The most important tools in the shop
Ask a couple of old wood butchers what they believe are the most important tools in the shop and it’s very likely that you will be witness to a debate about the benefits of table saws and bandsaws. In a world with electricity, both of these essential tools are usually found in most shops. In a world that relies on elbow grease, the choice would likely be somewhat different. But I’d be willing to bet that a discussion of panel saws and bench planes would be underway, in short order.
When I’m asked what tools are really essential to my pursuits, my choices might be a bit of a surprise.
Don’t get the idea that there is some secret message from the Freemasons Lodge embedded here. The simple truth of the matter is that with these three tools, you can measure anything.
For many craftspeople, learning and maintaining the skill of accurate measuring gets overlooked. Computer programs and full-size drawings provide us with information that allows us to build high quality pieces without being bothered by measurement and calculation. But for the craftsperson who would copy pieces for which there is no “pre-measured” information available or would seek to modify an existing design, the skill of measuring is essential. For those that would be better woodworkers, measurement is a “gateway” skill. And because it is a “skill”, it must be practiced, just like turning or cutting dovetails.
Coupling you measuring skill with a thorough knowledge of practical geometry will “raise your game” more quickly than anything you can buy in the woodworkers store.