The list on this page started about 8 -9 years ago (has it been that long??) back in the rec.woodworking days. The premise was, what kind of basic toolkit could be put together on a budget of $300.00. (Now for those of you who have seen this before, unfortunately the original was lost (obessive/deletion disorder), so I am rewriting this from scratch and hopefully for the better.
A basic kit would include saws, chisels, planes, measuring and marking tools, and some miscellaneous items. Understand that you will not (unless you are really lucky), find all this stuff in one afternoon of tool hunting. Take some time and look at what's out there, especially in a flea market. What is on one table for $10.00, might be on another for $5.00, and $.50 on another. Auctions are a little tougher, but set a price and stick to it.
Saws come in all sizes and shapes. For starters I would recommend at least 3, plus a few optional ones. Find a good crosscut and a ripsaw. The most commonly found are made by Disston. (Older ones are marked Henry Disston and Sons). Other good names are Atkins and Spear and Jackson. Older saws usually have brass nuts holding the handle or tote to the blade. You want to make sure that the blade is straight and while light surface rust will clean up and not affect use, deep pitting will. Around here (PA) good handsaws can be had for $5-10 bucks each. Lets figure $7.50 each for $15.00 total. The next saw to get is a good backsaw. Again Disston is the name to look for. You might have to drop $15 on a nice one, but it will be worth it. Mitre box is a must for any detail sawing, but there are plenty of them kicking around again in the $5-$15.00 range. Taking $10 for a mitre box, we are at $40.00 total in the saw catagory. Plus I would budget $10 per saw to get them professionally sharpened and set. At least the first time, although I do find saws all the time are are ready to use. (I am not including the shapening in the total amount to spend)
Chisels also come in all shapes and sizes. Your most common are your paring chisels, where the sides of the chisel are beveled and firmer chisels, where the sides are straight. (There is a whole bunch of variations on this that one day I will collect and post as an aside page). Lots of good makers; Swan, Witherbey, Buck Brothers, W.S. Butcher, Union Hardware, Pexto, and a few others. The key here is to stay away from anything that is chrome plated or that has a plastic handle. Speaking of handles there are two types socketed, where the end of the chisel blade has a metal cone where the handle fits in and tanged, where the end of the chisel tapers to a point and is driven into the handle. Which is better? For real heavy work (except in the case of mortising chisels which we will talk about shortly), socketed chisels will take more of a pounding. Sizes, I'd start with 1/4, 1/2, 3/4, 1 and a 1-1/2 or 2. $3 to $7 a chisel isn't out of line and a lot can be found at cheaper prices. Mortising chisels, 3/8, 1/2. These also come either socked or tanged (knick-named "pig stickers") I prefer the tanged ones myself. These will run you $15 to $25 each for good ones or a matched set. But they are worth it. Taking the middle ground on all of this, we have $65.00 in chisels, total so far $105.00.
Now here is where the bucks can fly. However, with an understanding of the basics, you can get a good set of users and still have money left for the other goodies. Bench planes, there are 3 basic sizes, smoother (9" or smaller), jack (12-16"), and jointer (22" and above). I use only wooden planes, and around these parts usuable smoothers and jacks can be found for $50 or less (for the pair). Good wooden jointers (22" long or longer) are going to run you a bit more, but unless it is a uncommon maker, $35-40 is still a good price. Common makers, Auburn Tool, Oswago Tool, Ohio Tool, Sandusky, New York Tool, J. Pierce (around these parts at least), and the Greenfield Tool Co. For those of you intimidated by a true wooden plane, transitionals are a good place to start. These have the iron/adjuster mechanisms of their metallic bretheren, with wooden bodies. Prices on these run about the same. Metal bodied planes run about the same as well. A good buy is the #6 size (18") metal planes, these have been scorned by the collectors and work well as a smaller jointer or larger jack. Figuring $95 bucks for 3 planes, that puts our grand total at $200.00.
Measuring & Marking Tools
Here is the list of measuring and marking tools that a beginner should look for with approx prices. Tri-fold rule $10, try square $7.00, adjustable bevel $8.00, marking gauge $10, awl (I use an old wooden handled ice pick) $1.00, that pretty much does it. Total is $36.00, grand total is $236.00
Brace & bits, plenty of these around, unless you are looking for a crispy box set of bits, these are common at the flea markets, $10.00 should be plenty to get going with. Wooden mallet, to buy $10.00 max (good first project). Shapening stones, I like oilstones, $25 will buy a couple of new ones that are flat. Add a couple of screwdrivers and a hammer (got to have wooden handle of course) and we pretty much have spent our alotment of $300.00.
But you will have a set of tools to get started with and to begin your education with. As you learn you will want to upgrade, add new pieces, just in molding planes alone, I've got a couple of hundred pieces. But walk before you run, take a little time to study the market, learn what is a good value and what isn't. Collecting is a whole other issue, but it can be fun also. (Some one said, "I'm not a collector, just a user with too little time")
Last Updated 4/29/2003