While collectors of antique hand tools have driven prices through the ceiling, a set of new working tools is a relative bargain.
All the good-quality hand tools one might need cost no more than a machine-powered table saw, or about $700, says Tom Caspar, associate editor of American Woodworker magazine.
Garrett Hack, a Vermont-based professional wood craftsman, teacher, and author of "Classic Hand Tools" (Taunton), is convinced that $350 is all that's needed to purchase the same basic tools, used, at garage sales and flea markets.
"The rare stuff is going into collections these days," he notes. "In terms of usable tools, though, there are still lots and lots out there - lots of chisels, handsaws, and planes."
Here's what he recommends for a hand-tool starter set:
*Bench plane (No. 4 or 5 for general-purpose work)
*Small block plane
*Set of four or five chisels, with cutting edges from a quarter-inch to an inch wide
*Two straightedge rules (12 and 24 inches)
*Adjustable squares (6 and 12 inches), with edge for marking 45-degree miters
*Small dovetail or backsaw
*A wooden mallet, for use with chisels
*All-purpose hammer (10 or 12 ounces)
*Medium and fine sharpening stones
*Adjustable bevel gauge, for marking custom angles
*Eggbeater-style drill with bits, for holes 1/4 inch in diameter and smaller
While it would be nice not to have to turn a motor on, even hand-tool aficionados usually do. That's because rip-cutting boards lengthwise and initial thickness planing are labor-intensive jobs most efficiently handled with power tools - table saws and thickness planers.
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society