Sunday, January 20, 2013

December GNHW Demo At Woodcraft

The main workbench with tools laid out for people to use. Additional tools are spread out on my portable workbench to the side. All photos by Dave Michaels.

Time for a little catch-up from December. On the 8th, I did another demo day at the Portsmouth, NH Woodcraft store for the Guild Of New Hampshire Woodworkers, like the one I did in November. Fellow member Dave Michaels joined me to talk about Guild membership and take photos.

Several people came in specifically to watch the demo and stayed the whole 3 hours as I went through a variety of different topics, letting them try out the tools. A few others who happened to come in during the afternoon also joined us.

Using a Lie-Nielsen #7 plane on the shooting board to square up the end of a piece.

Sharpening a chisel at my portable sharpening station on the side bench.

Using the #7 to joint the edge of a board.

Using a Stanley #5 plane with cambered iron to rough down the surface of a board, traversing across the grain.

Using a Lie-Nielsen spokeshave to shape a board, making a variety of curls.

Using a freshly-sharpened scraper.

One gentleman who came in later mentioned that he was working on a project that required mortise and tenon joints, which he had never done before, so I demonstrated how to do one.

It was another fun day, and hopefully we encouraged a few people to join the Guild (you don't have to live in New Hampshire). Note that other Guild members will be doing additional demos on various second Saturdays of each month.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Free Woodworking Classes At New England Home Show

Happy New Year! May your tools be sharp and the grain cooperative!

I'm very pleased to announce that through the Close Grain School of Woodworking, I'll be offering free hand tool woodworking classes at The Furniture Project (formerly WoodExpo) at the New England Home Show, February 21-24, 2013, at the Seaport World Trade Center, Boston, MA. General show admission is $12 for adults, free for children 17 and under.

This is the 63rd year of New England's largest and longest-running home show. There were over 25,000 attendees last year. You can read about last year's WoodExpo, and see information on the resawing demo I did, with video.

Some number of attendees this year will be interested in woodworking with hand tools. If you're one of them, this is an opportunity to get a free hands-on introduction!

Then if you're interested in pursuing it further, in addition to paid classes this summer at the Close Grain School of Woodworking, there are a number of other schools and instructors exhibiting, offering paid classes, books, and DVDs.

Full details are below. There are 4 spots available per session, first-come, first-served. You can sign up at the show, or you can send me an email at to sign up ahead of time. You are welcome to sign up for one session of each type. If a session is empty, I'll run it as an open demo, and perhaps entice some passers-by to join in.

Since this is out in the open exhibit area, you are also welcome to just watch others at work.

Who is this for?
  • Minimum age is 16, but is otherwise open to all, male and female, young and old.
  • If you have no woodworking experience, this is for you.
  • If you're a power tool woodworker interested in incorporating a few hand tools in your shop, this is for you.
  • If you're interesting in going whole hog and doing everything with hand tools as I usually do, this is for you.
  • If you're interested in woodworking as a hobby or a profession, this is for you.
  • If you're just curious and would like to give it a try with no strings attached, this is for you.
There are many ways to skin a cat. Every instructor has their preferred set of tools and methods. Given the time constraints of the show, I'll show you one set. Through further exploration, you'll find many more. By keeping an open mind to learn the different variations, you'll develop the versatility to work in any situation.

What will you learn? Among other things, all by hand:
  • How to rip a 4'-long board to width and keep a straight line.
  • How to plane a board smooth.
  • How to make fine joinery cuts, square in two dimensions or angled for special joints.
  • How to chisel out dados and other recesses.
  • How to fine tune a wooden part one thousandth of an inch at a time.
People think of hand tools as crude, but a properly tuned and used hand tool is a precision instrument. Like a musical instrument, it takes practice to master, but the results are intensely satisfying.

The Details
Tools and Skills: I'll have four Paul Sellers workbenches setup, each equipped with a basic set of hand tools. While there are always more tools you can buy, this set is sufficient to perform 90% of all woodworking operations.

Many of the tools are vintage antiques, 50 to 100 years old, that I've restored and tuned up. They work just as well today as when they were first made, and will do so for another hundred years, carrying on the centuries-old tradition and craft.

There will be three 90-minute sessions each day, each focusing on a different type of tool, where I'll show you how to use them, and then you can try them out:
  • How To Use Handsaws: rough crosscutting to length, ripping to width, and resawing to thickness, and fine crosscutting and ripping for joinery.
  • How To Use Handplanes: roughing a piece down, flattening, jointing, and smoothing it, and shooting endgrain.
  • How To Use Chisels: rough shaping, fine paring and chopping, and forming dados and rabbets.
I'll also do a 30-minute sharpening demo each day. Thursday-Saturday, I'll end the day with a 1-hour open bench session, where you can try any of the tools out.

These are the basic raw skills of hand tool usage, enough to get you started on the path to building fine cabinetry, furniture, or musical instruments.

All practice lumber will be provided at no charge. Since the classes are not focused on a particular project, you are free to turn a board into nothing but a pile of sawdust, shavings, and scraps. No need to worry about mistakes ruining your work. There's nothing to ruin. The knowledge and skill are the desired end products.

Safety: The New England Home Show requires each class participant to sign a waiver; this is the standard NEHS waiver that all exhibitors sign. While hand tools generally pose much less risk of injury than power tools, they must be surgically sharp to perform well, so each class starts with a safety briefing.

Even experienced hand tool users often end up with minor nicks and cuts on their fingers. As a former outdoor guide and Boy Scout Scoutmaster, I always have antiseptic wipes and bandaids available.

You are responsible for your own safety. Your attention to safety guidelines will minimize the risk of injuries.

Schedule: The first class session starts 1 hour after show opening each day:
Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Time Feb 21 Feb 22 Feb 23 Feb 24
11:00-11:30 Handsaws Handsaws
1:00-1:30 Handsaws Handsaws Sharpening Planes
2:30-3:00 Planes
3:00-3:30 Sharpening Sharpening Sharpening
4:00-4:30 Planes Planes Chisels
5:00-5:30 Sharpening
6:00-6:30 Chisels Chisels Chisels
8:00-8:30 Open Bench Open Bench Open Bench

And finally: For those wondering how I manage to fit 4 workbenches in my van, the 4th one breaks down using Paul Sellers' wedge assembly method.