Sterling Hand Tools

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Above: Double squares are made of cast iron and hardened steel.

Reviewed by Raf Nathan

An exciting part of the current woodworking scene is the number of new toolmakers entering the industry. One American maker who is riding the swell is Chris Kuehn. Though still only able to afford to run his Sterling Tool Works on a part-time basis, he makes and designs a small range of high quality specialist wood tools.

With an encouraging father Chris was a keen metal and woodworker as a small boy. A degree in mechanical engineering was a somewhat logical step in a career that saw Chris working with NASA, highpointing with work on the Mars Rover mission.
His small home workshop includes a manual mill, lathe, surface grinder and belt sanders. Much of the machinery Chris has is vintage machinery that he restored.


Thin dovetail square blade is ideal for checking for square faces and depth.

The dovetail saddle square and beautiful plane setting hammer are flagship products and made in-house. The hammer in brass alloy has a replaceable walnut head. The small saddle-tail dovetail marker is made from steel and brass and comes in a selection of gradients from 1:4 to 1:8. The saddle design allows you to mark the dovetail angle as well as 90°.


Sterling dovetail saddle squares (left) come in gradients 1:4 to 1:8.

Equipment and time demands make designing then outsourcing certain components of some tools necessary. Chris Kuehn’s Roubo design curves are cut elsewhere but finely detailed back at the shop. The new dovetail and double squares are also outsourced but final detailing is once again done in-house.


Plane setting hammers in brass alloy with walnut heads.

A dovetail square is one of those tools that cannot be substituted for when you make dovetails. The thin blade enables access to the tight space in dovetails and pins. These squares have a great satin chrome surface finish with accurate etched markings.

Sterling Tool Works is part of the new generation of specialised hand tool manufacturers that operate on a small scale with a focus on delivering the highest possible quality.

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