Questions Answered – Ten Hand Tools, Three Joints?


Got to your blog late, which three joints and which ten hand tools? Just curious.



Combination Square: Should be a good and accurate make. Inexpensive ones are usually square at first but go out of square after a short while. See blog entry here from more detailed info.


Knife: The best of all knives for joinery without exception is also the cheapest. The Stanley Folding Pocket Knife 0 10 598. The near equivalent in the US, but not so fine in detail is the Stanley 10-049. See blog entry here for more detailed info. DSC_0095

DSC_0006 Chisel Set: Bevelled edge works best for all areas of woodworking. 6mm, 10mm, 12mm, 18mm and 25mm or near to those sizes. Expect to pay £10 – £25 per set or more if you want high quality. Both expensive and inexpensive will perform equally well so it’s your choice. See blog entry here for more detailed info.

DSC_0152 Combination Gauge: Shop around. On eBay you can find rosewood ones made for a good price. Around £12 – £24 if you shop carefully.See blog entry here for more detailed info.

image (1) Chisel Hammer: Thorex 712 38mm are best. See blog entry here for more detailed info.
















Smoothing Plane: Stanley #4 second hand on eBay will likely prove best and cheapest and give you a lifetime of use. Also Record is a good maker. See blog entry here for more detailed info.

Measuring Tape: Any make. Avoid FatMax massives and the like. You just need a 3m (10’ tape). This is benchwork woodworking not construction work. See blog entry here for more detailed info.

Dovetail Saw: I recommend an 8-10″ with 10″ as best choice. The Gent’s saw is best saw of all and this size of saw with 14 – 16-tpi will cut small tenons and dovetails all day long for 20 or more years. Don’t get finer (smaller) teeth as they are very difficult to sharpen unless you have experience.

Sliding Bevel: This finds angles you need for the dovetails.

Hand Router: Not absolutely necessary at first but really nice to have and truly useful for certain work. Secondhand Stanley 71 on eBay will do the trick; or the Record 171 is basically the same. See blog entry here for more detailed info.


The Three Joints?

Dovetail, Housing Dado and Mortise and Tenon.


  1. Just bought a nearly 100 year old Stanley #4 on ebay as a result of reading your blog and watching your videos past few months. Now the only tools I’m missing from this list would be chisel hammer and router plane. Thanks for the inspiration by making real woodwork seem so simple. I think I’m finally out of the mindset that more or better tools will make me a better woodworker. Now I just need to master those three joints…

  2. .

    Dovetails are difficult without an adjustable angle bevel or a dedicated angle marker….

    So, I guess that’s 11 tools, then?


    1. No, I did put sliding bevel in there, which is the correct name for what you are calling an “adjustable angle bevel” so I think ten is right still. And, also, watch here to see how it’s done without one. Just for fun!

      1. Paul, I noticed that on the YouTube vid comments, that you mentioned about the saw blade on the coping saw not to have its teeth towards the handle, I was always told to put that the conventional way and they cut on the pull stroke, I could never get on with this, tried it the way you advised and it works for me better now.

        1. Yeah, there is a confusion between woodworkers using coping saws on the pull stroke because they use it like a fret saw which looks similar and is used on the down pull stroke using a platform to support the wood. Of course coping saws were intended to be used and indeed can readily be used in both directions and I have found that for 99% of my work it works best on a push stroke. I just tell people what works best in my view.

    1. Here we go again. No I am not suggesting that you need only one saw or that ten hand tools is all you need. But you can make thousands of things with just the ten hand tools mentioned and three joints.

      1. Sorry. I misunderstood. I certainly agree with your message. Very much enjoy my participation in Masterclasses. You are making a difference. Thank You

        1. That’s great. It is a bit simplistic to say three joints and ten hand tools will do it, but our present culture says spend, spend, spend and buy only over engineered tools like marking gauges and planes, saws and such because you can’t do it without when you can actually do just as well or better. I believe you can do the best work with budgets as low as an ebay bargain and not get caught up in the consumerism woodworking has become.

