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Tools of the trade

Long before I began making rustic furniture, I was hooked on old hand tools.  One of my first instructors at the North Bennet Street School (a crafts school in Boston’s North End) had an old Norris plane that he’d bought in an antiques shop in Maine for five dollars.  At the time I took the class it would have gone for twenty times that to a collector and now it’d go for one hundred to two hundred times.  With the advent of wide spread internet access, those stories are very rare.  Anyone who takes the time can find the going rate for any tool, and getting a significant bargain is unlikely.  Some of the blame goes to the web, but most goes to collectors.  For years, antique tools were much better than those in current production.  “Users”, the folks like myself buying tools to use them, were competing with collectors,  guys who wanted to fill collections by buying every model of a brand, or every example of a particular type of tool.  Worst of all to us users, the collectors would stash the tools away, taking them out of circulation and hoping the price would go up.

Recently, in the past ten to fifteen years, there has been a remarkable revival in the manufacture of new, high quality wood working tools led by Lie Nielsen in Maine, and Lee Valley/Veritas in Canada.  Today there are many tool makers making pieces which exceed the quality and utility of the antiques.  To read reviews of these new tools, check out Fine Tool Journal (ironically the purveyor of antique tools.)

My first foray into the antique tool market was a shop in Northfield, Mass where my buddy Craig lives.  I bought a number 6 and number 7 joining plane, and a beautiful hand drill.  To this day, I use the number 7 often and the drill constantly.  In the meantime, I’ve bought many other tools (new and used) that I love to use and would be lost without.  I’ve also bought more than I care to think about that are simply collecting dust in the basement.  The following will be  a description of the tools I use, and a bit on how they are used.

Storing ones tools is also important.  My tools reside in a portable tool chest.  I also keep my harvesting tools in a basket pack I made a few years ago.  You can see both if you follow this link.

It’s hard to pick a most important tool.  It’s like picking a most important instrument in the orchestra.   You need them all to get the job done.  So, instead of trying to pick the most important, I will just start with the one type I use more often for rustic furniture than for fine furniture.  That is, the Bit Brace. (Click here to learn about the Bit Brace)


About the tools:

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