most and least favorite tools upgrades

Welcome! Forums General Woodworking Discussions Tools and Tool Maintenance/Restoration most and least favorite tools upgrades

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 23 total)
  • Author
  • #549380

    After two years with Masterclasses (and one gallon of wood glue!), I was wondering if others had their most and least favorite tools upgrades. Mine are:

    Worth the upgrade: Sarrett 6 inch double square for approximately $90 US. I use this 90% of the time in addition to the UK Stanley cast iron combination square recommended by Paul. It took me a long time to come to terms with the high price but happy that the wife got it for me for Christmas.

    Not worth the upgrade: Even though the price is under $10 US, the Glu-Bot Glue Bottle 16 –oz was a disappointment in terms of clogging and will not dispense unless held nearly upright. A $2-3 catsup bottle works much better.

    What has been your experience?


    I got the 12 inch full combination starrett set, it was worth every penny, bought that quite early on, because I was frustrated with cheap squares, and wow what a difference, it’s my most important tool now, central to everything I do. One thing I regret is using cheap hardware on a very nice mahogany box I made, it really does matter more than you realise, so do the quality of screws and getting the right size, something I overlooked when starting out, it can make or break a project.


    Have to agree with the glue bot. A big waste.

    Best i did was an old ward 1/2 in chisel flattened sharpened and polished it is a joy the handle fis my hand and it just does the work by itself …. almost

    Doug Finch

    Interesting question. I’d say the tool I was least impressed with was the General 809 honing guide. I bought it because I was struggling to maintain what I believed was a “must have” angle on chisels and plane blades. This guide was so clumsy to use, it forced me to learn how to sharpen free hand. I can resharpen blades free hand faster than I could even get the blades set up in the guides before.

    The tool upgrade I’ve been most impressed with would have to be a tie. I bought a full set of Narex chisels a few months ago. I’d been using some old Stanley’s and a really cheap set I got on Amazon prior. I really like the Narex chisel set – and I’ve gotten used to the metric markings on them. The other “tie” tool upgrade I really like was the Incra Miter 1000HD for my table saw. Wow. It is an amazing upgrade for me. I used to a table saw sled before this. It was one I labored over making perfectly square with hardwood guide rails. It now just sits in the corner. The Incra has its own wall mount – like a trophy above my ever present bottle of KY bourbon.

    Brian A

    My upgrades are in the format “starting tool/upgraded tool” as follows:

    1. Large wired power tools/battery powered combo tool

    My first wood tool upgrade was from wired machines to a battery powered black and decker matrix ‘combo’ drill/jigsaw/circular-saw/etc. It got me started, I still use it a lot for drilling, and while less powerful, and not as good at stripping drill bits, it outperforms my wired hand held power tools in terms of precision and maneuverability. I think other brands of battery and/or hand powered drills and circular saws may also work.

    2. Borg block plane/Flea market block plane(s)

    For arm-power tools, the first sort of upgrade was going from a hardware store block plane to two unidentified flea market block planes. I sharpened up all three according to Paul’s lessons, and one of the flea market ones came out on top. Unsure of the brand, but it was the one with the most levers, dials, and adjustments on it. This later led me to buy a Stanley Bed-Rock Bench Plane #605. This was also a big upgrade over my previous use of block planes as bench planes.

    3. John Buck Chisels/ Buck Chisels Sharpened

    Sharpened according to Sellers instructions these chisels went from “ok, sharper than yer average big box chisel” to “I save hundreds of dollars a year on razor blade costs”. (made a fancy jig, but stopped using it after watching the video, went freehand, so liberatin’). I learned that chisels are what you make of them, and most metal is mostly metal.

    3. For driving chisels into wood: Regular Metal hammer/Home-made oak joiners mallet

    The above will be obvious to anyone who has used a hammer. or a chisel.

    4. For sawing wood: Borg miter box saw/Borg miter box saw filed down to a rip cut.

    (filed a bit blindly) to a rip-cut with a slightly hammered out fleam per Paul’s lessons, of course, though I used the wrong type of file (triangular Borg file, $5, but it still worked). Sadly, this is my only working saw at the moment (despite several other Borg saw purchases – AKA Borg pull saw – I felt like a Shogun when I bought it. Now, not so much.).

    Anyways, I can crosscut a 2×4’s with my sharpened Borg Miter in less than 30 seconds, despite the depth limitation caused by the metal support thing at the top edge of the 3″ deep blade – I just rotate my cutting around the circumference of the board, awkward but currently effective.

    5. (coming attractions) For big rip cuts: “combo panel saw’. circa 1960 (?$)/’Disston D8′, circa 1950 ($40).

    The rusty inherited, hardened steel, combo saw was made for rip and crosscut with a fancy, yet rusted out and broken, tooth pattern. It does everything you don’t want a saw to do: wide kerf, tear out, wandering about, vibrating, unsharpenable, and hard to push. Imprecise for crosscuts, exhausting for rip cuts. In short, my arm hurts and may have nerve damage.

    My research indicates the Disston D8 is authentic, despite being made nearly at the time when Disston was bought out by the maker of my combo saw (see above). A test run of the D8 revealed some very low cutting power. Nevertheless, it does seem to taper out the way Disstons are supposed to do. I’m hoping with my semi-correct sharpening skills this D8 will become the rip saw to cut them all, and with the glue, to join them!

    5. Speaking of glue, I use what I call a ‘tape cone’. I put a cone of tape over the top that keeps the glue from drying out in whatever oddly designed container the glue finds itself. If the spigot or other opening clogs, I use a wrench or aluminum shears to open it, and then put the tape cone (@TM) back on top of whatever remains. I am also experimenting with ketchup-type containers. They seem promising and I’ll post a brand name soon if they work in my hands.


