“No Net-New Tools in 2016” – The Half Way Point

I decided 2016 would be the year I don’t buy any new tools. I’ve covered my self-imposed rules previously. I mentioned in that post that the results have not been surprising. Well, after a few recent projects I’ve changed my tune.

This is the 1839 Schoolbox as detailed in the Lost Art Press printing of The Joiner and the Cabinet Maker.


This is a small box but it was kind of a lot of work. I started with rough sawn pine that was really rough. And believe it or not, there are a lot of dovetails under that milkpaint


The Ashley Iles chisel is going in the keeper pile for sure.

I had to use a lot of tools for this project as there was a little bit of everything. This compounded with my current project (in-process as of 6/25) which is a modern style men’s valet box has really taught me some tough lessons. I went into both of these projects with the mindset of “this is it for tools, this is all I am going to have to work with”. And frankly I didn’t come out of it feeling optimistic and satisfied. It was the opposite actually. To make this quick(er) here are some bullet points.


My planes suck. Okay, there is some hyperbole in there because I have been fighting with some particularly nasty Zebrawood. But I have almost a dozen bench planes, and none of them are perfect. Is there such a thing as a perfect plane? No, but I can (and will) significantly reduce the amount of planes I have while increasing productivity and effectiveness. I’ve given this a lot of thought and this is will my till will look like in 2017

  •  My Stanley No7 stays, but will have a Hock iron and cap iron. The double iron in it now is a generic no-name Stanley replacement, and terrible.
  • Same with my pristine No4. The iron is bent. It flattens out nicely once the lever cap is tightened down, but it makes depth adjustment and lateral adjustments near impossible. Otherwise the plane is perfect.
  • A low angle jack will be entering the line up. The jury is out on brand, but it will either be WoodRiver, Lie Nielsen, or Veritas.  This will replace all the jack planes and shooting planes I have now.
  • The Lie Nielsen 60 1/2 is going to be the first thing I buy when the tool ban is over. I’m done not having a good block plane. I make do with other tools, but I’m tired of “making do”.
  • The Lie Nielsen No73 Shoulder plane will be the second thing I buy. Many people including me always say that a shoulder plane isn’t necessary. And it isn’t. But technically coffee isn’t necessary either. Try to get me on a conference call at 8:00am with no coffee and see how much you like it. A shoulder plane is the quickest and easiest path to tenon success. And I’m all about walking that path.
  • I need something better than my No.45 for plowing grooves and making rabbets. That is all I use the 45 for and every time I use it, it is a miserable experience.

What about all my woodies? Well, They will still be ready to go at a moments notice. I’m just not sure how many times that moment will arise. I do prefer a wooden plane, but I don’t prefer dealing with the effects of seasonal movement in my insulated workspace. Unfortunate, I know but not something I am in a position to address in the near future.


I love to cut dovetails and they find a way into every project it seems. I would like to get dovetail specific chisels like the round back Ashley Iles or some flavor of Japanese dovetail chisel. I’ll let my WoodRiver set go away to a new home in order to make room for 2 or 3 sizes.


All of these get to stay

I use mostly Japanese saws. There will be no changes here. The blade on my Gyokucho 311 Dozuki is amost 3 years old and has probably cut a mile of dovetails. I’ll be replacing it soon. I also want to get a proper handle for my Z-Saw 300mm rough crosscut Kataba for the sake of cohesiveness.

Now onto my Western saws. My Disstons are going to go. they are really nice saws that I am never going to use. It took me a while to find them which is why I haven’t parted with them yet. They need to be put back to work by someone else.

I do also have some backed saws – A veritas 20 TPI dovetail and a Veritas Crosscut Carcass saw and the prognosis is 50/50 for those guys.

Going to miss you old buddy

While I use Japanese saws for most things, I still like a western saw at the bench hook. My Veritas carcass saw has been awesome. I really like this saw. But I don’t love it. So it’s going to find a new owner that will love it while clearing out some space for the Gramercy sash saw that will replace it.

The 20 TPI dovetail saw seems to have an unusual spot in my lineup, but I prefer it over its eastern brethren for the pins on half-blind  dovetails. Don’t ask me why because I can’t answer you, but I get much better results so for that reason alone it stays.



