Hand Tools

Joy of Hand Tools
" Its a tragedy of the first magnitude that millions of people have ceased to use their hands as hands. Nature has bestowed upon us this great gift which is our hands. If the craze for machinery methods continues, it is highly likely that a time will come when we shall be so incapacitated and weak that we shall begin to curse ourselves for having forgotten the use of the living machines given to us by God."
Mahatma Gandhi

Hobbyists sometimes tend to spend thousands of rupees on power tools, some they end up barely using, which in my view is a little wasteful given that a cheap hand tool with a little practice can often be an equally versatile and accurate instrument. Hand tools have several other advantages as well: they are safer than power tools, much quieter and do not require complex jigs for different tasks.

As I do more and more woodworking, I find myself preferring hand tools.Here are some of my pages in this blog which talk about hand tools.

  • Hand Tools General
  • Hand Planes
  • Saws
  • Chisels
  • Sharpening
  • Joinery
  • Workbenches and workholding

Posts on Hand Tools and their working

Soba Bedrock #4 Smoothing Plane
Soba Industries, India's number one maker of hand tools, has come up with a bedrock hand plane which is the first of its kind in this country. All hand planes made in India so far have been Bailey type planes. I was given a prototype of the plane to check out. [4 May 2019]

The Soba Bedrock #4

Tool Review - India's First low angle plane
Most Indian woodworkers would not be familiar with a low angle hand plane since no one made these planes in India - till now. Shobha Industries, our favourite hand tools maker, has recently come up with a low angle plane that should interest hand plane aficionados in this country. [29 January 2017]

Shobha Low Angle Jack Plane

The Man Behind the Shobha Planes
The most fascinating part was the opportunity to closely observe the process of plane making, from casting to polishing and packing. This was something I had wanted to do for a long time and it was made possible by the factory's young proprietor-manager, Agnay Chuttani, who had finally acceded to my request for a factory visit. [12 December 2016]

Agnay Chuttani

A Shooting Board at Last
Even though I have been woodworking for more than four years now and have read about the importance of a shooting board, I never got around to making a good one till today. [23 February 2016]
Making a shooting board; for accuracy each piece must not move while it is being set in place

Resuscitating an old Plane
Yesterday I pulled out an old Ambika #5 Jack plane that I had discarded some years ago. That was when I was relatively new to woodworking and was struggling to get a hand plane to work. I didn’t know too much about sharpening or about planes in general. [14 February 2016]
A cheap plane is not necessarily a bad plane

A Fine new Jack Plane
The Jack plane has a much longer sole and is perfect for flattening uneven surfaces and can often be substituted for the much longer and heavier jointer plane (22 inches). Now with a superb Shobha #5 ½ available there is added reason to possess a Jack plane.[15 November 2015]

Shobha Induistries' #5 1/2 Jack Plane

Japanese Flush Cut Saws
Flush cut saws are common in the West. They are mostly used for cutting off protuberances such as dowel ends. Unfortunately they are not available anywhere in India. I ordered a couple of variants from Japan (toolsfromjapan.com)and they arrived a few days ago. [3 November 2016]

Mitsukawa Flush Cutting Saw

Ali's Wooden Jointer
I finally got a chance to try out Mousam Ali's wooden jointer plane this morning. I had been wanting to get my hands on the plane all week but had found no time. I had however managed to give it a rub of Mustard oil as recommended by the toolmaker. The idea of light wooden planes had always appealed to me and now I know how good they could feel in action. [11 October 2015]

A Wooden Jointer is light and does not cause fatigue

Nowadays most screwdrivers come with hard plastic handles, usually transparent, green, yellow or some such colours. They are cheap and do the job. But there are problems with this type of screwdrivers: they are fine for most electrical work but not meant for woodworking. [23 September 2015]
Common but essential tools

Sharpening Paraphernalia
Hand tools such as knives, chisels and planes can be pretty frustrating and ultimately useless if not sharpened properly and often enough. The problem is that sharpening can at times seem a tedious chore.[8 March 2015]
Sharpening can be quick and easy with the rights accesories

Working with a Restored Hand Plane
Dinabandhu Mitra, a fellow DIY woodworker based in Kolkata, showed me how a little dedication, care and doggedness could yield much success in acquiring, restoring and using an old classic bench plane. [ 15 February 2015]

Super Fine Dozukis
I seem to have developed an abiding passion for Japanese hand saws or Nokogiris. My latest acquisition is a pair of super fine dozukis (backed Nokogiri) made by Nakaya Saw Works, Japan.
[17 October 2014]

The Beauty of Hand Tools
Japanese and many Western artisans have long considered tool making to be an art as much as a science. Gifted tool makers are revered in those societies and museums dedicated to the preservation and history of tools, including woodworking tools. [2 July 2014]

General Purpose Saw
A general purpose saw is among the first tools a hobbyist woodworker should acquire. The tool is simple to use, robust and can accomplish a multitude of sawing tasks. I put together this little video, the first for this blog, in response to a query regarding what saws to buy. I hope it will be useful to newbies. [6 February 2014]

