Handtool woodworking class

Some time ago, I signed up for a handtool-only woodworking class here. So far, it’s been taking place four times, and one more time is to come. (It somehow sweetened the start into the week, since it is on Monday evening)

Please don't note that gap on the top of the right stretcher...

We are six students, and each of us is building a small stool, essentially to have a good go at mortise-and-tenon joinery, as well as on dimensioning and jointing lumber with handtools only. It is officially allowed to cheat with a thickness planer and a table-saw, at least after you have dimensioned at least some of the components. Until yesterday, I managed to resist the temptation. But I had to cut three more legs for me and three for another attendee, and I figured that I should use the valuable time with the instructor to learn some joinery and the small tricks rather than for ripping and jointing, and I had a go at the jointer, the thickness planer and the table saw. That was not the first time that I used these machines, but those that I used before were a lot smaller and less professional.

I must confess, however, that I severely disliked the table saw. Not only did I have to wear hearing protection, I was also not too happy with the potential to rip and crosscut my fingers as well. More importantly, you have to spend most of your attention on the machine, and not on the piece of wood that you’re working with. If I rip, crosscut and plane a  board by hand, I know every inch of it in the later phases. If I do that with the machine, all I do is check the sides for squareness – I don’t get the feel for the wood, if you know what I mean.

Anyway – back to hand tool woodworking: We do learn a lot (well, some) of the small tricks, that make joinery feasible, more on that later on. Probably the most important lesson that I learnt so far is to just do it, and not to worry too much – in a quite general sense, be it edge jointing, cutting tenons or bashing out mortises. It’s of no use to be afraid of getting an edge square, you need it square, and so you should just do it. And if you’re alternating out of square in each direction, because you don’t master your plane, well, just do it long enough. The same with sawing to the line, or getting the mortise walls straight, and parallel… Nobody expects you to do it right the first time.1

By now, I have the joinery for one corner of the stool finished (see pictures below), and my homework for the weekend are the other three corners, so that I can continue next time with the lamination of the top..

A quite good fit on the shoulder, at least for my standards

Haunched and mitered. The chamfer still needs some cleaning

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~ by Michael on April 20, 2010.

2 Responses to “Handtool woodworking class”

  1. Hi Michael,

    there’s a typo in the link. Nice Joints!
    Cheers Pedder

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