How do you pick a favorite tool. They’re like children, you love them all. The right tool for the right job always makes it easier to execute what you envision & does it better than just making do. The following are not my only favorites, but they are my go to tools & enable me to work the way I enjoy.

For paring, chopping & fine tuning joints, a good set of chisels are not a luxury. These Lie Nelsen bevel edge chisels are an outstanding quality tool for the job. Lie Nelsen based them on the Stanley 750 bevel edge socket chisels. They’re well balanced & comfortable to use. The paring handle really expands the versatility of this brilliant too. Like all Lie Nielsen tools, they’re ready to go on delivery with just a slight honing.

I really enjoy hand cutting dovetails and a Moxon vice makes it easy to cut everything from tiny drawers to full size cabinet carcasses. In 2010, woodworking author Christopher Schwarz built a version of Joseph Moxon’s double-screw vise described in his 17th c. book “The Art of Joinery.” Shortly thereafter his vise appeared in the December 2010 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine. The hardware comes from as does the plans. With a couple of pieces of hard maple, it’s an easy build. The parts are of exceptional quality and Benchcrafted also includes a nice piece of leather for a soft touch on projects.

Joseph Moxon wasn’t the only one to describe this type of vise. Roubo and Felebien also document a double-screw vise that is held to the top of a bench with clamps or holdfasts in order to facilitate certain work. Moxon and Roubo both show massively thick jaws, at about 3″. Thicker jaws will deflect less, with less vertical racking. Because this vise is used primarily as a workholding fixture (not as a press) and for working the ends of boards, where the entire board spans the vertical plane of the jaws (thus eliminating vertical racking) I’ve made the jaws 1 3/4″ thick using 8/4 stock.

While not very sexy from a tool viewpoint, every project needs marking and measuring. My Starrett combination and engineer’s square are my go to tools. Easy to read and accurate, these squares are also ideal to help set up my table saw and band saw blades, and router. Acompanied by a 6″ metal ruler and a high quality .5mm mechanical pencil I’m ready to go. I do use a marking knife and a couple of marking gauges, especially for dovetailing and mortise and tenon work, but, I always need a pencil. Last in this group is the Woodjoy Precision Dovetail Template. I’ve tried a number of other approaches to dovetail layout, from bevel gauges to other templates, but this is the best I’ve found so far. available from

I really enjoy using a traditional hand plane. It’s a tried and true tool that ensures a precision fit and outstanding finish.

Smoothing Planes – The Stanley 4-1/2 on the left was the first hand plane I tuned up and began using. Originally my wife’s grandfather’s daily tool, I inherited it from my father-in-law. I’ve since replaced the iron with a new Hock iron and chip breaker it’s as good as new. My new Lie Nielson 4-1/2 Smooth Plane is solidly built, the ultimate smoothing plane. It leave such a fine finish and it is far more enjoyable than sanding. Lie-Nielsen Bench Planes are based on the Stanley Bedrock-type planes. Bedrocks were Stanley’s top line of Bench Planes, heavier and better made than the standard.

Block Plane – Whether or not you are a hand tool or power tool user, a block plane is a must have, they are the workhorses of any shop. My Lie Nielsen Low Angle Block plane has the blade bedded at 12°. The 25° bevel makes it ideal for end grain and general purpose work.

Shoulder Plane – My Lie-Nielsen Shoulder Plane is based on the Record 073 model. The body is cast of Ductile Iron, and the cap is Bronze. It really is an elegant looking tool and vital for trimming, and improving cut joints, particularly shoulders, rabbets, tenons, and grooves.

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