The Furniture Restoration Tool List: an Introduction

The wall cabinet pictured above contains a basic set of woodworking hand tools and almost all of the tools I would recommend for a beginning woodworker interested in wooden furniture repair. I will be covering the tools illustrated above by category over several blog posts, so I will go deeper into each particular area, and I will include some related tools so you can become familiar with what is out there. I will be suggesting sources in print and on video for details on maintenance and use of these tools until I have produced my own. I have found some very useful sources over the years, and feel confident in their quality of information and instruction.

About the selection of tools presented here: though I’ve built reproductions as well as designed and built custom furniture, it is restoration, repair and millwork services for preservation that are the main activity in my woodshop these days. The tools that I discuss here have proven their worth to me at the bench in many situations. Whether you buy new or used tools, what I would like to emphasize here is your comfort; all other things being (mostly) equal, I would opt for the tool that fit my hand size and stature. Comfort should promote control and as a result, safety and improvement in your ability to attain accuracy in your work. Also, over time this craft can be hard on your hands, wrists and forearms (and not just from pulling out your wallet).

There is a lot of info presented here, and I’ve been paring it down as I go along. You certainly need not consume it in one sitting (who could…?) it is meant to be a resource for the curious, and I will make an effort to steadily improve the offerings.

“What Tools Should You Use/Buy” seems to be a popular subject in print and other media, and understandably so, since both the confusion and the expense of your initial purchases can rapidly spiral upwards. It is simply pragmatic to buy the best new or used tools that you can afford, and you will be less likely to become frustrated when you begin your work process. Over the last 20 years, many newly made, beautiful and effective hand tools have come onto the market, in fact there may have never been a better time to be a woodworker, but here I will be focusing on the secondary market or used tools.  In this equation, you save money purchasing tools, but you exchange that savings for the time it will take you to put them into working order.  This has a useful side effect; you will become intimately acquainted with their qualities and deficiencies. This experience (however tedious) will provide you with quite practical shop knowledge over time. Time is money, so do the math to suit yourself.

The drawback for someone of modest or no experience is how do you know which quality of tool is good to buy? Apart from finding an experienced mentor, the novice has access to books, the internet or classes. I can suggest a couple of resources that had proven useful to me when I began my journey. My suggestions are not meant to negate the flood of useful media sources (or their authors) that have been made available since the mid-1990’s; I only know that these earlier media served me well over the years.

Regarding hand tools, I can easily recommend  “Restoring, Tuning and Using Classic Woodworking Tools” (ISBN 10: 144033675X) by Michael Dunbar,  founder of the Windsor Institute. Happily, this comprehensive and very useful book has been recently updated by the author. I would add to this “Choosing & Using Hand Tools” by Andy Rae (ISBN 1-57990-294-4) these two excellent books in concert should give you a solid grounding in Hand Tool knowledge.

When I began, Taunton Press had recently been putting out a series of woodworking videos featuring a number of their very experienced authors. When it came to machinery, I found “Mastering Woodworking Machines”  (ISBN-10: 1561587036) by Mark Duginske, practical and straight-to-the-point. As a bonus, Mr. Duginske authored an accompanying book (ISBN 10: 5094239198) that helps you focus on the tasks that need addressing with woodshop machinery.

There are many ways to get to the same result among craftspeople, you may find one person’s tool selection and methods work better for you than what I may present here, and I may even agree with you….choose what makes sense to you in practice at your bench.

Safety

Woodworking inherently dangerous…as are other activities we engage in every day; jumping into a 3,000 lb heap of steel, plastic, rubber and glass and then propelling ourselves down the highway at high speed right next to other people who are in mental or physical states that we know nothing about? Yikes. Well, there are laws and customs and familiarity there and (though seemingly less and less), common sense. In the woodshop, its you, or rather your brain that makes the law and enforces it. Most every piece of machinery comes with ample safety warnings and suggestions, and there are on-line videos, but as mentioned they are hit-and-miss on technique. Trust your gut: if something feels wrong, or off, or uncomfortable in any way, step back, take a breath. Better yet walk out of the shop entirely and go do something else, allowing your head to clear. If you cannot leave the shop, move over to some routine maintenance for as long as it takes for the discomfort to abate; usually an answer or realization will occur to you that resolves, or at least puts you on track to resolving any potential hazard.

 

© 2018 Joseph Hoover, Sticks and Glue. All Rights Reserved.

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