The No. 4 1/2
A couple of days ago I received a new hand plane from Shobha Industries, the makers of the Soba range of hand tools. This was their latest bench plane, designated the Number 4 ½ smoothing plane. It cost about ` 1200 after taxes and arrived promptly. It was a beauty with finely ground soles and sides, gleaming japanned body, chrome steel lever cap, brass depth adjustment knob, Rosewood tote and knob, heavy cap iron and a thick blade.  [1 February 2014]

Tool Review - Exceptional Made in India Planes
The good news is that now we have at least one company in India that is making great quality planes at an affordable price: the New Delhi based Shobha Industries. They market their planes under the "Soba" brand name. I had reviewed their rebate plane in an earlier blog and then decided to buy a few more planes from them. [1 November 2013]

The Advantages of Hand Planing
At times, I still have doubts about whether milling a piece of wood by hand is worth it. Sometimes I sit back and wonder whether it would be worthwhile someday to get a powered benchtop planer and take out all the slog work from my woodworking. But invariably I fall back on the good old hand plane method; its tedious, time consuming and a lot of work but in the end, I realise this is the best for me. [16 October 2013]

Tool Review - Soba Duplex Rabbet Plane
Traditionally rebates were cut with a specialised hand plane called, as you guessed it, a rebate or rabbet plane. My quest for hand tools took me to an Indian hand tools makers called Shobha Industries, a New Delhi based company that produces hand tools for export under the brand name 'Soba'. I ordered their "Duplex Rabbet Plane" and was not disappointed. [21 September 2013]

Tools Review - Comparing a Few Hand Planes
I compared three #4 planes available in India: Stanley, Anant, Shobha and Ambika. The Stanley is the original design and the other two are basically copies of it, and so for the matter are all the other #4s made all over the world. [7 September 2013]

Tool Review - The Stanley 10 inch Fine Finish Saw
I recently came across a smallish, 10 inch long, Stanley saw in a shop and purchased it for Rs 600. The blade cover said it was a 'SharpTooth, Fine Finish' saw.  [8 August 2013]

Tool Review - The Dozuki
The term Dozuki comes from Dotsuki-noko meaning a single edged crosscut saw. The blade is thin and reinforced at the non-cutting edge with a metal spine very like the one in Western backsaws. It has fine teeth for precise cuts and is suited for work that requires accuracy such as dovetail joints. [25 July 2013]

Two Beautiful Books on Hand Tools
A review of two books: ‘Hand Tools: Their Ways and Workings’, New York: W.W. Norton, 1982 and ‘Mastering Hand Tool Techniques’ by Alan and Gill Bridgewater, Skyhorse Publishing, London, 2011. [14 July 2013]

A few of days ago I received an unexpected but splendid gift from Kuldeep Singh in Kyoto: a Nokogiri, a Japanese hand saw! I was astounded when I opened the parcel: the saw came in two parts, the bamboo handle and the blade. [16 June 2013]

Hand Saws for Joinery
For joinery, two kinds of tools are essential: chisels and hand saws. After looking around a bit, I bought a Yato Mitre Saw, a Stanley back saw, a Crown Gents saw and a traditional Indian saw.I tested all the four to find out which would be most appropriate for cutting joints.[12 June 2013]

Hand Tools Option for Hobbyists
All that is essential for making stuff as a hobby is a set of good quality hand tools, some sort of sharpening system and good technique. That’s it, nothing fancy, no elaborate set ups and expensive purchases. However, it is important to know what tools are essential and which need to be top notch. [11 May 2013]

Some Observations on Chisels
From my experience, there are about three kinds generally available in India: the cheap, soft steel ones which are usually China made these days; the tough, Chrome Vanadium Steel ones made by Anant in Ludhiana; and an assortment sold by Stanley, mostly China made ones for the Indian market. [7 May 2013]

3 Easy Work Holding Methods
A dedicated workshop or a great workbench is not absolutely essential for pursuing woodworking as a hobby. There are various methods available to get around the lack of a workbench as I have found out. [3 April 2013]

The Humble Block Plane
A couple of weeks ago I picked up a cheap block plane from Delhi’s Chawri Bazar. The plane was no great shakes; it looked roughly made and had deep mill marks on its sides, sole and on the iron. But still I decided to give it a try and see if I could tune it up. [23 March 2013]

Traditional Indian Saw
traditional Indian saws are much like Japanese saws that cut on the pull stroke and usually yield a straighter cut because pulling the saw tensions the saw blade and keeps it dead straight during a cut. No wonder Indian woodworkers can cut so well with a traditional hand saw. [1 March 2013]


  1. Makes an interesting reading. But, for a person like me who just has interest but no exposure as to how to set out on the hobby, perhaps more elaborate guidance is necessary on the sort of tools and the simple things to accomplish with it. It will be nice if some videos explain the elementary go-about!

