So, woodworking tool newbie here, and I was just wondering what is everyone's opinion on if brand/price matters for chisels, rasps, hand planers and files?

Is it worth getting the high end stuff for woodworking?  Or will the low end stuff work as well, so long as you keep it maintained?

I suspect hand planers are going to have a different answer than the rest.  :)

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The only high-end tools I have (a set of Ashley Iles chisels) were a gift. I've got a Stanley bench plane (No. 5) that's a little over 100 years old that I got for $35 off eBay. Cleaned it up a bit and honed the iron and it's a good user. Obviously, things last longer if you take care of them.

The thing I consider first is how often am I using it. If it's a once a quarter use, then I can get by with anything. Something I use every day, I'll notice the difference between the lowest cost item and a well-made tool.

Some of the best hand tools I have were  bought from a market stall specialising in old tools.Many made in Sheffield and in good condition because they were cared for.

Yea, I figure the "classic" tools were made to last.  :)

I would not skimp on cutting tools, they must be sharp to be safe, and do a clean job. Even rasps and files can be worlds apart in performance. If you are taking up woodwork I recon its best to buy what you need ONCE. I bought a not so cheap rasp and then got a Japanese rasp with hand cut teeth, Jap one cuts like through butter on neck hardwood. Also you want your chisels to stay sharp longer.

Now this is sharp, a good modern chisel too.............well maybe 50 or so years old

Don't do it Taff!

Ha  Ha, Michael, I don't sharpen too many chisels at the one time as my arm would be as bald as my head.


The high quality stuff has to be your sharpening equipment. There are lots of opinions on this, so I won't pretend to be an expert, but the most important thing in sharpening is GEOMETRY. You want a nice, true, flat bevel. That is very hard to achieve freehand without years of experience. You need a nice, flat surface to establish that bevel. I went to a granite countertop place and asked for scraps. They pointed me to their dumpster where I came home with several nice, big, flat slabs that I use with sandpaper to grind my tools with. You can be creative and make your own jigs to set the angle. 

If you get a decent cutting tool at a yard sale, you have to invest some time getting the edge geometry right. Once you have that, it will be a joy to work with.  I've had good luck with cheap cutting tools as long as they are sharpened well. Of course, the high end stuff is wonderful, and if you are making a living building CBGs, then they are worth the money. 

I like to look at yard sales and flea markets for old (50+ years) tools I can restore. Don't buy antique chisels and plane irons with rust pits. Those will become nicks in the edge when you reach them unless you can take them to a machinist with a surface grinder who can grind them off first.

Why are there a lot of opinions on this... Geometry is the deciding factor in sharpening. The first factor in tools might be material - a chisel blade made out of hardwood would be odd, unless you were chiseling something like cheese.

but the shape/angles of the cutting tool determine some of the limitations of the cut, how fast/deep you can go... at least that's how it was back in machinist class, I had to grind my own cutters out of steel to use on the lathe...

Only if you are good otherwise practice with standard descent brand of tools

Proper sharpening is one of the black arts I have little knowledge of. So, for necks, I use a Stanley Sureform rasp. It works well. When it gets dull, I just buy a replacement blade. For the fine finish, pre sanding, I have a scraper. I picked it up at Mountain Equipment Co-op. It was in the cross country ski department for cleaning was off skis. I have used it for about five years. Between the two, I can round out a neck ready for sanding in about fifteen to twenty minutes. 

For necks, I have an antique draw knife that takes a lot of material off in a hurry with great control. They can be found at flea markets sometimes. With a good edge on it, it is a joy to use.


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