Old tools from eBay or brand new tools to start


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30 Jan 2018
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Well, let's start with some background.
I don't have much family history of cabinet making to rely on. Besides a few summer months, I spent watching a backgammon maker and a few boxes I made in my uncle's basement.

I rediscovered my love of working with wood in recent years.
A novice to hand tool I started self-learning and studied a few methods for each task.

I took on the advice “ you don't need expensive tools to make good products” and headed to eBay for some second-hand old tools.
I followed the instructions and tuned the planes and sharpened the blades. Combination of lack of knowledge and tools which might have had an structural issue caused me to spend more time tuning my planes than planing my timbers.

That caused me to decide to get tools which has less chance of a structural problem and are easier to maintain.

I have been told again and again that “expensive tools don't make you a good woodworker”

The question I would like to ask is: I your honest opinion for someone with limited time and expertise which hand tools are better?
An uncertain eBay second hand or a well made new tool?

I appreciate all of your opinions.
As a beginner I would suggest cheap new well made tools to get started. Buying second hand and then spending an age tuning etc is a brilliant learning experience but you are likely to become more disheartened by the results of the second hand tools if you don't already have some experience in working the wood.
As you move through your woodworking journey you will probably discover at some point that it absolutely is worth the price to pay for an expensive tool as the overall machining, tolerances and quality is supreme which will make you enjoy the woodcraft again.

At least that's my thoughts - and my thoughts alone.
My advice would be to first decide on a project, and get some decent timber. I know it seems counter intuative, you don't want to learn on somthing expensive but if all you ever use is cheep fast grown DIY store softwood, you will find getting a good result much harder.
Spend the time to learn how to get the best from the tools you have and you will then get a better understandinmg of what tools will work best for you.
I have quite a collection (far too many) tools, but for the majority of work I do it comes down to a small handful that I use every time.
Hand tools - Ebay tends to be fraction of the price of good quality new so that's always been my choice. Some risk but not expensive to remedy, either by fettling or selling it on and buying another - you learn a lot about tools in the process.
I prefer my oldies to any of the modern alternatives I've tried and in fact don't think I've got anything very new at all, and not missing them.
PS I've had new of various qualities. Not usually usable out of the box so there's still a leaning curve. Sometimes quite unusable due to manufacturing mistakes - worst was a Faithful 10 plane impossible to remedy. A beginner might not realise it was a dud and could waste a lot of time on it.
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I think trying to get old tools working is a fundamental experience for beginner woodworkers, it will give you the basic skills of how your tools work and how to maintain them which is essential for being able to work with them, a brand new Lie Nielsen No 04 will operate great when new straight out of the box, but you still need to maintain the edge eventually and set it up relative to what timber you’re working with, I think it’s far better to learn how to do this on a £20 plane than a £400 plane.

As always, having the timber (and not expensive exotic stuff that novices gravitate towards, buy some inexpensive hardwood like Tulipwood or Ash and have a play, that is how you will learn, by doing) and making stuff from it is far more important than having a lot of very nice shiny tools. Typically expensive tools are completely wasted on inexperienced users as they’ll never get the results from them regardless.
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I learnt on the old tools the right way to set them up to use them to get the most out of them and make a good job and get repeat work by word of mouth and more than anything I enjoyed going to work each day and using them.

I see there is a lot of people that must have the most shiny, polished, blingey tool they can find I think personally this is more about bragging rights than making something with them, there is an old saying "A fool and his money are soon parted"

An example a team of fitters went to my sister's house to make and fit new ledged and braced garage doors with all the new shiny tools you could imagine but they built them without brace's and when I told them what would happen and how they should be made they were quite put out.

I would say stick at it only buy when you don't have any other way of getting the work done but most of all Enjoy what you are doing.
Just to get it out the way, @Jacob , that is a terrible attitude. Find out you've bought a POS and then sell it on to muggins to re-coop your money. No wonder we end up getting this kind of thread when people follow this philosophy and these POSs end up doing the rounds and putting newcomers off the hobby as they end up feeling they are totally useless at woodworking as they can't get the hang of it due to Jacobs profit margin.

