It is true that a good carpenter can perform near miracles with poorly made, poorly maintained tools. But things go so much better when chisels and saw blades are sharp, batteries topped off, and the tool has been well designed for the job at hand. And possibly for that reason, people in the building trades spend a fair amount of time and money on their tools.
And there’s so much to choose from. There are pneumatic, electric, and hand-driven varieties. A carpenter, for example, can choose a hammer, an air-driven nail gun, a battery-operated fastener, or even one that shoots nails with tiny bursts of ignited gas. The development of the lithium-ion battery has been a huge step forward for tool manufacturers and tradespeople alike. These ever more powerful, long-running batteries now run even miter saws and reciprocating saws, giving builders more flexibility on the job than they’ve ever had.
As important as these developments have been, nothing symbolizes craftsmanship better than a hand tool. We live in a mechanized, battery-powered age, yet there’s still something magical about a sharp plane taking off a gossamer-thin shaving along the edge of a board, or a honed chisel making a neat corner in a mortise for a hinge. That kind of result never goes out style.
Finding the right tools, using them imaginatively, and knowing how to keep them in top shape all are topics of endless conversations among builders, amateur and professional. If you’re in the trades, you’re into tools. And if that’s the case, you’ll find Fine Homebuilding’s library of tips, articles and videos an invaluable resource.