Many moons ago, when I decided to give unplugged woodworking a whirl, the first order of business was to amass a modest collection of the appropriate tools. I quickly identified six main areas to consider: measuring, marking, chiseling, planing, sawing and boring.
The measuring side of things wasn’t an issue as I already had tape measures and rulers and suchlike; and the marking was taken care of relatively cheaply with the purchase of a small Stanley fold away knife and a second-hand marking gauge. My bench chisels were a present from my children on Father’s Day last year, followed up with my mortice chisels this year. That just left the planes, hand saws and hand drills.
I quickly built up a reasonable collection of hand planes (nos #3 – 7) which have served me very well so far, and it wasn’t long before I had half a dozen saws, both panel and tenon, rip and crosscut. These were all found on eBay, for very reasonable prices, and with a little restorative tinkering were pressed into service very quickly. It was the hand drills that posed the biggest problem.
I already had an egg whisk type hand drill. A house clearance sale supplied me with a better one, and eBay provided me with a brace of braces – one with a ratchet and a smaller one without. It was finding the drill bits that was going to cause me problems. Of course, I have plenty of brad point bits that will fit the egg whisks, but I needed a decent set of auger bits for the braces. Here Ebay let me down somewhat, for try as I might, for the longest time, I could not find anything suitable. They were either in poor condition, ridiculously priced, or in many cases they were being sold from the US and so came with prohibitive shipping costs, or else not shipped to my neck of the woods at all. I made a couple of hasty purchases when something halfway decent came up, usually a job lot with only one or two serviceable augers in it. This left me with half a dozen useable augers of various sizes and many more that weren’t really fit for anything. This meant that all too often I was forced to fall back on power tools to drill holes of a certain size. Not ideal.
A few months ago, I decided that something needed to be done about this sorry state of affairs. I went through the bits I had, discarding into a pile any that were unsalvageable, then weeding out a few duplications. I then hit eBay hard, in order to find the bits that would complete my collection. My aim was to make up a set that went from ¼” to 1″ in increments of 1/16″ (nos#4 to #16 in other words) and then up to 1½” in increments of 1/8″ (nos#18, #20, #22 and #24). As luck would have it I found two job lots almost immediately, for very reasonable prices, and this left me with just four gaps to fill – 13/16″ (no#13), 15/16″ (no#15), 1¼” (no#20) and 1½” (no#24). The 1½” that I eventually found on eBay came with another ratchet brace, and the 13/16″ and 15/16″ turned up a few weeks later. Try as I might though, I just could not find a 1¼”. I did have a centre bit that would do in a pinch, but it was not ideal.
I had just about given up when, as luck would have it, a friend of mine was having a clear out and he came across his old set of augers. Having no need of them anymore he asked me if I wanted them. When he handed me the roll of bits I saw that sure enough, there was a no#20 sitting among them. O frabjous day!
With my set now complete, I laid them all out on the bench to be sharpened. I tagged them with masking tape labels as a lot of them did not have their size stamped on them, and took stock – a few of them are of the Irwin pattern, with a solid core and a single flute, but most of them are of the Jennings pattern, my preference, with two flutes and no solid core. Although I prefer the Jennings I’m not too fussed about a matching set however, I’m just glad to have a set at all.
But what is a set, without a box to put them in? I smell a project in the offing…