What separates a "nice" project from a "great" one can be simply several details better executed.

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Chisels, planes, card scrapers, and handsaws have lofty reputations as tools reserved only for expert craftsman who understand their mysterious vagaries. Nonsense. If you don't have them already, outfit your shop with a set of bench chisels, a block plane, a No. 5 jack plane, a card scraper, and a Japanese pull saw. Learn to tune the planes, and sharpen all but the saw. (Replace its disposable blade rather than sharpen it.) All provide superfine control of a workpiece's dimensions and, when well-tuned, prove a pleasure to use.

See the basics of tuning a hand plane for peak performance.

Then watch Design Editor John Olson show how to use a plane properly.

Get tips for using a chisel.

Watch how to tune and use a cabinet scraper.