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Woodworking Tools: Right Selection And Care Will Save You Money, Part 4


Woodworking: Tools Of The Trade, Part 4 - Tools For Shaping

A civilization's maturity and intelligence is judged, in part, by the diversity and sophistication of its tools. When it comes to woodworking, the human race is quite advanced. There are general tools that work well in many situations, and there are specialty tools made for one specific purpose. There are tools that require only manpower and a rudimentary knowledge, and others that utilize computer programs, a wide range of knowledge, and a powerful motor. We have even learned how to harness power for our tools and package it in a small battery component, giving us the freedom to take our tools wherever we need them.

It is truly amazing and wonderful to contemplate the vast number of tools and all that woodworkers are capable of doing and creating with the help of these tools. And for many people, working with tools is one of the thrills, or even obsessions, of woodworking.

Woodworking and related tools have become so popular that there are numerous companies that manufacture these tools and thousands of places to purchase them. Combine that with the vast numbers of different types of tools and it can get overwhelming, especially if you are new to woodworking. Our experts helped us focus on the basics to develop an overview of those tools needed to get a good start in woodworking.

In the most basic terms, a woodworker needs four kinds of tools. They need a place to work, tools for cutting and shaping, tools for assembly, and finishing equipment. This simple statement provides the basis for the following discussion of woodworking tools.

The tools listed and described here represent just the tip of the iceberg. In keeping with the philosophy that it is best to learn the basics first, and to not invest large sums of money until a person is certain that they have an ongoing interest in woodworking, the emphasis is on hand tools, with a few basic power tools thrown in. These tools should prepare you for a variety of beginner projects and give you a solid foundation of equipment and knowledge to build upon.

Tools For Shaping
As you may already know, wood does not always come flat and square, even when purchased precut. In addition, you may need to size and shape pieces of wood so that they fit correctly or look the way you want them to. There are many tools used to shape wood, from those that smooth them to those that take pieces away to create lines, holes, and other features.

Planes
As opposed to a saw, or even a knife, planes cut wood away in small, uniform increments, which helps to create a smooth surface. There are many different types of hand planes. More commonly used planes are referred to as bench planes and include the scrub plane, the smoothing plane, the jack plane and the trying plane. Some planes come with more than one blade or can be adjusted for different types of cuts. Others are used only for specific purposes.

You might use a plane if you wanted to round a corner or cut a groove (with the grain) or a dado (across the grain). Specialized planes will even cut rabbet or tongue and groove joins. In many cases, a plane can take the place of a router for those who don't have the power tool or prefer to do more traditional work.

Keep in mind that some planes can be nearly as expensive as a router to purchase, so if you plan to do a variety of specialty cuts, planes may not be the cheaper solution. A new planer can cost anywhere from $20 for a basic, amateur model to over $100 for larger specialty or combination types.

Selection Tips
Rather than going out and purchasing several different types of planes, it is best to wait until you need a particular one for a project, and then buy quality. Be sure the components fit together well and hold tight when used. Hold the plane in your hands in the position you would use when working to be sure it feels comfortable. Be sure you understand what the plane is for before purchasing it.

There are planes made of metal and of wood. Our experts had different opinions about which is best, but it was mainly based on personal preferences in material, rather than on performance. You might buy one of each to compare for yourself.

Care & Maintenance
Planes may need to be adjusted as you use them to ensure proper depth and angle. Each tool will have screws, nuts and levers to adjust different aspects. Periodically, you will need to take the plane apart, wipe it down and remove wood chips. Be careful that you understand how to put the tool back together correctly after cleaning.

The blade will eventually need sharpening. The angle and shape of the cutting edge are critical to accurate performance and vary depending on the plane. If you are uncertain, check any instructions that came with the plane or bring the tool to an expert.

Chisels & Gouges
Chisels and gouges are used to remove sections or pieces of wood to get a certain shape. They generally consist of a blade with a cutting edge attached to a wooden handle. The main difference between the two is the shape of the cutting edge. A chisel has a straight, beveled edge that makes straight marks while a gouge has a curve to it. There are numerous types and sizes of chisels and gouges, including those designed especially for woodcarving. That group is discussed in greater detail in the woodcarving section of this book.

A chisel can be pushed with your hands or struck with a mallet for more force. Gouges are used to remove wood and also to create certain shapes or features. They have curved cutting edges, ranging from a nearly flat C shape to a deep U. The shape and depth of the curve is called the sweep and is identified by a number known as the Sheffield list number. Tools with the same shape and depth of curve will have the same Sheffield number no matter how wide they are or how long the shaft. Numbers range from #1 to #12. The higher the sweep number, the more curved the blade will be. The measurement in millimeters or inches tells you the width of a tool.

Several common chisels and gouges include the firmer and the mortise. Each of these has a solid handle that will withstand blows from a mallet.

Selection Tips
Choosing a chisel or gouges is basically a matter of selecting the right tool for the job at hand. Some have special features such as reinforced blades or leather washers between the blade and handle to absorb shock. If you plan to work on projects where you will be chiseling out joint cuts or cutting curves and contours, you may want to invest in high-quality chisels and gouges. Otherwise, standard tools will do and can be purchased for $10-$15 each or as a set for around $50.

Care & Maintenance
The sharp cutting edge is the main concern on a chisel or gouge. It is relatively easy to learn to sharpen these tools with a whetstone or sharpening belt; however, we recommend having someone show you how to do this if you are uncertain, rather than try to learn by reading in a book. It is important that it be done correctly to avoid damaging the tool.

The metal on a chisel or gouge should be wiped clean and kept dry to avoid rust. Some woodworkers wax their metal blades with beeswax as an added protectant.

Other hand shaping tools include files and rasps and small power rotary tools, such as those sold by Dremel. These are smaller, handheld tools with a variety of adjustable heads, including bits for drilling and carving. They come in different sizes and sets starting under $25.

One of the power tools used most often in woodworking is a router. It comes with bits and jigs that are fabricated to make different cuts and shapes and can be used to round edges, cut channels and grooves, and carve decorative patterns. If you plan to move beyond basic beginner projects, chances are you will eventually need a router.

Tool Summary
This completes part 4 of the condensed overview of some of the tools that are commonly used in beginning woodworking projects. As you can see, this topic could and has provided the content for entire volumes of books and in order to fully understand the possibilities in woodworking and create quality projects, it is critical that you develop a more in-depth knowledge of the tools you plan to use.

It is also important to note again that each type of tool has its own care and maintenance needs that are often more specific than what has been touched on here. The details have been left out of this book to avoid overwhelming someone who is brand new to woodworking. However, their omission does not mean they aren't important.

"Failing to care for your tools is ridiculous from a financial standpoint," stated shop teacher, Kevin Warner. "Why spend $20 on a good quality handsaw or clamp and then allow it to go dull or rust? Not only will you loose money, your work will suffer because your tools won't perform as intended. And it will take you more time in the long run. Taking good care of your tools is one of the first steps in becoming a serious woodworker."

Copyright © 2005 by Ferhat Gul. All rights reserved. You may redistribute this article in its unedited entirety, including this resource box, with all hyperlinked URLs kept intact.

Ferhat Gul is the publisher of the brand-new "Woodworking Beginner's Guide - Tips From Experienced Woodworkers to Help You Get Started", made just for people who love woodworking. This comprehensive, yet compact woodworking introduction for beginners is easy to read and helps to save time, money and effort.


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