I am woefully ill equipped in the rasp department. The one (yes, one!) I have is good. I do use it a lot. If I had more, I’d use more. Now I just waste a lot of time and energy with 80 grit sandpaper, maple scraps, and spray adhesive.Paul Sellers would call it the poor mans rasp. I’m open to suggestions here as far as brands (specifically first hand accounts of the Gramercy tools rasps), but lifetime tools only.

I have a few Stanley 51’s in good shape and a Birmingham B-Plane spokeshave in good shape. None of these perform well for me. I can’t figure out if it’s me or the tool. In any event I will need to add a round bottomed shave since I don’t have one currently and have been in situations where I could have used one. I will need to do a lot more research into proper spokeshave set up and usage before I replace the ones I have.

In Summary

There are some highlights. I’m in a good place with chisels and sharpening. I do think in my shop the dovetail chisels shed their “luxury” moniker. Also I’m really close with saws. The exit of the Veritas carcass saw and the entry of the Gramercy sash saw moves from from “pretty good” to “set for life”. My measuring and marking game is on-point. I won’t be making any changes there. I will be adding some wing dividers though because using my compass isn’t ideal. Also what kind of woodworker doesn’t own wing dividers?
However when it comes to planes, I’m far from good. Aside from my router plane, I wouldn’t fight for a single one to stay in its current state.


Internet Half Blind Dovetails

I’ve cut countless corners of through dovetails. For me it’s the fastest way to a square box. I also find the process enjoyable and often cut dovetails for no other reason than to occupy time. However I’ve never really cut half blind dovetails. I’ve done one or two in the distant past to test out some tools, but that’s the extent.

Here is my first cornerIMG_0608.JPG

Not completely awful, right? I was pretty happy with my efforts. I am not a naturally gifted woodworker. I have to fight tooth and nail for good results. What I lack in natural ability I make up for in patience (and scrap wood). I’ve found the internet to be really useful to fill the information void – and I don’t think I’d be half as successful without it.

If you are reading this, you are likely aware there are hundreds of online videos and articles related to cutting dovetails. I found these to be the most helpful and contributed to my minor success



I really need a pair of dividers

Courtesy of Megan Fitzpatrick . I like my pin spacing even. Megan’s video is still the best I’ve seen on laying out dovetails.

Chiseling Baselines

I didn’t chew these out with my teeth, I promise

This is a really good tip from Center for Furniture Craftsmanship instructor Tim Rousseau  as featured in this Lie-Nielsen video . I use a piece of scrap wood to lay out the baseline. Then I use that same scrap piece as a guide for my chisel with doing the final paring.


Squaring Up Baselines

This is very high on the “why didn’t I think of that!” list.

The router plane – perfect tool for the job. I may have to get another 3/16″ cutter and grind it to a spear point. I picked up this tip from Brendan Gaffney’s  always informative Instagram feed

I still have a bit of practice to do but overall I’m pretty pleased. And I’m thankful for all those who were here before me and documented their journey. It’s making mine tons easier. Looking forward to getting much better at these.

A little sawdust and glue, and these are good to go

Tool Storage Vs. Tool Staging

When I hear the word storage, I think packing tape, mothballs, and padlocks. I prefer to think of my tools as staged. They are where they belong, but ready for action at a moments notice.

Shop organization is hard for me. It’s hard for most people, but I put self-imposed constraints on top of that. I’d really like to build an English tool chest – specifically the Anarchist’s Tool Chest as popularized by Chris Schwarz . Additionally I’d really like to build a Dutch tool chest also popularized by Chris Schwarz. However I’d never use them. Why?

First Order Retrievability

A view from the bench

I believe this term was coined by Adam Savage of Mythbusters fame (at least that is where I first heard it). My approach is simple. First, I tier my tools. Tier I tools are ones I use on almost every project, and often multiple times. Some examples would be

  • Measuring and marking tools
  • Bench Planes
  • Rip, Crosscut, and joinery saws
  • Chisels
  • Scrapers
  • Sharpening/Honing
  • Hammers/mallets
  • Bench Appliances

As seen in the picture, these are all on the “Wall”. My rule for Tier I tools is one-touch access. No doors to open, no drawers to open, no lids to open, no latches to move, and nothing else to move out of the way. All of the Tier I tools are 10 steps from my bench. They are as easy to put back as they are to retrieve. This is important because it’s just as easy to put that chisel back on the rack as it is to set it on the corner of the bench. And I find I do follow the “rules” and put things away when I am done.

