WIA Olympics: Compete and You Could Win Free Tools

Woodworking in America opens in a little less than two weeks and again this year we are preparing for the Hand Tool Olympics. We have the same events scheduled as in the previous year’s games, so you should have a familiarity with the events and plenty of practice under your belt.

And, the Olympics are open to everyone who visits the Marketplace, whether you’re a full-conference attendee or a Marketplace visitor (click here to save $2 on a Marketplace ticket).

In case you’re new to this sporting event, here’s how it works. All participants, to compensate for any subtle tool differences, use the same tools per given event. Although you might not feel as comfortable without your own chisel, mallet or saw, you have the opportunity to use tools that you may not use every day. Best of all, if you score highest in any event, you walk away with free tools. Also, just as we did in years past, by simply competing in an event, your name is entered and you may be randomly selected to win tools as well. And this year, as it has been in the past, the tools are top-notch.

This year WIA speaker and handsaw user extraordinaire Ron Herman of Antiquity Builders of Ohio is donating the saws for the One Meter Dash and the Crosscut Extravaganza events. Ron’s saws are refurbished tools that are fully tweaked, sharpened and brought back to work as they should , sometimes even better.

In keeping with saw talk, in the Greco-Roman Tenons event you’ll work with Bad Axe Tool Works tenon saws. Many thanks to Mark Harrell of Bad Axe Tool Works for the donation. Editor Christopher Schwarz, in his review of Bad Ax saws, said “What is really amazing about these saws is the level of detail with their construction. Photos don’t do them justice.”

With all the sawing that takes place in these events, you need the skill to produce a true edge. Lee Valley Tools Ltd. has once again stepped to the bench to donate jointer planes for “Shooting Sports.” The Veritas low-angle jointer you’ll use is the largest bevel-up bench plane the company makes, and is the answer for jointing edges and flattening large panels.

The event in which holes are drilled using non-powered tools , a brace and bit for those of you unfamiliar with hand tools (and we do have numerous power-tool woodworkers coming to this year’s events) , is where you lean your chest against the brace and spin the devil out of the tool as you rocket through a 2x board. The braces are a donation from Jim Bode Tools. While the company may be a guarded secret amongst hand tool collectors, the word is about to get out. I’ve purchased a few tools from this company and look forward to a daily e-mail listing new offerings. Check them out. (As a side note, ease off the brace as you reach the bottom edge of the board. The jolt you get when the bit plunges downward until the brace slams against the board can loosen fillings in your teeth , not that I have experienced this.)

Lastly, we have the dovetail event. This event is always a lot of fun and this year will be no different. The tools for “Pins First or Tails First” should be familiar to forum readers (how about it Woodnet guys?), but not so well-known elsewhere as of yet. The chisels are donated by John Payne. (The photo shows the tools in process.) These are the new harder steel (3V) chisels that are more difficult to sharpen , I used a DMT Dia-Sharp Magna-Disc System on my Worksharp , but the chisels hold that edge a very long time. You’ll want to try these out.

Before you can chop the dovetail waste, you have to define the tails and pins with a dovetail saw. This year we have a saws to use from Klaus & Pedder. Don’t search for the company just yet. These two sawmakers from across the pond make very nice-looking saws that work even better than they look. I have one of their saws (retail price is around $300) and it has bested my Gramercy Tools dovetail saw for dovetail joinery, which I didn’t think was possible. Once you try these saws (made to specifically fit your grip) at the Olympics, I think you’ll be hooked, too.

Thank you to those who donated tools for the Hand Tool Olympics. And a special thanks to the Minnesota chapter of SAPFM, headed by Mike Siemsen, for all their work in the Woodworking in America Hand Tool Olympics. Please stop by their Marketplace booth to give these hand tools , and the guys , a workout. You might just win the event or be selected at large to take home a souvenir , but you can’t win if you don’t play.

Here are the events and their descriptions:

- One Meter Dash , Step away from your table saw and venture back into the 1800s. Each contestant is required to accurately rip a 36″ piece of 2×12 stock using a handsaw. This event is judged mainly on time, with points deducted for going way off the line. (A kinked saw will result in immediate disqualification.)

- Crosscut Extravaganza , Hold your finger straight to sight down the saw (or simply channel your inner square) to accurately crosscut a piece of 2×12 lumber. This event is judged mainly for time with points deducted for going way off the line. (A kinked saw will result in immediate disqualification.)

- Greco-Roman Tenons , Produce a 3″-long, 3/4″-thick tenon on the end of a piece of 2×4 stock. Your attempt has to fit into a provided test mortise. This event is judged for time and quality , with some latitude allowed if the tenon is a bit tight, as most are handplaned to final fit.

- Shooting Sports , Use a jointer plane to straighten and square the edge created during the One Meter Dash. That’s right , you have to do it completely by hand. Crazy. Judging, with a test bar of aluminum, a feeler gauge and an engineer’s square is for straightness and accuracy.

- Brace Yourself For a Hole in One , Before the advent of electric and battery-powered drill/drivers, carpenters and woodworkers used a brace and auger bits to bore holes. The challenge: Bore a 3/4″ hole in a plank, straight and square to surface of plank (no squares or other aids allowed). It’s not as boring as you might think! Judged for speed. Points off for major blowouts on the backside and any degrees out of square.

- Pins First or Tails First , You make the call on which method you prefer; we’ll track the numbers to see which is more popular. Either way, you have to complete a well-fit three-pin dovetail joint on a 1×4, using hand tools. Goodbye ji g. Judging is subjective , but we know it when we see it. If the competition gets close, we may call in a jury.

- Glen D. Huey

Next week we’ll take a look at door prizes you can pick up while attending the conference and visiting the Marketplace. Also, we’ll take a look at all the “Shop Talk” presentations schedule in the Marketplace. Learn about adhesives, routers, lathes, infill and bench planes, finishing and more , and it’s all included in your Marketplace ticket.

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About Glen D. Huey

Glen Huey is managing editor of Popular Woodworking Magazine, an accomplished period furniture maker and author of numerous woodworking books and videos (as well as magazine articles).

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