I doubt that any two tool kits are the same. They’re brought together in such an individual and accidental way, and with so many varieties of tool, the probability of any two collections matching exactly must be infinitely small.
My tools for example are a fairly ugly lot. I’m no collector, just a gathering of bits and pieces which were fit for purpose at the time, or forced to be so, that I’ve then become fond of and won’t replace. Lumpy my mallet and my chewed on old jack plane are good examples.
I have other old tools from a lovely selection which came from my Granddad. These have such a wonderful patina and warmth to them and I get great pleasure from keeping them in action.
Then there’s the ‘woodworker’s gifts’ section of my tool kit. Tools which are much too fine to be in my workshop. When Helen bought me a beautiful square many years ago it took me quite some time to put it to use, but once it clicked and I decided I liked it, it got my usual run it in to the ground treatment. I’m not sure how many of these squares can boast such an aged look; if it wasn’t unique when I received it, it certainly is now.
But however our kits come together the differences in the type of tools which we find essential are certainly much, much smaller. If we build things by hand then we’ll all have planes and saws and marking tools of one type or another, even if their sizes and pedigree are different.
Woodworking by hand is extremely simple and I’m a believer in two things:
– If the skills are there, then you can get by with very few tools.
– If the skills are there, then the specifics of those tools don’t really matter.
Oh, and a minimal kit helps you build those skills.
Finally, a well conceived minimal kit will probably be the same for anyone looking at starting woodworking.
I’m very much a minimal tool kind of person myself and I have what I’d call my essential kit, (which we’ll talk more about later), but it’s basically the essential tools which I find are required to work well and work efficiently.
Something like a fillister plane gets excluded because that falls in to the luxury category – I can work well instead with a chisel and something to hit it with. A tenon saw of some kind remains essential though, because I want to be able to cut my joinery well straight off the saw.
When considering my ‘essential kit’ I’m always left with one tool that I don’t know where to place.
The router plane is not essential. Anything it can do can be done by alternate methods, and I wasn’t even introduced to it when I was training. But the router plane is so unbloodybelievably good at it’s job, and there’s so many jobs it can do, that if I can’t call it essential, it has to at least be my favourite luxury tool.
I wouldn’t want to be without one, but there’s something else that I find unique about the router plane. If I’m going to have one then the specifics do matter. If it had to be an old wooden one or a simple one I’ve cobbled together then I would sooner be without it. This is one tool that I’m very specific about, I like a metal router plane which allows me to dial it in for the perfect fitting tenon. This is the only way I feel the tool can have an edge over anything I could do with a chisel. My one bit of engineering sneaking in to my old school woodworking?