The Hand Tool Olympics and My Shame Spiral
I could barely get out of bed this morning. It wasn’t because of a hard night of slamming Maudite. Or because I had worked every waking hour for the last seven days. It was because of my shameful, shameful sawing time in the Hand Tool Olympics at Woodworking in America.
The Hand Tool Olympics were an absolute blast. Attendees got to try their hand at ripping, crosscutting, planing, tenoning, dovetailing and boring. All the events were timed and judged for accuracy using a super-cool set of feeler gauges (a deck of cards). The Olympics were run by Mike Siemsen of the Mike Siemsen School of Woodworking and volunteers from the Society of American Period Furniture Makers and the Minnesota Woodworkers Guild.
And what was even cooler than the competition was all the training and instructing that was going on during the Olympics. Mike and his staff showed people how to properly perform all these operations. They also provided sharp tools, nice wood, a great sturdy bench from Adjust-a-Bench and three sawbenches. Mike is an incredible instructor. He is incredibly skilled, practical, fast and funny. We really need to make the trek up to his school and write about it. Mike is a semi-hidden gem to most of the country.
Mike Siemsen checks the accuracy of a rip.
I only got to compete in two of the events, and my performance was pitiful.
I had to rip a 1″ x 36″-long pine board. I did the deed in 50-something seconds. Both Mike and Deneb Puchalski from Lie-Nielsen Toolworks smoked me with times that were more like 12 seconds or 14 seconds. I have lots of excuses that relate to my child-like limbs, but I won’t claim that was the problem. Truth is, I stink at ripping.
My only consolation is I did do a good job of edge-planing the board I ripped and got it nearly square and straight using only my eye and a jointer plane.
We’ll be repeating (and expanding) the Hand Tool Olympics at the Valley Forge, Pa., Woodworking in America event in October. Look for a grudge-match showdown between Mike and Deneb. And look for me to improve my time. I’m going to be practicing.
– Christopher Schwarz
P.S. Be sure to congratulate Managing Editor Megan Fitzpatrick on her performance in the boring competition. She and one of our conference organizers named Heather Griffin battled for last place. Megan came in third from last. Take that Heather!