The Slightly Confused Woodworker

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Just call me Mr. Handtool!


With spring slowly but surely creeping into my area, it’s finally about time for me to consider what projects I would like to work on going into the summer. Normally I would take some sort of woodworking class to start off the season. Taking a class usually got me psyched up for trying some new project or technique, but as of now I won’t be taking any classes that I can foresee. Time, money, and philosophy have all played a part in that decision, yet that doesn’t mean I don’t want to do anything woodworking related when it comes to my continuing woodworking education. So I’ve decided to sign up for the Hand Tool School internet woodworking course. Wait a minute!! Am I not the guy that is always beating his chest about hand tool snobs and woodworking elitists? Yes, that is still me, and I still stand by my statements. But I never said that I don’t like hand tools.

The truth is that I use hand tools on every build. I use hand tools more than power tools when it comes down to it. I would not be able to woodwork without hand tools. I’ve even made some projects completely by hand if you can believe that. My issue was never with hand tools, but with those that feel you should only woodwork using them and nothing else. I will always hold that you should woodwork however it makes you happy using whatever tools you have, not using some rigid guidelines which limit you to one mindset and one toolset. That being said, I am always open to new ideas, unlike quite a few woodworkers I’ve encountered on the internet. I’ve always enjoyed certain handwork operations and I will even brag a little bit and say that I am actually pretty good at it, especially considering the relatively short amount of time I’ve been a woodworker. The other side of the coin is that I am already fairly adept at using a tablesaw, which is really the only powertool I use on a regular basis (and will always use). So a hand tool course is the next logical step in my woodworking progression. The Hand Tool School is reasonably priced, has gotten some great reviews, offers and interesting list of topics and projects, and I can take the classes whenever I feel like taking them. All of that made my decision pretty easy.

The only question now is when to begin. I want to finish my two tables project first, and then I want to get the new top for my workbench finished. The old top has taken a beating and in fairness was only supposed to be a temporary solution that has lasted more than two years. Last week I took a big step in getting my workshop organized, but I still have one or two more things I want to do in there before I call it ready-to-go. I’ve also promised to make a Stickley #72 magazine cabinet for a relative, but I will probably save that for the summer. Another thing to consider is the recommended tool list on the Hand Tool School website. I had most of the tools on there but I was missing a few, namely a rip saw and a scrub plane. There is nothing more I would like to do than drop a few Benjamins on some new tools, but I also don’t want to anger the little lady. I have to do a little research and see if I can start the course without every tool on the list without it holding me back. Another thing is the use of rough lumber. I don’t have direct access to a lot of rough lumber in my area. I either get my stuff from a small place not far from my house, which sells more pre-surfaced wood than rough boards, or I go to a home center. So I also have to check and see what the situation with the course is in that regard. I want to be thorough and get the most out of the course. You may not know it to look at me, or by reading my blog, but I was actually a very good student at every level of schooling; I’m just a little rough around the edges is all.

If all goes well I’m hoping to be enrolled and started in roughly three weeks. That should leave me enough time to get the shop finished, my tables finished, and my new benchtop on its way. I’m really looking forward to this; it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while now. It should be a great time and a great learning experience. Who knows? I may throw away my table saw (actually there is no way) and become a hand tool snob. I might even change my last name to Handtool.

***NOTE*** There are weblinks to many of the sites I go to most at the bottom right of the blog page, including The Hand Tool School.



  1. Jeff Branch says:

    I have not enrolled in The Hand Tool School due to my lack of hand tools, but while talking to Scott Meek at the LN Hand Tool Event in Atlanta and he said that the first year or two of the school is valuable no matter what tools you have. So, I’ll likely enroll at some point. Good for you for taking this step. 🙂

  2. billlattpa says:

    I think it will be a good time. I’ve taken a few hand tool classes here and there but it seems that I just don’t have the free time to do a weekend class anymore, or do the classes where you go one night a week for 4 weeks. I’ve had a lot of fun doing that but my schedule just wont let me right now. Like I was saying, I don’t talk about it a whole lot but I use hand tools quite often and I’m actually not bad. I cut a lot of my joinery by hand. It might even give me an excuse to purchase a new tool or two.

  3. Hey thanks for the plug Bill. Do you have a Jack plane? If so don’t worry about the scrub plane. If you don’t then definitely don’t spend a lot on one. I have a Veritas model that was given to me as a gift and I won’t complain, but it just isn’t necessary. Plus a longer plane (like a Fore plane) is best for dimensioning lumber. However, for a “modern” woodworker who will be using some power tools you need to think about how much milling you will actually be doing by hand. This is one of the reasons I still recommend the scrub plane over a fore plane. The smaller sole and highly cambered blade is great for hogging off wood in milling but it also is great for working edge grain to quickly reduce the width of a board or easily square an edge. Really either the Fore or the Scrub can be had with a Jack with a heavily cambered iron. Sole flatness is irrelevant when taking such a heavy cut and a wide open mouth is absolutely mandatory so dropping $10-20 on a vintage beater is your best bet. Finally, there is a recorded live session in the archives once you join all about using a Jack as a single plane. It can be tedious but still it is very possible to do all your milling with just the one plane.

    • billlattpa says:

      No problem. I have a LN jack and an old Stanley jointer. The main tool I want to pick up before I get started is a rip panel saw, otherwise I’m good. Truth is that I don’t use a whole lot of rough lumber because not too many places near me sell it. Hearne Hardwood is the closest place that has a real selection and they are more than an hour away so I only make a trip there every once in a while.
      But like I said, I do have a decent set of hand tools because I actually have always used them, I just don’t talk about it on the blog all that much. I also like the idea of using the Jack plane as your only plane, which is what I did for a long time before I picked up a smoother and jointer.
      If all goes well I’m going to sign on at the end of the month. Thanks.

  4. Jonas Jensen says:

    I think it sounds like a very good idea with a woodworking class. I don’t think that I will get to any this year, but I sure would love to.
    As for the rip saw, does it have to be a big one, or something like a tenon saw?

    My youngest son (7) said today in the workshop: Dad, I think using a hammer and a nail and a plane is real woodworking. All this using a saw is not quite the right thing. I was afraif that he had become a hand tool snob already, but he actually meant that sawing was tedious and not so easy. But using a block plane on a corner was easy and nailing something together really made a project look like it was going somewhere.
    Brgds Jonas

    • billlattpa says:

      I love classes but I just can’t seem to find enough time to take them. I had planned on taking a class at the Acanthus workshop again but sure enough I can’t get off from work for that weekend.
      It’s good that your son is becoming a hand tool “enthusiast”. I’m sure you’ll keep him from becoming a snob about it. It has to be a good feeling that your son already likes to woodwork and use hand tools at such a young age.

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