Learning to Use Woodworking Hand Tools with Steve Branam

learn to use woodworking hand tools like ripsaws with Steve Branam

Steve Branam rips a board with a handsaw in his Intro to Hand Tools course.

As the course manager for Popular Woodworking University, I spend a lot of time watching woodworking videos and putting together materials for online courses. Each one of our courses has several hours of video, and I have to be familiar with all of it. Steve Branam’s Intro to Hand Tools has more than 12 hours worth, and I’ve seen it all several times. All that hand tool instruction has been good for my woodworking.

After watching Steve’s lessons about surfacing stock by hand, I decided to make the drawer fronts for a dresser I was working on without using any power tools. I didn’t have some of the hand planes Steve used in the videos (I just have a jointer plane), which I knew would slow me down a bit, but I wanted to try the techniques.

Steve demonstrates something called the FEWTEL sequence for preparing stock. FEWTEL is an acronym for face, edge, width, thickness, end and length. To get a board to final size, you plane one face and then one edge. Next, you rough cut the board to width and plane the cut nice and smooth. Now the board is the final width, and you flip it over and plane the second face. Once this is done, you have your finished width and thickness, so all you have to do is cut and plane the ends.

Steve Branam's online course shows you how to use woodworking hand tools like planes

Surfacing stock by hand is simple with the FEWTEL sequence, which Steve demonstrates in his online course.

I had seen Steve work through these steps several times while uploading the videos for his course, so I knew the sequence well. Instead of pine, the material Steve uses for all his demonstrations, I used poplar. It’s a little tougher to work with, but not nearly as hard as maple or oak. I’ve never worked much with woodworking hand tools, but I was able to make the four drawer fronts by working through the FEWTEL sequence.

I enjoyed ripping boards by hand, cleaning up the edges with a hand plane, planing the faces and shooting the ends. It was nice to work in a relatively quiet way, without the noise of jointers and planers. In fact, I found that planing stock by hand was so much more peaceful that I’m thinking of selling my power planer.

My shop is in an unheated garage, and with winter on the way, I probably won’t do any more woodworking for a few months. That’s a bummer, because I’d like to try building a small project by hand. Steve has some great videos about hand-cut dovetails and mortise-and-tenon joints. I’m really looking forward to trying out those techniques.

Want to learn how to do your woodworking with hand tools? Check out Intro to Hand Tools with Steve Branam.This online course has more than 12 hours of video instruction, and will teach you to sharpen and use everything from chisels to hand saws.