Woodenskye

Shift to Hand Tools, or just being crazy?

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Ok, so I have been thinking about shifting to more of a hand tool focus.  I have some issues with my space and it makes having tools set up hard to work on projects.  My space is only about 10x13 of usable area.  Currently I tend to do a lot out on the driveway, so set up and break down takes time, and takes away some of the enjoyment.  I have all the basics, Table saw with router wing, jointer, planer, band saw, lathe, miter saw, track saw, and drill press.

So I was thinking about selling a bunch of tools, and keeping some portable power tools.  Right now my thinking is to keep only my bandsaw in the shop.  I don't think I could go completely hand tools, but the current frustrations almost make me want to give up the hobby, which I don't want to do.

I know I would need to purchase some hand tools after selling power tools, so this isn't really a cost cutting move.

Has anybody else done something similar?  What did you feel was worth keeping from a tool perspective?

Thanks for any input.

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At one time I had considered doing something similar.  I decided to try a few "hand tool only" projects (including milling), to see how I enjoyed it.

I did enjoy smaller projects, but any significant amount of milling is a real chore, and takes away from the enjoyment for me. I decided to keep the machines, and rearranged the shop a bit.  I also upgraded to some space savers (festool gear, router wing table, etc).

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11 minutes ago, Eric. said:

I'd keep the jointer, planer and bandsaw at a minimum.  Table saw would be tough to let go of but it eats a ton of space.  No way I'd wanna do much woodworking without the first three though.  Workhorses.

I have a Rigid jobsite table saw I kept when I upgraded and could keep that in case I need, outside of the shop.  I know people use a planer for dressing 4 sides, not really sold on that being effective.

 

11 minutes ago, Pug said:

At one time I had considered doing something similar.  I decided to try a few "hand tool only" projects (including milling), to see how I enjoyed it.

I did enjoy smaller projects, but any significant amount of milling is a real chore, and takes away from the enjoyment for me. I decided to keep the machines, and rearranged the shop a bit.  I also upgraded to some space savers (festool gear, router wing table, etc).

I have plenty of festool and would keep a good portion, just not sure of what yet. If I move forward with this idea.

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If space is at a premium then keep the bandsaw. Get a combo jointer/planer - there are good ones that do both functions well. Then you only have to contend with two footprints. I agree that milling sucks and you do need a jointer/planer at the minimum. Not sure what capacity your bandsaw is but you can rip and crosscut, produce tenons and dovetails as well as curves on the bandsaw. Get a couple of mobile bases and you can move them around and put them away.

Basic handtools, chisels and a few planes (block, finish, jack and maybe a jointer) would suffice. A bench is essential but a couple of saw horses and a flat surface will work. You can pack that away and still be economic with your space. 

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Take a look at Marc's book Hybrid woodworking.  There are some tools you just have to keep, some are just redundant. A combination of hand and motorized will make your life more fun.

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I came across this video the other day. Much respect for what he's doing but man that's a lot of work. I bet he doesn't need to go to the gym after all that.

 

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You know, after sleeping on this question overnight, I think I have to pose the question:

What's more work?  The inconvenience of rolling out a machine but getting a job done in ten minutes?  Or using the hand tool alternative and getting it done in three hours?  I love my hand tools and enjoy using them...for enjoyable tasks.  But the machines are what get jobs done.  They do 90% of the real work, and without them it would be impossible to get to the finish line of a project in any reasonable amount of time...especially considering how little shop time most of us get to begin with.

I would suggest putting all that extra effort into reorganizing the shop into the most efficient way possible.  Get every non-essential item OUT of the shop.  Build or buy a little shed if you have to.  I've put hundreds of hours of thought and effort into my shop's layout and personal workflow, and creating the most efficient use of my particular space.  I think it's a more logical plan of attack than going backwards in efficiency and selling all the tools that make project completion an attainable reality within a fairly modest amount of time.

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I'm with Eric on the "what's more work?" line of thinking.....but, keep in mind that hand tools are at times quicker.  What's quicker, rolling everything out and setting up a machine with multiple test pieces to be "just right" for a cut or two - or pulling out a handsaw and a shooting board and knocking it off in a cpl minutes?  Even if  your aim is efficiency, both powered tools and hand tools will each have their moments.  

Also - there's no reason your TS with a cover/surface on it cannot become your assembly table, to be pulled out 'as needed'.  no need to get rid of it right away.

