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The Kansas City Woodworkers’
Guild has invited me to speak to woodworkers in their area on March
19-20 on four different topics that are near and dear to my heart –
including the tool chest project I’ve been working on since February.

that these are not hands-on classes – I’ll be speaking, demonstrating,
showing photos and answering questions during the two days. The seminars
are open to members and non-members. You can get details on the guild’s
web site here.

Here are some details on the lectures:

Hand Plane Essentials
don’t need hundreds of planes to build nice furniture. In fact, I think
you need only nine to handle all the smoothing and joinery chores for
most furniture (the moulding planes are a different story….).

this seminar, I’ll explain how joinery, bench and moulding planes work.
I’ll show you how I go about sharpening the wide variety of cutters.
And I’ll show you how the different planes are used to process rough
stock, cut joints and make gleaming moulding. All without electricity or
sandpaper. You’ll also be surprised by how fast the process can be –
faster than setting up a power tool in many cases.

Sawing Essentials

a traditional shop, sawing was reserved for the most skilled
cabinetmakers on the floor. Most anyone could use a plane or chisel, but
it was the sawyers who transformed the timber into furniture with rips,
crosscuts and joinery.


though we now have accurate power equipment in our workshops, sawing by
hand is still a tremendous skill that – when done properly – can save
time and effort. That’s because handsawing can be done without jigs or
guides and without regard to the angle of the cut or its bevel. In
short, if you can see the line, you can cut the line with a handsaw.


this simple skill allows you to easily cut compound angles, angled
joinery and cuts that might take hours of jig-building and test-cutting
on a table saw. And, as a bonus, learning basic sawing prepares your
hand, eye and mind to cut any sort of dovetail joint you can imagine.


this seminar I’ll demonstrate how to use handsaws and backsaws to cut
joints as precisely as any power tool. You will learn to make the three
different classes of sawcuts: rough cutting for dimensioning stock,
standard cutting for final sizing of casework pieces and fine cutting
for precision joinery.


learn the proper stance, grip and body motions for accurate sawcuts and
receive the instant feedback and corrections that will make you develop
your skills quickly.

Dovetail Joinery
many woodworkers, cutting dovetails by hand seems a mysterious and high
art. But if you look at the historical record, nothing could be further
from the truth. It is a basic skill and can be easily mastered if you
understand how to approach the joint. It is just sawing and chiseling to
a line.

In this seminar, I’ll discuss how I approach the
dovetail joint and show the different ways I cut the joint depending
on the project at hand.

I’ll also review the wide variety of
tools available to cut dovetails – and the wide variety of
characteristics found on saws, chisels, mallets and marking gauges. So
if you have questions on tools for dovetailing, bring them to the class.

Workbenches & Tool Chests
good workbench and a suitable tool chest are the foundation of good
work. Without a good workbench, every task you do will be more
difficult. And without a good chest, your tools will fall into
disrepair. In this seminar I’ll explain my theories on what makes a
great bench and a great chest.

For the last decade, I’ve been
exploring these two topics. I’ve written two books about workbench
design and have a forthcoming book on tool chests coming out in the
Spring 2011. I’ll be unveiling the things we can learn by studying the
older benches and chests, which are simpler, stouter and perfectly
suited for the home woodworker.

— Christopher Schwarz

Product Recommendations

Here are some supplies and tools we find essential in our everyday work around the shop. We may receive a commission from sales referred by our links; however, we have carefully selected these products for their usefulness and quality.

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Showing 14 comments
  • Jonas Jensen

    Is this the model of toolbox that is going to be built in Metten?
    It looks really good.


  • Paul D

    Wow! That’s an incredible job you did on the tool box. Can’t wait to see the video tour of it.

  • Justin Derx

    Like Bob said, that was a great article you wrote. Thanks for all your help, Chris.

  • Bob

    Wow, that comment is an article in itself Chris. Good stuff and that Toolbox looks really good, would love to see the inside!

    Cheers, Bob.

  • yea, are we gonna get a vid tour of the tool box sometime. And I don’t mean a tour of a person you work with, I mean the wooden box in which you plan to store your hand tools.

  • Christopher Schwarz


    The lecture isn’t a list, it’s a way of looking at your work. The tools you choose are actually secondary. However, that doesn’t help you much.

    When I teach this topic as a class, here is the buying advice I supply. This doesn’t really cover the "why," but it does get at the "how."Jack plane: I recommend a vintage tool. Save your money for the planes that do precision work. Get in touch with the tool suppliers listed below and ask for a user-grade pre-war Stanley No. 5 or No. 6. Usually the stock cutter and chipbreaker will do, as long as they aren’t rusted.

