Beginner Handtool (Dovetail?) setup

DustinS

Dustin
User
I am a woodworking novice and completely new to handtools. Outside of the woodworking classes at the crafts center at NCSU (I highly recommend these for anyone who is new to woodworking/power tool safety), I have never cut a dovetail nor do I own any tools practical for this task. I have started back with some wood projects but we have a 4 month old so most of my playing is at night when he is asleep. It is frowned upon to run power tools during this period (or so my wife tells me). Therefore I would like to learn some handtool skills. Mostly dovetails and mortising. I really have no actual plans, just want to cut something in wood.

My hope is to dimension lumber when I have a free hour or two over the weekend and then I can play with new skills during the week. So I've been looking into a basic setup. My goal is to buy quality so i would prefer to just buy what I need for now and work up. I'm looking for thoughts on this list. I essentially have no handtools except a pencil and a set of HF chisels that i have hammered through doorframes and nails and whatever else I saw fit with house projects. I'm assuming those are no good.

Marking guage: ($20) These seem pretty basic from many places. Do i need anything special like the micro adjuster or double rail?
Marking Knife: ($10) Is this necessary or is pencil just as good?
Chisels: (40$) Narex Chisel 4 pack . Would i be better off with just a couple sizes of a different/better chisel?
Mallet?: ($30?) I'm not sure here. Seems the Wood is Good is well liked but seems pricy. Any favorable weights? Mostly dovetails with some mortises but I'm not really sure about the future. I have a claw hammer. Would that work to get started?
Handsaw: ($30) I've only ever used a handsaw a few times but i tend to prefer a pullstroke, which is nice because they are cheaper. The 7 inch Suizan Dozuki seems well rated for 30$
Coping Saw: ($10)- Maybe not needed to clear waste but less banging = less likely to wake baby...
Sharpening supplies: ($100) DMT Diasharp 8x3 Coarse (325 mesh) & ExtraFine(1200mesh). Is this a good start on a sharpening kit or are there better grits to start? Is the 6x2 fine or is it worth it to go bigger for future bench planes?
Block plane: ($100-120) Woodriver low angle block plane seems best liked for the money. I would love to go to yard sales to find one to attempt a restore but with the baby, we are trying to keep our distance as best we can, so i guess buying new is best for now. Is this decent for the price or worth going for the LN or other high end?

Man, that adds up quick. Am i just overthinking it? Any tips on better options, things I missed, or don't need would be well appreciated.
 

McRabbet

Rob
Corporate Member
Dustin,

Welcome to the website -- if you are interested in getting good advice on hand tools to buy, I strongly recommend that you take a look at the excellent video series and articles on Wood and Shop by Joshua Farnsworth. He has a very good series and articles as well.
 

Mike Davis

Mike
Corporate Member
can you make a mallet?
What about layout tools?
dividers
Dovetail gage
Small square
Yes a marking knife is much better than a pencil for final mark. A pencil is good for rough layout. A knife line will let you set your chisel in the line.

a cheap coping saw is ok but get some really good blades.

4B893452-75BA-4803-9345-45FC3A9B8221.jpeg
 

DustinS

Dustin
User
For layout, I have a 12" combo square and a T-bevel. I think i can get away with that for now. Dividers and dovetail gauges seem pretty handy but everything added up pretty quick so i was trying to trim the things I can work around. On that same line, i would like to enjoy this, so would you consider these something you would not want to work without/

Rob,
That is a great reference! Thanks for the link. I will have to look through his suggestions.
 

Melinapex

Mark
User
One thing we are never short of is advise! I used to be a power tool only guy but now I do all/most of my joinery with hand tools. I have watched pretty much everything Paul Sellers has on you tube and have used his methods to make some FSO's ( furniture shaped objects) that mostly have not fallen apart. Yet.
Paul is 97% hand tools (yes I made that number up) and he has a video on each of the basic three joints that are a must see for beginners. Paul is also pretty frugal and has good advise for those of us who can't just go straight to the Lie-Nielsen store and load up. (Drool here)
One thing everyone will confirm is that you will need to learn to keep your tools sharp. Pick a method you can afford and then get really good at it.
Welcome to the tool addiction club!
 

Bear Republic

Steve
Corporate Member
Keep an eye out for estate sales, Craigslist, FB marketplace, and yard sales. You can pick up lots of good tools fairly cheap. Over time as you get more experience you can upgrade to better tools and power tools.

Check out Jonathan Katz-Moses on YouTube. He has some great videos on various things and good tips. Find some good woodworkers on YouTube you like and learn from them. Also this is a great place to learn too.
 

Mike Davis

Mike
Corporate Member
For layout, I have a 12" combo square and a T-bevel. I think i can get away with that for now. Dividers and dovetail gauges seem pretty handy but everything added up pretty quick so i was trying to trim the things I can work around. On that same line, i would like to enjoy this, so would you consider these something you would not want to work without/

Rob,
That is a great reference! Thanks for the link. I will have to look through his suggestions.
My methods have developed over a 20 to 30 year period so thinking about now, I would not want to do without. But, when I started I did not have as much. Of course I struggled a lot more. Actually I made almost all of my first tools. I had a hand drill, skillsaw, and a coping saw. I made my mallet, a compass, a bevel gage, a mortise gage, marking knife, and probably some others I can’t remember.

some of the tools I made from my 20s and later
FCC94DEC-5098-463D-9511-9F26D5F8622F.jpeg
 

DustinS

Dustin
User
Mark,
That is good advice. I have come across some of Paul Sellers articles but I need to look into some of his series more. I hope to get back to power tools at some point but for now, quiet woodworking should be a fun learning experience.

