Do You Want to Learn How to Use Hand Tools?
I firmly believe that adding fundamental hand techniques to your skill set will make you a better woodworker. A woodworker not tied to machine capacity limits, fences, and jigs. Woodworking is simply about working to a line and your hand tools can saw, plane, and chisel to that line with great precision. The Hand Tool School is an Online Woodworking School that's like a virtual apprenticeship. We teach how to use hand tools to build furniture or whatever else you can dream of.
The KEY to our method is structure. You can watch videos on YouTube all day long and not progress your skills. After teaching thousands of woodworkers how to use hand tools, the secret is in providing a step by step approach.
But everyone learns differently...
..so over the last decade plus of running this school I have developed different teaching methods to adapt to different styles of learning.
Choose How You Want to Learn
click on the links in the Nav bar above or the boxes below to learn more about Semesters, Projects, and Technique learning paths.
"Semesters" Provide a Path
Currently there is over 600 hours of video instruction in the school library. But it is not just random technique videos. Our "Semesters" provide a structured curriculum that guides you in a logical path from hand tool zero to hand tool hero! Techniques lesson are presented in a specific order. Each lesson then presents a project that applies those skills. This structure improves your skills quickly and all of the projects help to equip your wood shop with essential workbench appliances, jigs, and even shop made tools. Each semester finishes with a project or projects that tie together all the skills presented during the course.
"Projects" Give You Context
Sometimes learning how to cut a dovetail in abstract isn't the best way to do it. Those "dovetail a day" plans make you really good at cutting a two tail dovetail but don't show you how to assemble a box with dovetailed corners that goes together square. They don't show you how to deal with wood movement across the wide table top nor how to design a piece with grain composition in mind. The projects highlighted here can be built exactly as shown but I have developed them to specifically highlight skills and techniques commonly used with furniture forms so that when you build your own designs, you can apply what you have learned. In fact, I encourage students from deviating from the design as I show it. This is how we get better!
"Lessons" Focus You
Maybe you have built a few things already and consider yourself a seasoned woodworker. Maybe you don't need a process or a design and just want to focus on a specific skill or joint, or design principle. The technique library is hundred and hundreds of hours of focused lessons built to answer the questions of students over the years. And because it is based on my students questions, it grows every day. Vacuum veneering, frame and panel joinery, blind dovetails, using story sticks, marquetry, how to restore a moulding plane, wood identification, scarf joints, saw tooth geometry, and on and on and on. This is for the woodworker who discovers a question in their own work and needs an answer specifically for that.
Sometimes you just want it all! This is why I developed the "Apprenticeship" model that gives you a subscription to EVERYTHING! Take a Semester course, or build a project, or watch a specific technique video. Or attend a live Office Hours meeting and get your questions answered live. Apprentices get access to the whole library of content that far exceeds just the semesters and projects. They get unlimited support and they are the students who shape the library going forward. I base all of my technique focus videos on the questions that get raised by the Apprentice members.
The hand tool school has been an amazing resource. The first few semesters are a video anthology of how to accomplish any task by hand. I used to dread sawing by hand and was totally incapable of getting square cuts. With Shannon’s (video) tutelage, I’m a confident sawyer and repeat the Hand Tool School mantra to everyone: If you can see the line, you can saw to the line.
What I have learned and continue to learn and enjoy on your site is incredibly exciting and meaningful.
My hand tool workshop provides the healing balance I need in my life.
I am deeply grateful!
What's Inside the School for Apprentices?
Structured Course Semesters
Certainly Semesters are the core component that are included when you subscribe as an Apprentice. These offer a step by step series of lessons and applied projects for a truly comprehensive learning experience. Each lesson introduces a skill, applies it in by building a useful shop project, then sets you up for the next lesson. Each lesson then builds on the last, fleshing out your skill set in bite sized chunks. Following a semester curriculum will teach you new techniques and cement them with applied exercises. This seriously kills the daunted feel of trying to learn everything at once.
In 2020 while the COVID pandemic raged we launched small group cohorts to work together through the Semesters to provide even greater guidance and even accountability for student following the courses. This was such a success that we are continuing it today. Sometimes you need a schedule and a deadline to keep you on track. Cohorts ups the ante on the semester structure.
