My Favourite Tool Suppliers

Purchasing tools can be a bit of a minefield. There are so many different brands to choose from, and so many different retailers offering them. This quick guide explains the main tool suppliers I use when sourcing tools, and why I like using them.

If you didn't know already, I worked at Axminster on weekends for 5 years while studying Furniture Making at Rycotewood. This intense 5 years is the reason I have such an in depth knowledge of tools, and know where peoples common pain points are.

Axminster were also very generous when letting me borrow their tools for videos, and for promoting my videos in the early days. For that reason, they have a special place in my heart, albeit bias. But they do genuinely have one of the most impressive selection of quality tools and services in the UK and Europe. 

What They Offer

Axminster offer a wide variety of products that cover multiple professions. You can find tools for fine woodworking, DIY, carpentry, carving, woodturning, pyrography, and even jewellery among many other things. They also cover a variety of price points to suit different budgets. The low end products they offer are the perfect balance between being cheap enough to afford, yet quality enough to actually work. On the other end of the spectrum, the premium tools give people the opportunity to treat themselves, or simply stare in amazement at the beautiful line up of tools on display.

Where are they based?

Axminster has a huge online array of products that you can sink many hours into browsing. Not to mention their amazing catalogue. As of writing this, they currently have 8 stores around the UK: Axminster, Basingstoke, Cardiff, High Wycombe, North Shields, Nuneaton, Sittingbourne and Warrington. Nuneaton being the largest store. It's an absolute behemoth!

Classic Hand Tools is a small business that focus on selling quality hand tools… and I mean quality hand tools. What I love about these guys is they can be found at pretty much every woodworking event round the UK, have the most beautiful stand by far, and support a lot of the smaller tool manufacturers around the world by acting as a distributor in the UK. They really care about the work they do, and every single time I've dealt with them, I've had a brilliant experience.

 

What They Offer

The prices at Classic Hand Tools are generally at the higher price point. This is because the tools they offer are manufactured by small to medium businesses who care deeply about the work they do. You will not find anything that is straight off a mass production line in their catalogue. If you're looking for a special tool that you can treasure for a lifetime, support a small maker, and do business with a company that helps make at this possible, go to Classic Hand Tools.

Where are they based?

Classic Hand Tools have a website and often a large presence at woodworking events around the UK. They also have a store in Witnesham, Ipswich that I am yet to visit. Although to keep my wallet intact, it's probably best I keep it that way.

In my opinion, Workshop Heaven have the best selection of tools for the mid-range budget. Perfect for people who can't justify spending money on premium tools, yet want something that works exactly as intended, without the compromise. I often find myself purchasing miscellaneous tools from Workshop Heaven that I'm unlikely to use often, but want something of quality. Examples of this are the Quangsheng Plough Plane I purchased for my Garden Workshop Series, and a set of chisels that I plan to have permanently stationed at Rycotewood while teaching.

What They Offer

As stated previously, Workshop Heaven absolutely nail the medium price point for tools. However have began expanding into premium tools similar to what you may find at Classic Hand Tools, but this is only sporadic. In addition to this, they also offer materials such as metal for knife making, and exotic/rare pieces of wood for special one off projects.

Where are they based?

Workshop Heaven have an office and warehouse based in Banbury. However they are primarily based online. The owner Matthew Platt also holds demonstrations at events and educational establishments around the UK, which is how I first learned of the company and the tools they have to offer.

Lee Valley are a large supplier of tools, garden, kitchen and homeware equipment. Obviously here we will be focusing on the woodworking side of things, but it's worth mentioning the huge scope of product they offer. Don't be put off by the fact that woodworking tools are only a small part of their offering, their selection is incredible.

What They Offer

Lee Valley offer a similar selection to Axminster. You can purchase hand tools, power tools, machinery and consumables, all of which come at a variety of price points to suit different budgets. I visited one of their stores while on Veritas training and ended up purchasing a few accessories that I could not find in the UK such as imperial Onsrud Spiral Router Cutters.

Where are they based?

Lee Valley have a large presence online and have stores spread out across Canada. Click this link for a full list of their current stores.

I consider Dictum to be the German version of Lee Valley. Their product offering is very similar, but with a higher focus on Japanese tools. I've never actually purchased something from Dictum because I like the opportunity to hold tools in my hands before purchasing them. But if I was to ever visit one of their stores, I would almost certainly walk out with a set of Japanese Kitchen Knives.

What They Offer

Dictum offer a wide variety of woodworking tools, primarily at the mid range budget. As well as materials such as wood, metals, leather and other animal projects such as horn. They also have an incredible array of courses that cover a variety of topics and projects. I'd love to enrol on one of them myself!

Where are they based?

Dictum are primarily based in Germany and have a store in Munich and Plattling

Rutlands are in my opinion the UK equivalent of Lee Valley / Dictum. Not much more needs to be explained with regards to the product offering, but I tend to use these guys as a backup in case I cannot source something somewhere else. More often that not, workshop storage solutions are what I use Rutlands for.

What They Offer

A wide variety of woodworking tools, equipment and consumables as well as storage solutions which tend to be at a low to mid-range budget. They also have products for the garden and kitchen. One thing I really like about Rutlands is their comprehensive buying guide.

Where are they based?

Rutlands are primarily based online and have a distribution centre in Bakewell, Derbyshire.

Notable Mentions

Below is a small list of suppliers that I haven't dealt with directly, but have either browsed their catalogue, heard about them through word of mouth, or seen them at events.

Wood workers Workshop is a family run business owned and managed by Master Craftsman Peter Sefton. They offer a wide variety of high quality hand tools, workshop equipment and tuition material such as DVD's.

I've browsed through this website many times looking for something to buy, but never quite come across the exact thing I needed. I've heard very good things about them though.

Tool Nut have a great selection of tools for both ends of the budget spectrum. These guys are my backup option incase I cannot source any high quality tools immediately.

Primarily a supplier of Timber Framing Tools, but there is occasionally crossover into fine woodworking with the tools used so I thought it'd be worth mentioning. I've purchased a Wood Owl Auger bit from these guys before.

I hope this list helps you in your tool purchasing endeavours. If your favourite tool supplier is missing from this list, please don't hesitate to drop a recommendation in the comment section below!

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