Feb. 3-9 is Get Woodworking Week (find out more at Tom’s Workbench). The goal is to encourage new woodworkers – or those who are thinking about becoming new woodworkers – to actually pick up a tool and put it to wood. And I don’t care what tools you ultimately decide to use – hand, power or both. But I encourage you to try a number of approaches to every challenge (and there is always more than one approach) then settle on what works best for you (as long as it’s safe).
While I’m not a hand-tool purist, I generally prefer to use meat-powered tools simply because they produce less dust, less noise and – for me – more satisfaction. (And, unlike my tailed equipment, my hand tools are not squirrelled away in my dark, dank basement.) Below are “Five Myths of Hand Tools” that I extracted and distilled from some of Christopher Schwarz’s writing on the subject, to help you overcome common objections to giving hand tools a try:
Myth 2: Hand tools are less precise than power tools
Can you set your table saw to remove .001″ from a board’s edge? This is a gambol in the park for a handplane – and fitting joints is easy once you’ve a little practice.
Myth 3: Hand tools require great skill
While mastery of any tool – hand or power – takes years to develop, most hand tools can be wielded with decent skill after just a few hours’ practice.
Myth 4: Hand tools aren’t cut out for complex work
To perform complex work, most power tools need lots of expensive and intricate jigs – hand tools are (largely) free of this. Mark the line – any line – then cut to that line; with hand tools, it’s usually that simple.
Myth 5: Hand tools are cheaper than power tools
Didn’t expect that one, did you? Good tools cost good money. And if you buy good hand tools, they won’t wear out in your lifetime (even my most expensive battery-powered drill wore out after only four years). While you can certainly do good work with inexpensive hand tools, it typically involves more skill (including knowing how to restore a vintage tool to peak performance, and knowing how to tweak inferior tools to deliver).
Below are links to two posts that are useful for those just getting acquainted with two of the most fundamental types of hand tools (at least the instruction therein was helpful to me): planes and handsaws. But know that the most important thing is simply to get in the shop (or the kitchen, or study, or wherever you have room), and give the tools a try.
“How to Saw”
Nine “rules” for successful handsaw use.
“Understanding Bench Planes”
The bench plane has three jobs (in today’s shop): remove wood, straighten wood, flatten wood. Find out which plane is best for which job.
• See Myth 5 above? If you want to dispel it and get good bench plane for not a lot of money, you can – it just takes some work on your part to bring it to peak performance. Chris shows you how on his DVD “Super-tune a Handplane: How to Turn a Flea-market Find into a Fast, Accurate and Smooth-cutting tool.”
• Want a weekend of personal instruction? Sign up for my Simple Shaker Table class at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking, Sept. 21-22, 2013. You’ll learn to make a mortise-and-tenon joint, cut tapered legs, set up a block plane and more (and go home with a classic Shaker side table you’ll be proud to call you own).