Five Years Later: Tools in ‘The Anarchist’s Tool Chest’ (Part 1)

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I get a lot of questions about the specific tools I have in my chest. On the one hand, I resist answering the question. “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest” was written to give you the ability to make those choices for yourself.

On the other hand, I’d like to tip my hat in appreciation to the toolmakers who have busted their butts to make these tools that put food on my table.

So here is my current inventory of tools. Know that I paid the “bronze price” for every one of these tools. No discounts. No freebies. Full retail.

Handplanes

plane45_IMG_5204My bench planes are little changed. I use a Lie-Nielsen No. 8 as my jointer. I still have the same Stanley No. 5 (a Type 11) as my jack plane. My smoothing plane is a Lie-Nielsen No. 3 in bronze with a 45° frog, improved chipbreaker and a (gasp) Veritas PM-V11 iron. I am a huge fan of this steel. It takes a wicked sharp edge that lasts a long time.

My block plane is still the same Lie-Nielsen No. 60-1/2 with the original high-carbon steel iron. This plane will be buried with me. It’s the best production block plane I’ve ever used.

For rabbet planes, I’m still using the Veritas Skew Rabbet Plane. The depth stop has broken off (that’s OK; I don’t use it much). And the fence is off the plane as much as on. It’s a great plane. I also fell into a used Clark & Williams 3/4” straight rabbet plane that I use about half the time. I should probably get rid of one of these planes. I don’t need both.

My plow plane is a Stanley No. 45 that I picked up from Patrick Leach. I decided to mothball my Barrett & Sons plow because its price was so intimidating to beginning users. And Barrett & Sons seems to have closed up shop. The No. 45 is an outstanding plow.

On moulding planes, I’ve been scaling back. I’d purchased a half-set of Clark & Williams (now Old Street Tools) hollow and rounds. That is total overkill, but that was the “frugal” option offered in the 1990s for people who didn’t want a full set. I use my No. 6s, 8s and 10s for the most part. The other planes lie dormant. I’ve been giving away unused planes from this half set to people who need them.

For beading planes, I still have a 3/16” beader that I use all the time (also from Clark & Williams). I’ve tried out 1/8” and 1/4” beaders, but they really aren’t necessary for my work and aren’t in the chest.

But I’ll never get rid of my Mathison 1/2” square ovolo. I love this tool. I also have added a 1/2” ogee plane from Caleb James to my set. It’s another winner.

Years ago I sold off my Lie-Nielsen No. 48 tongue-and-groove plane. That was a mistake. I now have the Nos. 48 and 49 in my chest (I hate buying tools twice, but there you have it). These are essential for making back boards and bottoms for casework.

For router planes, I have the Lie-Nielsen large and small router planes. I own all the extra accessory irons, but those aren’t necessary unless you do specialty work. I never use them.

I still have the Lie-Nielsen No. 73 shoulder plane.

The big addition to the tool chest was the Lie-Nielsen No. 51 shooting plane. The Veritas version works just as well (John Hoffman owns one). But the Lie-Nielsen came out first, so that’s what ended up in my tool chest. The good news is that it fits in the chest (barely).

In my next entry I’ll cover saws.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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28 Responses to Five Years Later: Tools in ‘The Anarchist’s Tool Chest’ (Part 1)

  1. I thought you were using the No. 2 Smoother for a while there.

  2. I need to serious liquidate some my hand planes. I have way too many of them. I used to think that i would eventually tune up my wooden molding planes, but 300 planes later, they’re still sitting on the shelf collecting dust.

  3. Rachael Boyd says:

    I love my old Stanley planes, I do a lot of repair and Restoration of antiques so I find I need at least a half set of hollows & rounds and beading planes. I do like my Lie-Nielsen 73 I also love my wooden plow and T&G.. but I am a bit of an Anarchist .

  4. I notice you’ve stepped back up to the #3 after your dalliances with using the #2. Having put in the year since writing about that over at Pop Wood, what conclusions did you reach? (aside from, obviously, the #3 being better for you)

  5. djmueller says:

    Is an anniversary edition of the Anarchist’s Tool Chest in the works?

  6. Alex A. says:

    I currently use my Stanley 45 for beading purposes. is a dedicated beading plane better enough to justify the space in the tool chest versus simply using the beading blade for your 45?

    • I prefer a dedicated beading plane because it has a mouth, which prevents tear-out better than a No. 45.

      If you work with pine only, the No. 45 is fine. If you work with hardwoods, a beading plane is better.

      • Alex A. says:

        Ah, I have only ever done beads in soft wood so that would explain why I thought the 45 did well.

      • Alex A. says:

        I swear you and Patrick Leech are in cahoots :-). Monthly tool list came out today and had a 3/16 side bead plane and I’m in the middle of an ash bench project that was going to have a bead running along the skirt. One more tool for the box.