    Rowdy Whaleback

    I was just thinking about starting a similar thread on useful tools but I will add mine here.
    Having visited Paul’s new premises the other week I noticed he uses a mechanical pencil sharpener which I now find fantastic. I used to use a mechanical pencil but now have 3-4 super pointed regular pencils sharpened in seconds which I keep in an old pewter tankard on my bench.
    Next, I really like my Veritas saddle square. I got the longer one for bringing marks around two edges at once.
    Finally a medium sized “detailing” brush I got in a set from Amazon for my car. It’s great for cleaning sawdust from my tools, particularly my planes before putting them away. (Mine don’t have the writing on as in the picture.)



    Rowdy Whaleback

    Another amazing upgrade I have discovered is…Tallow!
    I’ve been using Paul’s oil in a can for a while now and use it for tool storage and when ripping stock as a saw lube. I find I have to re-apply the oil fairly frequently.
    I have been looking through Roy Underhill’s Woodwrights PBS show and he discusses tallow. I gave it a go and it’s marvelous stuff. It doesn’t seem to disappear as quickly as 3 in 1 and keeps a saw blade gliding far longer.
    oh and it makes my shed smell like Sunday dinner. Bonus!

    Ecky H

    One thing I discovered recently: salt.
    Spreading some grains of salt on the glued surfaces before finally putting them together.
    No more struggling with moving parts after glue up.


    Veni, vidi, serravi.

    Münster, Germany


    Scorecard for various tools beyond Paul’s standard set:

    – 4″ engineers square and a cheap General depth gauge which I use more as a square/probe when things are too tight for the engineer’s square (
    – Various ceiling lighting and a swing-arm light with magnifier
    – bandsaw
    – almost every in-person class I’ve ever taken
    – A #8 that I got for $35, although it needed a new blade. A luxury. You can straighten a long edge with a #4 or a #5, but if you have a sharp #7 or #8, you aren’t going to use anything else.
    – Clifton #3.
    – A #5. Long enough to bridge edge to edge when leveling a carcase or drawer, but not so big that it’s unwieldy.

    – Veritas Mark-whatever honing guide. Although it handles a few things the Eclipse doesn’t, it is too complicated, too expensive, and sometimes will slip.
    – Veritas grinding platform for grinding wheel. Again, too many moving parts and, in the end, too flimsy. Good thing I don’t do much grinding.
    – LN A2 chisels.
    – Stair saw
    – Most used chisels that I bought
    – DMT extra extra fine plate.

    Jury is out:
    – HPLV turbine
    – LN rabbet block plane. I really like this plane when it is set up, but it is fussy. I use it to trim tenons and level the tops of cabriole legs. I think the jury is going to put this in the Win category. I wish it wasn’t A2, though. I think a wide, wooden rabbet would be a fraction of the price and would do most of the same work.


    Can I ask why you put the XX-fine diamond stone in the loss column? I am thinking of getting one for those cases where I want a finer polish than I get with the x-fine. I currently use an 8000 grit waterstone, but I would love to get away from waterstones completely. The other option is to do without the 8000 grit altogether and simply rely on the strop, so any thoughts you can share would be greatly appreciated.

    Agree with you on the fussiness of the Veritas honing jigs. The Eclipse guide works so much better and is much cheaper. And now that I’m transitioning to freehand sharpening, I don’t mind leaving the $12 Eclipse guide sitting off to the side.


    DMT XX-fine: I’m unsure about it.
    1) It leaves a scratched surface, not a polished one as you’d expect.
    2) After two years, it is delaminating and has pits in the surface. I asked them about the scratchy grinding pattern, but they never replied. I need to ask the about the pitting to see if they will consider it to be a warranty issue.
    3) I can usually get what I want by going to the strop from my super fine plate.

    My motivation for getting it was that I was having trouble stropping, partly because I tend to produce a large burr and then have trouble getting it off. But, I’ve learned to reduce the size of the burr and have also learned that, for me, it pays to flip back and forth between the flat and the bevel and just work the burr off that way. This was partly the motivation for the XX-fine plate, though, in order to minimize how much I scuff up the back of the tool, but I’ve come to feel that it doesn’t matter much and I can spend extra time on the strop on the back.

    This is all for reasonable O1 type steel. For A2, I might feel differently, but I avoid A2.

    I do use the XX-fine plate. I’m just not sure I’d buy it again. There are other things that helped me more.


    Ref: Rowdy Whaleback of 24 Jul.
    I also keep a mechanical pencil sharpener in the shop. In addition to pencils I often use it to sharpen a dowel to use as a plug for screw holes.

    • This reply was modified 3 years, 2 months ago by MTaylor.
    Brian A

    That saddle square looks like a great tool. Moving lines across corners is always mysterious to me.

    Regarding tallow, I can imagine it beefing up the work, but can it hold a candle to paraffin?



    The best upgrade? That is probably an actual upgrade, doing Pauls changes to the basic Harbor Freight sash clamps has made them amazing to use.

    Tuscloosa, Alabama
    Lung T'an Hu Huesh Kung-fu Woodshop


    @ehisey I have a few of the Harbor Freight clamps that just don’t clamp at all. The moving part of the clamp tilts on the bar and digs in, preventing it from applying any real pressure. I’ve only put the wood stiffeners into the clamps but haven’t done all the other adjustments. Have you run into what I’m describing and did Paul’s other changes solve the problem?

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 23 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.