The Hand Tool Olympics: Sawdust, Fun & $2,500 in Prizes

A Veritas Bevel-up Jointer Plane, a.k.a an Olympic prize

A Veritas Bevel-up Jointer Plane, a.k.a a prize worthy of Hand Tool Olympians.

London, 2012 – Usain Bolt runs the 100-meter dash in 9.63 seconds.

Mexico City, 1968 – Bob Beamon flies 29′, 2″ in the long jump.

Berlin, 1936 – Jessie Owens wins four gold medals.

Impressive Olympic feats – but can they saw straight? Cut a dovetail? Forget the runners and jumpers and gymnasts – the real Olympic competitors will be at the Hand Tool Olympics at Woodworking in America 2015, Sept. 25-27 in Kansas City, Mo.

Mike Siemsen, of the Mike Siemsen School of Woodworking, returns to oversee the Olympics (held in the Marketplace), with the help of volunteers from the Society of American Period Furniture Makers and the Minnesota Woodworkers Guild. (Mike is also teaching a classroom session on workholding.)

The winner in each category will receive a great prize, and participants in each event are entered into a random drawing to win a prize as well.

“All you have to do is compete to be eligible for a prize,” Siemsen said. “Who doesn’t like to win nice tools?”

The events:

Hardware Store Saw, from Tools for Working Wood

BT&C Hardware Store Saw, from Tools for Working Wood

One-meter Dash – Rip a 36″ piece of 1x stock. You’ll be racing the clock, but you’ll lose points if you stray from the line. The winner of the One-meter Dash will win a new BT&C Hardware Store Saw from Tools for Working Wood. Participants will also be entered to win a mallet donated by Blue Spruce Toolworks.

Crosscuts – Crosscut a 1x accurately – again, speed and accuracy both count. The winner will receive a newly rehabilitated and sharpened vintage saw from Pete Taran of vintagesaws.com. A Blue Spruce mallet is the raffle prize for this category, as well.

Shooting Sports – Straighten and square the edge you created in the One-meter Dash with a jointer plane. Edges will be tested with an aluminum test bar, feeler gauge and engineer’s square. The winner goes home with a Veritas Bevel-up Jointer Plane from Lee Valley. Our raffle winner in this category also receives this high-quality plane.

Tenons – Cut a 3″-long, 3/4″-thick tenon on the end of 2×4 stock – and test-fit it into the mortise

The Bad Axe 16" Tenon Saw

The Bad Axe 16″ Tenon Saw

provided. You’ll be evaluated on time and quality,  but the judges will allow a bit of latitude for tight tenons, since most are hand-planed for a final fit.

Mark Harrell of Bad Axe Tool Works* has donated two of his 16″ Tenon saws – one for the event winner and one as the raffle prize.

Pins or Tails First? – Complete a three-pin dovetail joint on 1×4 stock. It’s your call as to whether it’s pins or tails first. Judging this joint is subjective, but we know a good one when we see it. If the competition gets close, we may pull in a panel of experts to help. Bad Axe again ponies up for great prizes, with two of its 12″ Stiletto Dovetail saws for this category.

Hole in one – Bore a straight hole with a brace and spoon bit, keeping your hole square to the board. You’ll be judged on speed, with points deducted for major blowout on the back side, or degrees out of square. Jim Bode of Jim Bode Tools has donated two rehabbed vintage braces as a prizes, to be combined with two sets of spoon bits from Lee Valley.

Don’t miss out on the fun and the chance to try out some of the best tools on the market today – you can still register for Woodworking in America 2015. Aside from the Olympics, you’ll rub shoulders with the likes of Roy Underhill, Christopher Schwarz, Jeff Miller, Will Neptune and many more great speakers.

–Mike Wallace

* If you’re one of the lucky (or skilled) winners of a Bad Axe saw, stop by Mark Harrell’s booth and he’ll touch up the toothline for you.