Working with hand tools is what traditional woodworking usually involves. There are still numerous enthusiasts and professionals who solely use hand tools, and this approach is considered a philosophy of its own. Beginners and those recently introduced to woodworking often hold the belief that hand tools are easier to use and require a smaller amount of tools to accomplish tasks.
If you don’t use the right technique or are not cautious about a few factors, both of these lines of thought can unravel. It is possible to accumulate a significant number of hand tools and incur substantial expenses. Hence, what is the experience of working with hand tools like? Below are some aspects you must take into consideration.
The Good Thing About Hand Tools
If you have the necessary skill, hand tools offer unparalleled flexibility. On the other hand, machine woodworking tools have their limitations. While a machine tool can potentially perform many functions, using a hand tool allows you to overcome any limitations, such as the number of angles you can cut with a saw.
Using a hand tool allows you to acquire woodworking skills at a new and fundamental level. Although you can certainly learn how to make cuts using a table saw, a hand saw could potentially offer a more efficient and comprehensive learning experience. Despite the fact that hand tools require a certain level of skill to operate, you will be amazed at how rapidly you develop this proficiency.
Using a hand saw to achieve a precise cut or using a chisel to refine a joint can sometimes be the most efficient method with no alternatives.
Comparison between hand tools and power woodworking tools indicates that hand tools may require more time to complete a project. Nonetheless, this disparity becomes less significant when undertaking small and uncomplicated projects.
In the same vein, working with hand tools allows you to create anything out of wood, but it offers the added perk of being able to work in a smaller space and with a lower initial cost. This proves to be greatly beneficial for beginners as they can swiftly engage in woodworking, experiencing tangible results with minimal hassle.
The Bad Thing About Hand Tools
Power tools may be faster than hand tools, but this is not always a disadvantage. Hand tools demand more precision and control. While a table saw can provide a straight cut immediately, achieving the same outcome with a hand saw requires practice, as well as physical power and strength.
In the same manner, a board can have a consistent amount of wood removed by a plane, while a hand plane’s effectiveness depends on the pressure applied by the user.
Beginners often have incorrect expectations when it comes to hand tools. When the initial outcomes do not match these expectations, it can lead to frustration.
Although it is theoretically feasible to create any wooden project using only three types of hand tools, in reality, you may accumulate a diverse array of hand tools to cater to various requirements.
If you’re a beginner, selecting the wrong project can result in numerous mistakes, which may cause a misalignment with both the tools and the entire project.
If you have plans to make and sell wood projects, it is important to consider power tools in the near future.
When considering your initial woodworking projects, be cautious and selective in opting for traditional methods. It is important to remember that working with hand tools can bring both challenges and satisfaction. To ensure the latter, let’s bear in mind a few key points.
- Keep It Simple. No fancy curves and angels. Pick up a project that uses one kind of joinery. The odds are that you will have to make many joints to put your woodcraft together. By making more than one kind of joint you are increasing the chances of error. So choose a project that allows you to build in a straightforward way using only one kind of joint. Another advantage of doing this is that making just one project will make you proficient with making that joint, for example, mortise and tenon.
- Choose A Medium-Sized Project. Do not choose something too small or too big. Medium-size woodcrafts are ideal. We are thinking of something like a side table or a book shelf to begin with. The reason for avoiding something smaller and bigger is that larger projects can get cumbersome and smaller ones are less forgiving of errors. You also don’t actually learn any furniture-building skills by making small things like, for example, boxes.
- Avoid Colouring and Polishing. Coloring a project to look a desired way is a complete skill in itself. This part of the woodworking process has just as much potential to ruin the project as any other. Therefore, we want to avoid bringing it into the picture altogether. We do this by choosing the right wood to start with, the one that has the color and grain matching the look you have in mind. And once the project is built you can finish it with a top coat of clear polish.
Woodworking Hand Tools for Beginners
- Ripping Handsaws
Every woodworker owns a handsaw, which is considered the fundamental tool in woodworking.
The ripping handsaw is the type of handsaw that woodworkers primarily use among various types.
With five teeth-shaped blades per inch, it measures approximately 26 inches in length.
The alternative name for a ripping handsaw is a tooth saw, as the blades have teeth-shaped structures that bend on alternating sides, either left or right.
The wood can be cut parallel to the direction of its grain.
Using a handsaw to make precise cuts is straightforward and convenient. Handsaws are inexpensive and yield great outcomes.
