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Talking myself out of buying premium tools

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tibi

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Hello,

I am just building my workshop and it will be finished in a month or two. After I finish the workshop and build myself a proper workbench, I have decided to save 50 Euros every month and create a budget for my woodworking tools.

My OCD would like to have all those Veritas / Lie Nielsen tools nicely arranged in a Studley-like tool chest, but my other tiny voice (and the voice of Paul Sellers) tells me that woodworking is not about that. Our ancestors did not have those 100 EUR / piece chisels and special 600 Eur shooting planes and they made furniture that was in many ways superior to the one that we are building now. They just used the tools that were available to them at that time. They were not obsessed with them.

For me buying premium tools is not about not having enough money to buy them. To buy a whole set of premium tools that I would ever need would cost me as much as one professional-grade big woodworking machine. In a few years of saving, anyone living in Europe could buy that set of tools. There are some tools, that I would need to buy anyway as a new premium tool. A vintage router plane price + import fees + shipping would cost me almost as a new Veritas router plane, so I would buy the new one.

If I let myself go the route of collecting only premium tools, I would become a tool collector. I would long much more for having the next tool than doing the actual woodworking with the tools that I have available. I have nothing against that mindset if someone wants to be a collector, but personally, I would like to enjoy the building process and not drool over the next shiny tool in my tool chest.

I do not want to buy rubbish tools from big box stores or those SOBA/FAITHFUL, etc. brands, just to save money. If you buy a square, that is out of square or a plane, that no amount of tweaking can render usable, then you cannot have a good feeling about your woodworking endeavors.

Someone once told that you should buy the best tools you can afford. Everyone could do that if they are willing to wait long enough to save for the best tools ( for some it would be sooner, for others later). But the question is do we really need the best tools? Do I need that 100 Eur/piece Chisel or 200 Eur Japanese chisel made by a master craftsman, if I can do the same work with a 10 Eur Chisel from Narex? Yes the edge will not last as long and there is no wow effect, but it will get the job done. Or do I need that no.4 bronze Lie Nielsen plane, if the old Stanley, that is properly tuned and sharpened will give me similar results?

Did you ever solve such a dilemma if you need all the premium tools that you see in so many woodworking Instagram posts from the workshops all over the world to make you a happy woodworker yourself? What are your thoughts on this?

Thank you.
 

Adam W.

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I like nice tools and I like using them to make nice stuff.

Mine are predominantly bought second hand, as I don't like new tool prices.
 
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Hallelujahal

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'Buy cheap buy twice' was what my old man always said. However, he also said 'you've got to cut your cloth' - so I guess my approach is an amalgamation of the two. I like to get the best I can afford, but I'm not going to go over my budget just for some tool. Fettling and fixing tools is also what I enjoy doing at times as well. Life's a compromise!
 

thetyreman

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only in 2016 when I started woodworking the price of many old tools was far far lower than they are now, I would not bother with an old router plane, the veritas or lie neilsen will be superior, it all depends on what work you plan on doing, not too long ago it made sense to buy cheap tools, the prices have gone mental since then for several reasons, the paul sellers effect, brexit and covid have pushed prices up and up.

There is nothing wrong with wanting or owning premium tools if you can afford it, but it won't make you a great cabinet maker, just like owning a neumann U87ai microphone won't make you a world class singer or owning a high end luthier made guitar won't make you jimmy page or steve vai.
 

tibi

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only in 2016 when I started woodworking the price of many old tools was far far lower than they are now, I would not bother with an old router plane, the veritas or lie neilsen will be superior, it all depends on what work you plan on doing, not too long ago it made sense to buy cheap tools, the prices have gone mental since then for several reasons, the paul sellers effect, brexit and covid have pushed prices up and up.

There is nothing wrong with wanting or owning premium tools if you can afford it, but it won't make you a great cabinet maker, just like owning a neumann U87ai microphone won't make you a world class singer.
That is right. Paul Sellers used to buy no.4 hand planes for 10-15 pounds a few years ago, and now it would cost me almost 100 Euros (with custom fees and shipping) to get a No. 4 Stanley. Prices have gone up insanely. So many times it is worth buying a premium tool than a vintage one. But there are still types of tools, like chisels or saws, where the gap between a vintage, usable, but low cost new and new premium is still too big.
 

thetyreman

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it's still possible to pay reasonable prices for some handplanes on ebay, I prefer a no4 1/2 anyway to a no4 and use my 5 1/2 more than any other plane.

I don't agree with sellers at all that you can do anything with just a no4, take his advise with a pinch of salt, this is where he can be too preachy and opinionated, you can't joint very long boards with it you will be pulling your hair out, so I have a no7 for that, it really isn't that much heavier than a no 5 1/2 but the mass of it makes it much easier to use, people who train at the barnsley workshop use a no7 for virtually everything and I'm pretty sure they know what they're doing there!
 

