Neanderthal Ramblings

by Cian Perez

Hand tools are an odd concept.

It seems woodworkers generally have a love for power tools (i.e. tablesaws, drill presses, routers, etc.), but Hand Tools, I've found, fall into two extreme camps for woodworkers: you either simply have what you need to get by and finish your projects OR you have a total and complete love and respect for over-the-top quality and pedigrees, and spend your day collecting, researching, and perpetutally looking for the grandest vintage tool find and also save your pennies to afford another Lie-Nielsen or decades old Stanley anything. (If you have no idea what those last points were, then simply return back to my woodworking page and continue your reading of my power tools and other woodworking subjects, because this page will not make any sense to you.

Well, for those who opted to stay...

Now there are hand tools and there are Hand Tools. What I'm saying is I'm more of the latter of the two types relayed above, although not to the extreme as some of my counterparts are (but, then again, it's all relative). Believe it or not, I actually got into woodworking at a serious level because of the draw of using hand tools. But the more I read and learned about woodworking in general, the more enticed I became by power tools. But after equipping my shop with all the power tools I thought I would need, I got drawn back again into the full embace of quality hand tools.

There's definitely something to be said about completing a project, whether it be simple or complex, by only using hand tools. I think most people who don't see the value in hand tools probably never really had the experience of using them properly, or the tools themselves were of poor quality or condition. But something definitely happens to you when you hear that first swish of a correctly adjusted hand plane, or the seemingly effortless progress of a newly sharpened rip saw, or the crispness of the corners left by a mirror-polished chisel.

Remember, we've only had electricity available to us for only a century now, and even so, proper power tools much less, but yet the most cherished furniture items and priceless woodwork pieces seem to have been made before this "corded" era. So, how were these heirloom items made, you wonder? Why, through good ol' elbow grease, endless splinters, and of course, Hand Tools.

My collection of Hand Tools may seem eclectic by some folks' standards, but they're more than humbled by some of my peers. I have attempted to acquire my tools based on other people's recommendations and positive experiences, and I have purchased all of them with the intent on using them, not simply to collect them.

I have listed those worth talking about below, and in most cases, I'll provide my opinions and thoughts on the particular tool's ownership experience.

Paragon Handsaws

I purchased these as a four piece set in a special offer from Garret Wade in January 2004. Paragon hand saws are made in Europe, the motherplace of the fine woodworking industry. These saws have oversized solid brass backs and their blades are Swedish steel. As a budding hobbyist, I felt these were an economic (yeah right) alternative to purchasing Independence or Pax handsaws. Time will tell to see how they behave. From top to bottom:

Slotting Saw - 6" blade, 0.016" thickness, 26tpi, turned boxwood handle

Gentleman's Saw - 8" blade, 0.020" thickness, 18tpi, turned boxwood handle

Dovetail Saw - 8" blade, 0.024" thickness, 18tpi, beechwood handle

Tenon Saw - 12" blade, 0.024" thickness, 14tpi, beechwood handle

Upon opening the package that they arrived in, I found four index cards, one with each saw, that had a handwritten name of the QC person, the date of final manufacture, and the items that were checked for during the QC phase. All my saws were made on May 27, 2003.

Unfortunately, I had found that the Gent's Saw didn't fair too well in storage or transit, and had developed surface rust in two small spots. A call to Garrett Wade appears to be in order.

(To be continued...)


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