          1. Paul, I really appreciate your point of view on this. The Lee Valley catalogue is great fun to browse, but so is eBay. And buying an old/used tool and spending the time to clean and tune it is a pleasurable and rewarding challenge in itself. Can’t wait for the $15 Jack plane I bid on (and won) to arrive.

    2. Hi Ron, I pulled out a fairly compact ripsaw that I had been given because I liked the shape of the handle in my hand and used several techniques described by Paul to reshape/fettle etc. It works a treat and I now carry it all the time with my site tools. Easier to control than a powered hand saw for a couple of rips on smallish stock, a lot lighter to carry and cleaner to work with inside a multi story house, saves me from also carrying in a lead for power and I only break out the portable table saw when doing larger quantity cuts that warrant it. Encouraged me to have a play with setting up a dedicated cross cut saw as well which also works a treat. Long term I am aiming at a minimum range of 4-5 for specific applications for sitework. The best part is hard to put my finger on, I have been given or found discarded 95% of my handsaws ranging from horrible to extremely promising so there is little cost which is a bonus for budget and I really like the development of my understanding being put into practice each time and rounding out another aspect to increasing my proficiency overall. Saving the better crafted tools from a premature disposal is another aspect. Right tool for the right job is true, when it comes to saws however my salvaged $4 tenonsaw from the local waste authority is used more than any of the others on a day to day basis.

  3. Any one know where I could get a good pair of winding sticks from?? not having much luck on eBay!!

    1. Craig, Lee Valley sells a set of aluminum ones for $30. Or you can make your own like woodworkers have been doing for centuries.

    2. You can get the Cadillac of winding sticks from Lee Valley (aluminum, $30ish), but you could also try making them with a couple pieces of scrap and a sharpie.

      1. Not exactly Cadillac. More utilitarian and a bit tongue-in-cheek perhaps. Imagine having the cheek to offer woodworkers metal winding sticks and then selling them so successfully. How about that. In their blurb they say, “Unlike their wooden cousins, our extruded aluminum sticks will remain dimensionally stable and straight.” The framed issue here is of course that wood doesn’t work. I get tired of things like this. Wooden winding sticks will stay true. My winding sticks have stayed true for over a decade now and the only reason I needed to replace the previous ones was because I lost them in the shavings somewhere. Anyway making your own will give the greatest reward and you don’t need to obsess about issues surrounding their use either. Be bold, design your own and show ’em what you are made of. Two sticks of equal thickness and a black sharpie line would be better than buying them. You are right about making a pair. Got a vid coming out on this soon too.

        1. I was, and still thinking of making them and the more I think about it, I’m going to make my own,
          Thanks for the advice everybody. Cheers.

      2. I have a couple pieces of scrap aluminum angle iron with black sharpie marks on them that I use as winding sticks. On impatient days, I’ve lain two bench planes on their cheeks and used them as winding sticks, just because they were within reach and the angle iron wasn’t. Just don’t let them fall to the floor. In that regard, it is a somewhat stupid and careless practice, but I still do it. If you think about it, the winding sticks just need to be identical, not perfect rectangles. If you take two pieces of equal width scrap, mark a face on each as reference face, put them in the vice with the reference faces pointing in the same direction (not face to face), joint their edges and mark those edges as mates and then carefully flip over and joint the other edges, then you will have a set of winding sticks, regardless of the actual shapes of what you just made. Make sure the marked reference faces always face you when sighting and make sure the marked edges are up. Should take you 3 minutes if you have two pieces of equal width scrap on hand. You could put a pair of carpenters quick squares on the stock and sight along the 45 degree edges and it would work. It doesn’t matter if the sighting edges are parallel to the face being tested or to the floor. It only matters that the two sticks be the same shape, although it might get your neck tired.

