomas built, but using modern hand tools and methods.