First off, a definition. A Galoot is someone who favors the use of antique or antique-styled hand tools over the use of power tools. Often times Galoots go in for the collection and restoration of hand tools as much or even more than woodworking, though this is a matter up for debate. Think of Galoots as the “historic reenactment committee” of woodworking and you’ll be on the right track.
Before we launch into the essential tools for the Galoot woodworker we’d like to offer a few tips that could indicate that you’re a Galoot in training. So in case you ever had any doubts, here are four ways you can tell:
1) You might be a Galoot in training if you have a working arsenal of power tools but still harbor a strange fascination with planes and chisels…
2) You might be a Galoot in training if you enjoy tinkering with your tools almost as much as working with wood. Especially that charming, captivating backsaw that your dad got from his dad’s woodshop.
3) You might be a Galoot in training have antique hand tools that you would never, ever use on actual wood and you find yourself believing completely with all of your soul that “they don’t build them like they used to”.
4) You might be a Galoot in training if you prefer to watch Roy Underhill to Norm Abrams. Enough said there.
If you somehow made it to the hand tool collection phase without realizing you were the member of an elite group then I give you my best wishes and hopes for the future as you discover your true family – the Galoots. Do a quick web search on the term Galoot and the OldTools mailing list. Presto, you’re home.
The seven essential tools for the Galoot in training is something of a misnomer. Sort of. If you’re not a pure collector yet then you’re ideally buying these antique hand tools as you need them for specific projects you have in mind. Look at the following list then as a suggestion for what to use in place of all those expensive, high torque power tools you talked your significant other into letting you buy.
So here goes, and true Galoots please don’t get mad we’re not Galoots ourselves only hoping to guide home the lost and lonely of your tribe to a good starting point:
1) Chisels (Paring, Morticing)
This pair is crucial, and no, one can’t replace the other. The morticing chisel is used with a mallet and often to cut across the grain. The paring chisel is less often hit with a mallet and is more delicate. It’s used for taking thin shavings off of your work piece. Further, chisels are typically in wide abundance at flea markets and antique stores.
2) Wooden Mallet
You can well make your own if you like, or if you’re a collector then get out to those yard sales and dig through old boxes. Using a wooden mallet is crucial for not damaging your beautiful chisels…
3) Plane (Block, Smoothing, Jack, Jointer)
Planes smooth the surface of your work piece. The block plane is for shearing off the end grain of your piece, the smoothing plane is for very small shavings with less chance of tear out, the jack plane is a smoothing plane with more blade depth, and the jointer plane is a long plane used for flattening the joint face of a board.
4) Saw (Rip, Crosscut, Coping)
When choosing your saw pay attention to the rake – the angle at which the teeth are ground, the pitch – the number of teeth per inch and the set – the “wave” that the teeth have that gives the cut its width. Of hand saws you’ll find especially useful the rip saw, which has a zero rake for cutting down the length of the grain, a crosscut saw’s teeth will have negative rake for cutting across the grain, and the coping saw gets you cutting intricate designs and cuts inside a panel.
5) Brace and Bit + Hand Drill
Making holes in wood didn’t start with the invention of the electric drill. It sure got easier though. Get back to the roots of your tool using heritage with a tag team of the brace and bit for making large holes and the hand drill (or egg beater) for making smaller bore holes. You could also consider the Yankee push drill.
6) Measuring and Marking Tools
Accuracy is one of the chief hallmarks of good woodworking. Stay true to your cuts and to your love of hand tools with a combination square – look for fine machining and deep etch markings. A try square will get you into smaller spaces and is important for furniture making. A sliding bevel will help you transfer accurate angles from one working piece of wood to another. Folding rulers have been mostly replaced by the tape measure. Don’t let that bother you – use your folding wood rule with pride. Marking knives, gauges, and awls will keep your fine cuts as accurate as possible.
7) Your Tool Box and Workbench
Finally, we suggest that your first project as a Galoot is to build your own tool box (and then workbench), in much the same way that Luke Skywalker had to build his own light saber. This will connect you to the true force of hand tools. May the Galoots be with you.
Thanks to the work of Ken Smith, Tom Price and all the Galoots out there whose efforts were a great inspiration for this article.
8) Great Galoot Resources!
Hand Planes (Saw Dust Making 101)
Woodwright’s Shop Glossary
Make A Wooden Mallet
Galoot – Wikipedia definition
Woodwright Shop’s Home Page
Galoot Central (message board)
Old Tools Mailing List
Top 10 Hand Tools Every Woodworker Needs
Getting Started With Hand Tools (by Ken Smith)
The Index of Fossil-Fuel-Friendly Woodworking Knowledge