Steve,
I am a big fan of JKM. I have watched most of his dovetail of the week videos but it’s finally time to try to do one myself. As much as I would like to go to yard sales and estate sales, it is tough with the current situation of the world. Any advice on decent online retailers or even smaller used tool vendors in the Raleigh area?

Mike,
That is pretty cool to see. Maybe that is a good direction. I will have to start looking at some videos for that. Out of curiosity, what is the tool on the left below the mallet?
 

Mike Davis

Mike
Corporate Member
That is a card scraper holder I made when I had two large chests of drawers to strip and refinish. I had to work on my front porch and the kids played there so no chemicals. ever since I figured out how to get old finish off wood without chemicals nor sandpaper I have used card scrapers. I made that because my thumbs were getting sore from the scraping. Now you can buy similar tool from most venders. Was nothing I knew of like it back then.


 

appalachia

New User
Greg
Chisel suggestion: I started out with the Lee Valley set of 5 bevel edge chisels, and they’ve been great to this day. They were the suggested budget set to get for the school I went to.
 

Jeff

Jeff
Corporate Member
video series and articles on Wood and Shop by Joshua Farnsworth
+1

The Lee Valley chisels recommended by appalachia is a good starter set. Check out their video-you'll need to get some sharpening equipment too. DMT diamond stones are a good place to start.


 

tvrgeek

tvrgeek
User
Obsessing with tool perfection is for when you find fault with the ones you have. A decent Dozuki, little bow-tie marking gauge, try-square and chisels from the hardware store can make museum quality joinery. Spend your money on good wood to practice on. Might need to add a decent hand plane to the mix as if your stock is not true, you'll never get it right.
 

DustinS

Dustin
User
Thanks for everyones advice. I think tvrgeek is right. I was overthinking things a bit (woodcraft had a 15% off sale and i wanted new tools...). I think ill grab a decent budget pullsaw and some irwin chisels to see if I even like handtool working. Its a minimum investment for now. I can use an razor blade, combo square and bevel to mark. I'm not selling this stuff. Its just for knowledge and fun.

Whats the best wood to practice on for the money? Does poplar cut pretty well or should i get some red oak or something nicer?
 

Jeff

Jeff
Corporate Member
+1 to poplar or pine at Lowe's or HD. Both are available in several lengths and widths.

How are you going to try making dovetails or mortises and tenons for practice?
 

DustinS

Dustin
User
Hey Jeff, I'm not sure I understand the question. I've just watched a bunch of Jonathan Katz Moses, Paul Sellars and other various youtube channels on it. Not really expecting perfection but i have to start somewhere. I'll just try some on random wood before i start a real project.
 

Jeff

Jeff
Corporate Member
Hey Jeff, I'm not sure I understand the question. I've just watched a bunch of Jonathan Katz Moses, Paul Sellars and other various youtube channels on it. Not really expecting perfection but i have to start somewhere. I'll just try some on random wood before i start a real project.
Sorry, which part of the question don't you understand?

How are you going to try making dovetails or mortises and tenons for practice?

The dovetails are straightforward if you have a pull saw and a few chisels to make the pins and tails. You'll also need a vise of some sort to hold the wood while you layout and saw your dovetails. The mortises and tenons can be hand cut with your saw and chisels.
 

jlimey

Jeff
Senior User
[\QUOTE]
Block plane: ($100-120) Woodriver low angle block plane seems best liked for the money. I would love to go to yard sales to find one to attempt a restore but with the baby, we are trying to keep our distance as best we can, so i guess buying new is best for now. Is this decent for the price or worth going for the LN or other high end?

Man, that adds up quick. Am i just overthinking it? Any tips on better options, things I missed, or don't need would be well appreciated.
[/QUOTE]

Since I didn't see anyone chime in on a block plane, I would spend the extra $45 and go with the L-N 60 1/2 adjustable mouth plane. To me, it is the best value in the L-N line. For $165 you will never think, 'I wish that I had a better block plane'. Well, if you have very large hands it may feel on the small side to you.

Good luck on your dovetail adventure!
 

Rwe2156

DrBob
Senior User
Dustin, looks like you've done some research. You have a good list there. No, you're not overthinking, you are being smart & not barging into buying tools, then finding out you can get by without them. DAMHIKT :)

A combination square is part of the basics, both for laying out and checking things. A 12" Starrett is optimal but there are cheaper alternatives like Igaging. Avoid what you see in HD or Lowes.

The Narex chisels are a good value. I have a set my only knock on them is edge retention, but hey, you need practice sharpening, right?

As well the WoodRiver block plane. All the WR planes are very good (yeah I know, made in China....)

Any marking gauge will do, but you can layout dt's with just a square and knife, so a marking gauge is not an absolute.

You need to go higher than 1200, I go to at least 8K. IMO think the 4000/8000 Norton stone is a good value. I prefer water stones for higher grits but an extra extra fine diamond will work. After experience with mesh stones, I'll be going with the Diasharp plates next time.

Sawing is critical to dt's so don't scrimp on the saw. Japanese is fine, but I'd be suspicious of a $20 saw.

You don't need a big mallet for dt's. I mostly use a plastic headed hammer (Thor I believe) or a carvers mallet for chiselling dt's.

Good luck and don't be too hard on yourself when you start doing dovetails!!
 

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