for collecting old hand planes:
1. Antique and Collectible Stanley Tools--Guide to
Identity and Value by John Walter. Available from
the author, who can be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
or by telephone at 1-740-373-9973
2. Guide to the Makers of American Wooden Planes
by Emil & Martyl Pollak (4th Ed.), Astragal Press. Available
The above John Walter book is the bible on Stanley planes.
Similarly, AWP is the bible on American wooden planes.
There are no similar guides to Sargent metal planes,
however, bookmark Stan
Faullin's site which is now under construction.
Stan is the authority on Sargent planes.
It would be very useful for you to join the Midwest
Tool Collectors' Association (M-WTCA). It is not limited
to the Midwest, but is national in scope. Very good
newsletters and hosts tools shows and meets. Great people
and very helpful when you have questions. Contact at
- Wiley Horne
good western saws....The golden age of western saws
was about 1880-1928. Cast steel blades. Fabulous handles.
Tapered blades on the panel saws. Some good brands are
Disston, Atkins, Jennings, Simonds, Richardson in America,
and Spear & Jackson, Groves, plus a host of other good
Sheffield makers in England. There's a ready market
in these on Ebay, and two well-known saw men, Bob Brode
in California and Pete Taran on the east coast, sell
real good saws when they can come by them. Tom Law may
also sell, but I don't know for sure. The Lie-Nielsen
company in Maine is making excellent western saws. Prices:
real nice backsaws or panel saws on Ebay (makers mark,
cast steel, straight, no broken horns on handle, and
readable etch in the case of panel saws)...$80 and up.
From the vendors....$100 and up (but they come sharpened).
From Lie Nielsen......$125-137.
Really good Japanese saws (that I know about)....The
machine made Gyokucho's are excellent. Impulse hardened
teeth to RC68, and have replaceable blades. Blades are
too hard to sharpen and it's cheaper to buy a new one
For dovetails, I like a rip-filed dozuki. Dozukis
are like backsaws--they have a steel spine. Folks differ
on whether to use a rip or crosscut dozuki (or backsaw)
for dovetails. It's clearly a rip cut--right into endgrain.
But many prefer a crosscut saw to get a lot of teeth
in the cut and have the finest finish. When you see
a 'dovetail saw' advertised with 25 tpi, it's crosscut.
I prefer a rip dozuki for dovetails because the rip
tooth is more aggressive going into the end grain and
holds the line better. The Gyokucho rip dozuki I like
is 19 tpi, it's No. 303, from Japan Woodworker. $34.
For tenons, I like a crosscut dozuki for the
shoulders, and a rip dozuki for the cheek cuts--or rip
side of ryoba when the tenon gets larger than 2" and
the dozuki isn't deep enough. Real nice crosscut dozuki
would be Gyokucho #370 or 371, 26 tpi from Hida Tool
or Japan Woodworker @ $45. When the tenon gets too large
for the Gyokucho No. 303 rip dozuki, I go to the rip
side of a ryoba, which has no back to limit the depth
of cut. Hardwood ryoba = Gyokucho 650 or 651, Hida Tool,
Japan Woodworker, or Misugi Designs. $26-29. To make
the tenon shoulder cuts really true and straight, take
a square and stout marking knife and make a deep mark
just inside the final shoulder line. This knife cut
will fence the dozuki blade just right. I always leave
room for a coupla passes with the shoulder plane to
get to the final line. Making the cheek cuts is just
practice, practice, ......
Handmade Vs Machine-Made. In my experience, the
hand made doesn't outperform the machine made unless
you send the hand made for special sharpening and tuning
(called "metate"), or else buy a very expensive hand
made saw which has had the metate already performed.
I am basing this on Nakaya brand (from Hida Tool), or
Igarashi (from Misugi) vs. Gyokucho. The hand made ones
are just incredible once they've had the metate done,
but right out of the box you have to buy a hell of an
expensive saw to beat Gyokucho. A Chuyemon brand ryoba
from Hida will beat machine made, but at $165 it should,
and even it is improved greatly by metate. That said,
there is no saw experience I am aware of to compare
with a hand made saw that has had the metate done. I
got two saws back from Mark Grable recently, and it
was a revelation what he accomplished. The saws were
considerably sharper and truer than when brand new.