@Jamesc has put forward a very valuable point. For beginners the biggest stumbling block is not as they think, tools but in fact knowing what to do to gain the knowledge of how the tools work. This is much harder to do in isolation working on bottom quality soft fluffy timewarp grown softwoods from the local big shed. They need to learn that hardwoods are the mainstay of furniture making for all the nice bits and softwood is just construction support on the bigger pieces. Find furniture pieces in hardwoods that are being chucked out on the pavement, skip etc and then disassemble them and re size the various components. Saw panels in half and mark them up thinner and shorter and narrower and then plane to those marks and learn to be accurate and to get face and edge at 90. Then use those pieces to make something new. Even if you dont want the thing, give it away or cut it up and then make boxes using as many different joints that you can.

At the begining, the wallet constrains what you can get regarding tools as most really under estimate the costs involved esp. for new so end up buying 2nd hand. This is fine if you know how to make sure it works properly. So yes buy second hand and if you get a duffer put it aside until you know how to fix it or strip it for parts and then ditch the knackered part. Don't pass them on to others.
Is there a "Men's Shed" near you?
If so go along there will almost certainly be someone who can at least show you what to do with your tools to get the best from them.

I feel that's being a little critical of Jacob - all he said is that he's selling them on, but if he's selling them as spares or repair, then I feel that's fair enough. We don't know all the facts of Jacob's sales yet.

I've brought a few back to life and sold others spares/repairs. I want to hang on to my 100% rating! No profit in it particularly.
I think it'll make no difference either way in your making, so do whichever you prefer.

I like reworked (or sometimes little work at all) older tools better than new high dollar tools. Cheap planes that are new are a total crapshoot, so put that aside.

However, when I was new at this, as many would find to be the case, I found the convenience of the boutique tools worth the money. Don't buy anything weird if you plan to resell it. Basic tools from LN and LV and anything else similar (Luban is probably fine if you don't mind using copies of LN tools, as the brother brand of them sold through a retailer chain here seems to be well regarded).

Weird would be anything new and japanese or any other oddball stuff that's not identical from one to the next. You're not a dealer of those things and nobody really has a clue when buying entry or mid stuff of that type, so they rely on a dealer. You'll get a very small fraction of your money back, especially if a brand is no longer retailed when you're ready to dump your stuff and move on.
I've got a mixture of old record and Stanley and new faithfull. Cannot afford any of the posh brands...
If I could then I'd have accept I'm not the greatest woodworker despite having LN festool stuff.
My excuse is my tools!🤣🤣

Seriously though the three tools I would buy top dollar would be a no4 plane, a good set square and a dovetail saw.
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As with so many things, a lot depends on how much time you have vs how much cash you can afford. When I was working full time plus some with lots of travel I had very few hours in the year for making so bought anything I needed new. Now I have more time and positively enjoy bringing things back to life.

As previous post, I've got a cartoon somewhere with the caption "if only I had more tools I could better display my incompetence".
It is hard to make a blanket statement about one being better than the other. Each item should be looked at individually when you need it.
Buying second hand can save a lot of money for you. Stanley / record planes are plentiful and cheap and can perform very well with little work.
For something like chisels ( assuming you have none) it might be better to buy a set of Narex or MHG for £100 or so, my reasoning is that they will only need a quick sharpening up and they will be ready to go as well as being a full set.
You could spend ages buying and sorting out random old chisels and never get any work done.
There are some fantastic old tools out there but also quite a lot of rubbish, for a beginner it can be hard to tell the difference.
I would also suggest buying at least one brand new certified engineers square to test all your other squares with.
A not quite 90 degree square is one of the most frustrating things ever.

The only other thing I will put forward is on new cheap planes. Leave them alone. The biggest problem with them is that they are produced too quickly. Old makers would leave plane castings for at least a year to 18 months after casting and then again for a few months after initial machining in order for the cast metal to "stress relieve" before final finish machining and assembly. New cheap ones are not given this time and as a consequence start to warp (sometimes very noticeably, even to the eye) even before they reach the shops to be sold.
Yep, That's probably the real reason why LN are having problems atm, as they don't make their own castings, anything that slows down the "stress relieving" stops everything and the old stock goes very fast
all you need in my opinion plane wise is a no7 no5 or 5 1/2 and no 4 or4/12 for all planing duties, I'd go with vintage ones with the bog standard stock blade and cap irons. I don't have anything against using premium modern tools like veritas and LN if you have the money for it, why not? they are often so well set up that you don't need to do anything to them, so when you consider how much work it can take to get an old one into the same league as a LN it's not such a bad idea.