 

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3 hours ago, TerryMcK said:

Get a combo jointer/planer

Agreed.

Look at the Hammer range, or Felder if you can swing it. Minimax is a good option too... Avoid the cheap ones. Poor change overs, and bad fences will make you hate them and it's what most people think about when they hear combo. The good ones handle this with ease.

 

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I think I'd want to keep a jointer, planer, and tablesaw if I were going to work in a small space and make furniture.  So I'd get a combo or just make sure everything had wheels.  Of course I'd probably saw screw it and just turn if I had a small work space, but then again I like turning segmenting and cutting bowl blanks, so then I'd need those machines and a bandsaw haha. 

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I'm also in a limited space - single car garage at 10x20, but there's a bunch of other crap I have to have in there so my usable space is similar to yours. If you're getting into hand tools, in my mind the first machine to go is the jointer (unless you did a combo machine, but that's still a lot more space than having a lunchbox thickness planer). I subscribe to Shannon's thoughts on milling - joint it just enough to get it through the planer. This doesn't take long, and you don't need it to be a finished surface so you can be aggressive and not worry about tear out. You'd have to pry my thickness planer away from me, though - thicknessing boards by hand sounds awful. I did all the boards for my Roubo this way, and once I had the bench top to use it was actually pretty enjoyable. If you're going this route though, don't try to make do with sawhorses or work stands. I did that for the first half of the lumber before the top was glued and it was WAY more work. I found that for doing this kind of work, a Stanley #6 or similar was the right kind of tool. A true jointer is a pain for knocking the boards down quickly, and while a jack will work the fact that its narrower makes it take longer. Scrub planes actually seem to require some skill to use properly without introducing other problems on your boards.

 

I know that technically you don't NEED a table saw, but I'd have an extremely hard time giving it up. Repetitive ripping by hand would kill a lot of projects for me (and it's my go-to for joinery). I can also justify the footprint because the router is in the wing, so it's not just single purpose. Before you go and toss out your current tools, how many would have to go before the remainder could be mostly set up all the time? Maybe there's a way to have your commonly used tools out. For me, I'd want the table saw, band saw, and workbench accessible all the time. The thickness planer could be tucked away (but don't get rid of it) since I find it tends to be used all at once in a project, usually a couple of times near the beginning. The miter saw is in the same category for me - tucked under a workbench, but I'll get it out if there's a lot of cross cutting too long for the table saw or sometimes when I'm breaking my stock down right at the start.

In my shop, I can easily get at the table saw/router table, disc/belt sander, scroll saw (substitute band saw here), work bench, and sharpening setup with basically zero effort. Anything else requires dragging things out and setting them up. I only have a little bench top drill press, which lives about 50/50 tucked away or sitting on a workmate, depending on the project. As I said, my miter saw and planer live tucked away on the floor (with the fold up miter saw stand living on the wall for if I really need it for a DIY project or something). I don't have a lathe or band saw to fit in my space, so obviously it's not a direct comparison.

Organization and storage makes a huge difference. I'm still working on my space, but I put slat wall on about 1/2 of the upper wall space. The rest has my lumber rack and some existing hanging storage. I've found it so useful to be able to hang stuff up at a whim. The really nice thing with a system like that is that it is so easy to rearrange when you want to add something or change it around. It gives you similar functionality to doing a french cleat wall, except you're trading effort for expense.

Good luck, I'll be very curious what you end up doing.

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I'd say keep your planer, bandsaw and some form of dust collection.

Milling a small amount by hand is fun and satisfying. Milling a lot by hand is suddenly having to train to compete in American Ninja Warrior next week.

Like @RenaissanceWW's video posted by @SawDustB above shows, you can spot plane a board enough to run it through your planer and get great results.

I don't think you *need* a jointer if space is at a premium.  For flattening faces you can use the planer and a sled.  For truing edges, a #7 or #8 and a little practice and you're good.

Shannon had a video from his intermediate days of switching to hand tools, where he explained why he hung on to his bandsaw (hint, a lot of ripping becomes unfun for many people).  http://www.renaissancewoodworker.com/neanderthals-apprentice/  He has since gotten rid of it (or at least moved it out of his shop and doesn't use it any more).

And if you have a planer, a bandsaw and a bunch of smaller power tools (maybe even a router table), then dust collection is a must.

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This is just my opinion so ignore it if you disagree...