TRITON

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Talking myself out of buying premium tools
:eek: Quick !! Get this man a doctor

I understand fully where you'rer coming from, especially referencing older makers of the past making do with low quality tools and producing masterpieces.
It can go that way, collecting the latest tool, thinking this will improve your abilities, and that is a false economy in some ways. But basic tools like anything have flaws, in quality and in ability.

I have worked with people who produce good quality work, on low quality tools, and whereas I have Lie Nielsen chisels, one maker used the shop ones on the shelf which came from lidl and still did the work to passing quality.
That said, A shop I worked in the owner believed that he could be 5 cheap routers, for the price of a professional router, and drills and sanders. But those powertools had huge flaws in their quality to produce even simple tasks, and didnt last the pace of a professional workshop.
The powertools in the shop, that had been there for years and were always fit for purpose were the professional models and we had a couple of big boxes full of broken cheap powertools.

A friends father, who is a time served cabinetmaker and of 60 years service, suggested to me when I asked him what I should buy, suggested a good quality chisel and sharpening stone, and a good quality saw. When proficient with that, then look to buy more sizes or other tools.
 

tibi

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it's still possible to pay reasonable prices for some handplanes on ebay, I prefer a no4 1/2 anyway to a no4 and use my 5 1/2 more than any other plane.

I don't agree with sellers at all that you can do anything with just a no4, take his advise with a pinch of salt, this is where he can be too preachy and opinionated, you can't joint very long boards with it you will be pulling your hair out, so I have a no7 for that, it really isn't that much heavier than a no 5 1/2 but the mass of it makes it much easier to use, people who train at the barnsley workshop use a no7 for virtually everything and I'm pretty sure they know what they're doing there!
no.7 is a great example, where the price of used Stanley or Record + import fees + shipping is almost equal to Veritas bevel-up jointer plane. I also think that you need a longer plane for jointing and no.5 or 5 1/2 has its own place as well.
 

Adam W.

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Personally, I keep Sellers on the periphery as I don't like his preachy style and prefer to research and experiment as much as possible by myself.

I certainly wouldn't let anyone like him influence my choice of tools though, as that is my choice alone what I spend my money on, which is why I don't own a No.4 but use a piano makers plane instead.
 

D_W

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I make tools (wood and metal/wood, infills, chisels, etc). I've had a full complement of LN planes in the past, all the way from block plane to no 9 to 7 and 8 bench planes at the same time along with a gaggle of in between.

I have none of them. I use my infills sparingly because they get in the way of getting much work done. The same with the premium planes - monstrously flat, finely finished soles with a lot of weight and slow adjusters - enormously exhausting to use compared to a basic stanley plane.

This is one of about 10 infill smoothers that I had at the time I took this picture (I have four right now -the one in the picture is a partial kit that I put together filling in the rest of the parts and then fitting dovetails and assembling/finishing and making the wooden parts), and my favorite plane for actual smoothing is a type 20 stanley four. I sold my last LN plane earlier this year (a #4 bronze smoother) because it was exhausting to use (due to friction and an extra unnecessary pound vs. the stanley).
If you buy a bunch of premium planes, you'll use them here and there, but when you want to do more with planes, you'll gravitate to what takes the least effort and generally, even fitting type work is best done in fewer strokes with more experience. You'll get where you're going much faster and feel more connected vs. just moving a plane through tiny shavings and not getting anything done.

The same goes for chisels. I couldn't find a single past project where premium chisels of any type meant increased productivity over vintage english chisels. I couldn't actually find a situation where I'd prefer any "premium" chisels at this point over cleaned up older English (or american tools made in English patterns).

you'll find that most people who have 15 premium planes have them set up to work as a smoother - all of them. It seems great at first, but if you start doing more with your planes, you'll grow to want one or two planes set as a smoother and all of the heavy boutique cast tools will go to the side as soon as you get your hands on your first good double iron wooden plane.
 

Blackswanwood

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I don’t think that there is a right or wrong answer Tibi. I have a mixture of old and new tools - both do the job. I love using my Lie Nielsen block plane just as much as the Record No6 that I bought on eBay and restored. If the economics make a new or old tool better value go for it. If you like the look and feel of an old or new tool go for it. The main thing in my view is enjoy woodworking.
 

Spectric

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The thing you need to bear in mind is that price does not always reflect quality and you cannot overcome a skill shortage with tools no matter how much you spend, it is a compromise. An area you will really only get what you pay for is cutting tools like chisels and router cutters, here cheap does not pay.
 

tibi

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:eek: Quick !! Get this man a doctor

I understand fully where you'rer coming from, especially referencing older makers of the past making do with low quality tools and producing masterpieces.
It can go that way, collecting the latest tool, thinking this will improve your abilities, and that is a false economy in some ways. But basic tools like anything have flaws, in quality and in ability.

