Brand new – decided to get into this after stumbling onto Paul's workbench vids

Welcome! Forums General Woodworking Discussions Tools and Tool Maintenance/Restoration Brand new – decided to get into this after stumbling onto Paul's workbench vids

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    Blake Thompson

    So the deal is, I have some questions. I’m from america, so a lot of the UK based tool choices Paul uses aren’t directly available to me. I also had questions about which models of certain things to use.

    I haven’t made a single thing yet, I also haven’t bought a single tool. Price is kind of a thing for me, and I’m not entirely sure I can afford this as a hobby – though I’m excited about it.

    Anyhow, I’ve put together a list of basics to get started – as far as marking gauges, I’ll make my own. I think the first thing I want to do is build a workbench, then a desk. I’d like to replace the molding in my 2000 sq ft home, base boards, door frames, maybe even doors – though I’m not certain if the doors would be worth it.

    Anyhow, much appreciation if you fellas would tell me if I’m on the right track – reading reviews on this hand plane for example are mixed.

    This is as far as I got. I need sash clamps like Paul uses, but the cost has been so prohibitive. I’m not really looking to buy 8+ clamps at 20$ each – I wouldn’t have the money to buy any wood.

    On tools that I have access to – My father has several power tools, a table saw, scroll saw, skill saw, several files, and a couple of hand saws, as well as a vice – though I’m not sure how paul installed his vice, or if mine would work in the table the same way. I’d need to know what to spend on a vice then if that is the case.

    If I am missing anything important, let me know – trying to get all this right is intimidating. I do however own land, here in TN – with timber on it. I was thinking, I could take a chain saw and fell a tree, run it through the table saw, or haul it to a local saw mill – whatever I needed to do. Poplar, Pine, Cedar, Oak, Elm, and I think Sycamore is common here, along with beech.

    Mainly soft woods I think. I have 25 acres of wooded property to choose from, that was logged 15 years ago.

    But, like I said, I’m not starting completely from scratch – but when it comes to hand tools, pretty much so. I would kind of like to have a lathe as well, just because I think they are cool.


    Welcome! There is a great series on the home page under ‘blog series’ that goes over the tool info to get started. I would suggest going more slowly than rushing into amassing as much as possible as quick as possible. dont forget to consider your sharpening options too. In my experience, starting with the basics of bench construction will give you a great start. Good luck.

    Ontario, Canada

    Matt Shacklady

    Go with eBay – much cheaper, and older tools are often better built than their modern counterparts.
    Just set up a saved search and keep watching daily until the right tool comes up at the right price. It doesn’t take long for popular tools like Stanley No4 planes – there’s lots of them.

    Regarding that specific handplane, I would recommend going for a traditional No4 plane, rather than that version. The traditional No4 has been used for over a hundered years, so you can’t go wrong with that.

    Go to the local library and find a book on handtools and read all about them first. Knowledge is power!

    Not to cross-advertise, but I did find the beginner tools section on this site very useful when starting out:


    Blake Thompson

    Brian, my shopping list there was a basics for what I would need to get the first project of a workbench done. I don’t really see the sense in buying just chisels, or what have you, since until I get clamps, sandpaper, chisels, square, etc – I can’t actually start.

    The rasps were a bit frivolous but I determined that price point seemed decent, and thought to throw that in with the rest of it to get an idea of the quality of it.

    Wonderful thing about amazon is free two day shipping since I have prime, but I’ll take a look at ebay for the #4 planes. I’m just hesitant because when I read about Paul’s ebaying, he said a few of the things he picked up weren’t usable.

    Thank you for the link, I’ll check that out now. When you say traditional No4 – I’m not sure what the differences are between the models – but I am aware that there are differences. What do I need to look for, exactly, when purchasing these on Ebay? Thank you.

    Matt McGrane

    Hello Blake and welcome to this forum. There are some really great and helpful people here. Woodworking with hand tools can be intensely rewarding. I used to work with machines, but when my space got seriously reduced, those machines went into storage and I got into hand tools. Probably one of the best things to happen to me (although I’d still like much more space).

    I’ll get to some of your question in a moment, but first let me say this. There is a learning curve with hand tools – all of them – from saws to chisels to planes to, well, you get the idea. So don’t get frustrated – all these things require practice to get good at. You will be able to make some things without much practice, but you will see those things get nicer and nicer the more you work at it.