  2. Laxman: You have a point. I will make a short video on the basic woodworking tools required. Thanks for the suggestion.

  3. Hi,

    I am wondering where one can find these tools for purchase in India. Did you buy them online?

    Good see at least one Indian handtool enthusiast.

    1. I have bought most hand tools from Shobha Industries (http://www.shobha-india.com) and online sources such as toolsfromjapan.com, Good Will (http://www.goodwill.in) and so on.

  4. Indranil sir - I have sent almost 2-3 emails to Sobha industries but have not received any reply. I was interested in their planes and maybe a fret saw (saw Paul Sellers cutting out the dovetails with a fret saw and it looked like easier than using chisels which is used by John Bullar).
    could you maybe help in this regard?
    - Siddhartha

    1. Siddhartha: Very strange:) Try sending an email to the MD at rajiv@shobha-india.com or try their number 011-43118888. I have many of their planes, really excellent stuff as well as three of their fret saws. Extremely useful. Worth getting. Best of luck.

    2. Many thanks - I have sent an email to the MD. Hope for things to get sorted out. - Siddhartha

  5. The article which you have posted is great. Thanks for sharing this information.

  6. Hi indranil, i am looking for good mortise chisels for mortise joints. Will you please recommend good one if you know.

    1. Deepak: Try mortise chisels made by Anant. They are pretty good - made of Chrome Vanadium steel. Extremely hard but difficult to sharpen.

  7. Dear Mr. Banerjie,

    I share the passion of handtools with you, have been working with my hands since my childhood. Your Blog is good, meticulously and painstakingly written. Please keep it up.

    Arun Naik

  8. Hi, where in india, preferably bangalore, can I pick up japanese tools. Esp saw and chisels. Thanks.

    1. Indrajit, Japanese tools are not available anywhere in India. You will have to import them from online stores, which is quite easy these days.

  9. Hi,
    Can you please suggest any online site in india, selling face vise ? I am finding some on global sites like http://www.amazon.com/Grizzly-T24249-Cabinet-Makers-Front/dp/B00DQJQGPA which will make costing double by adding import duty and overseas shipment. I find plenty of shoulder vises from shoba,nicon, lion, anant etc, but I need the one without cheek and where I need to put full/complete wooden jaw.

    1. I don't think you will find this kind of a vice in India.

    2. I would suggest you to contact the customer care of labkafe. Though I can't see the vice on their site but at times they have supplied using their offline channels.

    3. Thanks saurabh. But the vice listed there doesn't seem like for woodworking purpose. I will enquire it through their customer service. Nevertheless I have already ordered a 10.1 quick release vise from shobha industries to use it as tail vise.

  10. Hi,
    I was just looking for a multi plane/combination plane over net and saw anant makes one in India. It is the copy of record and stanley planes it seems. Model is A45. Blades are made of high carbon steel. Can you please suggest me whether I should go for it? Price quoted by them is around 6600/-

    1. Hello Kingshuk, tolexo is selling the same plane for 3.5k. Give it a try.

    2. Bhairavnath, is it the Anant plane? Also is Tolexo reliable?

    3. Yes, Indranil its Anant A45. Tolexo is reliable. You can return it if you don't like the item.

    4. Bhairavnath, I can't seem to find the link in Tolexo - could you please share it. Thanks.

    5. Here is the link Indranil.

    6. Could not resist temptation! Ordered the darned plane.

    7. Even I have ordered one. :)

    8. My order has been cancelled by Tolexo due to unavailability. :(

    9. Same here! Just got a message from Tolexo - fraudsters!

    10. Indranil, can Black & Decker KW900EKA Plunge Router do all the things that A45 multi-plane does? I would better spend 6k on router than multi-plane.

    11. I don't know about the B&D Router but a router can do many things - cut grooves, rabtes, channels, beads, profiles and so on. The trouble is for each task you generally require a different router bit, some of which can be expensive. The overall costs would be much higher but that should not be a reason for chosing one over the other.

    12. Yes, you are right. But choosing router over multi-plane would give flexibility I believe.

  11. KIngshuk, I wanted to buy one too but the local dealer did not have it; perhaps they now do. I haven't handled the plane but theoretically it should be able to do a lot. Some people say that the plane is difficult to set up and use though. But would be worth experimenting with if you have the money.

  12. Dear Indranil

    Your blog is an excellent source of information as well as a place for people with interest in furniture / woodwork. As as architect with interest in furniture design, I have profited by reading some of your posts. Please keep up the good work and I hope to meet you some day as I am located in Delhi NCR as well.

    1. Many thanks, Siddhartha. Email me at indian.woodworker@gmail.com anytime.

  13. Anonymous30 May, 2018

    Hi Indranil, can you tell me how long does it take for a Japnese saw to come to India if we choose the EMS option?

  14. Can anyone tell me as what is BASOLA called in English. It is a hand tool with short wooden handle for chipping wood. Frequently used by old carpenters in villages. Produces a rough work.


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