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Announcing the ‘Hand Tool Olympics’ at Woodworking in America

In sports, you need to compete against a superior player to improve your own game.
So to make you a more skilled tool user, we’re holding a “Hand Tool Olympics” at our Woodworking in America conference in St. Charles, Ill., this August. During these friendly competitions, you’ll get to show off your skills in a variety of hand-tool basics. And you could win prizes just for competing.

(Need a coach? Competition staff will be on hand to provide training, tips and strategies.)

Here are the details:

The Olympics will be held on Friday, Aug. 14 and Saturday, Aug. 15 (with recreational and fun events on Sunday, Aug. 16) in the Society of American Period Furniture Makers (SAPFM) booth. Three events will be held each day with the winners announced and awards bestowed during the Saturday dinner. The Grand-prize winner will receive Free Admission to a Future Woodworking in America Conference.  The “medalists” in each event will win one of the tools used for that event. Plus, randomly selected participants will also be awarded prizes. (Prizes are limited to one per attendee.)

Plus we’ll be giving away DVDs, CDs, books and magazines to participants throughout the two days of competition.

The Minnesota chapter of SAPFM, headed by Mike Siemsen, will conduct the Olympics. Plus, SAPFM will hold workshops and provide tutorials for those who would like to participate but need a little last-minute coaching on proper use of a given hand tool. (And who knows , a prodigy might be discovered!) Participants must use the tools provided (don’t worry , we’ll have the necessary tools , and they’re good ones!).

The events are as follows:

1. 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 x 12 stock using a handsaw.  We hope you practiced the pointers doled out in Popular Woodworking magazine’s “Arts & Mysteries” column. This event is judged mainly on time, with points deducted for going way off the line. (A kinked saw will result in immediate disqualification.)

2. 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.

3. Crosscut Extravaganza , Hold your finger straight to sight down the saw (or simply channel your inner square) to accurately crosscut a piece of 2 x 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.)

4. 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.

5. 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 jig. Judging is subjective , but we know it when we see it. If the competition gets close, we may call in a jury.

6. 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 hand planed to final fit.

Prize Tools

* Rip Saws ,Donated by Mike Siemsen’s School of Woodworking (vintage saws sharpened by Mark Harrell at
*Crosscut Saws , Donated by Mike Siemsen’s School of Woodworking (vintage saws sharpened by Mark Harrell).
*Back Saws , Donated by Bad Axe Tool Works , Mark Harrell
*Jointer Planes , Donated by Lee Valley & Veritas
*Dovetail Mallets , Donated by Blue Spruce Toolworks
*Brace and Bit , Donated by Popular Woodworking and Woodworking Magazine

– Glen D. Huey

Click Here For Conference Information

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