Best Woodworking Tools for Boatbuilding?

Discussion in 'Wooden Boat Building and Restoration' started by Bizzlefluff, Dec 22, 2014.

  1. Bizzlefluff
    Joined: Dec 2014
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    Bizzlefluff New Member

    Hello everyone,

    I was wondering... What are considered the Rolls-Royce of woodworking tools? I have a strange obsession with very high quality stuff (which is part of why I'm into wooden boats in the first place)...
     
  2. PAR
    Joined: Nov 2003
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    Welcome to the forum.

    Good tools are important, though not as important as how to use the particular tool you have and insuring it has a good edge. What constitutes a good tool may be a bit of speculation and certainly subject to a number of variables. I have favorite tools, though they may not be the best available. I also have good tools that are considered industry standards for professionals, but it still boils down to the end result in your hands. Simply put, I can put a nice edge on a cheap Harbor Freight chisel and slice the hair off a stubborn hunk of whatever. In this same vain I can use a Lie Nielsen, Sorby, Barr or Hirsch chisel, given the same self applied edge and get the same results, though have to belly up a lot more for the tool. The Harbor Freight piece may not last as long, but given good care, you can go through a couple of dozen, before matching the price of a Sorby, so where's the value in the good tool, compared to good use and care.
     
  3. Bizzlefluff
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    Bizzlefluff New Member

    Mmm... Very true, very true. What tools, then, would you say are built with the highest quality? What are the most expensive? I know expensive tools are not necessary, but once again, I like nice things (and no, I'm not rich... far from it).
     
  4. Mikeemc
    Joined: Nov 2014
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    Mikeemc Junior Member

    With any tool you have to know your metals and what they do. Holding an edge is at the top of the list. I personally prefer to make my chisels from old files or old planner cutter blades for fine sharp work. I use store bought chisels for hogging wood chips. You just have to know hand tools if you use them. Power tools is another subject , if you name the tool I can just about tell you how long it will last if used moderate to hard. And that to depends on how well you take care of them. Tools are only an extension of the hand and the person with knowledge using them . I tell new guys buy some cheap ones learn how not to break them, first and let the tool do the work , don't force it.
     
  5. SukiSolo
    Joined: Dec 2012
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    SukiSolo Senior Member

    You tend to get what you pay for with tools, in my experience. There are really excellent quality items out there and a lot of pretty decent ones and then cheap rubbish.

    For planes, you have the Lie Nielson and Veritas names at the top end. I'm still using a 70s' Record No 4 (English made) and Stanley No 5 and 93 but both larger ones needed some fettling to work properly. You can always buy better blades ie laminated steel and up rate these items, so if the body is good why not use it? Fraction of the cost. An old second hand one may be a good buy if you know what to look for. If you know how to flatten a plane sole properly you could get a bargain.

    Chisels, well I use the Marples ones, decent enough steel and holds an edge quite well. The Bahco (Swedish) and Japanese made ones are also good. Turning tools, the Sorby ones I managed to find cheap from a retailer selling at cost are just fine.

    For saws, I personally prefer the Japanese pull saws, haven't used a Tenon for 15+ years....;) However for really rough work where the timber is not clean I would use something that could be thrown away after if necessary.

    Needle files - Swiss. Other files and rasps, currently using the Bahco ones with good results and life especially the 'aluminium' file on GRP/FRP and gelcoat.

    Selection of old carving and other bits and pieces which my grandfather had and sometimes get used. Excellent steel and sharpen well.

    Sharpening, Diamond stones or maybe the Japanese water stones, forget the rest. Actually probably the biggest single skill you need first is how to get a true and sharp edge. If you can do this you are halfway there. A bench grinder is useful for initial sharpening - I need it mainly when my chisels hit an unforseen screw when digging out on a repair job!. I actually keep 2 sets of chisels, one for exactly this scenario, and one set is now a lot shorter than the other....;)

    Clamps need to be good too. F clamps to DIN 5117. I don't have any but the Bessey ones are rated. The really cheap ones slip.... and bend. All my G clamps are Record, no problems.

    A good investment is a small true square 3 or 4". Make sure it is good and actually square - I have a Mitutoyo one. I've seen plenty of cheap ones that are not square! but you need it to set up other tools.

    Start with a few decent (not neccessarily expensive) tools and build up from there. You will then get to know what works, and what you might need.

    I've deliberately kept away from power tools in this discussion as they are a whole subject in themselves.
     
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  6. Nick.K
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    Nick.K Senior Member

    For me, a good cutting edge appropriate for the job is the most important factor. In my mind, the sharpening equipment is far more important than the quality of the tool. With good skill in sharpening you can make a tool out of almost anything if the metal is ok. I use a Japenese waterstone which I have had for about thirty years, unfortunately it is so thin now that it has broken in to three...but it still gets a razor edge on whatever I use it on. For most tools I use a selection of very cheap diamond slips (5€) for the initial sharpening and bevel. They are fast, clean, stay flat and easy to replace. For making a new bevel or making a tool I use either a belt-sander or in extremis (horror) a cutting disc on flat on a nine inch grinder. I don't overheat the metal or eat in to the disk..
     
  7. messabout
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    messabout Senior Member

    Ditto what Nick said. A keenly sharpened cutting edge is more important than the quality of the rest of the tool. A plane, for instance, is a joy to use when the iron is razor sharp and it is a misery when the iron is dull.

    More than a few otherwise good craftsmen fail to sharpen cutting edges often enough. For me, there is no substitute for the Japanese water stone. You can come pretty close to the water stone, for sharpening, by using wet or dry sandpaper of 1000 grit or more. That is doing it the hard way and it gets expensive but it works in a pinch.

