The Perfect Kit archive

Wednesday 17 September 2008

Start from scratch with Michael Huntley

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I bought my basic toolkit in 1969 and still use some of those tools today, the moral of that story being 'buy the best tools you can afford'. That maxim applied 39 years ago and it still applies now.

Whether you are starting from scratch or have inherited a box of tools from the garage or shed, you could still do with a tool guide. This series of articles will tell you what the basic tools are, show some examples of each group of tools from different manufacturers, and how to use and maintain them.

I have included some power tools because these days, although you could do everything by hand, you can get excellent - and faster - results with your woodworking if you use a few simple power tools. Where appropriate I will also provide information suggesting a few higher-specification power tools to beef up your tool kit.

Article by article, I will be starting at the beginning with measuring and marking and going right through the tools needed for each process up to and including the finishing stage.

Once the cutting tools are sorted we will be in a position to practise newly found skills as we use the kit on easy to manage projects.

By building up slowly we will soon have you tackling progressively harder projects with which to wow your friends, the ultimate aim being to turn you into a master craftsman with a sound understanding of what tool to use when and how to utilise it in the furtherance of properly executed techniques.


Buying tools has never been easier, and they can be delivered right to your door. When I bought my first kit I took the train into Guildford and, after lots of discussion with the guys behind the counter, bought the tools and a plumber's bag to put them in, at Angel Son & Gray.

By the time I got home with my prized tools my arms must have stretched 2in longer. I've probably still got the stoop!

There are internet sources, catalogues and of course the ubiquitous DIY warehouses where, while you can look at the items you are unlikely to get much advice except in the larger stores on a quiet day. The bigger catalogue companies usually have a retired tradesman that you can talk to. However, if you stick to the advice on these pages you should just be able to pick the items off the shelves/pages/screen.


Once the parcel has arrived, unwrap and check the goods. Beware sharp edges; to protect tools from rusting they are often lacquered at the factory. You will need to carefully remove this lacquer and those plastic blade protectors that are not re-usable. Nitromors paint remover will take the lacquer off the steel, but it will also take the finish off the handles so use it carefully and observe the safety instructions.


Make sure that edged tools do not bump into other tools when you put them away. A toolbox with wheels is a good idea, but don't just go out and get the biggest one. It is often easier to divide tools up into different categories, and it is certainly easier to carry several small toolboxes rather than one big one.

I have one for planes, another for chisels, one bucket-type container for screwdrivers, hammers and pliers and then a box with a lift-out tray for all the general stuff.

Saws are kept separate because they must not get bent at any cost. At the end of this series I will build an old-fashioned wooden tool chest and include the plans - many a tradesman still has the toolchest that he built in the first year of his apprenticeship.


Rust and jumbling everything in together so that things get bruised and bent are the two things that you must guard against. Well looked-after hand tools always hold their value. You may spend £400 on tools, but if you look after them you could get almost that much back if you sold them.

I have been teaching students for years and they are always scared about the expenditure on hand tools, but once they see from the second and third year students that tools hold their value they are not quite so unhappy. The concept of buying something that will, quite literally, last a lifetime is so unusual these days, but that is what you are doing when you invest in a good-quality toolkit.

David Preece

Tagged In:

beginner , Michael Huntley , Lets Get Woodworking

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"Many a tradesman still has the toolchest that he built in the first year of his apprenticeship"

Thanks To...

Draper Tools
(Whose Workbench Tool Kit sells for around £109)
Tel.: 023 8049 4333
Irwin Industrial Tools
Tel.: 0114 244 9066
Trend Machinery and Cutting Tools
Tel.: 0800 487363
Tel.: 01908 211678
Tel.: 01628 894400
Tel.: 0114 2501166
Axminster Tools
Tel.: 0800 371822