During my 25 years in the woodworking business, I’ve seen a lot of toolmakers both big and small disappear suddenly and unexpectedly. In the 1990s, I could not have guessed that Record Tools would self-implode and become a shadow brand of Rubbermaid.
I’m 53, and I hope to have at least another 25 years at the bench. A couple years ago, I started thinking about what I would do if I lost my Tite-Mark marking gauge and if Kevin Drake stopped making them for some reason.
So I immediately ordered a back-up Tite-Mark.
Since then, I’ve slowly acquired doubles of the tools that I would be lost without. It’s not a big list. I know I’ll always be able to get a Starrett 12” combination square or an old Stanley No. 5 at auction or at a tool swap. But if Lie-Nielsen disappeared because a flying saucer stole the factory, I think it would be tough to find replacements. Note that I don’t think of any of these toolmakers as particularly vulnerable to disappearing anytime soon. I just know that if they did disappear, getting a replacement would be difficult.
Here’s the list:
Tite-Mark Cutting Gauge. This tool is an extension of my hand, much like a marking knife. I am so attuned to it that I make micro adjustments almost unconsciously. Don’t accept imitations.
Lie-Nielsen 60-1/2 Block Plane. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: The Lie-Nielsen 60-1/2 is the best block plane I’ve ever used. Full stop. No qualifiers. I’ve worn off all the paint on the top of the sidewalls. I wore out the blade it came with and am well into the second blade.
Lie-Nielsen No. 3 Bench Plane: The No. 3 fits my hand better than the ubiquitous No. 4. I have tuned up my bronze one to the point where I don’t even look at other smoothing planes on the internet or at tool stores.
Veritas Standard Reamer: It’s easy to make a tapered tenon cutter, so I’d hate to lose my standard reamer, which I use on most of my chairs. I have such a good feel for how it cuts that I rarely ever stray from my desired angle. In fact, I have to deliberately go off-angle when I teach others how to correct a hole that has gone astray.
Blue Spruce 16 oz. Mallet: The resin-infused mallet is another one of those tools that feels like I was born with it in my hand. I’m told the round mallet is for carvers, not joinery. Hogwash. This small tool packs an impressive punch and is incredibly durable. Blue Spruce is now owned by Woodpeckers, which is too bad because I like Dave Jeske so much, but it is still an excellent mallet.
Chris Vesper 4” Sliding Bevel: No surprises here. I have Vesper Fever. And the only known cure is to buy all of his tools. I have a full set of the sliding bevels and doubles of the 4” bevel.
You know what comes next: This is not a sponsored post. I bought these tools with my own money. And we don’t do affiliate programs or anything slimebally.
— Christopher Schwarz