During the last Modern Woodworkers Association podcast, Roy Underhill engaged us in an interesting discussion about hand tools. No, it had nothing to do about them being superior to power tools, although he did allude to that later on.
No, this part of the conversation was about their portability.
Think about one of the most commonly heard complaints by woodworkers. No, it’s not the ‘I don’t have enough clamps,’ one… Instead, it’s usually about the quest for more shop space, especially as it pertains to stationary power tools.
Add a table saw? You need more space. Adding a jointer? More space. Bandsaw? You betcha…
This can be avoided if you worked primarily with portable power tools, such as track saws, jigsaws and routers. Yes, you need some type of solid work surface – such as a workbench – to work safely and accurately, but you can limit how much the shop grows.
Hand tools – their very nature – don’t require much more than you would need to use for portable power tools. A solid work surface or two. Add enough space to place a chest of hand tools, and you are in business. Some of these hand tool chests, when well built and organized, could (and have) hold all of the tools that a skilled cabinetmaker would need in his or her lifetime.
Of course, when you throw in items such as pole or treadle lathes, the space requirement does grow, but it’s incredible still to think that woodworking can happen even in some of the most modestly sized places.
This week, at Woodworking in America, I hope to pick the brains of a few skilled hand tool woodworkers to see how they stock their tool chests. I’d love to see how they make their magic – and keep the tools to make it in a smallish tool chest…