Episode #38: Traveling Tool Kit

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25 thoughts on “Episode #38: Traveling Tool Kit

  1. Great episode, I like the way you put that together. There is a bunch of stuff I would put in the extra space, but as you say it depends on what kind of work you want to do with the tool kit. So it’s best to figure that out first, and then figure out which tools you need to make what you want, plus some general use or multi use items that are generally good for all types of work.

  2. Nice! Many thanks. Great video.

    Just another idea – if the size/weight of what you can take with you is limited, but you have a bit more time you can make things a lot easier by taking less tools, but designed to make the tools you need. Bring one plane, and a handful of irons, a couple of floats, and if you have the time, you make more wooden planes relatively easily.

    For the longest time, my “marking gauge” was two pieces of wood nailed together, with another nail hammered through the “beam” where needed.

    Of course, if you need to get a saw from A to B, but not store it in the chest regularly, the handles remove – I’ve seen more than one chest at flea markets where that was the owners solution to storing longer saws . . .

    Depending on how rural the area is, a hacksaw may readily be available. As silly as it sounds, they make fine dovetail saws! I used one for a while before I got my first “real” dovetail saw.

    Just a few thoughts that come to mind.

    I hope Caleb’s trip finds him well!

    • Lots of good suggestions Josh. Funny you should mention the hacksaw. Mike Siemsen does a dovetailing demo at WIA where he uses a hacksaw, a sharpened screwdriver and a block of 2×4 (for a mallet) to make dovetails. You’d never know that’s how they were cut.

      As for the long saw, removing the handle from the saw is a good solution. In my case, my big rip saw is too long for me anyway, so I’m in the process of making myself a shorter one. Coincidentally, the new saw, which will be the proper length for my vertically challenged frame, will just fit into the chest without removing the handle.

  3. Hey Bob, greetings from NZ. Interesting episode…

    Three more things I would add:

    Saw Set
    Block Plane (know you’re not a block plane fan, but I use mine pretty much every time I build something).


    • Good to hear from you again Eben. All good suggestions indeed. Good catch on the saw set, I forgot that one.

      As for the other two, if they are important for your work, then they should definitely be included in your kit. In my case, I don’t find block planes very useful. In fact, I don’t even own one. As for a rasp, I’m growing less fond of them the more I use incannel gouges. I’m amazed at how quickly, cleanly and accurately they work. Given the choice between a rasp and incannel gouge, I’ll take the gouge any day.

      • I haven’t had to add set to a saw in a long time, but with a little patience, you can easily set a saw without a saw set. David Keller had a good, quick description of setting by hammer on the Sawmillcreek forum ( http://www.sawmillcreek.org/showthread.php?174749-Two-New-(Old)-Saws-Worth-Rehabbing&p=1797945#post1797945 )- I’ve used the same idea with sucess. As he mentions, it’s letting the hammer do the work, and getting the “blows” (more “drops”) even that’s the trick.

        • Another great podcast Bob,
          Very reasuring and straight forward. Regarding a saw set, a pin punch is a lot cheaper, lighter and won’t break teeth. I have backsaws with 14, 18 and 24 tpi, which are unlikely to be addressed with a saw set. I use two sizes of pin punch 3/16″ for 4-12 tpi and 3/32″ for 14-24 tpi. The punch indentation registers nicely on the tooth tip allowing the user to relax and hold position when setting teeth this way, one tap with an 4oz ball peen and it’s done, move on to the next but one.
          I like your choice for chisels and economical use of planes especially the use of a small rebate plane and additional fence movements to achieve a wider channel.
          In the absence of a vice I would probably add a some of ‘F’ clamps
          two large 300mm and two small 150mm. Larger clamps for jointing boards could be made up from timber using blocks and wedges to apply preasure to the jointed boards, a pin applied through a small block and the centre board into the clamp beam would stop the boards rising under preasure.

  4. Great podcast! I enjoy (and envy) your knowledge and how your present it. Also I like the way you’ve got your chest tills organized and set up.

    I noticed you included some small drill bits, but suspect they will not work in your brace. Either way, I think a hand drill with a three jaw chuck would be a good addition to the traveling chest.

    Thanks for another informative video.

    • Yeah, I included the small bits as a point of discussion, but not the hand drill that they fit. I actually did that for a reason, but it was lost in the presentation because I never mentioned anything about it.

      One of my braces does actually hold larger twist bits. But that’s not really my reason for not including the hand drill. In truth, I’d really prefer a set of gimlet bits for my brace. I have a hand drill to use with the twist bits, but it’s not one of my favorite tools. Once I find a good set of gimlet bits for my brace, the hand drill will be passed down to my daughters. I much prefer the gimlet bits I’ve used to the hand drill.

      In the case of not having gimlet or twist bits to fit a brace though, a hand drill (or a set of hand gimlets) would definitely be needed.

  5. Bob – a great look into your travelling toolchest.
    There’s one more thing that I use on every project, and that’s clamps. Although it might be hard packing any long ones, a few short ones go a long way.