  7. apalmer180 says:

    So, does this mean that people try to copy you obsessively? As a corollary, does that mean you’ve made it or does it mean that people aren’t reading your books carefully enough? I mean, it must be interesting to have people follow you that closely, but when your books are all about showing people that their own woodworking path is the most important, well, maybe they aren’t absorbing the material. I sometimes fear that people base their tool acquisitions on competition rather than utility.

    • “So, does this mean that people try to copy you obsessively?”

      Nah. I think they just want to know what brand I settled on so it can factor into their final decision. Most readers I’ve met tend to fly their freak flag whenever possible.

  8. potomacker says:

    Having used both a #45 and #46, I can say that the #46 is far superior for doing what can be done with a #45 90% of the time. Having said that, I don’t want to encourage any price spikes on the secondary market, so continue to ignore the #46 in all its permutations.

  9. fedster9 says:

    Forget about the tools, how is the chest doing? any part replaced? any post hoc ‘I wish I had done/used…’? I say forget about the tools because I am in the ‘buy used’ camp — on this off topic issue, you know your DVD about refurbishing a second hand plane? There is a market for a video download for it…

    • The chest is broken in, that much is for sure. The only “repair” has been to the top sliding tray. The ends of the oak bottom wore away after daily use, so last year I added a thin strip of “drawer tape” (UHMW plastic) to the ends of the tray to tighten things up.

      Alterations to the chest (all have been discussed on the blog here):

      • I added a rack on the inside front wall of the chest.
      • I added wooden “dogbone” lifts to the outside.
      • I replaced the chain that I used as a lid stay with a solid piece of aluminum.
      • I wore out the metal casters and replaced them with rubber ones.

      What I would have done differently (also discussed here on the blog in detail):

      • Changed the configuration of the runners for the lower till. I copied an old configuration that offered a door between the upper section of the chest and the lower. I immediately removed the door. The runners, however, I left as-is. So they limit the travel of the lower till. Not a big deal, but a small change nonetheless.

  10. Josh says:

    You’ve mentioned your appreciation of high angle frogs for smoothing planes in the past. Are you finding that you prefer the 45 degree on the No. 3 for everyday use, and call on a dedicated high angle smoother as needed?

    • The No. 3 is the only smoothing plane I use. I wish it had a 50° frog in it, but I haven’t gotten around to ordering one. So I’ve been using a super-tight back-iron setting instead.

  11. Paul Straka says:

    Thank you for going through your inventory. I understand why you resist giving out recommendations because of all the trouble it can bring ( I did enjoy your story about the chisel peddler and throat cutting..)

    I am a complete convert to the “buy your last tool first ” line of thinking and as such your recommendations mean so much to me. Less time researching tools means more time making saw dust. Thank you Chris!!

  12. ballisticman says:

    You have some nice common sense guidance. Thank you for that. Having the time to acquire some needed things I too have been thoughtfully reviewing my needs. Will they be used, yes or no?

    In either case they must be wicked sharp and not just reside in a jumble on the bottom of a drawer or in a remote recess. To that my sweetheart pointed out the lifetime fascination I have for exquisite tools so she showed me a photo of the late Charleton Heston’s gun room and suggested that a tote for a project but have them on display….

    My building days are diminishing so my work is inspired by exotic chests and cases and such. So rather than a gym bag containing several wicked sharp chisels I am in the process of designing a chisel chest if you will for display purposes. One that will allow me the facility of taking a needed set for a particular project. The same for planes and other categories of tools a during various stages of wool you do not need the full complement immediately at hand. I will send you a drawing of the chisel display when completed. These will be in the initial display. It is a set I commissioned by David Jeske using exhibition grade walnut from Johnson Wood Products in Strawberry Point Iowa.

    Regards

    JP

    Sent from my iPad

    >

  13. sgrifteryahoocom says:

    So what ever happened to Barrett & Sons? Website doesn’t come up and can’t seem to find them anymore.

  14. wadeholloway says:

    Chris with your love for the early 1900’s Stanley Jack Plane why is it that you do not like the smoothers of that era as much as you do the Jack. What is different about them that makes you like the new ones better. Just curious about it.

    • I used vintage smoothers for many years until I could afford a Lie-Nielsen. So I have a baseline for comparison.

      I like the Lie-Nielsen. It really speaks to me. I could try to give you lots of bits of data and thought on it, but the bottom line is it feels like the tool I want to use.

  15. Spaut says:

    I recall reading somewhere that you were using a block plane for smoothing and let led you to trying to the No.2. At what angle do you normally sharpen your block plane and did you change that for smoothing work?

    • I use a block plane for smoothing when I’m abroad. I use a 30° secondary bevel (42° total) unless I’m faced with nasty wood.

      I used the No. 2 for months but it was too small for my right hand. I altered it. Still too small. I could have altered it again, but I decided to stop mucking about with tools and just back to the work.

      So now I use a No. 3.

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