WoodCentral's Book Reviews
Choosing & Using Hand Tools

Choosing & Using Hand Tools
by Andy Rae

Lark Books: 2002
Paperback, 208 pp., $19.95
ISBN 1-57990-294-4

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     With the bewildering array of tools available to set up a woodworking shop, it's nice to have some guidance as to what is truly useful and what is superfluous. Andy Rae is obviously a tool lover, and seems to have tried nearly all types. This book is one of favored selections and necessities, not a catalog of all available. And best of all, he explains their efficient use, along with why and why not to purchase particular handtools.
     An efficient shop is made up of more than hand planes, bench chisels and saws. Rae discusses scrapers, rasps and files, axes, mallets and anvils, prybars, magnifiers and punch sets. He has a long list of everyday workshop helpers to have on hand, such as metal flashing, bamboo skewers, cat food tins, golf tees and sand bags. These items are 'just right' for each woodshop tip he describes.
     Standard handtools are fully discussed, covering everything from marking and layout tools to handsaws to edge tools. The first chapter is on acquiring and caring for them, whether used or new, with recommendations on where and how to find them. The second chapter is on holding a workpiece to efficiently use the tools, showing benches, vises, sawhorses, bench stops, clamps and holdfasts.
     There is a plan for a rolling clamp cart, wall mounted clamp hangars, and flip-up bench stops. Sharpening is covered, with details of a waterstone workbox, a sharpening station, and a homemade square-edge jig for a grinding wheel.
     The book is laced with the author's woodworking experience, with tips on clamping angled workpieces, elevating work off the bench to use a spokeshave, wrap-clamping curved laminations, and using story sticks for design elements in furniture construction. The author describes making pinch rods to test carcasses for square, shop-made T-squares for accurate marking, and making a small wooden hammer with brass faces for light adjustments.
     Rae's last item is giving directions to make your own custom tool handles, and his examples are beautiful. The entire book is in full color, with clear photography that enhances the text without overpowering it. This is a 'meaty' book, full of tips and information, well indexed for ease of reference and nicely bound. There is also a source list of both new and used tools, with on-line references listed.

. . . Barb Siddiqui