The Wild Bench

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), April 1, 2007 | Go to article overview

The Wild Bench


Byline: MATTHEW BINGHAM

Woodworking is not a dying art.

We're actually living in a golden age of carpentry, thanks to the unprecedented number of high-quality tools available.

These are from three sources. First, there are the beautifully cared-for relics of Britain's industrial past, available from resellers such as Old Tools.

Second, manufacturers such as Lie-Nielsen are making perfect reproductions of classic tools from tougher, lighter, longer-lasting modern materials. No black and yellow plastic here - just warm, wooden tones that mean the tools in your shed can be as beautiful as whatever you craft with them.

And then there are power tools.

Let's not get too nostalgic here: your great-grandfather would have given his right arm - if he still had it - for a Makita LF1000 flip-over saw in his workshop. Thanks to modern technology, the grunt has been taken out of woodwork, leaving today's DIY-er with the time to plane, rout and bevel his spice rack to perfection...

Turn the page to see why these tools rank as the best you can get. .

CHESTERMAN TAPE MEASURES

From [pounds sterling]16, oldtools.co.uk

Spool out these imperial woven tapes from their antique, scuffed leather casings and you're creating a genuine link to your ancestors' working lives.

Unless they were bankers.

DAKOTA TURNING TOOL SET

[pounds sterling]70, rutlands.co.uk

Steel chisel set anchored into walnut handles by brass ferules.

Gouges, around-nosed scraper, diamond-section parting tool and oval skew chisel will help you master any piece of wood.

MARPLES CARVER'S MALLET

[pounds sterling]21, oldtools.co.uk

A well-balanced, 4in-diameter, beechwood-headed mallet provides a constant striking surface with an ash handle that easily absorbs the shocks.

ROBERTS & LEE 'DORCHESTER' SAWS

From [pounds sterling]60, rutlands.co.uk

Dorchester, the premium range from British tool company Roberts & Lee, is made up of steel-bladed saws attached by brass screws to handmade American black walnut handles. The 8in dovetail and 12in tenon saws have heavy, brass backs; the 26in hand saw's teeth are bevel-sharpened to ensure the best cut without binding.

AURIOU SET

[pounds sterling]215, classichandtools.com

Seen here are just some of the 20 essential tools recommended by master carver Chris Pye.

Finegrade, high-carbon steel blades; comfortable ash handles with brass ferules.

CLIFTON 500 SPOKESHAVE

[pounds sterling]50, classichandtools.com

Spokes haves are used to shape long, thin items such as chair legs and the basic design dates back to prehistoric times.

The Sheffield-made Clifton is a heavyweight graphite/ malleable iron model.

LIE-NIELSEN SCREWDRIVER SET

[pounds sterling]174.50, classichandtools.com

Modelled after a gunmaker's toolset with machined tips, these fit snugly with other Lie-Nielsen tools.

Includes the esoteric handle-toe screwdriver, tenon saw, nut driver and a split nut driver.

DOUGLAS FRAMING HAMMER

[pounds sterling]49.95, rutlands.co.uk

The stainless steel alloy head is vacuum heat-treated for hardness.

Other features include an overstrike guard, side nail-puller and a premium-quality hickory handle.

SJOBERGS ELITE 2500 WORKBENCH

[pounds sterling]1,071, chronos.ltd.uk

OPTIONAL STORAGE MODULE

[pounds sterling]354

Swedish firm Sjobergs' top-of-the-range bench is supplied with twin detachable vices and four unbreakable 'dogs' - black steel rods that fit snugly in the dozens of dogholes, anchoring your latest project. Heavy-duty beech construction and vast 2.5m-long work surface.

1 W KENT DRAWKNIFE [pounds sterling]39, oldtools.co.uk

ROBERT SORBY DRAWKNIFE [pounds sterling]44, classichandtools. …

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