Outfitting your tool box with great vintage woodworking tools.

Vern Burke, SwiftWater Edge Tool Works

Skowhegan, ME

So, you’ve decided you want a set of the great old high quality vintage woodworking tools that don’t come from WalMart and aren’t made in China. In this post, out of an endless selection of different types, sizes, and configurations of vintage tools, I’ll show you how to pick the right ones to set up your toolbox!


The standard carpenter’s load of handsaws consists of a coarse crosscut (8 tpi), a finish crosscut (11-12 tpi), and a rip (5-6 1/2 tpi). The coarse crosscut is by far and away the most useful of the saws, so that one is a must. If you’re going to be doing cabinetry or furniture making, make the finish crosscut a smaller panel saw size.

My personal saws are a 1920s Craftsman coarse crosscut, a 1911 Disston D-20 finish panel saw, and a 1920s Disston D-8 thumbhole handle 6 tpi rip saw.

Hand planes:

The traditional set of hand planes is a bench smoothing plane (Stanley Bailey #4 or equivalent), a jack plane (Stanley Bailey #5 or equivalent), and a jointer plane (Stanley Bailey #7 or equivalent). The jack plane is the most useful of the sizes and it’s a must.

Also, carry a good vintage block plane such as the Stanley #9 1/4 (high angle), #18 (high angle), #60 (low angle), or #65 (low angle).

My personal planes are a Ward’s Master smoothing plane (Stanley Bailey #3 sized), a Dunlap 5CBB jack plane, a Stanley Bailey #6 fore plane (same width as the #7 jointer, just a bit shorter), and a Stanley #65 block plane.


For best results, get a set of straight vintage bench chisels from 3/8″ up to 1″ in width. Forget chisels over 1″ unless you’re doing heavy framing carpentry.

In my personal tools, I carry TH Witherby chisels in 3/8″, 1/2″, and 1″ widths.

Misc tools:

Look for a sliding combination and bevel square such as the vintage Stanley #21. Also invest in a good steel framing square.

Round out your box with the usual suspects such as a good wooden handled nail hammer, 2′ or longer steel level, a brass plumbbob,

This certainly isn’t an exhaustive list of things for your vintage tool box, but it will give you a good foundation of the most useful tools.

Visit me at any of the following locations:

Elm Plaza, Waterville, ME (Mondays)
Tractor Supply, Skowhegan, ME (Tuesday and Wednesday)
Arundel Flea Market, Rt 1 & Log Cabin Rd, Arundel, ME (Fridays)
298 W Front St, Skowhegan, ME (all other days)

If you’re looking for a special tool, please drop me an
email and let me know and I’ll restore one just for you!

SwiftWater Edge Tool Works provides mobile sharpening services across Maine and mail in services around the world for handsaws, carbide blades, planer knives, hand planes, chain saws, knives, scissors, hair clippers, router bits, and almost any blade!


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