Chisels kept low to avoid contact with the edges

One of the challenges is my tool collection is still evolving. As such my storage needs change. Rather than make nice, dedicated fixtures (which I plan to some day), I keep it to screws, dowels, and hardwood plywood.

The Tier II Tools

I define my Tier II tools as tools used on some projects but not all; or tools only used once or twice at a small stage in a project. Some examples of Tier II tools for me include:

  • Rasps and files
  • Joinery planes (*exception to the router plane, my 71 1/2 is tier 1)
  • Carving chisels
  • Specialty measuring/marking (digital protractor)
  • Veneer hammer and Veneer saw
  • Scratch stocks

These tools are kept in a chest right next to my bench

2016-04-11 22.55.49
The problem with chests – I keep forgetting I have that spoon plane


I chose a simple to make Japanese style box for this. I store my bench hooks on it as I don’t need to open it very often. It’s simple on the inside as well. 2 trays and a center divided floor.

Overall I like this system. Mostly because it’s easier to just put something away than it is to leave it laying around where it should’t be. I haven’t lost a tape measure or even a pencil in 3 years. Speaking of which,  the pencils and some marking knives are in my first and last experiment with sewing. Not for lack of interest – but lack of time


I really like hearing about other people’s storage strategies and would enjoy reading about yours in the comments below. It’s one thing to see pictures of beautiful chests, but another to hear the reasoning behind them. I’ve gotten some great ideas that way



“No Net New” in 2016: Or How I Stopped Buying Tools and Started Using Them

Hi, I’m Joe. I’m a tool-a-haulic. It’s been 116 days since I last purchased a tool.

New tool abstinence is not an original idea. In fact it’s not even my idea. I heard Shannon Rogers talk about the concept of not buying any new tools for one year right around Christmas time. Instantly I knew what I had to do. My self-imposed rules are simple:

  1. Nothing net-new. If a tool I have breaks, I can replace it. But I cannot add a tool, sharpening stone, cyclone attachment, etc to my collection
  2. Shop made tools are okay as long as they replace something. I made most of the planes I use. Some are not ideal and I’d like to remake them. As long as I re-use the iron, it’s acceptable.
  3. Consumables are exempt

I had just filled a 10 cubic yard dumpster with most of my scraps, broken tools, worn out jigs, and anything that had pissed me off in the last few months. My 2 car garage shop was looking pretty clean and de-cluttered.

I put some effort into organizing my hand tool area a bit better. I re-made my marking gauges and squares in a matching theme, and got all my hand tools in one place. I don’t like cabinets (which I will discuss in another post) so I hung everything on the wall.

This is it most of it:

All of my most used tools are right there on the wall. 5 steps from my benches (yes I have two). These are the tools I use the most and are involved in almost every project. To the right of my bench, I have a small Japanese-style chest with my No.45 and it’s cutters, spoke shaves, rasps, carving gouges and other miscellany.


So, how’s it going?

Pretty well actually. I’m about 5 months in and the pangs I see when that 25.00 moving fillister shows up in a Facebook group still hurt. However I’m really learning to use my tools, and more importantly leaning limitations. Both of myself and the tools. So far the results have not been surprising and I will go into more detail on subsequent blog posts.

Have any of you ever tied this? How did it go? Will you be my Sponsor?

My Drop in the Bucket

I write a lot of things. Sometimes at great length. But always in inappropriate places. Not contextually inappropriate,  but inappropriate in terms of permanence.

I’m an amateur woodworker and involved in a few online woodworking communities. I learn best by teaching. If I can grasp something good enough to explain it to someone else, that means I myself have a good handle on it. Some things practically; some things conceptually.   In any case my often times wordy replies are seen by a few for about 24 hours. Then they disappear into a barely searchable black hole. Very much like a casual conversation with a total stranger in real life.

Well, I’m going to try to change that by adding yet another blog to the hundreds already there. I get around a lot and as such I see a lot. Hopefully I have some interesting things to say. Why Pine Point Woodworking? Well, I’m from a neighborhood of Springfield MA called Pine Point and proud of it.

Feedback is always welcome – good and bad. I have very thick skin but I will warn that I do not entertain trolls or arguing with a keyboard. My standard policy in such situations is to block and ignore with no further acknowledgement.  With that said, here are a few of my favorite things