What are the best Woodworking Tools?


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I've never used a $20 Groz, but I do own a $40 Buck Brothers, and I can say from experience that there's no comparison between working with that and working with a Marcou.

Quote:

"Owning a Marcou is like owning a Jaguar.

You might not need one to get to work every day, but its beauty and performance make you lust wildly for it."

Christopher Schwarz

I wasn't trying to say a Groz is as good a Marcou, or that a Craftsman is as good as a Festool, but rather "the best" depends on what you can afford. I would hazard the OP as a beginner would have sticker shock at custom planes, custom saws, Bridge City tools, etc.

If the OP was Bill Gates, the best would still be highly subjective. Someone might look at the Marcou and reason the disimilar metals are a set-up for galvanic corrosion, or that the peened dovetails are potentially less sturdy than a monolithic frame, or that a hardwood handle is more prone to splitting or cracking than G10, or that planing resistance would be lessened by a teflon impregnated sole, or that the knob is so shiny that it is slippery or the high polish produces too much glare.

There is no best, which was the clumsy point of my post.

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... Someone might look at the Marcou and reason the disimilar metals are a set-up for galvanic corrosion, or that the peened dovetails are potentially less sturdy than a monolithic frame, or that a hardwood handle is more prone to splitting or cracking than G10, or that planing resistance would be lessened by a teflon impregnated sole, or that the knob is so shiny that it is slippery or the high polish produces too much glare.

There is no best, which was the clumsy point of my post.

Well, you've got me convinced. I'm selling my Marcou as fast as I can, and heading out to pick up a Groz.. :D

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I'll pay you the price of 4 groz panes for that worthless ole marcou.

That's a mighty tempting offer, I'll think about it. :)

Or maybe I should act quick, before the galvanic corrosion sets in, or the Rhodesian Teak tote starts to crack. :D

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Everyone is right about "The Anarchist Tool Chest" go out and buy it lots of good info on how to buy tools new and used. I also recommend getting Robert Wearings "The Essential Woodworker" invaluable information on hand tool use and joinery. The first plane I bought was used and it needed to be restored, this was a mistake. It's hard to learn how to work by hand when you don't know how a plane that is properly tuned and properly setup is supposed to work. Until you can fully appreciate how a finely tuned tool is supposed to work, the vintage stuff might just frustrate you at first. The nicer tools will help you develop good techniques and hone your sharpening skills. Some people will disagree with me and say to stick with the vintage stuff at first. The question is do you want to spend your time in the shop learning how to work by hand or how to restore vintage tools? Good Luck!

James

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I use three rules whenever I go to buy anything, including tools.

1) Point of diminished returns. There will often be a considerable difference in performance between, say a $100 tool and a similar tool that costs twice as much. But then when you go to the $500 tool, the difference is just not discernable enough to justify the cost. It's not worth it to spend ridiculous amounts of money on something when I can't explain to someone why I bought it. Planes are a great example. $25 for a Groz plane is just money down the toilet in my shop. It won't work all that well and I'll hate using it. The $250 LN will work beautifully, will be a joy to use and I can confidently say it is ten times the plane a Groz is. The $2,500 Marcou will perform like a dream, and is fun to look at and fondle, but unless you're a millionaire, I simply can't see the purchase as justifiable. The Marcou might do the job better than the LN, but is it ten times better? I doubt it.

2) Cost to importance ratio. Spend the big bucks on the tools that you use the most and are the most critical in the shop. Example: To prove I'm not a Groz hater...I have some of their engineer's squares. I got a kit of three of them for I think 35 bucks. Guess what? They're square. Would it be worth it to spend 3-4 times more for the Starretts? Not for me. But my 6" combination square is a Starrett, and I don't regret that purchase one bit...I use that thing every day I spend in the shop and it puts every other combination square I've ever had to shame.

3) Garbage avoidance. Try to buy at least mid-quality tools. If I don't like it, I can probably sell it and recoup some of the cost. If I buy junk, I'll most likely hate it right from the start and end up upgrading later anyway, and I can't sell the old one because it's worthless crap. Occasionally there are exceptions...I heard someone mention Harbor Freight anti-fatigue mats the other day...that's a perfect place to buy something like that!

