Here are some of my favorite sources for tools and supplies. Two things I really appreciate: craftspeople who make tools with care, and shops run and staffed by people who understand the tools, wood, and supplies they're selling.
Blue Spruce Toolworks
David Jeske is a mechanical engineer and self-taught woodworker who now runs a small toolworks out of his 2-car garage in Oregon City. He makes marking knives, scratch awls, mallets, carbide burnishers, draw bore pins, and a variety of chisels. These are some of the most beautifully made hand tools I've ever held. More recently, he introduced some amazing looking fret and coping saws.
High quality marking and panel gauges. Mine are cherry, but Jeff Hamilton offers them in a variety of woods. These are wonderful tools to hold, carefully shaped from well selected and gorgeously grained wood, well fitted together, exquisitely finished, and very robust. If you're at all like me, once you hold these tools in your own hands, you'll want to find a special place for them in your shop, and you'll look for excuses to use them. The panel gauge is pictured below. www.hamiltontools.com⩘
Bridge City Tool Works
John Economaki, the master toolmaker who created Bridge City Tool Works, is in a league of his own. The tools he designs and makes are wildly innovative and crazy insane precise. There's no one else I know of making anything comparable. An example is the AngleMaster Pro, which I'm using on my Windtraveler shoji lamp project. I talk more about it there: Achieving better accuracy⩘ .
As an example of just how insanely clever the AngleMaster Pro is, here's the list of calculations it can perform taken from the tool's page on their website:
View list of AngleMaster Pro calculations >
Lie-Nielsen Toolworks of Maine
They make a line of beautiful heirloom-quality hand tools. I think they're best known for their planes, but they also make saws, chisels, and a variety of other tools. Beautiful craftsmanship. Their medium shoulder plane is pictured below.
Tools for Working Wood
They have a wonderful selection of quality tools, including their own Gramercy Tool line, which includes a series of saws and rasps, and two lines of brushes. I have their Gramercy saw vice and a few other tools from their shop, and it's evident they make and choose the tools they sell with care and knowledge. They also post interesting articles about how they research and arrive at the design of their tools, which share valuable information about the history of the tools. www.toolsforworkingwood.com/store/dept/CGT⩘ .
Woodpeckers Precision Woodworking Tools
You may have noticed that I love precision tools, and Woodpeckers makes some wonderful precisions tools. One entertaining attribute is that they make one-time tools that are often quite interesting. They're also a good source for jig & fixture parts. Their set of 4.5″ and 6.25″ precision triangles is pictured below. www.woodpeck.com⩘ .
Wenzloff & Sons Saw Makers
Wenzloff made amazing handsaws, patterned after many of the classics: Disston, Fulton, Patterson, Moulson, Peace, and John Kenyon (the Kenyon Seaton Chest Saws are pictured below). I have several of their saws and they are among my most treasured tools. Unfortunately, I was saddened to recently notice that they no longer make saws and their former URL now redirects to one of those spammy Amazon affiliate sites. Too bad, but keep an eye out for used Wenzloff saws.
For our home and the furniture in it, I use mostly oak (all the trim), maple (my personal favorite furniture wood; I love the way it feels to the touch), a bit of poplar (a few pieces have such interesting coloration), and some pine (although it's soft, I simply love the warmth of pine after it has aged for a few years and has mellowed to an amber hue), all of which I carefully pick out at local lumber yards. My favorite local lumber yard is "urban forest products" supplier, TC Woods in Fort Lupton, Colorado. www.tcwoods.com⩘
Steve Wall Lumber Company
For my lamps, I sometimes buy thin wood from Steve Wall Lumber in Mayodan, North Carolina, and use primarily maple, walnut, and a bit of mahogany, three woods I love. Steve Wall is someone who really appreciates wood, and you can find many fine specimens through his site or in his yard. www.walllumber.com⩘ .
I don't use dowels very often, but recently needed some for a project. In the past, I'd run over to our local hardware store where I could usually find one or two decent dowels from among a bin full of mostly warped pickings. Since I needed more than a couple this time, I decided to look online.
I found a few different sites offering hardwood dowels and decided to choose based on location, so I visited their shops virtually via Google Earth satellite view. A couple were located in warehouse strips in big cities. Then I came across one located in the middle of a beautiful forest outside of Farmington, Maine, and that struck me as a good omen.
Jackpot! The bundles of oak dowels I received in three different diameters are really nice quality. They also have dowels in a variety of other hardwoods, as well as a selection of other wooden pins, pulls, plugs, caps, and balls. A good find! http://www.wood-dowel.com/store⩘ .