I have worked with people who produce good quality work, on low quality tools, and whereas I havbe Lie Neilsen chisels, one maker used the shop ones on the shelf which came from lidl and still did the work to passing quality.
That said, A shop I worked in the owner believed that he could be 5 cheap routers, for the price of a professional router, and drills and sanders. But those powertools had huge flaws in their quality to produce even simple tasks, and didnt last the pace of a professional workshop.
The powertools in the shop, that had been there for years and were always fit for purpose were the professional models and we had a couple of big boxes full of broken cheap powertools
For power tools, this is much more evident. I personally have a cordless drill from Lidl, that was recommended to me by a friend that it is a high quality tool and it is a real bargain. The chuck on it is always loosening and it drove me crazy when I was assembling a metal roof on my workshop and the bits were falling down from the roof and I needed to go down and pick them up every time. You can bet that my next cordless drill will be DeWalt.

But there must be a point where an increase in price does not equal an increase in quality. And you get diminishing returns in quality for every unit of price paid after a certain point. I do not know if this point is called Quangsheng or Jumma or Luban in woodworking world.
 

Spectric

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But there must be a point where an increase in price does not equal an increase in quality.
The term quality can be very vague, differs depending on what you are talking about and what discipline. A basic starting point is that it delivers the intended function at a performance stated for a competative price and which reflects the product life cycle for a given level of usage. So you may get a tool for say £100 and it will perform as good as another tool for £200 but if used on a regular basis for trade then it will not maintain that level of performance as long and will have a shorter product life cycle. On the other hand if only used occasionaly for light duty then it will meet your needs and last as long as you probably need it.

The bigger issue is that you can spend extra just for a badge or name, some earn the reputation whilst others it is just a brand with a groupie following , much like Apple. So I am not brand loyal because no one brand makes the best of every tool, I buy the best brand for the required function and of course a lot of machines come out the same factory just with a different color and badge, with some minor differences. As for older tools then maybe there is an antique price now, and like all collectables they will demand what someone is willing to pay.
 

Spectric

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Maybe not all in the same factory but certainly the East and China in particular, one day they will price themselves out of the market like we did and then some other cheaper economy will take over. One of our issues is that we have a very strong HSE which takes away some of competitiveness, they can do and use things we just would not.
 

TRITON

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aren't most power tools made in the same factory these days?
;)
Possibly, though there would be different budgets, choice of materials ie plastic or glass reinforced plastic. Motor differences in initial costs. a £10 motor, versus a £3 motor(manufacturer costs)
 

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I like the bling of new premium tools but I'm too tight to buy many. You don't need new premium tools to do good work, but a well made tool helps - especially in these days where hands-on tuition is hard get and we have to try to figure things out from the internet.

I've splashed out and bought a few premium planes and have also bought a number of Record planes from the era where quality was still important to Record (i.e. pre~1960).

I've posted this picture before, these are my "go to" planes.

GTP.jpg


Left - A rough old Record 05 jack plane - with a brase repair to the side (well done) and minor pitting to the sole. It dates to the late 1950s. It does everything I need of a jack plane;
Middle - A very nice Record 04ss that is my general smoother - with one side wing broken off. It's a "Warfinish" plane (WW2). A quality plane.
Right - A Clifton No.3 that I keep with a sharp iron for fine work - one of my "premium" planes. Bought in 2010.

You don't need a new premium plane to have a quality plane.

Two things that mystify me:
- Why do some people pay more for a used (and often beaten up) Stanley "Bedrock" than the cost of a new Clifton/Lie-Neilsen with all the same features and a guarantee;
- Why do some people buy a premium jack plane (No.5 or No.5.5). A jack plane is for rough work and almost any beaten up jack plane will do the job well enough. Save your pennies for a nice smoother I say.

My tuppence worth.

Cheers, Vann.
 

D_W

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The bedrock question is a valid one, though I prefer a little used bedrock to a lie Nielsen plane, most would not. What makes the question valid? Lord Stanley sold the bedrock pattern plane for 10% or so more than the bailey pattern and few thought it was worth the extra cost.

Which is probably why it has more collector's appeal in good shape.
 

Phil Pascoe

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The chuck on it is always loosening and it drove me crazy when I was assembling a metal roof on my workshop and the bits were falling down from the roof and I needed to go down and pick them up every time. You can bet that my next cordless drill will be DeWalt.
I suggest you don't buy a DeWalt, then - their chucks are exactly the same.
 
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