Fine Woodworking - "Country Pine Hutch" with Andrew Hunter (Rating: 4)

Who doesn't like pine? It's inexpensive, abundant, it looks great and the smell reminds me of the air freshener in my car. But the best thing about pine is how easy it is to work with hand tools, making it the ideal material for a project done in the old-timey style. And that's just what you'll see in the new video series from Fine Woodworking: "Country Pine Hutch with Andrew Hunter".

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Andrew learned hand tool woodworking the hard way, fifteen years of careful study and practice under what he calls a "self-imposed apprenticeship". His tools of choice, which you'll see used exclusively in this video series, are of Eastern design. And after spending a few hours watching him create toilet paper shavings with every pull stroke, I could easily be persuaded to buy a few Japanese planes myself. But don't worry, you can build along with whatever tools you currently own. In fact, he constructs the entire project, from milling the lumber to applying the finish, with a very small assortment of saws, chisels and planes. It's a welcome reminder that hand tool woodworking is about care and patience, not about the fanciest new tools on the market.

The video series begins with the most tedious of tasks, flattening your boards. Here is where you'll thank him for choosing pine for the bulk of the project. With a Jack plane, a short jointer, and a smoothing plane he takes the twist and cup out of what appears to be regular home center lumber. His technique is slightly different from others I have seen, coming at the board from four different angles. But the results are undeniable and I found myself nodding with approval as he finished. (Then I took my boards over to the power jointer because milling lumber is exactly why God created electricity.)

If you're building along, you'll appreciate how the series is broken up into short segments. Each of the six to ten minute episodes demonstrate a different step in the process through excellent camera work and clear instructions. After preparing your stock you'll shape the case sides, create the simple carcass joinery, and add a thick counter top, a plate rack and a pair of frame and panel doors. I can't stress enough how easy he makes the whole thing seem. Most of the work is done with a pair of small saws and some sharp chisels. Once the milling is behind you, the jointer plane can handle the bulk of the remaining work. Even the dados are easily cut with a saw and chisel. That's not to say you won't need a few specialty tools, a bow saw and a spoke shave are required to form the curves on the case sides and the plate rack's spindles are shaped with a draw knife. But he seems to go out of his way to keep everything simple, which will satisfy both the new and the seasoned hand tool woodworker.

A hutch is a large project, but it need not be intimidating. In fact, a project such as this can greatly increase your confidence if you are new to this type of woodworking. You'll have to admit, pointing to a big piece of furniture and boasting: "Yep, I made that sucker with nothing but a chisel and a hand saw" is bound to earn you "king of the workshop" honors among your friends. More importantly, this video series is sure to introduce a great deal of power tool woodworkers to the joys of hand tools, both Eastern and Western. Even if you don't build along, "Country Pine Hutch with Andrew Hunter" is a great way to spend a Saturday morning.