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The Marcou might do the job better than the LN, but is it ten times better? I doubt it.

Actually, if you only consider wood with really complex interlocked grain, then the Marcou is the best plane I have ever used. Even when the cutting angle is set up lower on complex grain, the Marcou seems to work as well as one of the better planes with a higher cutting angle. The closest I have come to the Marcou is a LV BUS: http://www.inthewoodshop.com/ToolReviews/The%20Marcou%20S15%20BU%20Smoother.html That review was written 5 years ago.

Performance is measured on different levels: ability to plane the board in question (the more complex the grain, the greater the importance of cutting angle), comfort when in use, adjustability, aesthetics, affordability ...

Drop the complex figure/grain component and many planes are levelled in regard to performance. If the complexity of the wood is not an issue for you, then the world's your oyster .. well, more so at least.

Note that this thread referred to best "tools", not best "planes", hence I touched on a variety earlier. There are saws, chisels, squares ........

Is the interest in the absolute best tools full stop, or the best value-for-money ... pretty big topic. Lots of opinions ... :huh:

Obligarory picture of a Marcou ...

MarcouTasBlkwoodshavings1a.jpg

Regards from Perth

Derek

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Derek, I just used planes as an example because they seem to be the trend in this thread.

 

Good point about the figure. If you work almost exclusively with highly figured woods, and do a lot of hand tool work, maybe a Cadillac plane would be worth the investment. Couldn't justify it in my shop, though, and I'd venture to say that's the case for most weekend hobbyists.  I'd also venture to say you can achieve the same results with a much cheaper plane.  It's all about sharp and properly tuned.  It doesn't have to be beautiful to work well.

Those Marcous are gorgeous planes though. So awesome.

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Note that this thread referred to best "tools", not best "planes", hence I touched on a variety earlier. There are saws, chisels, squares ........

Is the interest in the absolute best tools full stop, or the best value-for-money ... pretty big topic. Lots of opinions ... :huh:

Speaking of chisels (and with Derek being in Australia :) ), here's a photo of a Harold & Saxon (Warialda, Australia) firmer chisel inspired by the old Titan brand. These could certainly be considered one of the best (or better) brands of chisels.

The handle is Australian Jarrah and the blade is M2 steel. The ferules are turned from solid brass bars. Very rugged chisels.

They are designed to push through the hardest woods found in Australia. Obviously too bulky for fine work, but when needed they come in very

handy:

joraft-albums-my-photos-picture2447-h-s2.jpg

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Earlier this year I was introduced to the chisels of Japanese toolmaker Akio Tasai, and they are certainly among the best made today:

This is one of a set of cabinetmaker's paring chisels. The edge on the blue steel blade combined with the balance make these chisels an absolute joy to use. Not particularly pretty, but wonderful tools:

tasai_shinogi_usu_nomi_chisel.jpg

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Back to the idea of best tools. Here are my thoughts on what to buy and then you can figure out the "best" tool you want given a price range. I do strongly suggest you stay way from groz/buck brothers/etc. There are bargains to be had in hand tools, and cheap tools can be tuned up. But I wouldn't want to do it from day one of hand tool dreams. At best you'll get highly frustrated. At worst you'll hate hand tools.

This is a basic tool set I put together after looking at the type of work I do and want to do. Most of my rough lumber clean up and milling is done with power tools. Most of my hand work is joinery and finishing so this is focused on that. I already had a good lathe/jointer/table saw to do the big stock removal. You would probably add a scrub plane some rip/xcut panel saws etc to do that by hand. This was put together on a "we are having our first baby soon" budget. But all the tools I have are able to perform better than I am able to so I'm not held back by tools at all.