Most importantly, beginners can learn how to make cuts and achieve desired shapes from wood pieces using versatile and helpful ripping handsaws.
The placement of the blades on the ripping handsaw is even.
When using a ripping handsaw, it is important to firmly hold the wood to prevent any movements of the wood while cutting.
Below are several practical functions of a ripping handsaw.
- Able to cut preciously with the wood grain.
- Can make clean cuts with push strokes along the wood grain.
- Crosscut Handsaws
The crosscut handsaw, also referred to as the rip-cut handsaw, plays a crucial role in cutting through the wood grain.
The blades of this tool are in the shape of teeth and are positioned in the opposite direction with bevel edges.
To achieve a clean and precise cut, both push and pull strokes are employed in the cutting process.
If you need to cut a wood log across its wood grain, the ideal tool to use is a crosscut handsaw.
The crosscut handsaw has staggered blades.
If you are a novice in woodworking, there are times when you encounter cutting along the wood grain and cutting against the wood grain.
In order to cut with the wood grain, it is necessary to possess a ripping handsaw. Conversely, to cut across the wood grain, a crosscut handsaw is required.
Different equipment is needed for different woodcutting techniques, as you can observe.
Below are several beneficial functions of a crosscut handsaw.
- Able to make a clean and accurate cut across the wood grain.
- Can make cuts with both push and pull strokes.
The performance of crosscut handsaws is improved due to the ease of sharpening, breasted blade edges, and taper ground.
- Combination Handsaws
The combination handsaw is a versatile tool capable of performing both crosscuts and rips. This implies that by using a combination handsaw, you can tackle tasks that would typically require both a ripping handsaw and a crosscut handsaw.
The combination handsaw effectively handles tasks due to its thin, flexible blade and sturdy back.
The combination handsaw’s blades have a layout that consists of evenly and staggered placed teeth.
If you are new to woodworking and have a limited budget, it is more advisable to opt for a combination handsaw instead of purchasing separate ripping and crosscut handsaws.
By using a combination handsaw, you can achieve two goals simultaneously.
Here are a few beneficial functions of a combination handsaw.
- Able to make clean, precious, and accurate cuts both across the wood grain and along the wood grain.
- Can make cuts with both push and pull strokes.
To properly understand the PPI value of the handsaw along the blade, it is important for you, as a woodworker, to think step by step.
- If the PPI value is high that means a higher number of teeth which are helpful to give clean, slow, and fine cuts.
- If the PPI value is less that means a lower number of teeth which are helpful to give aggressive, less fined, and faster cuts.
- Back Saws
Back saws, which have thin metal blades with fine teeth running along the top of the saw blade, are advantageous when it comes to creating precise, deliberate, and meticulous cuts.
Back saws play a crucial role in creating wooden joints due to their precise and delicate functions.
By altering the tooth configuration, the backsaws can have their sawing capability modified. These saws feature rectangular-shaped blades with reinforced backs, which are useful for making milter cuts.
Here are a few handy functions of a combination handsaw.
- Able to make a clean, precious, and accurate cut due to fine teeth.
- Useful when making wooden joints
- Carcass Handsaws
The primary use of a carcass handsaw is for constructing furniture carcasses. These handsaws, which are larger and more robust than standard backsaws, can also be classified as a type of backsaw.
If you are a beginner, a carcass handsaw will be the most suitable choice.
The length of the carcass saw is between 11 and 14 inches, and its PPI value ranges from 14 to 16.
The carcass handsaw, which has a decent level of depth and length, serves well for a range of tasks such as cutting tenons, dovetails, and everything in between.
A carcass saw with a 250-hang angle can be used to cut both hardwoods and softwoods.
Here are a few practical features of a combined handsaw:
- Useful for cutting small boards, miters, and anything in between.
- Useful when making wooden joints
- All other general uses of the workbench
The carcass handsaw is not suitable for making precise cuts, but it excels at making cuts of greater depth.
- Coping Handsaws
For beginners, a coping handsaw is regarded as one of the most budget-friendly handsaws available, costing less than $20.
It is utilized to eliminate waste from dovetail joints and to roughly cut through the boards.
With its sharp blades, you can achieve a fine cut and experience a comfortable grip from the handle.
Despite the slow cutting speed, the handsaw remains steadfast and does not succumb to considerable tension. Consequently, when reaching the end, the handsaw does not unexpectedly disengage from the kerf, nor does it cause any harm to the pin or tail.