...but there's a pretty distinct line for me between "I like using hand tools" and "I like torturing myself."  Hand tools are fun for finesse work, smoothing, joinery, delicate tasks and things that create a cosmetic difference in a piece that gives it the handmade look.  Hand tools are NOT fun when it's just grunt work.  I don't like digging ditches either.  People get caught up in "nostalgia" and think that to be a purist they have to do everything by hand...but the old-time masters - pre-electricity - were not doing the grunt work.  They had apprentices milling, ripping, squaring boards.  The masters did the work that required the skill.  Ain't nothin' nostalgic about giving yourself Popeye arms with a hand plane when it could be done in 15 minutes with a machine and then you have beer.  That's just totally illogical to me.  There's value in learning how to perform these fundamental techniques with hand tools...but once it's mastered, it's just a waste of time...and I don't know anyone who has a surplus of that.

There are certain machines that I simply would not enjoy woodworking without.  Completing projects is important to me...that's what drives me...and while I do enjoy most aspects of the journey, for me it's more about the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  I tend to lose motivation and interest when that pot of gold is on the other end of the earth, and all I have is a mule to get me there.

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2 minutes ago, Pug said:

I feel like we have been down the road of "hand tools versus power tools" before...;)

Yeah we have, but we've never had to talk Bryan - specifically - out of packing his toothbrush and checking into the Cuckoo's Nest. LOL :D  Call it an intervention.

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50 minutes ago, sjk said:

 

Like @RenaissanceWW's video posted by @SawDustB above shows, you can spot plane a board enough to run it through your planer and get great results.

 

Sex sells, and hand planes are sexy.  But you know what are faster, easier and cheaper to do the same thing?  A hand held belt sander or power planer.  

 

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6 minutes ago, Eric. said:

Yeah we have, but we've never had to talk Bryan - specifically - out of packing his toothbrush and checking into the Cuckoo's Nest. LOL :D  Call it an intervention.

Hahahaha

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4 minutes ago, Mike. said:

Sex sells, and hand planes are sexy.  But you know what are faster, easier and cheaper to do the same thing?  A hand held belt sander or power planer.  

 

 

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I enjoy working with hand tools most of all when working wood, and I would expect there are few that actually spend more time working wood with hand tools than me for income.  If I could make my living doing nothing else, I would.  I know for a fact that there is no way that would happen.   I have to produce work that takes a long time anyway, but there has to be visible production to keep the money flowing.  If it makes absolutely no difference how long it takes you to make something, then it's a pastime anyway, so do it the way you enjoy it.

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Guest Randy

I've taken the "hybrid" view of woodworking more and more. I never used hand tools much but, in the last 5 years have acquired some hand planes which I use for specific types of operations, especially final fitting and chamfering edges. I would never attempt to flatten a board or even edge joint a board with hand planes at this point. I've tried that. I get much more satisfaction from making something and the finished product. If you enjoy the process part of woodworking better and feel you can learn some basics by using hand tools, it would be a great effort. I do think, however, you'd quickly miss planing and jointing boards via planer and jointer. It is a tedious task to flatten a board by hand.

To save space, I've put all my tools on wheels so that, when not in use I can move them off to the side. I even bought a job site saw that folds up. One of its best features is that it's out of the way when I don't use it and I have the center of my shop for whatever tool I'm using at the time.

Since you already have a jointer and planer, I'd be reluctant to give them up. I do a lot of crosscutting with my track saw, but still do almost all my ripping on the job site table saw.

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I watched a couple of minutes of the table top video.  Interesting to say the least but many of us don't have to time to burn, making things with hand tools.  I'm at the age where I don't even buy green bananas.   It occurred to me that power tools were invented/developed to make things go faster.  Do you recall when the guy in Fiddler on the Roof got the sewing machine?  His declaration was that he could make clothes faster!  We all have our preferences but I look at old furniture in antique shops that were made years ago with hand tools alone and marvel at the precision the crafters achieved.  I have seen some that the framing looked like one piece.  Handcrafting is an art in itself.

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I don't like labels, especially labels that don't need to exist.  Woodworking is woodworking.  Tools are tools.  People should use whatever makes them happy.  This idea that you need to fit into a bucket (a "hand tool guy" a "power tool guy" or a "hybrid guy") is just stupid, imo.  

Also, the shaming that goes on in some circles regarding power tool use is really annoying.  

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