Chris Schwarz's Blog

New Class: All About Hand Tools

For 2008, there is only one place that I’m teaching a class that covers planes, chisels and saws. And that’s the Marc Adams School of Woodworking from May 19-23. Registration for this (and all the classes) opened today. As of now, there are still spaces available in the class.

In this fast-paced course you’ll learn everything a woodworker needs to sharpen, tune and use handplanes, chisels, scrapers and the wide arsenal of edge tools available today. This class is for anyone who has ever been curious, frustrated or intimidated by hand work. It begins with the absolute basic principles of cutting wood and ends (after only five days) with you knowing how to make essential furniture joints using hand tools and building a traditional English sawbench. Here’s what you’ll learn:

Sharpening: Even if you’ve never sharpened anything before, you’ll learn to put a keen edge on any tool , chisel, knife, plane blade, scraper , without spending hundreds of dollars on equipment. You’ll learn all about edge geometry and how to pick the right angle for a tool every time, plus the little tricks that aren’t in the books (back bevels and triple micro-bevels).

Tune-up: With your edges sharp, you’ll fine-tune and modify your hand tools so they behave predictably and beautifully. You’ll tune your planes to do the job they were intended to do, without spending hours and hours ridiculously lapping their soles. You’ll learn the real working differences between the traditional bevel-down planes and the newer bevel-up planes and get a chance to try both to compare for yourself. You’ll learn a 100-year-old trick for modifying your card scrapers that has been almost , but not quite , forgotten. And you’ll learn to modify the grips of your tools to suit your work, your workbench and your hand size.

Use: Once all your tools are properly sharp and tuned, you’ll discover how they work almost effortlessly if you understand just a few principles, including how to properly read the grain of any board and that not all tools are intended to be used “with the grain.”

You’ll also learn a good deal about the tools needed for handwork, including:

1. The three bench planes needed to make any board flat, plus how to tune them and use them.

2. The joinery planes that every woodworker should own.

3. The four handsaws necessary to hand-cut any furniture joint, from dovetails to dados.

4. The chisels needed for good woodworking, all about good bevel-edge chisels, mortising chisels and paring chisels.

Application: On the final day of the class you’ll put your new skills and knowledge to the test to build an English sawbench, one of the most useful hand-tool appliances ever invented.

This week-long class is great for beginning and intermediate hand-tool woodworkers alike.

– Christopher Schwarz

9 thoughts on “New Class: All About Hand Tools

  1. Christopher Schwarz

    Mike,

    There are a lot of ways to work wood and do a fine job.

    A traditional handtool approach will use a jack plane as a rough tool to get the board nearly flat and to its finished dimension. Then you use a jointer plane to get the board dead flat. Then you use a smoothing plane to prepare it for finishing.

    Or, if you have a power jointer and planer, many woodworkers will dress the stock with the machines and then prepare the edges and faces of the boards for finishing with a low-angle jack plane, such as you have.

    There are other ways to do it. You can use the jack plane as a short jointer plane to flatten board up to 28" long (a great approach for people who build smaller projects).

    Hope this basic explanation helps.

    Chris

  2. Mike Boren

    In one of the woodworking classes I took several years ago at Palomar College I was told something along the lines of "If you could only have one plane get a Lie Nielsen Low Angle Jack". That may not have been exactly what was said or meant but I have had my Low Angle Jack for many years and enjoy it very much. I also have a LN low angle block plane and a few small specialty planes.
    It seems like I am missing a lot though, I know I need a Jointer plane and am considering a Lie Nielsen #7 or the the low angle jointer. Any reccomendations between the two? Do I need smoothing plane? Where does the Low Angle Jack fit in?
    Thanks,
    Mike Boren

  3. andrew rutz

    ‘class sounds awesome. Do you teach an advanced class… or "the next level after Beginner" ? I took a great beginner-class this year and don’t have the resources to take another one (and MOST LIKELY 🙂 pick up some great nuggets of info.

  4. Dave Pearce

    Hi Chris,

    I won’t be able to attend although I’d love to. In a heartbeat. It’s difficult for me to take an entire week away, and I imagine there’s others in that boat as well.

    Any thoughts to offering the course split out into seperate topics over say, a series of two day weekends?

    Just a suggestion.

    Thanks,

  5. Christopher Schwarz

    Indeed. You need a rough plane (scrub or fore), jointer and smoother to make rough boards flat.

    The fourth plane is a block. Very handy!

    Chris

  6. Samson

    Mike,

    I imagine Chris would admit that the set of bench planes needed to flatten a board is not a deep dark secret. A scrub, a jointer, and a smoother will take any board (rough sawn, s2S, etc.) to flat, 4 square, and ready for use – indeed, ready for finish.

  7. Mike

    You keep tantalizing us with things like "find out which four planes are necessary…" in an attempt to get us to sign up for the class?!? Don’t do this to me! I would love to attend, but it won’t happen this Spring. If you divulge this secret info, I won’t tell. And the number of people signing up for class won’t diminish. I promise. Please write this info in the next Woodworking. Pretty please with sawdust on it.

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