    As far as the tools are concerned:
    – Don’t bother with the triangle shaped square, unless you are doing some building framing (its main purpose). It is a “nice to have”, but I rarely use mine and never for my projects.
    – I would avoid the new Stanley #4 plane. It will only lead to frustration. Have patience when looking for an older pre-1960 #4 (or at worst, pre-1970’s). A great resource when figuring out the date of a plane is here. When looking online, you want a body that is not cracked, a mouth (the opening on bottom of plane) that has not been worn away (should be flat in that area), a frog that mates very stably to the body. There are a lot of resources online showing how to refurbish a plane. An excellent and very thorough video is by Mitch Peacock on his youtube channel called “WOmadeOD” (Made in Wood).
    – For chisels, consider going to Home Depot or Lowe’s and finding a set of Aldi chisels. There has recently been some blogs and forum topics about them on this site. Paul has said that the Aldi chisels are very good for the money. I don’t know anything about the chisels you listed, but I’d be leery of them.
    – This wasn’t on your list, but if you have planes and chisels, you will need to sharpen them. I CAN’T STRESS THIS ENOUGH – you need to keep your tools sharp. If you spend an hour planing some boards or chiseling mortises, it is very likely the tool will be quite dull by the end of that hour. It might be the case that you should have sharpened well before you realize the dullness. The frequency of sharpening comes with experience, but I will tell you this – it is MUCH more frequent than you realize or would like.
    – Sandpaper – probably can’t go wrong here. Time will tell. Paul uses 150 to 250 grit almost exclusively.
    – Rasps: you are right, they are not really a starter tool, but nice to have. Probably can’t go too wrong with cheap ones, but they may not last long and rasps cannot be refurbished.
    – Combination square: this is also really important to get good quality. I broke down and bought a Starrett because I know they are the best. You can sometimes find these at garage sales and probably on eBay. Expensive, but the best. The combo square will be your best friend. Without a square that is true, you have little chance of getting the quality of results you want. Whatever you get, make sure it is true. There are ways to true up a combo square if you find it is not square.

    You will need a good marking knife. Paul uses a fairly cheap Stanley knife. He has blogged about it, so search for that to find the details.

    Ruler, measuring tape, saws, files, pencil sharpener, straight-edge … Lots of things that you’ll eventually want to get.

    Again, don’t get frustrated. It takes a while to get started and longer to get good at things. But the personal satisfaction is tremendous. Good luck and we look forward to seeing some of your projects.

    Matt, Northern California - Started a blog in 2016:

    Ben Fisher

    Do not go cheap on tools.

    That being said, eBay is the best resource for older tools. Older tools are often better and cheaper for the price.

    For example, you can buy a really crappy Stanley plane (modern) and have a great paperweight, you can spend $300 on a modern well-built one, or you can spend $40 on eBay for a pre-WWII #4 on eBay if you are patient. Even if you end up buying two, and one does not work out, you’re still ahead. And, the probability you have one that is totally unworkable is very low.

    Be patient. I have been looking into various things for 2 years and am still working about some basic technique and trying to build my workbench following Paul’s methods exactly. There is joy in researching the older tools, how they work, their internal parts, how to restore an old one to functional use (especially planes) and finally but ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL, how to sharpen them. Note that sharpening them the first time if getting an older tool that hasn’t been used in forever will be time-consuming but regular sharpening after that will be quick, although more frequently required than one might like — just part of the trade honestly.

    This comment is only for US users and only for the workbench build. In the US, the construction market has DESTROYED the market for finding decent pine to work with. You will either find the twisted-beyond-belief and 3-5 year old stuff used in construction that will frustrate you to no end or you will spend as much or more than you would on rough cut poplar from a mill. The stuff at the Big Box store, at least here in the Midwest, is NOT usable AT ALL. Their ‘craft’ aisle 1x stuff is fine for small projects. Otherwise you want to go to a lumber mill — and in the US, that means probably 100% hardwoods, 0% softwoods. If you really are lucky enough to have land with old pine / poplar on it, use it. Even our Southern Yellow Pine can be difficult for a newbie — American pines that are more available (SYP) tend to have grain that goes in both directions and can be hard to read.

    Step 1 – Start with the workbench build RESEARCH to learn what tools you’d need JUST for that project. Watch all the videos and make a list.

    Step 2 – Do it again but look at materials, dimensions, etc. Look into what you have available. Research local lumber mills and what they have for what cost.