    Jointer plane: You can go vintage or new here. With jointer planes, the soles have to be flat to work well, so if you can afford a Veritas or a Lie-Nielsen jointer plane, you will not be disappointed. All of their jointer planes are excellent, including the Nos. 7 & 8 and the bevel-up tools. The bevel-up tools are less expensive and easier to set up, which might be a consideration for you. If you can’t afford a new tool, go vintage. Contact the vintage sellers below and be sure to ask for a user No. 7 or No. 8 pre-war Stanley. Ask if they would check the flatness of the sole. When you get the tool, check it yourself with feeler gauges and a straightedge. Drop me a line if you have trouble with the tool.

    Smoothing plane: I prefer new high-quality smoothing planes from Lie-Nielsen, Veritas or Clifton. Get the bevel-up tools if you plan to work with curly or gnarley woods. I personally prefer the No. 4 bevel-down plane with a 50° frog for most work. (Soon they should be making a 55° frog, yea!) If you want a vintage plane, you can save a few dollars by buying a Stanley Bed Rock from the vintage buyers below. Exotic planes are fine, as well. Just don’t expect to be able to set up a Groz or Anant to do high-tolerance work without a great deal of luck and/or work.

    Low-angle Block planes: Any of the block planes from Lie-Nielsen or Veritas are good. There are tons of vintage blocks out there — too many to make recommendations about. If you have to buy vintage, look for an older Stanley 60-1/2. Those are common, fairly inexpensive and replacement irons are available. Be sure you get the low-angle version of this tool (the bed is at 12°). It’s more versatile.

    Fillister plane: The Veritas Skew Rabbet plane is the best I’ve ever used. You only need one. Get the right version if you are right handed. Left version if you a southpaw. Period. Other good fillisters: Philly Planes and the ECE. Both are fine. Vintage fillisters typically have a lot of problems. I’d avoid them unless you are familiar with the tool.

    Plow plane: Lots of ways to go here. The Veritas small plow is good (wish it were bigger). There also are metal versions from Stanley and Record (such as the 044). Ask the vintage sellers what they have in stock. As long as you get one with the irons, you’ll be golden.

    Shoulder plane: If you do furniture-scale work, I think a 1-1/4"-wide shoulder plane is best, such as the Lie-Nielsen 073 or the Veritas Large Shoulder. The Clifton versions are good as well. You can also contact some English tool dealers if you want a vintage Record 073 — though you won’t save any money compared to the modern shoulder planes. There are some good old Stanley shoulder planes, such as the 93. But it has to be old. The newer ones (since the 90s) just stink. The soles aren’t square to the sides. If your shoulder plane doesn’t have the sole dead square to the sides, send it back.

    Router planes: Router planes are fairly common vintage tools, however, few of them have depth stops, which are useful. The new large routers from Veritas and Lie-Nielsen are top shelf. And if you can afford it, you should get the Lie-Nielsen small router plane as well. If you want to buy vintage, look for an older Stanley 71 or 71-1/2. And make sure it has all three cutters – 1/4", 1/2" and the V-cutter.

    Scraper planes: Lots of choices here. If you want to save a few dollars, get a vintage Stanley No. 80. Or get the modern Veritas version of the tool. The Veritas large scraper plane is excellent and easy to set up. I also like the Lie-Nielsen No. 212 and the No. 85. However, a good place to learn is on the Stanley No. 80. As always, older is better — as long as the tool is in good shape.

  • Brent

    My guess on the nine planes
    A Smoother
    A Fore, a Jack and a Jointer for glueing up and flattening panels, table top, etc.
    low angle Block plane for end grain
    Large and small Router planes for dado, hinges, etc
    Shoulder Plane for tenons
    A Spokeshave for curves

  • David Chidester

    That chest is jaw dropping!! I can’t wait for the book!
    I have to admit, that it sometimes bums me out to read about all these woodworking shows and clubs in the mid-west, or east coast. There just isn’t as much for us woodworkers here in the Los Angeles area. Ow well, I guess if there was, it would end up cutting into our time to go surfing!

  • Charles Davis

    Were there words in this post? I could not get past the picture of the chest. Man, that looks amazing all finished up. Wasn’t expecting to see the pulls… they really top it off.

    Bet you’re itching to get tools in there (not asserting that you have any fungal issues… just that I’m sure you’d be happy to finish documenting it and put it to use)

  • Looks like I picked the wrong time to move to Portland! Lots of great woodworkers in KC and the BBQ is …well -famous.

  • Justin Derx

    Can you list the 9 planes needed you think are needed for furniture building? I am curios and not able to get to the show.

  • Niels

    All the classes sound great… except you should really consider holding them somewhere up in here New England. 🙂

    ps. Your chest is badass. I was hoping it would be black, but I couldn’t tell from the b&w photos on the L.A.P. blog. Just a heads up, you’re going to have to put up with droves of drooling dudes leering at it.


  • Tony

    At last, Schwarz is showing off his hulking chest 🙂

    Can’t wait for book!

  • Ethan

    Ooooohhhh… I’ve got to GET me some of THAT!

    You feel like making a trip out to STL late this year or early next year, Chris?

    Fortunately, the SLWG planning meeting is this Thursday, so I can plant the bug early. 😀

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