    • Honestly, I don’t really use clamps much, at least not for assembly. I use a couple of hand screws for work holding, and I use the holdfasts on my bench, but for assembly, I simply rely on good fitting joinery. Good fitting dovetails need no clamps, and M&T joints get pegged. Other than that, a few nails can work wonders, and avoid the need for heavy, bulky clamps.

  6. Bob,
    Great job with the podcast. As a suggestion, to save space and weight perhaps Caleb could replace the panel saws with a frame saw. Highland Hardware sells a full size frame saw with an all-purpose, impulse hardened blade with a Japanese tooth pattern. If the price of the frame is too high, the blade is available separately for less than $60. It is not too difficult to construct a frame. They also have other less expensive frame saw blades that the user can resharpen. I know a lot of people don’t care for frame saws, but after you get used to their idiosynchronies, they are very effective. I use mine for all manner stock breakdown in softwood and hard. I also have a smaller one that I use for ripping tenon cheeks. Combine the framesaws with a crosscut tenon, and dovetail saw, and you have a complete saw kit.

  7. A great selection of tools. Without clamps, wouldn’t you want a dowel plate and maybe a drawbore pin for the M&Ts? Though perhaps I missed them in the video. I agree that having a dedicated fore and try plane is worth the weight. I do a lot of rough stock prep by hand (w/ metal planes) and my fore plane gets a workout. And often after the try plane work, the panel is almost ready for finish, with only a pass or two with the smoother.

    Another nice thing I see is that with this size tool chest and tool kit–he would have a chance to get some local tools as the need arises.

    • Nah, no need for dowel plate or drawbore pins. I have a plate I made, but rarely use it. Pegs are simply split and whittled to rough shape with a chisel. As for the pins, I think these are an incredible waste (and don’t show up in any period inventory before the mid 19th century). Test fitting can be done with hand pressue alone, no need for drawbore pins. If hand pressure won’t close the joint, neither will the pegs. Take a look at Peter Follansbee’s work. All drawbored. No drawbore pins were used (they didn’t exist in the 17th century).

      • Wow, thanks for that statement Bob – I’ve been holding off on learning to make mortise and tenon joints partially because I don’t want to spend the money on the drawbore pins right now.

  8. When one travels with tools like this, how does one improvise a workbench? Would you bring holdfasts, assuming that you will make a bench on site?

    • That’s what I would do. If I knew I was going to be in a place for a few weeks/months, I’d improvise something on site from whatever lumber was available. They do this in Williamsburg all the time. I meant to take a picture when I was down there. But basically, they sunk posts (like fence posts) into the ground. Just 2 of them. Then they nailed a long wide board to the front (think Nicholson bench apron), and another to the top (think 12″ wide top). That’s it. Instant planing bench, mortising bench, etc. Very crude, but very effecient.

      • Great idea, thanks for sharing! I know some travel with a “bench on bench” which can be held to any table with clamps, but I am really curious what other work-holding methods travelers come up with. Its not too hard to come up with something IF you can bore dog holes in it, or screw planing stops onto it, but I expect that in some cases this is not possible (such as the counter top or table in a vacation rental).

  9. Depending on the style of joints planned, I would also throw in a reamer. of course, that is easy enough to make with a broken hacksaw blade and a tapered round piece of wood once there, but it is a concideration. It also brings up, however, something else I would possibly throw in. You can make a bow lathe easily enough, but without lathe tools… I guess it depends on what he is planning to make, and whether there is absolutely no electricity when he gets there.

  10. Bob,

    Thank you for an incredible answer to my question. This helps me narrow my kit down even more, and I will spend the next few months working with this smaller tool kit. I hope to use this reduced tool set to build the tool chest they will be housed in. I like the idea of a frame saw as well. I could use one frame with several different blades.

    Thanks again to all.


  11. Bob, depending on where your going a small hand powered grinder (maybe with a makeshift treadle attached – made on site of course) might be be handy

  12. Hey Bob, now thats the Roy Underhhill chest where the sides and the skirt are interlocked with grooves right ? I was just wondering when you plowed those grooves, did you plow them all in one piece and then cut them to length? or did you plow all the boards cut to length with the same setting on the plow ? I think it would work just the same either way, but which way would be the better route to go about it ?

    • Correct, that’s the one. I don’t remember exactly, but I think I plowed the grooves in the long stock and then cut it to length. If you have a bench long enough to plow the board full length, it helps to make sure that things align perfectly later in the process. However, if you don’t have a bench long enough to support 8′ long stock for plowing the groove, then you really don’t have much choice but to cut it shorter first. Both methods will work if you are careful, but plowing the piece in the long just helps to keep things more consistent. I also worked to gauged lines and didn’t rely on my plane’s fence to gaurantee that things came out right. This helps a lot too and is much more important to do if you cut the board into shorter sections first. The marking gauge lines become your insurance for consistency.

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