    Step 3 – Buy tools over time, each time watching Paul videos, other videos and researching the tool, how to sharpen it, and so on. Sharpen it. Find a safe place to store it away from air/moisture. One method of research is these very forums. You’re unlikely to be the first WW newbie to ask anything on these forums. If you do have a unique question a forums search doesn’t help, post specific question in a new topic for sure.

    Step 4 – Begin your workbench build…

    Tools I have determined would be useful to have to complete the workbench build only:

    1. Engineer’s Combination Square — Old Stanley Rabone from eBay or Starrett from Amazon. Do not go cheap on this tool. It is going to tell you if your material is square or not. Cheap ones do NOT last. Starrett is the best if you are in the US (domestic shipping). UKers I suggest eBaying around for a Rabone due to the extra shipping to get it to you. You’re looking for cast iron stock, precisely straight rule, 32nd or 64th markings, and not too long (12″ is great). I have a Starrett, square head only, cost me about $70 if I remember right (Amazon).

    2. Marking Knife — Hands down best marking knife ever is what Paul uses. It is a Stanley knife but not the typical Stanley knife. Probably due to Paul alone, an Amazon search for ‘Stanley knife’ now the first result is what you want. Stanley 10-049 knife.

    3. Chisels — Don’t go cheap or you’ll be resharpening every other chop. I bought Ashley Isles bought that was about $160 for a set of 6. If you can find the set at Aldi’s, follow Paul’s videos for setting them up and sharpening them the first time, and you’ll be good to go and those are cheap. If not, and Aldi only puts them out once or twice a year at most if at all in the US (only seen them once in US myself), Narex is a good cheap option that works rather well I hear.

    4. Chisel Hammer — The Thor hammers on Amazon are great, get the double-sided one where one is a plastic composite for strong percussive strikes (chisel hits) and the other rubber (for assembly hits / material hits). A basic larger rubber mallet from the big box store might be handy if you don’t have one.

    5. Saws — Saws are much more hit and miss on eBay than anything else. I suggest putting a lot of research into it here. Plus, there are lots of kinds of saws. However, JUST for the workbench build to get you going, I suggest buying crappy cheap saws made by Stanley from the big box stores. They aren’t re-sharpenable but they work and should work well enough to just get you through the build. Restoring old saws is much easier with a bench I think and this is what I am doing for now. One saw I got on eBay was totally messed up and I had to file all the teeth ALL the way down, but I’m not going to try to redo the teeth as Paul’s video shows without a bench and vise. After that you’ll want a panel (rip cut 10-11 TPI/PPI and short 18-22″ long) saw and then a tenon saw (10-12″ rip cut 10-11 TPI/PPI). A cheap ZONA saw can work in a pinch for a dovetail saw before getting an actual nice dovetail saw, and the ZONA is still useful at times even if you have one.

    6. Planes — Just a #4 for now. The #4-1/2 are expensive in the US on eBay as the demand is still there thanks to collectors but the supply is much lower than the #4. The #5 / #5-1/2 are nice in some cases but you only really need a good #4. Get one on eBay. Someone already mentioned the Hyper Kitten website that is the best resource on being able to date one. There’s also a good Disston page out there for dating Disston saws, useful to make sure you find something pre-1940’s and US made not Canada made. Anyway, you don’t want corrugated sole, post-1940’s, bedrock, sweetheart, handyman or anything else. You want a 1940’s Stanley #4. There’s a great but long video on cleaning them up, a few books I could recommend as well, and Paul’s videos of course. Let me know if you want more info on any of that, but the video is all over these forums; the books are on Amazon. I won’t lie, figuring out how the planes work and getting them set up just right and sharpened well is not easy for a first-timer, but persevere and ask questions here. Remain pateint and you’ll make it.

    7. Clamps — You need a few of each size, 24″, 36″, 48″. I purchased 8 24″, 6 36″, 4 48″. That suits me for my bench laminating and such. The ones on Harbor Freight are want you can get for about $7 each. That’s as cheap as you’re going to find. Then you want to retrofit them with some 1x planed and cut to fit exactly (some Eclipse coping saws — cheap — work well for the cutting for now) and some wax (there’s a brand on Amazon I use if you want to know) and some thin plywood glued to the heads. Paul’s blog site has a how-to post on it somewhere on this.

    8. Winding Sticks — Buy cheap as possible or create them with some 1x material cut to be exact same size and mark the top of one of them with sharpee.

    9. Worktable — you’ll want some MDF or OSB or something to put on top of your picnic table or outdoors table or some such while you’re building the benchtops and whatnot. Jawhorse or B&D Workmate or similar can help too. I just use some leftover OSB on top of our picnic table.

