My Favorite Tool of All Time

By Matt Kenney

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It’s definitely not a router plane

We’ve all heard it: Tools don’t matter. It’s the person using the tools that matter. Yes, that’s true. A master can do good work with just about any tool. Some folks can’t do good work no matter how good their tools are. But also, it’s complete bullshit. Tools matter. Tools are an extension of our minds and bodies. Great ones get out of the way and let you work without having to fight them. Bad tools ruin your day. That’s why I’m always curious what other furniture makers consider their favorite tool and why.

First, I’ll get the somewhat “deep” answer out of the way. My favorite tool is definitely the brain sitting in my head. I was blessed with a pretty good one and parents that pushed me to develop it. Also, and I say this genuinely, my hands are my next favorite tools. Without them, I would not be able to do what I do. And I greatly appreciate them. If you want to know why, check out this Instagram post from December 2022.

That being said, let’s get to what we all really love: actual woodworking tools. Hands down, my favorite tool is my Lie-Nielsen Toolworks 1 in. bevel edge bench chisel. It’s perfectly balanced, weighs just the right amount, gets insanely sharp, and keeps that sharp edge for a very long time. After my tablesaw, it’s the tool I use the most. It’s perfect for Kumiko, because the wide blade is stable and easy to keep flat on the guide blocks I use to pare bevels into the pattern pieces. It also rocks for paring and for the exact same reasons. I never hit it with a mallet, by the way.

Favorite Tool Chisel
No tool is quite as lovely to hold an use as a well-made and sharp chisel.

I know that many folks consider Lie-Nielsen tools expensive. Perhaps they are in an objective sense, but I doubt it. Moreover, I think a tool’s cost should be considered in light of its quality. Seen that way, they are unbelievable bargains. All of my Lie-Nielsen planes and chisels work flawlessly. They let me do what I want. I am able to focus on the work at hand, and not on how to overcome a tool’s shortcomings. That is invaluable to me. (I purchased all but one of Lie-Nielsen tools with my own money and do not have a relationship of any sort with the company, but I do know Thomas and other folks that work there, and once taught a class at their Maine showroom school.)

If I were to pick a second favorite tool, it would be my Lie-Nielsen No. 102 bronze low-angle block plane. It was the first quality tool I acquired. It was a gift from my former parents-in-law when I earned my Ph. D. (It’s the one that I didn’t purchase with my own money.) I love its size, weight, simplicity, and beauty.

Favorite Tool Block Plane

So, what’s your favorite tool and why? Let us know in the comments. And share this post if you know someone that would like to read it and contribute to the community. And if you enjoy reading my posts, please consider becoming a paid subscriber.

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