Orientation Semester

Looking for a Place to Start Your Hand Tool Journey?

Orientation covers the basics.  I mean the fundamental basics.  This course is the product of running this school for 7 years and seeing where new woodworkers struggle and what questions they have.  So in 2018 I built this "prequel" course to get even closer to the basics.  It is structured in a way to get you building right away.  It suspends some of the paralysis by analysis questions and gets your working and building your skills with VERY few tools and no previous experience required.  

Using applied projects we learn about the basics of tool handling, joinery, and casework.  Then the 101 lessons back up the applied lessons and act like a reference glossary when you have additional questions on the tools and the wood we use.

In short, it is THE best place to start for a new woodworker interested in hand tools and looking to get their shop and tool arsenal set up quickly.

I’ve finished the Orientation projects and gone through the lessons and I feel I have gotten a really good foundation for what is to come in the future.  What a surprise to find that when you do it right, with properly sharpened tools, it’s not hard work at all.   I would have never thought you could hand plane a 3/4" piece of 1x12 down to a 1/2" piece so easily! Who knew?


Buy Just this Semester or Get Everything in the School

Enroll for $38/mo

get access to EVERYTHING in the school

Orientation Semester $125

get just this Semester to download or watch online

Shannon has hit the nail on the head with this school.  I got exactly what I needed in both hand plane instruction and wood species education from his videos.  And any other questions I had, he was quick to answer via email.


Start With Nothing...

This semester is truly no experience necessary.  If you watch the video above you will see that I'm serious about this and I left my well equipped shop and did all the work in a blank garage 600 miles from my home and all my tools (sniff)

You may not have ever picked up a saw or chisel, but this Semester is designed to get started with just a few tools and teach you the fundamental  skills to build just about anything.  It is the push that gets you over the analysis paralysis and building very quickly.

...and Finish with a Workshop and Skills Ready to Build Much More

Projects, Lessons & Tools

  • Projects
  • Lessons
  • Tool List
introductory workbench

The Workbench

The biggest stumbling block I've seen with new woodworkers is "I don't have a workbench".

This "design" is easy to build, teaches you about mortise and tenon joinery, bridle joints, drawbores, and a lot of sawing and planing experience.  It is a viseless design but easily adapted for use with any number of workbench vises should you choose to add on later.  

Most importantly, it is build entirely with construction lumber bought for less than $100 and built with just 5 tools

sloyd bench hooks

Sloyd Hooks

I think a bench hook is actually more important than a workbench.  I often encourage it to be built before the workbench.  These hooks however are different from the typical, supplemental bench top design.  These hooks, based on the Finnish Sloyd method are dead simple and useful but one of the most outstanding chisel exercises I've ever seen.  A simple block, carved into a simple and powerful tool.

wedge lock marking gauge

Marking Gauge

Precision with hand tools ultimately comes down to good layout.  After all, this is all just working to a line right?

So getting that line exactly where you need it and in a form that actually helps your chisels and saws is of paramount importance as our skills move into furniture and casework.

Plus, this little project gives you through mortising experience both at 90 degrees and with scary, off square angled mortises.  

introductory tool box

Tool Box

This box is simple and beautiful and an outstanding casework introduction.  We use butt joints and nailed joinery to cut past some of the confusion and intimidation of more complex joinery.

This allows us to focus on the milling and sizing of parts consistently which is THE most important part of casework.  It is a game of minimizing the compounding errors and this starts and ends with sizing the parts.

This particular project is a direct result of feedback from my current students and it is a great way to tie everything we have learned together in one project.

Plus you use all of the above projects to build it.

Virtual School?  Support?

Yep this is all virtual instruction using video, PDFs, and good old fashioned community forums.  But I'm never more than an email away or a private message through the forum.  Plus there are LOTS of woodworkers active every day in our Community that are ready and willing to help you as your skills grow.

Unlike brick and mortar classes, there is no start time and no need to take vacation time or travel to a location.  With The Hand Tool School you can work at 2 AM in your own shop, with your own tools, and stark naked!  I advise some protective footwear at least.

Of course I'll be here every step of the way answering your questions.  Ask any of my students, I'm always ready to help.

I just finished 2 furniture projects made entirely by hand that I would have never been able to complete before joining The Hand Tool School 3 months ago

Robert S

Join the Best Hand Tool Community on the Net

"The Shop Floor" is an extremely active community of your peers waiting for you to share your triumphs, project pictures, and to help you when you have troubles.  Even though Shannon is always around to help, you can also tap into this vibrant community of thousands or other woodworkers.  If you are struggling with a technique or  project, many of them are building the same thing or have already built it and can offer advice.

hand tool school community

An Introductory Hand Tool Woodworking Course

Build a Workbench, Gather the Starting Tools You Need, Build a Tool Box to Hold them all

Build Skills that will launch a lifelong love of Hand Tool Woodworking