        1. The week end is coming up, so I’m going to have go at making a pair. thanks for the tips Ed.

          1. I should comment that no one showed me to do this- it is just what makes sense to me, so I hope I am not leading you astray. I’m looking forward to Paul’s blog or video to see the traditional way of doing this. Still, I now suspect that the general idea that I described will apply to any method and that, to get the best outcome, the inlaid sighting guides of a fancier winding stick ought to be installed with consideration of the reference surfaces that I described and not willy nilly. This all being said, a couple bucks of angle iron goes a long way.

    3. Hello Craig
      I used a couple pieces of ‘angle aluminium’ that I bought at a big home building supply store for about 4 bucks. It is 3/4 inch wide and 3 feet long so I cut it in half for two 18 inch sticks. Then I painted one white and one black for a good contrast. Not pretty, but works well.

      1. Thanks JB,
        I will keep that in mind, but I am going to have a go at making a pair out of wood. Cheers.

  4. Paul:

    Regarding that Stanley knife’s use as a marking knife – doesn’t it have a double bevel? If so, does that not introduce the potential for some inaccuracy when run against the straight edge?

    1. It’s a small thing to tilt the knife slightly to compensate for the slight angle of the bevel. The blade is strong but only 1mm thick. This knife beats any and every single bevel knife I ever used and especially those with the spearpoint blades. These particular knives are touted as knives that can be used equally in either hand but the fact is one in 10,000 people can use both left and right hand with equal dexterity. I can use both hands after long self training but still not equally, I rarely do. My knife walls and cuts are always spot and and dead straight.

    2. Hello John, I also had issue at first when I purchased the famous knife. It takes surprising little time from my experience to learn to ‘lean’ the knife into the cut slightly, it pays to practice with tenons, etc.

      1. Hi all, I use a scratch awl , spearpoint and the aforementioned stanley and found that the stanley has a couple of advantages that I did not anticipate. Occasionally I managed to drag the spearpoint edge into the rule/square/etc which has never occurred with the stanley, the folding blade works to great advantage when stored, especially in a portable toolbox/chest and I find from its configuration ergonomically easy to use. I still use the others from time to time but the stanley is winning out for daily use.

  5. Paul,I’ve learned so much with your Masterclasses and I know the list of “10 tools” is just a pointer to get started, but a good set of clamps should be on the list (surely more essential to the majority of projects than a sliding bevel). Perhaps clamps are considered “bench accessories” instead of tools.

    1. You answered your own question there. Hand tools are the extension of a mans hand and the intent of his heart and mind. That’s why machines should never be called tools because they are indeed mere machines. It was a clever ploy by machine manufacturers and woodworking magazine editors to dub machines ‘power tools” and so cleverly diminish the image and perspective people have of hand tools. We’ve been paying for that to this day and it is unlikely that people will always see machines through rose coloured glasses not realising the dangers and health risks and the lack of skill needed has increasing levels of fulfilment and satisfaction..

      1. Brilliant, many thanks for this. I’m working on a design for a minimalist toolbox and this helps me to plan for the tools I don’t yet have experience of. I’ll have a couple of variations: I really get on well with my double-sided Japanese Ryoba saw, for example, but this will hemp me to plan out designs. Many thanks.

  6. Paul, I purchased a cheap sliding t bevel like the one you recently recommended and was trying to tune it up a little like you showed. The problem I am running into is that the registration faces are not perfectly parallel, so if i mark angle and then try to mark the complimentary angle registered off the opposite face, the angle is very slightly off. I tried to sand both sides of the bevel on a marble slab to “joint” the faces and metal pieces, and am using trial and error to try to dial in the angle. Is there a better way?


    1. I use a good, sharp, 10″ flat file for this work if the metal plates on the sliding bevel are not removable as in some cases. If the are I take them off and plane them. sometimes they are just glued on and can be popped off, the wood worked and then reglued.

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