    10. Marking pencils — any will do, just make sure they are sharp and use the side, not the tip, when marking.

    11. Marking gauges — these are cheap on eBay, and the old ones are better. Potentially retrofit them just by moving the steel pins from the face to the corner as Paul does, although can save this for something to do down the road. You can get standard, mortise and combination ones, but they are cheap on eBay.

    12. Hand router — for the housing joints — perhaps not necessary, but a chissel and some scrap 2×4 can make the “poor man’s router” which Paul has a YouTube video about.

    13. Mill / Bastard File — get a standard 8″ mill file and a set of saw files. I got all mine for Veritas / Lee Valley but an automotive store may also have them, or a big box. Avoid Nicholson.

    14. Glue – PVA glue – in the states means usually Titebond, Elmer’s or such. The ‘no-nonsense PVA glue’ Paul uses is UK-only. I asked Paul and he said he used Titebond, Elmer’s and otheres when in the states and could not tell any difference. For a workbench living in a garage that is not temperature-controlled (like mine) I went with Titebond so I could get Titebond II or III for the moisture protection.

    15. Drill/Driver – Battery-powered – I’m sure you have one already.

    16. Brace & Bit – Great tool, and used in the workbench build briefly by Paul, but you can get away with bits for your regular battery drill to bore the holes needed I think. If you want, though, these can be had on eBay. Just do your research and make sure you get something workable. A bi-directional sort is not a given and should be sought. Ratcheting is nice if you want to also use it with certain bits for driving but not necessary for boring with auger bits, which can also be had on eBay for not too much. There is a video on sharpening the auger bits yourself. However probably not mandatory for the w/b build so save it for later?

    17. Vise – One of the only areas besides the combination square I advise not going cheap. Lots of vise posts on here. People seem to like the Eclipse and Jorgensen. You’re looking for a woodworking quick release metal vise, as big as possible. Note that the spec’d length between the jaws where your material goes will be smaller once you add wood or plywood on either end to protect your materials. Dogged vise. You only need 1 affixed to the left side face of your bench (or right if you are left-handed). Eventually you may want 1-3 more which can usualyl be installed later on. Expect to spend $100-200 here. This is pretty much the last step of your workbench build though. Do plenty of research, read the forums posts you can find about it, research online but be careful with Amazon reviews and similar, ask here if unsure.

    That should get you going for quite some time. Again if it takes you a while to master each tool’s care and maintenance all the batter, you’re really only buying something every month or so, and learning to take care of and sharpen your tools prior to using them is a good way to go. This is a fairly cheap route to get started. Again I’m still rather new and 2 years in, still working towards that workbench (granted, I don’t get a TON of time to hobbies and have a house to take care of etc, not a full timer nor retired). But I have done a lot of the research, restoral and sharpening work on all of the above and more tools.

    Good luck!


    - Ben

    Ben Fisher

    Oh, how could I forget…

    18. Sharpening stuff. You want a diamond plate (EZE or DMT) setup, at least coarse, fine and super fine or 250, 400, 1600 grit roughly. You could do oil or water stones if you already have them. You also want sand paper for restoral of a plane… generally 250 is good but you can go much lower to restore an out of shape plane sole to flat. The paper will have other uses. Auto shops will sell the lower grit stuff. 250 should be your mainstay. You’ll also want something flat – a granite block from Woodcraft made by Wood River for $35-40 works, or a granite tile or glass or something like that that’s flat, for your plane flattening tasks. Outside that you’ll be using the stones/plates. Also, jeweler’s compound such as chromium oxide etc for polishing your cutting edges after they’ve left the super fine plate/stone. A strop can be build with scrap wood or plywood and a piece of leather bought at a craft store like Michael’s.


    - Ben

    David R.

    That’s a great summary, Ben. Thank you.

    7. Clamps — You need a few of each size, 24″, 36″, 48″.

    I beg to differ on this topic, though. You can usually clamp small pieces with larger clamps, though not as conveniently. I got twelve 32″ clamps for the workbench build and haven’t missed smaller ones for other projects. Eventually I got a few smaller F-clamps. Don’t get me wrong, for larger projects, larger clamps are really helpful, my point is you don’t need them for getting started.


    from Germany

    Ben Fisher

    That depends on the variety of your work.

    The number and sizes I bought came directly from Paul as a recommendation because I wasn’t sure.

    Shrug. The Harbor Freights aren’t much difference in price either way.

