Growing up in Carpentersville Illinois one of my favorite memories was going to the candy store, with a shinny quarter in my pocket I could get a bag filled with candy. That was over forty years ago and things have certainly changed since those days.
The prices from yesterday might be gone but if you look around prices like that can still be found, and one of my favorite places are antique stores and similar outlets. My typical venture into these places is in search of hand tools, it does sometimes require a bit of digging through the different things that tend to collected and pile up. But the hunt is certainly worth the effort when you find that one tool.
Recently I purchased a Victor hand plane from such a place, a tool that had been used through generations and was just sitting there waiting to be used again. In need of a little cleaning up and some maintenance but it was certainly deserving of the few dollars that was being asked for it.
For me a second hand tool brings pride, It's an awareness that you are carrying on the craftsmanship of the craftsman before you, filling your head with thoughts of what amazing things they must have created with the very tool you hold in your hand. It's truly an amazing circle to be a very small part of. Antique stores can be amazing places with great deals to be had, but I believe they are much more then that. They promote a full circle of heritage, the chance for a new generation to not only appreciate the craftsmen before them through the use of their tools, but for them to carry on that craftsmanship creating a new generation of craftsmen.
- Tommy P
A common question I seem to receive is what do I consider to be my favorite tool, and in that moment my response always seems to be based on the tools I am currently using in whatever project I have on my bench. If I'm building a federal piece then I would likely say it was my scratch stock, or building a door I would be influenced to say it was my mortising chisel. Because the tools I use change with each project I build, it makes it hard for me to say with any truth that any one tool is my favorite over all. But on the other hand in the middle of a project, I could easily say that this one tool is my current favorite for doing this one job.
Over the years I have collected certain tools that give me an enormous amount of joy to use, a tool that works so well the experience is irreproachable. And when I think in this way there are tools that stand out for me, a tool that even after owning it for in some cases years I still get excited at the thought of using it.
One of these tools is my Veritas router plane, a rebirth of the old Stanley #71 it's a thing of beauty. I find myself reaching for it like a trusted old side kick in every joinery adventure I go into, from squaring up a tenon and even more obvious of tasks such as cleaning up dado's. There are many times when using this tool that I have thought about other ways I would approach the work I am in the middle of without it only to be reminded of how great of a tool it is. Like recently when installing the locks and hinges in the slant top desk I built, once my wall was established the router plane just made such fast, easy and accurate work of the job that I could not help but enjoy the experience of using it, or imagine wanting to do it any other way .
The more thought I put into my tools this way I find my shop to have more than a few favorites, none being any better then the next just different. And it's that difference in each of these tools that gives each one of them a different place in my shop, because without them I would not be enjoying my woodworking as I do. So I guess I would have to say that I have a lot of favorites.
- Tommy P
A pencil certainly has it's place in construction and if you have ever been around a home builder you've seen the famous pencil on the ear trick, keeping it readily available to mark that two by four or piece of sheet rock. But in the world of furniture building it's different especially when laying out joinery.
Marking gauges are made in several different styles and I'm not here to write that book, and this could certainly turn into that if I were to start down that rabbit hole. How ever I can tell you that my preference is a gauge with a knife over a wheel or a pin. It's that nice crisp cut line the gauge creates allowing for next to zero inaccuracies when paring with my chisels, or even when cutting a tenon shoulder removing the guess work created by a pencil.
Imagine taking a piece of stock, now measure in one inch from the end and using a starrett and a pencil mark your cut line. Now where in reference to that pencil line do you cut to be completely accurate ? Now grab your starrett and with a razor blade mark the same cut, the accuracy between the two is clear.
The problem I have when using a pencil for laying out joinery is the inconsistency the pencil line creates and the fact that it becomes more inconsistent with each line drawn, creating more guess work than I wish to personally get involved in. Honestly there a lot of challenges in woodworking and I enjoy all of them, but this is not one that anyone should have to chase. A traditional marking gauge cuts a line with as close to zero inconsistency as you can get with hand tools, while giving the added benefit of a knife line cut through the fibers allowing for a nice crisp edge to your joinery. But like a lot of things in woodworking everyone has a preference and for me given the choice I will choose my marking gauge over a pencil every time when it comes to laying out joinery.