Hand Tool School #1: Intro & Semester 1 - Project 1 - Winding Sticks

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Blog entry by jasonburr posted 02-25-2014 09:07 PM 2138 reads 0 times favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Hand Tool School series Part 2: Semester 1 - Project 2 - Sawbench »

For those of you unfamiliar with Shannon Rogers, The Renaissance Woodworker & The Hand Tool School, you find out more here:

As I have been re-enamoured (is that a word) with woodworking I find myself being drawn more and more to handwork for a few reasons:

1. It does not require a large amount of space. My area is about half of a half of a two car garage. The wife’s car stays in the garage and my truck stays outside. My side of the garage also stores things, so my space is very limited. There is no room for stationary machines.
2. It is quiet. I can work in the garage and the neighbors, wife and pesky onlookers are not disturbed.
3. I like the idea of creating by hand. Even with the few projects that I have completed, I have received a great deal of satisfaction and pride from.
4. Expense. Sure, I might by a $250 plane, but is the last one of that plane I will ever buy and compared to something like a $1200 jointer, it seems reasonable. That being said, premium ain’t cheap.
5. Knowledge. I have to think when I am working with wood by hand. I have to prepare the stock, face it the right direction, read the grain, read the variances with my hands and eyes. Nothing else invades my thoughts.

Things I do not like about handtool work:

1. Getting 2 sides parallel. This is by far the hardest par of milling. Lots of “Take a few passes and see where we are.” I believe a thickness planer is in my future.
2. Restoring old tools. I have quite a few old Stanley Planes. I have decided that I like working wood more that working tools. I am in the process of upgrading tools as the budget allows. If your don’t like spending 45 minutes lapping the sole of a #4 on a glass plate with sandpaper, go buy a premium plane. My nose and mouth taste like metal for 2 days.
3. Frustration with sawing. I am getting better, but I am having a real struggle sawing to a line. This will not dissuade me, but the learning curve seems pretty steep.

On to the Hand Tool School. I purchased Semesters 1 & 2 before even doing the winding sticks. I knew that I wanted to commit to it and that was a good way to do it. After purchasing the semesters, I was allowed into quite a bit of extra premium content, including an archive of Shannon’s monthly videos. After watching the buyer’s guide to hand planes, I contacted Shannon about a recent purchase I had made and some buyer’s remorse I was having. I asked him for some direction and he went above and beyond. It made the purchase of the semesters worth every penny. I am located in an area that has no local woodworking group, no woodworking supply stores, no classes, etc. His personal response made the difference for me.

For the winding sticks, I purchased a nice piece of walnut from my local lumber yard for the project. I also had some thin maple around for the project, so that is what I used for the inlay. I made the winding sticks in an evening. I ripped the walnut down the middle to create the sticks. They may be a little on the small side, but I will live with them for a while until I feel a need to replace them. Milling the boards by hand was an enjoyable and enlightening experience. This highlights one of the reasons that I am enjoying working by hand; I have to do a better job of understanding how things work before just attacking it with a tool.

Overall, things went well. I did chisel against the grain while cutting the rabbet and paid the price with a little tearout. I only inlaid 1 of the sticks and after watching Lesson 3, I may need to inlay the other to help provide more contrast. I finished them with 2 coats of Arm-R-Seal.

You can see pictures of my project here:

3 comments so far

View Richard H's profile

Richard H

490 posts in 2484 days

#1 posted 02-25-2014 10:25 PM

Keep up the good work.

In regards to your comments about what you don’t like about hand tools.

Shannon himself will talk less and less about the need to keep the faces parallel as time goes on with his classes. I have been fortunate to take a few classes at Roy Underhill’s school (The Woodwrights School) and unless there is a real need to keep stuff perfectly parallel close is good enough. For winding sticks you probably do want them pretty close which makes that a good learning lesson but for real furniture you rarely need to worry about more than looks right. Get a face and edge flat and perpendicular to each other than push your errors away from that reference corner and your time working with hand tools will improve tremendously. This is very different from how most people think about power tool woodworking which is much more focused on precise measurements and probably one of the big shifts in thinking you need to make if you don’t want to drive yourself crazy using hand tools.

I agree on restoring old tools. I love the look and feel of older tools but they can take a lot of time away from doing actual woodworking to restore if you are not careful. As time goes on I’m getting pickier and pickier about the used tools I purchase and have no hesitation at all buying new if I think the hassle of restoring is to high. A few things like good panel saws are impossible to buy new but other things like high quality planes we have several good options.

Keep at the sawing. Make a good saw bench, relax and let the saw do the work. It might be the set on the saw that’s the issue but if you have multiple saws that seem to have the same issues it’s likely technique. Shannon does a great job explaining the mechanics of good body position when sawing in other Season 1 lessons.

View Tim's profile


3859 posts in 2765 days

#2 posted 02-26-2014 12:33 AM

Thanks for the review. Shannon’s hand tool school does look like a good deal. Regarding your frustration with sawing, do you by chance have a dominant left eye and right hand or vice versa? I do and it’s a known challenge. After a lot of practice sawing and rechecking my technique repeatedly my sawing still isn’t great. Not impossible to overcome, just takes more practice so as long as you expect that it might help with the frustrations.

View David Bareford's profile

David Bareford

66 posts in 2410 days

#3 posted 03-12-2014 12:57 PM

Tim/Jason, I also have the dominant left eye/right hand issue. I always place my cut line to the left of my saw so I can see what I’m cutting to. In the last year I’ve really improved my sawing just by noting my body position and getting out of the way of the saw’s natural motion.

Of course, having a shapr, well-set saw is critical.

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