    - Ben

    mike forbes

    Don’t forget the tool dealers,, and others that have useable tools in addition to the nice ones and can be quite reasonable compared to ebay with a person to call. Craiglist I picked up a #4 type 11 for 20 bucks. if you haven’t been to Patricks Blood and Gore on Stanley planes you must go.

    Patience is required for all of the above sites 🙂 deals come across, Jim has free shipping, hyperkitten is first to the email, pay after you are happy with it.


    David Perrott

    What about flea markets? I do think the Northeast is a bit better for tools though. Yesterday bought a perfect wooden spokeshave $5, a 6″ divider and some auger bits for $4, and the big purchase 4 stanley double sided educational posters and a leather gilding tool for $15. The posters are cool. One side gives a diagram of a plane, the other side how to use it, one how to sharpen a card scraper, one gives diagrams of common joints. They are super cool. I did buy a Stanley no.4 from craigslist for $6 The best advice, as already stated, only get the tools you need to build the project at hand. .

    Blake Thompson

    Tons of good information in here, I want to thank all of you for replying.

    I have successfully bought Aldi chisels for $17 on Ebay + shipping. Local Aldi didn’t have them in stock, and I felt if it’s good enough for Paul, it’s good enough for me.

    I’ve watched the workbench series twice throughout, and I’ve actually been considering some aesthetic changes to the way it looks, however I’m not so certain that I will modify it at all, as it will be my first big project. I’m a designer in my day job, so creating beautiful things is a daily trek for me – and I want my work space to follow that model.

    The tools I have available to me, I plan on laying out and taking photos of. I did some test cuts on some scrap wood with the saws I had available, and either I’m using them improperly, they aren’t sharp, or they aren’t good, because I had some fairly significant tear out, and it wasn’t nice looking. I do have what would be considered a dovetail saw, and several larger saws. If I cut with distance away from my finished edges and chisel/plane the final bits, I should still be fine, if not a bit tired from working a dull saw.

    My father decided to buy me a couple of new saw horses without asking, as he thought I’d like them – and I appreciate the gesture, but I’d rather have made my own. These are made with those metal brackets and slapped together in 10-15 minutes with screws. They aren’t the same height and probably aren’t level. Oh well. Doesn’t have to be perfect.

    The biggest challenge for me currently is probably going to be the clamps. The cost of these is very prohibitive.

    Also, I’ve decided that I’ll probably do a 2 vice system, and follow Pauls method of dogging using a broom handle for spare parts and a coat hanger wire. I want to have all the tools I will need, before moving on toward buying lumber.

    I do live beside two saw mills, and have access to lots of lumber on my family’s lands, but wouldn’t it have to sit out and season for at least a year before use? What’s the rule on that?

    I’ve been trying to learn about which woods I would like to use for my projects that are local here in TN, and I haven’t honestly been able to find anything that provides the information I am seeking.

    Also, on the subject of squares, I have an OLD combination square, that seems to be out of square, how could I resquare it and make it true? it seems to have some wobble in it, and the main been seems to have a slight bend in it. I can make it square up if I press on it good, but that sort of defeats the purpose now doesn’t it?

    I also need to learn the differences in shalac, linseed oil raw & boiled, stain, and varnish, and which to use where. A link to a guide would be helpful – between pauls blog, this site, and his youtube, I feel sometimes I miss some things in the mix.

    Anyhow – thanks. I’m currently bidding on planes, maybe I’ll luck out!

    David Perrott

    Did you not see Paul’s blog about retro fitting the Harbour freight bar clamps? I think they are like $10 each? They work great. Search his blog. I would search the local area for items before you start buying online. The thing is, if you are a beginner, you really don’t know what you want to make or what style. Overtime I realized I prefer wooden bodies planes. I just bought a wooden spoke shave that I like better than my metal record. I didn’t know this until I got a wooden plane from a flea market. Now I have comparable wooden and iron planes. The iron ones see less action. I prefer a gents saw for dovetails. You have to do some experimenting. You wont go wrong with a #4 or a #5, and some chisels.

    Blake Thompson

    I didn’t see Paul’s blog about the harbour freight? Are those in the USA?

    Guys, on another note, I just won a Stanley No 4 Plane for $30, came to $41 including shipping. I am posting photos of the plane below, hoping I didn’t miss anything important and got a good deal. He said it was a 49ish model.



    Blake Thompson

    Here are a few more photos – let me know if you think I need to rework it based on those.

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