Do You Make Your Own Tools?

shop made tools

My first self made tools: spokeshave, handle for socket paring chisel, and mallet

I usually answer this question with, “naw, I’d rather build furniture and support the tool makers”. Something about making tools doesn’t appeal to me. It’s probably derived from fear that my skills aren’t up to par. As my friend Marc says, “hand tool guy straight won’t cut it”. I justify this with the fact that when I do need a tool I can help support any number of individual makers who are trying to make a living just like me. I help them and I get a dead sexy tool I can use for the rest of my woodworking days.


shop made layout tools

Layout Tools: 2 Panel Gauges, Scratch Awl, Dovetail Marker, Miter Paring Block, Center Finder, End Mill

So as I was cleaning up my shop in preparation for my upcoming remodel, I was a bit shocked at just how many tools I have that I have made myself. Moreover, I began to realize just how much I use these shop made tools in my every day woodworking.


shop made scratch stocks

Scratch Stocks

Whaddaya know maybe I like making tools after all. Like most of us I started small by making a handle here and there, stepped up to a marking gauge or square, then started making precision tools from a kit like my bow saw.


shop made saws

My pride and joy: turning saw and 2 resaw frame saws

Finally, I completed my 2 resaw frame saws by partnering with a blacksmith and saw maker. I have yet to make a plane, but I have a few books on it and even an extra Hock blade ready when the time comes. I honestly think the reason this hasn’t happened yet is that I don’t need another plane. I needed a bow saw, scratch stock, panel gauge, frame saw, scratch awl, paring chisel handle, etc. while I was working on a project. So I guess my original statement is true: I would rather build furniture. But when the need arises, a tool building detour is fun.


bench hooks and shooting boards

Maybe woodworking appliances more than tools but bench hooks and shooting boards count

Of course let’s not forget some of the most important tools in my shop: workbenches, bench hooks, shooting boards, birds mouth fixture, saw vise, etc. Dang as I stand in the shop and look around, I can’t look anywhere without seeing a tool that I have made myself. Now how did that happen?

How About You?

Do you make your own tools? What tool do you want to make most? Please share your thoughts in the comment below.

18 Responses to “Do You Make Your Own Tools?”

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  1. Tim Charles says:

    You have some great looking tools you’ve made. I try to make my own tools. Its one reason I’ve expanded into smithing.

    • Shannon says:

      That’s an eventual direction for me at some point too Tim. For now my wife has out the kaibash on a forge or any open flame for that matter. Homeowners assoc not keen on it either.

      • WN Lucas says:

        Shannon, I have the plans and parts for an “Ammo Can” forge. They’re originally intended for knife making, which matches chisels and tool blades perfectly. I have two that I run regularly, and materials for more.

        The forge runs on propane, and the “business” area is fully enclosed (save for where you put the metal in and out). Probably one of the best auxiliary tools I’ve added to my shop. If anyone is interested in more details, drop me a line at wnlucas@varangos.com

        And if the HOA wants to gripe, you can cook a strip steak in one of these in about 30 seconds.

  2. abiel rios says:

    there is nothing better than working with tools that you make yourself , yes i do make my own tools and in fact i will sell all my tools that i had from other makers and just keep the ones i make .

    • Shannon says:

      that’s hard core Abiel! Commendable, don’t think I could ever get there.

      • abiel rios says:

        i have benn making some tools for a while ,and i just feel like the more tools i make ,the better they become , i would like to share my tools pictures ,you can addme on facebook i have all the pictures there my latest was a smoother hand plane you can see the pictures on my facebook page . i make ultimatum hand braces , work positioners for woodcarvers , scratch awls ,marking knifes and some more diferent tools , and now i am building the shul compass plane from the antique woodworking tools book by davis russell page 286 to whoever got this big heavy book , i am half way done with the plane

  3. Justin says:

    Making tools is fun. I am apprehensive about making them until I just do it. All of a sudden I feel like a moron for being so apprehensive. It usually is not hard. You just have to try!

  4. Jamie Bacon says:

    I love making my own tools. Truth be told, I probably love it too much. But as Abiel just said, there is nothing more satisfying than building something using tools that you’ve made yourself. And there’s nothing as comfortable as a saw you made specifically to fit your own hand.
    I’ve made 6 saws, 3 chisels, several striking knives, wooden squares, tool chest, workbench with accessories and so on. I too want to venture into plane making next. A rabbet plane or two, a strike block plane, and a router plane are on my to do list.
    Nice job on the frame saws Shannon. Your experiences have made me want to build one of those also.

    • Shannon says:

      Having held one of your saws, I can see why you enjoy using them so much Jamie. You, like me, forgot one other shop made tool. The spring pole lathe! Yet another tool I made and forgot about

    • abiel rios says:

      so far talking about plane s: i have made a router plane ,and my latest was a smoother plane , now i am making a reproduction of the shul compass plane from the antique woodworking toold book by davis russell ,i am half way done, if you have never make the dovetails on the infill plane , i can tell you how to make them , if you have facebook you can addme and look at the double dovetail balk ebony and ivory infill smoother hand plane i made recently , this is my facebook. link :
      http://www.facebook.com/abiel.rios.7

  5. Miles e says:

    I find it extremely therapeutic to make a tool i need. It allows me to know if i have a problem and dont have a simple solution for i can figure it out on my own.

    I just got a hock plane kit to kinda ease me into the world of plane making.
    Making turning tools is what iv done most though.

  6. Brian Zirkle says:

    I recently took a class with a blacksmith because I wanted to make the handles for my new tool chest. During the class we started talking about holdfasts. He asked if I wanted to make one. So we went to the scrap pile and using a leaf spring from a old truck made a holdfast. It taught me a new skill, gave me a new tool, and showed me how to look at discarded items and see how they could be turned into something new and useful. Now every time I use that holdfast when building a piece of furniture I know I was involved in one more piece of bringing that woodworking item to life. Also you don’t need a forge. All you need is a charcoal grill with a blower, an anvil, and a hammer. Talk about working with a small tool kit.

  7. Absolutely! Shopmade tools are the best! They add up don’t they? I really like your collection Shannon.

    During almost every project I find myself either improving a shopmade tool I have or making a new one. Most recently, it’s been a saw sharpening clamp (to improve the refurbished saws, of course).

    The one shopmade tool that I have, but don’t see in your fine collection is a router plane (actually an OWT, Old Woman’s Tooth.)

    Like others have commented, our shopmade tools often feel and work better than others. Love em!

    …and the ones I grab most often, shopmade try squares and the super sweet bow saw built from Gramercy plans.

    Not forgetting the treadle lathe.

  8. Richard says:

    And the biggest tool of all….The work bench.

  9. Joshua Klein says:

    Yes, for sure. I think for me it is mostly economically driven. It just so happens that a side benefit is that when I make my own tools or rehab severly abused ones I end up understanding its function way better than if I had bought a fancy schmancy perfectly tuned new tool.

  10. Eric R says:

    I’ve made a few scratch stocks and handles for files and rasps.
    Those tools mean a little more, if you know what I mean.
    Great article Shannon.

  11. Raymond penn says:

    I have made saw handle, brad awl, mallet, marking gAge, a plane, a compass, a draw bore, a scratch stock, winding sticks, a marking knife…

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