The coping saw, with its tall frame and thin blade, is suitable for cutting curves. It includes a pack of inexpensive and useful replaceable blades.
In order to remove the waste caused by the chisel, one can use a coping handsaw.
Here are a few practical functions of a combination handsaw.
- Useful for curve cuttings in small boards.
- Useful for removing waste from dovetail joints.
- Able to make cuts with pull strokes.
- Dovetail Handsaws
Dovetail handsaws are utilized for various woodworking tasks, including the creation of hand-cut dovetails and the notching of drawers or shelves to fit into dadoes on case sides.
If you don’t have much money to spend, a dovetail handsaw will suffice for a period of time.
By using a dovetail handsaw, you can accurately cut joinery in line with the wood grain. It possesses precise rip teeth specifically designed for hand-cutting dovetails.
The finest steel blade is attached to the dovetail saw’s solid brass back. The dovetail saw has a PPI value of 15.
The initial knowledge required is the proper technique for managing the dovetail saw.
The incorrect method involves individuals wrapping all their fingers around the handle.
To correctly hold the handle, wrap the middle, ring, and little fingers around it, while also placing the forefinger alongside the brass back.
The method of handling the dovetail saw is a very comfortable and natural way.
It is a wise idea to begin by practicing saw cutting with scrap wood before jumping directly into a large project.
Once you have acquired the correct sawing technique, you will find it effortless to achieve smooth cuts.
Below are some helpful functions of the dovetail handsaw.
- Able to make small precise cuts that are extremely neat
- Used for joint-making
- Have better control and handling than many other handsaws.
- Keyhole Handsaws
A compass saw, also called a keyhole handsaw, is handy for making holes in softwoods. Equipped with a small, pointed blade, it is also capable of cutting holes in a wall for the purpose of installing a new switch.
One of the key features of a keyhole saw is its ability to accommodate blades of different sizes ranging from 5 to 15 inches.
The common models of the keyhole handsaw typically have 8 to 10 points per inch (PPI), while there are variations that range from about 5 to 20 points per inch.
To cut with a keyhole handsaw, slowly move the saw back and forth through the line.
In order to prevent difficulty in removal, it is advised to avoid applying excessive pressure as it may cause the blade to become jammed.
Although keyhole handsaws are inexpensive, the cost of sharpening them exceeds your expectations.
Below are several beneficial functions of the dovetail handsaw.
- Use to make internal cuts
- Use to cut small shapes, as piercing material
- Use to make holes in drywall, boxes, pipes
- Able to make small openings
- Marking Gauge
Every woodworker’s kit contains a basic woodworking hand tool known as a gauge.
There are various marking gauges available on the market that serve different purposes.
- Traditional marking gauge
The marking gauge that is traditional is both cost-effective and highly practical for various joinery tasks due to its utilization of a pin on the surface.
- Cutting gauge
The cutting gauge is beneficial for achieving clean cuts without causing damage to the surface, as it employs a knife for its operation.
The cost of the marking gauge is slightly higher than that of the traditional one.
Every type of marking gauge is valuable in order to keep the wood secure until the task is completed.
To depict the precise location for cutting the flat wood, well-sharpened gouges are beneficial for creating parallel lines.
Here are a few typical functions of marking gauges:
- Able to make precise lines
- Make the woodworking cuttings much easier
- Useful for both experienced and beginner woodworkers
Clamps serve as a useful tool for securing joints that have recently been glued. For holding the majority of joints, it is ideal to use clamps that measure 10 – 12 inches in length.
Clamps prove to be beneficial until you acquire the knowledge of utilizing them properly.
As you gain experience, you will acquire the ability to perform tasks without relying on clamps. However, in the meantime, it is helpful to have G-clamps and F-clamps to learn various woodworking techniques.
To tackle large projects, it is advisable to use 4 high-quality clamps with a size of ¾ inch. The majority of clamp sets are affordable and function as an additional hand when securing boards together, particularly during drilling or screwing tasks.
Here are some typical functions of clamps:
- Useful to hold glued joints
- Useful when drilling and screwing
- Essential woodworking hand tool for every beginner in woodworking
- Jack Planes
Planes are utilized for cutting instead of sanding or abrading. There are various types of planes that can be found in the market.
Every plane is equipped with a blade that is fixed in order to remove wood fibers and achieve a smoother surface.
Planes can be classified based on their usage.