This is sawing that compares in satisfaction to planing.
If anyone's interested, the price of admission to this
is a little over $100 for the handmade saw (dozuki or
ryoba) from Hida Tool or Misugi Designs, plus $20 and
shipping to Mark Grable. But you can find out whether
you like Japanese saws for $35-45 buying the Gyokucho's
Japanese Vs. Western saws. J. saws cut on the
pull stroke and use a thinner blade and make a smaller
kerf--bottom line, you're not working as hard. The J.
saws are extremely sharp and fast cutting compared to
western saws. One negative, especially for dovetails,
is that the pull stroke is pulling sawdust out of the
cut toward you and obscuring your marked line, whereas
the western saw is pushing the sawdust out the other
side of the cut, and you can more easily track your
mark. For me, what I love about western saws is how
they look--particularly the vintage Disston and Spear
& Jackson with the great old carved handles. But on
balance, I go with the Japanese saw because of the sharpness.
Feels like a surgical procedure compared to a western
- Wiley Horne
the hand tool crowd I know of, there are probably more
folks preferring western saws to Japanese. It really
it a matter of personal preference, because no one can
argue with the results that have been achieved with
both. It's a little staggering to look at 18th century
breakfronts and the like, and realize that 110/220 had
not been invented yet.
This is probably a good place to list some websites
for the names mentioned in my first post:
1. For vintage saws, look up Pete
Taran. Fabulous website, and this is the man that
recreated the old-time English backsaw, calling it the
International Tool saw, later selling out to Lie Nielsen
Co., which is now making the saw.
2. Saw sharpener par excellence is Tom Law 62 West Water
Street, Smithsburg, MD 21783 PH (301)824-5223. He may
also sell vintage saws, but I can attest that my vintage
Disston and C.E. Jennings backsaws came back in wonderful
tune and sharpness, with quick turnaround too. Has a
saw sharpening video.
3. For a high-quality new saw, the Lie-Nielsen
Co., best known for their handplanes. See the tool
list. They currently make a group of backsaws which
includes a dovetail saw, and small tenon saws in both
rip and crosscut filings. They are entering production
on a larger tenon saw, and have a magnificent panel
saw on the drawing board.
5. Japan Woodworker
sells both Gyokucho machine made and handmade saws.
I've not bought their handmades, so perhaps someone
else can help on this.
6. Hida Tool sells
the Gyokucho line, as well as the Nakaya line of handmades
which start around $110, plus a special purchase of
Chuyemon ryobas at $165, made by a living treasure type
maker, but unsigned at his death. That's why they're
affordable at all. I can recommend both of these from
7. Misugi Designs
sells a few Gyokuchos, plus Igarashi (same guy that
makes Nakaya brand for Hida), and probably the top saws
made now Miyano Dai Endo. I mention these just for completeness
because they're $550 apiece. The woman who owns this
business, Kayoko Kuroiwa, is an extraordinary person,
and very helpful with any Japanese tool question.
- Wiley Horne
first choice you will have to make is how much you want
to do with hand tools. I like the Japanese-made
hand tools. But, most would tell you to get a few
steel body planes and a set of chisels. There was a
very good review in FineWoodworking on rating chisels...and
how to set up a wooden plane. It will cost you a bit
of money to get good tools. Spend the money for the
good ones. You will have them for the rest of your life.
book I recommend is "Classic Hand Tools" by Garret Hack.
It has in-depth coverage of most all hand tools, as
well as their history and evolution. A great read.
will probably find you will do more hand work than you
ever imagined. They are just more fun. A real good book
to start with is "Traditional Woodworking Hand tools"
by Graham Blackburn. Subtitled, "A manual for the
woodworker, A guide for the enthusiast". This book
will give you a good overview of most classes of tools.
What they look like, what they do, and how they work.
There are many good hand tool books out there. "Restoring
and Using Antique Tools" by Mike Dunbar is also very
- Tom Corey