There’s something about making your own tools, even when you buy the parts from say Lee Valley Veritas or some other resource provider because you’re a woodworker and not a metal worker—not quite yet! Knives and mallets, peeled from a chunk of wood become really special to you. It’s far from second rate to be making your own tools. Few things give greater reward and those with wooden parts take care of the parts we don’t have casting facilitates to make. Also, wood on wood is especially good. Don’t forget that and it’s not an old fashioned nostalgic idea either. Believe me.
When I was almost 16 I made my first moulding plane. A simple enough project now but back then I was uncertain if I could do it. The need was simple enough. When a window frame is made from wood alone we must use drip grooves on certain parts of the sashes and also in the inner corners of the frame itself, to break any possibility of capillary attraction between all parallel or touching surfaces. Simple! It was this measure that prevented the transfer of unwanted water from the outside weather to the inside surfaces of the frame. Remember that these were the pre spongy, squashy rubber days for window and door seals and it worked fine. What I didn’t have was a a plane to make the channels when channels were missed by the machinist or a frame or sash needed hand work because it wasn’t a large enough run to set up for machining.
This day I asked George if I could use his 1/4” hollow and he answered, “No! Get your own.” I asked Merlin and he said the same, Jim, Jack, Ian? They didn’t have one or wouldn’t loan me. I went back to George and he quietly and kindly said, “There was a point when you using mine was helping you. Continuing will not help you. You have a problem and it’s one you must resolve not by borrowing any more but by making one that’s yours.” He passed me some sycamore, an off-cut from a sycamore countertop we’d just made for a commercial school kitchen, and so I made my first moulding plane. The blade was from a file I softened in the boiler fire and cut down with a hacksaw. It’s still going but it’s in storage somewhere in the USA.
Buying your tools is not always the best beginning as this story from my past is intended to illustrate. It’s the same with buying new tools because they work straight out of the box. Now then, my reason for saying this is because postponing the learning curve is just putting off you must master as soon as you can. Buy a new and working plane or spokeshave or whatever to get you going. It’s a good plan, but then buy secondhand ones and watch your growth take on wings or even rocket fuel. Its the fastest way to really grow.