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. 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.
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
- Tool List
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
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.
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.
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.
A discussion of the types of chisels, a good starting set of them, the physics of the cut, and tips on how to hold and cut with them comprise this lesson. Its the perfect primer to the most basic and underestimated tool in the shop.
Hand Plane 101
What types of bench planes are out there and why you would use them. How to use them and the basic techniques that will get you planing more efficiently and without tiring yourself out. Hand planes are not strenuous to use nor do you require 10 or 30 of them to get started. We focus on a single plane throughout this Orientation and this lesson will get you using it and understanding how it works from the very first cut to the 10,000th cut.
Hand Saw 101
Maybe my favorite tool, at least that's how I justify all the saws I own. This lesson cuts past all the terms and tooth geometry and stuff that holds people back and mired in indecision. We talk about a typical hand saw and a back saw and how to hold it, how to stand, and how to get out of the way of the saw to let it cut.
This lesson demands that you suspend some questions and just focus on picking up a saw and using it. No matter what kind of saw or type of cut you are making this lesson rings true.
Wood: its the stuff we work yet it confuses so many!!
This lesson covers some of the basic terminology of wood structure and buying wood. We visit a lumber yard and a big box store to talk about how to best buy wood and where to source it when you don't have a great resource in your back yard.
Your Orientation Tool Kit
I give a lot more detail about these tools and why I chose them in the introductory video for this semester, but if you are curious about what you will need to complete the work in this semester, I made every attempt to source all of the tools from big box stores inexpensively with only a few exceptions.
I cut all the joinery and size all the parts using this impulse hardened tooth saw that I picked up at the Big Box store. I do demonstrate using a back saw and Japanese Dozuki but neither are required.
This is the one tool I recommend spending some money on. The low angle Jack plane will be the workhorse of your tool kit and skipping the learning curve and going to a Veritas, WoodRiver, or Lie Nielsen plane will jump start your learning.
A 1", 3/4", and 1/4" chisel do all the work for mortise and tenon, bridles, and chopping, paring, and juggling.
(okay maybe skip the juggling)
Brace & 3 Bits
Honestly a cordless drill from the hardware store will suffice here, but picking up an antique brace and some bits (1, 3/4, & 1/4") isn't expensive and the experience of boring by hand is worth this expense.
Basic Marking Tools & Miscellaneous Stuff
A hardware store combo square, a pocket knife, pencil and a couple of scrap boards to use a the occasional straight edge round out the set of tools. Some cut nails and an inexpensive index of drill bits running from 1/16 to 1/4" for the nail pilot holes will give you a lot of flexibility.
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.
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.
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