In order to correctly utilize planes in their woodworking projects, it is essential for every beginner in woodworking to understand the specific applications of each plane type.
Jack planes have both straight and curved edges, which are useful for jointing or smoothing wooden surfaces. The size of the blade determines how much material can be removed at once.
Jack planes are useful for flattening rough wooden surfaces and molding them until they reach their eventual size.
The low-angle jack plane is both lighter and more user-friendly.
If you are new to woodworking, I suggest using a low-angle jack plane instead of a conventional bench plane due to its excellent handling.
Compared to other types of planes, adjusting the mouth opening of this plane is also easier.
Here are a few typical functions that jack planes serve.
- Jack of all trades useful when shaping and jointing
- Provide maximum support for cutting edges
- Able to make deep cuts by removing the stock
- Block Planes
The purpose of the block plane is to produce precise and small shavings for the tasks of joinery and woodturning.
For the tabletop edges, chamfering, and fine-tuning of wood drawers, it is ideal.
Block planes have a high level of mobility due to their ability to be easily carried on one’s belt.
The 6-inch low-angle block plane is so useful for slicing. Block planes are stout and small.
The reason why low-angle block planes are more versatile compared to other types of block planes is due to their exceptional performance in compact areas.
Below are several typical uses for block planes.
- Useful for tight work
- Able to make small clean cuts
- Useful in woodturning and making smooth joints
- Able to trim wooden surfaces
- Joining Planes
Joining planes function similarly to jack planes, serving the purposes of achieving a smooth surface and connecting separate pieces.
In addition, joining planes serve the purpose of leveling expansive boards and aligning the edges of said boards.
Joining planes are advantageous for traversing uneven surfaces as they possess considerable lengths that enable them to glide effortlessly over irregular areas, effectively smoothing and leveling them.
Most joining planes have a length of 20-24 inches and are crafted from wooden bodies. Joining planes constructed with metal bodies offer greater durability compared to those made with wooden bodies.
Here are several typical functions of joining planes.
- Able to make smooth cuts
- Able to join wood pieces together
- Flatten and smoothen the surface
- Rabbet Planes
Rabbit planes serve the purpose of creating precise rabbets by cutting right angles aligned with the wood grain.
There are two main types of rabbet planes that can be found in the market. These include the skew rabbet plane and the adjustable rabbet plane.
Both have similar features but plane iron is bedded in a skew rabbet plane. This will reduce the cutting angle and make the slicing neat and easy along the wood grain.
The adjustable rabbet plane and the skew rabbet plane both offer the option to adjust the mouth opening.
Below are some frequently encountered tasks that rabbet planes are commonly used for.
- Able to cut along the direction of wood grain
- Useful to make fine-tune rabbets
- Useful to clean grooves and dados.
- Comfortability and workability are so high which is important for beginners in woodworking.
- Scraper Planes
Scraping planes are employed in order to achieve a final finish on wooden surfaces. By using scraping planes, you will have the capability to rectify any imperfections that may have been caused by using other types of planes.
The wood does not tear off and it is both small and very comfortable to use.
Cabinet scrapers, also referred to as fine wood fibers, are used to make scraper planes.
By using scraper planes, you can achieve a surface that is incredibly smooth, instead of relying on sandpaper.
The challenging aspect of scraper planes lies in their sharpening process. When the blade angle is angled, it becomes prone to deformation or burnishing, resulting in the formation of a sharp hook or burr.
The use of scraper planes typically follows the preparation of a surface with a smoothing plane.
By using a scraper plane, you can reveal the wood grain instead of using sandpaper.
Scraping planes have several typical functions.
- Able to super-smooth surfaces
- Able to take thin curls
- Can be used for final leveling and smoothing
Spokeshaves have been specifically designed for the purpose of working on curved surfaces. When it comes to curved surfaces, spokeshaves carry out various functions such as refining the edges and sharpening spindles.
In the market, there are two main types of spokeshaves: the bevel-up version and the bevel-down version.
The common ones that are useful for steep cutting and fine shaving are spokeshaves with the bevel facing downwards.
Here are some typical functions of spokeshaves.
- Smoothen the curved surfaces
- Useful when making cartwheel spokes, chair legs, bows, arrows, and paddles
- Flatten complex shapes of wood
- Finishing Hammers
The hammer is an essential woodworking tool that should be owned by every woodworker. Its primary functions include pounding and prying.
the type of material being hammered and the desired outcome.
