This past weekend I went to a Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event that was being hosted in the Bay Area. If you aren’t familiar with the company, Lie-Nielsen is a high end hand tool company based in Maine. Their tools are a bit pricey, but they are beautiful. (Or as they put it, they make “heirloom quality tools”)
Normally I’m all for getting cheaper tools. In my opinion, if you know how to use a tool properly you can make pretty much anything work. The problem for me was (is) I’m just starting out so I wanted to make sure the tool was “perfect,” that way if there were mistakes in my work I knew it was my fault and not the tools.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from the event, but I’m definitely glad I decided to go. There weren’t any official demonstrations, but they had all of their tools out for you to use, and they had plenty of staff walking around for you to ask any questions you might have. I was finally able to get some straight answers about the difference between a jack plane and a bench plane (jack planes are more versatile, and bench planes are good for smoothing near the end of a project), and have someone walk me through the proper tools and technique for sharpening my tools.
If there is an event in your area I highly recommend going.