    A sharpening fixture that clamps the blade at an exact sharpening angle is about the first thing you will want to buy. They are cheap and indispensable. Not usually a hardware store item but available from places like Grizzly or other woodworking tool suppliers.

    A useful tool for sharpening, mostly for managing a wire edge is a simple home made item. Use a flat board made into a paddle like shape something like an enlarged paint stirring stick, Glue a strip of leather, flesh side out to the stick (contact cement). Mix a bit of light oil with some fine grit polishing compound and rub it into the leather surface. Glue a piece of 600 grit wet or dry to the opposite side of the stick. This cheap little gadget makes a most useful quickie sharpening tool when only a little bit of help is needed for your knife, chisel, or plane iron.

    A most useful tool that few boat builders have is a Slick. It is a huge chisel with a very long handle, 24 inches more or less. The cutting edge is about 3 inches wide. The slick will weigh at least two pounds, maybe more. It is a marvelously versatile tool that is capable of cutting gossamer curls or big chunks. You do not use a hammer on this tool. Place the end of the handle under your arm and guide the blade with your hands. You can make your own from a section of truck leaf spring or you can drop as much as $200 to buy a professionally made one.

    Also, the quality boat builder should have, and use, good quality scrapers. Not the kind sold in big box stores with labels like Red Devil. A scraper is a semi flexible piece of thin metal on which the user purposefully applies a wire edge. Scrapers can cut a curl of wood that is thin enough to see through and they can dress a curved surface. They are used by string instrument makers (luthiers) to fine tune the panels of their instruments. Boat builders can use them for all manner of delicate jobs, even fairing FRP layups.
     
  8. gonzo
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    gonzo Senior Member

    It depends on the job you are doing. For coarse cutting, where there may be hard knots too, a softer metal is better. Axes and adzes are of a lower hardness than a cabinetry chisel. I have Stanley chisels for remodelling and cutting into fiberglass.
     
  9. SukiSolo
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    SukiSolo Senior Member

    I'd say a plane needs more than a sharp edge to be a joy to use....

    Try one with the jaw/throat too tight? or not a square opening? or not a flat sole? no bevelled edges and smoothed front and tail? Had all of those, but when sorted and a sharp blade, agreed a joy. The Record was not bad the Stanley was a near disaster, I was going to bin it but thought hell, I'll work the faults out. Opened the throat about 2mm, fractionally resquared and other stuff and it finally worked the way it was intended. Not easy for a beginner to sus out that the tool itself was faulty 'as manufactured'. Funny how I don't particularly like lending my sorted planes!.

    A decent scraper is a helpful tool and yes, I do use it on gelcoat and other bits of FRP repairs.

    Not used an adze yet, but a draw knife OK. Just more a scale thing I would suggest, although an Arbortech is sometimes a good substitute....;) tut tut.
     
  10. Bizzlefluff
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    Bizzlefluff New Member

    Good information guys! Thanks!
     
  11. lewisboats
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    lewisboats Obsessed Member

    {Un}-Common sense!
     
  12. Jammer Six

    Jammer Six Previous Member

    I don't sharpen my own saws.

    Top end tools are always worth the price, low end tools are rarely worth the price. Buy the last one first.
     
  13. philSweet
    Joined: May 2008
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    philSweet Senior Member

    Oddly,the vast majority of traditional wooden boats were built with next to no investment in tools, facilities, or stock. And even quite recently, A man and a boy working on a beach could produce a yacht that could rival the finest ones in the world. You need a felling axe and a shaping axe, a fro, and some draw knives. These last two can be made from the leaf springs of an old truck. A decent crosscut and rip saw are nice, if you have the kit to sharpen them with. Mine date to the '50s. You'll want several different mallets which you can make yourself. Make plane bodies as you need them to suit the job - takes about 30 minutes once you have a few irons and wedges. Same with clamps, learn to make your own. You will want one good set of acme steel threads for vices, although most of them can be wooden as well. Once you have a jig for making the wooden threads, you can build a clamp as fast as you can find one to do some odd job. Get an old Stanley brace and bit and learn to use spoon bits and fit trunnels (It's worth owning these just to see the look on people's faces when they ask to borrow your cordless drill).

    The key to building a boat out of 500 pieces of wood is to have lots of tools, meaning you make a couple dozen each time you build one. When it's time to move, all you need to take with you is a couple buckets of files, knives, irons, axeheads, and your sharpening tools. Leave the handles behind.

    Random tools I'm fond of -

    Porter Cable 362 belt sander
    Bosch 1194 vsr drill
    Mossberg 22. To shoot squirrels so you can make paint brushes.

    Even at the best yacht builders in the world at the peak of yachting, boat carpenters didn't get paid squat. Few owned their own tools beyond a hammer and screw driver bit. The only carpenters that earned more than the average barmaid were in the lofting shed or spar shop. Wooden boats just weren't tool intensive. A blacksmith could supply not only all the fittings for the boat, but all the tooling as well.
     
  14. Jammer Six

    Jammer Six Previous Member

    You can build anything you want starting with a sharp stick and a large rock.

    That doesn't mean it's the best choice.
     

  15. PAR
    Joined: Nov 2003
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    Most boat builders are a cheap bunch, so their best tools are often home made or modified production pieces. My best tools are home made and include chisels, planes, lathe, drilling and cutting devices, special application tools, like the box wrench I cut and welded a new curved hunk of steel to and a "keeper" over the box end, so I can hold a nylock nut in place on the inside of a lap plank, while driving the machine bolt from the outside of the lap. It turns a two man job into a solo and there are lots of examples of frugal, but clever builders with these types of tools.

    Boat building is about problem solving, often on the fly and/or on site, where tool choices are limited. The brave, but not in the shop builder, might have to place a circular saw between his legs to rip an edge off a 2x4, being without a handy table saw. Again, it's not the device or gadget so much, as the tool operating it.
     
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