Old-Fashioned Carpentry Tools


Many handsome, old homes and prized pieces of antique furniture were hand-built by skilled carpenters. Yesteryear’s carpenters combined sharp-edged blades, muscle power and skill to create structures and objects of enduring beauty and strength. Old-fashioned carpentry tools include implements that trim, cut, shape and join lumber. Whether you’re a collector or a carpenter looking to do things the old-fashioned way, become familiar with the tools of the trade’s past and compile a set that suits your carpentry project.


  • Essentially a metal bar attached to straight handle, the sharp, tapered tip of this tool sinks into lumber, peeling away strips or chipping out chunks. Chisels may be pressed or pounded into a board’s surface. The old-fashioned carpenter used chisels to create holes and pegs for joinery, such as the mortise and tenon, or to carve decorative lines.

Hand Plane

  • The hand plane peels away strips of wood from a board’s surface. This process is referred to as “surfacing.” Hand planes generally feature a flat-bottomed, box-shaped frame. Protruding at an angle from the tool’s flat bottom, the plane’s blade pulls up thin strips of wood as it is pushed across a board’s surface. Plane sizes and design vary according to function—the wide-bladed jack plane performs rough surfacing, the long-bodied jointer completes general smoothing and the smoother plane carries out final, finish-grade leveling.

Hand Router

  • The hand router, sometimes referred to as the router plane, cuts grooves and decorative lines. The hand router, like the plane, has a flat bottom. A sharpened cutting piece, called a bit, protrudes from the hand router’s flat bottom. This bit may be cylindrical, conical or shaped like a bell. The router is pushed across a board center or edge to create a groove that matches the profile of its bit. The old-fashioned carpenter used the hand router to create channels for joinery or decorative carvings, such as those of molding and trim.

Hand Drill

  • The hand drill uses a simple mechanical crank to rotate a sharpened bit. Old-fashioned hand drills are often called “egg-beater” drills because of their resemblance to the manually operated kitchen tool of the same name. Like an egg-beater, the hand drill’s circular gear and crank protrude from the side of a straight shaft. At the end of a shaft, a sharpened drill bit rotates, boring cylindrical holes through lumber.

Hand Saw

  • The old-fashioned hand saw typically appears as a skinny, trapezoidal piece of metal attached to a wooden handle. Sharpened teeth line one side of the metal blade. The amount, shape and design of the teeth vary according to the saw’s application—the crosscut saw’s large, widely spaced teeth perform heavy-duty cutting, whereas the back saw’s small, closely grouped teeth create clean-edged cuts through molding and trim.

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  • Photo Credit a saw image by timur1970 from Fotolia.com
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