- Hammerhead design size and weight
- Claw design length and curve
- Total weight
When it comes to choosing a hammer as a beginner, finishing hammers are extremely useful for any task and are often the first preference. They are incredibly handy and simple to operate.
The finish hammer is a tool that is lightweight and smooth-faced, and it is useful for driving nails and tacks.
Finishing hammers, weighing approximately 10 -14 ounces, are ideal for small woodworking projects.
Below are several typical uses for finishing hammers.
- Able to drive nails and tacks
- Useful when installing cabinets, doors, and handrails
- Able to drive 4d to 8d finish nails and box nails
- Framing Hammers
Framing hammers serve tough purposes and play a significant role in larger woodworking projects, such as driving and removing large nails, due to their size and importance.
Framing hammers typically have long handles and weigh approximately 20 to 30 ounces.
If you are new to woodworking, it is important to gain proficiency in using finishing hammers before transitioning to framing hammers, as the latter can be challenging to handle, particularly for beginners.
The increased power of the hammer stroke is made possible by the heavyweight and long handles of the framing hammer.
The Hammerhead, which is large in size, is milled with a grid resembling a waffle pattern, serving the purpose of preventing glancing blows.
Due to their challenges when used, framing hammers nowadays have been substituted with nail guns.
Despite their differences, framing hammers can still provide valuable woodworking lessons to woodworkers, thereby offering assistance in their future projects.
Below are some typical functions of framing hammers.
- Useful for larger woodworking projects
- Able to drive large, long nails
- Powerful stroke is important for heavy carpentry work
- Tack Hammers
Tack hammers, which are handy for small woodworking projects, lack claws.
It is incredibly lightweight and serves a purpose in making furniture frames by securing upholstery fabric with small nails or tacks.
There are typically two faces available in tack hammers. The majority of them have magnets in their heads, which are beneficial for accurately driving nails.
The weight of the tack hammer is approximately between 5 and 8 ounces, while its handle measures nearly 10 inches in length.
Using a regular hammer to drive small nails and tacks is more challenging as it may result in nails and surfaces breaking.
By using tack hammers, you can achieve a higher level of precision when driving nails and tacks.
Below are several typical purposes of tack hammers.
- Able to drive small nails and tacks
- Useful for small woodworking projects
- Use to make seats, chairs, and soft padding
- Hand Files
Hand files are inexpensive and easy to use tools for shaping and smoothing wood.
If you are new to woodworking, hand files are excellent tools for gaining proficiency in various woodworking techniques.
The durability of hand files is high due to the quality steel they are made of. However, when the steel becomes dull, it is more advisable to replace the file with a new one rather than attempting to sharpen it.
several types of hand flies that can be found in the market.
- Rasps with rough-edged tools
- Half-round flies
- Mill files
Hand files, which are made of high-grade steel, can be utilized to sharpen woodworking blades and other materials due to their fine teeth.
These are some frequently seen purposes of hand file hammers.
- Use to shape and smooth the wood
- Use to sharpen woodworking blades
- Useful to sharpen both straight and curved surfaces
Recommended Beginner Projects For Hand Tools
Side table made of wood.
This wood project is both simple and versatile. It can be made with simple or intricate designs, including complex angles and shapes. Regardless of the design, it will always result in an elegant woodcraft. Starting with a simple side table is a great idea, as it allows you to learn important woodworking skills such as joining wood to create the tabletop and making sturdy joints to support the furniture’s structure.
A bookcase made of wood.
If you want a straightforward method for constructing a bookcase with a height of 2-3 shelves, without going beyond that height, you can easily find one. Creating a bookcase using manual tools is not only a visually pleasing project but also offers valuable practice in handling longer wooden pieces and in the techniques of gluing and joining.
Wall Shelf made of Wood.
This project is a straightforward and sophisticated one that can be created using only one type of joint like mortise and tenon, or even with dados and rabbets. It is also an excellent opportunity to practice planning, gluing, and woodworking in order to construct a wall shelf.
Stools made of wood.
Creating a stool is less complex in comparison to creating a chair. However, in order to provide the stool with a suitable form and stability, compound angles are typically employed. You will swiftly gain familiarity with cutting angles using your hand tools and come to understand that they are not significantly distinct or challenging compared to cutting straight lines. Once again, this undertaking offers valuable practice in essential woodworking techniques such as joinery, planing, joining, and panel gluing.