The paper used in a shoji lamp, washi, is something wondrous. I have a 3-ring binder that I created over the years with more than 100 samples that I have carefully mounted and cataloged, and that's just the tip of the iceberg of what's available. That people are able to make such exquisite papers by hand astonishes me. Simply put, I'm addicted.
Handmade ring washi and Asarakusui Natural, both on a black background
In 1969, the techniques of Hon Mino-Gami (which means authentic washi from the Mino city area of Gifu prefecture, where highly praised papers have been made since the year 702) were designated as Important Cultural Properties.
Five members of the Mino-Gami community were selected as National Living Treasures of Japan. One was Mrs. Sayoko Furuta, highly regarded among her peers for her ability to produce exceptional sheets from 100% kozo, a variety of mulberry that grows wild in Japan. She made her papers only during the winter months—when the coolness results in a much finer, crisper sheet—including one of my favorites, Furuta Chochin, a traditional lantern paper that I have used in several of my lamps. Fortunately, I acquired a small supply of Mrs. Furuta's Chochin before she retired, so I'll be able to use it for a few more lamps.
Mrs. Sayoko Furuta and her husband Mr. Kozo Furuta,
from an older Hiromi Paper catalog⩘
More recently, I discovered another very nice lantern paper, Chochin Mino-Gami by Mr. Satoshi Hasegawa, a traditional craftsman from Mino city who studied under Mr. Kozo Furuta.
Mr. Satoshi Hasegawa making his washi
from a Japan Local Government Council article⩘
There are several sources of washi in America. The best I have come across is Hiromi Paper of Santa Monica. They carry a rich selection of papers from around the world, have a variety of sample books available, and have a nice page on their site that explains the history, the materials used, and the process of making washi⩘ . Hiromi Paper store: store.hiromipaper.com⩘ .
Mike Mahoney's Fine Finishes
Mike Mahoney is bowlmaker extraordinaire. Pictured below is a set of his Red Boxelder bowls. As part of his work, he developed his own wonderful finishes: a natural walnut oil and a paste wax that is a blend of his walnut oil, beeswax, and carnauba wax.
I discovered these finishes when I was looking for a truly safe and robust finish for a set of maple chew toys⩘ that I made for a friend's baby. It's an entirely different experience to use Mahoney's finishes. Typically for me, oiling means donning a respirator, opening the windows, turning on the fans, wearing latex gloves and safety glasses, and still getting a headache. With these finishes, I used no mask, no glasses, no fans, and no gloves … and I didn't get a headache. Both the oil and the wax are totally pleasant to use; I actually like the feel of them on my fingers. Both smell faintly, but it's a pleasant fragrance, and the smell dissipates as they dry. They take longer to dry, but the result is a nice, rich sheen that feels good to the touch.
Mike has a nice quote on his site: "Americans will habitually prefer the useful to the beautiful and they will require that the beautiful be useful." – Alexis De Tocqueville, Democracy in America (1840).
Ridge Carbide Tool Co
High quality carbide saw blades, as well as an excellent mail-in sharpening service. www.ridgecarbidetool.com⩘ .
Whiteside Router Bits
Klingspor's Woodworking Shop
Klingspor, a German company operating since 1893 with facilities in North Carolina and California, makes abrasives, including a wide variety of sandpaper, sanding discs, and sanding belts. They have more offerings in the fine range than most other manufacturers. They also sell a variety of woodworking tools and accessories at reasonable prices. I've purchased a couple of my sanders from them. www.woodworkingshop.com⩘ .
I've loved hardware stores since I was a kid. The really good ones are enchanted wonderlands! McGuckin's online site is woefully limited (it puzzles me why they haven't done a better job with that), but to wander the aisles of their Boulder, Colorado store is an experience not to be missed! It's the kind of place where you don't ask if they have something; rather, you ask the knowledgeable staff where it is.
My favorite story goes back 20-some years ago when I was trying to change the head gasket on my old Honda Civic and broke a bolt off in the head (wood is my thing, and when I'm smart I stay away from engines!). It was Saturday afternoon and the local Honda dealership was already closing. So I bummed a ride to McGuckin. They had the tool I needed to get the broken bolt end out of the head and the obscure replacement bolt I needed for that old, imported car! Now that's a hardware store. www.McGuckin.com⩘ .
Highland · McFeely's · Peachtree
When I look for tools, I especially like to turn to shops run by people who really understand woodworking. A few of the online stores that I've purchased general woodworking tools and supplies from repeatedly are Highland Woodworking⩘ (their site contains a wealth of in-depth woodworking tips), McFeely's⩘ , and Peachtree Woodworking⩘ .