Saws:

Dovetail saw (Lee valley basic dovetail, I love it)

Carcass saw 1 rip 1 xcut (cleaned up old disstons purchased used)

Chisels:

Range of bench chisels from Lee Valley 1/4, 3/8/, 1/2, 3/4, 1

Narex bevel edge chisel 1/4" (cleaning up dovetails)

Narex skew chisels

Narex 1/4, 3/8 and 1/2 mortise chisel

Planes:

#4, 5, 7, #4 (setup as a scrub) used Stanley planes from pre-war vintage.

Stanley block and low angle block, post war but in good shape and tuned well

Other:

xacto #2 hobby knife (great marking knife)

czech edge marking knife (bday gift, kind of prefer the xacto :) )

Lee Valley marking gauge. This is nice but titemark's fine adjustment is a good upgraded one

Home made mallet out of scrap wood for dovetail cleanup

Starret 6" square

Brown & Sharpe 12" combo square

Lee valley scrapers w/ burnisher and file

Worksharp 3000 for sharpening. It is nice but I got it when HD was selling them on accident for $79 I'd rather have water/oil stones than pay full price for it

So far this setup has served me well. I've built at least three or for projects in the last year. Much of it by hand with the above tools. I bought used GOOD tools from people I trusted where I could and have a tool set I feel very confident it. Every one of them have better version available I know. And I do want to upgrade down the road. Especially the Narex chisels. They feel great in the hand, take an edge very well (can shave with it) but the edge doesn't seem to last long compared to the lee valley's. I can only imagine what a really high end chisel would be like.

The REALLY nice thing is seeing my sandpaper go unused. Scrapers+Planes = sexy finishing.

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  • 3 years later...

I would recommend you order Chris Schwarz's "The Anarchists Toolchest". It goes through every tool that the author feels should be part of a well equipped hand tool shop.

 

Best and highest quality are indeed subjective, but Lie-nielsen tools & Lee Valley/Veritas Tools as high quality as anything. They are not cheap but they are but they are not "one off" boutique tools either (not that there is anything wrong with those if you can afford them). Some of Woodcraft's "Woodriver" brand of tools are, their planes in particular, are quite good as well, and less expensive.

 

Of course, there are a lot of very high quality vintage tools out there as well made by Stanley, Sargent, and Miller Falls just to name a few.

 

Before investing a ton of money in anything, do as much homework as possible. Comb through the woodworking forums, buy some books and/or DVDs, search for reputable woodworking blogs. The info is readily available with just a quick search.

I also highly recommend Chris' book. Read it cover to cover. As for which tools I'd buy it depends on what I was building. If I had to buy them all over, I'd skip getting the set of chisels and buy three really good ones small medium and large. I'd get a few good Mortise chisels, few saws,  three bench Planes then I'd completely fall down the rabbit hole and give my paychecks to Tom, Leonard, and Jim.

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  • 3 months later...

Best tools?  I have a tiny workshop consisting of a one bay garage and it's full of hand and powered tools.  My planes consist of a bunch of old Stanleys , one of which I received from my late father in law, and a few from Lee Valley.  The best tools are the ones you like working with regardless of price or whether you made them yourself.  Mine range from home-made to Bridge City Tool Works. 

Now here is what is important:  Whether your tools come from Lee Valley or Sears, nothing is as satisfying as being in your workshop on a crisp autumn Saturday morning while you sip a cup of your favorite coffee.  

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Oh.  My.  God. 

Before this goes too much further, let me be the first to point out that this thread is 4.786835728 years old and the OP never returned after the first post.  Sometimes you gotta pull the plug and walk away.

It died in Nov 2011 and revived in Sept 2015. OP might or might not be paying attention, or maybe is no longer part of the forum. But now you want to kill the fun of a good tool argument? "My brand is better than your brand!" We all have different opinions, it would be nice if we all recognized its just an opinion.

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It only takes a login to post. Otherwise this is all public. Too many times we have assumed an OP never came back and it has not been the case. I think the intent of the thread has been migrated to the reviews posted in the Product Reviews sub forum, but as long as this thread is here people can read it. They don't expire. Add to this that I had not even heard of some tool brands in 2011 that have some fantastic products on the market. Two more cents in a fruitless thread, or justification for at least engaging it cordially...you decide. 

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