Technique and Skill Lessons
As of this writing, there is an archive of over 400 videos that focus on a specific joint, skill, technique, problem, or whatever that may come up along your journey to hand tool nirvana. These lessons are suggested by you, the student, and created by me to answer the questions that pop up that are not already covered by the existing library. I also take an hour each month to fire up my live streaming gear and do a live broadcast. I call it Office Hours. Here I answer questions, demonstrate things that come up in the chat room or are emailed in. These broadcasts are recorded and also go into the lesson archive. So in other words, the number of lessons grows every month.
Here is Just a Sample of a Few Lessons:
Spot Planing Method
Vacuum Press Veneering
Full Blind Dovetails
Principles of Functional Design
Fox Wedged Tenons
Restoring Vintage Moulding Planes
Projects, Community, Tool Library & Sharpening Videos
You get still more with The Hand Tool School experience!
- Projects! Sometimes I just want to build something and don't want to wrap a Semester course structure around it. So these projects are simply that, bonus stuff that I show you how I build it. Some are small shop projects like a veneer hammer. Others are more involved like the veneer fronted Tall Chest. Some are just for fun like the coffin we build last Halloween.
- The Community is the lifeblood of the whole thing. Every day thousands of woodworkers are sharing their questions, projects, triumphs, and knitting patterns (looking at you Rob!). You have a question? You can get an answer in minutes. No judgement, no trolls. Its the happiest, most helpful hand tool place on the Net. Every member can create an "Apprentice Log" which is your personal blog to chronicle your journey and to ask your questions.
- The Tool Library is a series of articles that covers all the various hand tools and why you MUST have them. I include buying guide videos as well to help you make sense of everything.
- Sharpening is certainly a gateway skill for hand tool success so I've collected a series of videos on the topic that will show you how to sharpen any type of tool using a wide variety of sharpening media...I've tried them all.
Virtual School eh?
Funny how I don't have to explain this as much since COVID became a thing. Though I can say that the pandemic did more than normalize virtual learning. It enabled it. I personally taught classes to more than 30 woodworking guilds around the country during COVID. Frankly this is what I've been doing since the launch of the school in 2010, but new tech makes it better every day. Today we have an open Zoom session going at all times. Anyone can pop in and spend time working in the shop with friends. They can ask questions of their peers and demonstrate to help each other out. This is the same thing that happens each month with "Office Hours" but much less formal. Sometimes you just want to hang out with the community of like minded hand tool weirdos.
Taking a Woodworking Class Has Never Been This Easy
Face to face, classroom instruction is outstanding. But making that happen is easier said than done. First is taking the time off from work and family to attend a class, then is the cost of the class, room/board/travel. Finally you learn to build something in someone else's shop with someone else's tools only to come back home and be unable to duplicate what you just learned.
The Hand Tool School has been designed to tackle one skill at a time and allow you to slowly build your tool kit as your skills demand. In fact the applied projects after each lesson strive to utilize only that specific skill and tool/s to build the project. You learn in your shop, at your pace, with your tools, in your bunny slippers.*
*The Hand Tool School does not recommend bunny slippers without steel toes
I enjoy both the technique lessons and complete projects presented in The Hand Tool School. I have learned many new things, even things I already thought I knew. Most especially patience and body mechanics. Looking forward to many more years as an Apprentice.
I know that if your school didn’t exist I would have never been able to learn woodworking as much as I did. Thank you for creating this space for all the lost woodworking souls out there; and inspiring me to keep building things, and pushing myself to the limit.
Meet the Team
Glue Pot Keeper/Head Tool Monkey
The guy in the videos, he used power tools for years then forgot how to plug things in 15 years ago. Watch Shannon's Origin story...no radioactive spiders but maybe a Proton Pack
Shop Dog/Shaving Inspector
In charge of warming a spot on the floor and cleaning the shop. If it falls to the floor, he will try to eat it. Usually he makes sure that Shannon takes plenty of breaks to throw toys and take walks.
Hand Tool Goodness is Just a Click Away
Try it for a month and you will see that The Hand Tool School has everything you need to learn woodworking using hand tools. I will rebill you each month until you choose to cancel (or pause) your membership. You can choose to upgrade to an annual subscription if you like and get 2 months for free. You can upgrade (or downgrade) at any time and I'll prorate your subscription accordingly.
When you want the stand alone lessons and don't need the structure semester courses,
Apprentice Lite is for you