Sunday, January 31, 2016

Big News! Book And Another Video Course

I'm very excited to announce that I'm turning my Popular Woodworking University online video course Intro To Hand Tools into a book for Popular Woodworking Books. It's due for completion this August.

In addition, I'm working on a second PWU online video course, building a Queen Anne foot stool from fine hardwood entirely by hand. It's due for completion in the Spring.

Working on these two projects will pretty much consume all my woodworking time!

The Book

The book will be a fairly direct adaptation of the video course to the printed page, so the episode guide in this post will be the table of contents.

My premise behind turning the videos into a book covering the same material is that there are at least three ways people like to learn:
  • By watching videos and seeing the work demonstrated.
  • By reading books and studying photos.
  • By watching videos from the couch, then using a book in the shop.
Different strokes for different folks, some much prefer videos over books, some the opposite.

I fall into the 3rd category. I've learned from both videos and books, but I like being able to relax and watch the process unfold on screen, then go through it step by step at my own pace from a book.

The video shows more details than can fit in a book (if a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth many thousands), and the book allows me to proceed a step at a time.

Each medium has its strengths and weaknesses. Combining the two allows them to complement each other.

From the introductory video and text notes for the course:
I'm primarily self-taught, which means that instead of a single teacher, I've had multiple teachers, all those who've written books and articles, made videos, given classes and live demonstrations. So I'm standing on their shoulders. 
Everything I show has at least 100 years of history. Some things have two or three hundred. Dovetails date back to the ancient Egyptians. 
We are all but the custodians of knowledge, passing it on to the next generation.
I'm very happy to be doing this through Popular Woodworking Books, because Popular Woodworking Magazine has been instrumental in my development as a hand tool woodworker over the past 10 years. It got me started and in one way or another has provided most of my resources.

The Video Course

Where the first video course was entirely skills-based, this course will be project-based. It's a natural follow-on to the first course, applying many of the skills developed in that one.

Where I used pine almost exclusively in the first course because I wanted to focus on the mechanics of the skills, for this one I have a beautiful supply of cherry, including a big slab of 12/4 cherry for the legs. Now I want to focus on using the tools to work fine hardwood.

I chose a Queen Anne foot stool because it's a nice introduction to fine furniture, and period furniture in particular. It's a small project that can be done in a modest workshop, but kicks up the work a level. That makes it a manageable incremental step up as you develop your skills.

It's also very adaptable to tastes. If you don't like Queen Anne style, you can adapt it to several other styles, including contemporary.

Cabriole legs also break out of the constraints of purely rectilinear work. That gives you the confidence to tackle all kinds of projects.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Woodworking Boot Camp And Classes At LCM

I now offer the following hand tool woodworking classes at Littleton Common Makers, in Littleton, MA:
  • Woodworking Boot Camp, first Saturday of each month 1-4PM, with an optional extra hour from 4-5PM, details below.
  • Private classes Saturdays and Sundays, you pick the times. Click here for details.
  • Free classes for veterans, Wednesdays 7:00-9:30PM. Click here for details.
For details about Littleton Common Makers, click here.

Woodworking Boot Camp

This is the introductory hand tool woodworking class at LCM. This group class qualifies you to use the woodworking hand tools there on your own.

The class is available the first Saturday afternoon of each month 1-4PM, pre-registration required, limit of 4 people per class, age 18 and up. For question or to register, you can contact me at 978-772-0030 or, or contact LCM.

Detailed class description
Goal: The goal of this class is to introduce students to the specific unpowered woodworking hand tools that are available for use at Littleton Common Makers, covering safety and basic usage. Students who have completed the class are permitted to use the tools. This class does not cover procedures for dimensioning lumber or fine joinery. Separate private instruction on those topics is available.

Class duration: 3 hours, with optional additional 1 hour of shop time with instructor.
Cost: $64 for 3 hours (includes $10 materials fee), $18 for additional hour.
Format: demonstration with hands-on practice.
  1. Introduction to the tools: We start with a brief introduction to the different types of tools and their names. After that I'll cover using them.
    1. Rough vs. fine
      1. Lumber
      2. Tools
      3. Procedures
    2. Workbench
      1. Vise
      2. Holdfast
      3. Stuffed bar clamp
      4. F-clamps
      5. C-clamps
    3. Saws
      1. Rip and crosscut saws.
      2. Joinery saws.
      3. Coping saw
      4. Sawbench
      5. Bench hooks
    4. Planes (note that these are all unpowered hand tools, but there are power tools with the same names)
      1. Bevel down vs. bevel up
      2. Jack
      3. Jointer
      4. Smoother
      5. Block
      6. Router
      7. Planing board
      8. Winding sticks
      9. Shooting board
    5. Chisels
      1. Bench, mortising, paring.
      2. Socket
      3. Fixed handle
    6. Measuring and Marking
      1. Combination square
      2. Engineers square
      3. Marking knife
      4. Marking gauge
    7. Sharpening: This is the gateway skill. Hand tools must be sharp to work effectively.
      1. Edge sharpening - There are many sharpening methods. This class covers sharpening on sandpaper and oilstones, freehand methods that are reasonably inexpensive and easy to learn.
        1. Sandpaper on marble tile
        2. Oilstones
        3. Strop and compound
        4. Practice iron and chisel
      2. Saw sharpening
        1. Saw vise
        2. Saw files
        3. Saw set
        4. Saw stone
  2. Safety
    1. General safety
    2. Chisel safety
    3. Saw safety
    4. Miscellaneous safety
  3. Sharpening
    1. Edge sharpening
      1. Grinding, honing, and polishing
      2. Straight vs. cambered
      3. Testing and evaluating edge
      4. Summary of bevels and sharpening methods
      5. Back preparation
      6. Straight bevel
      7. Cambered bevel
    2. Saw sharpening
      1. Rip vs. crosscut teeth
      2. Filing rip teeth
      3. Filing crosscut teeth
      4. Stoning to debur
      5. Setting rip teeth
      6. Setting crosscut teeth
      7. Stoning to reduce set
  4. Sawing
    1. Rough crosscutting
    2. Rough ripping
    3. Rough resawing
    4. Fine crosscutting (tenon shoulders)
    5. Fine ripping (dovetails)
    6. Fine resawing (tenon cheeks)
  5. Planing
    1. Plane adjustment
    2. Rough face planing
    3. Face flattening
    4. Face smoothing
    5. Rough edge planing
    6. Edge flattening
    7. Shooting end grain
    8. Chamfering
  6. Chiseling
    1. Safety recap
    2. Bevel up and bevel down
    3. Chopping
    4. Chiseling with the grain
    5. Chiseling across the grain
    6. Fine paring
  7. Routing
    1. Routing with the grain
    2. Routing across the grain

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Littleton Common Makers Now Open

Matt Filipski, my first student at Littleton Common Makers, tests out a chisel he's learning to sharpen by hand on oilstones.

I'm very excited to announce that Littleton Common Makers is now open! This is the makerspace I first wrote about in this blog post.

The purpose of a makerspace is to provide a workspace and community for people who like to make things, but don't have space or equipment of their own to do it. This covers the whole range of making, from low-tech to high-tech, for hobbyists and professionals.

One of the real values in a makerspace is that it provides access to a number of disciplines and facilitates cross-pollination across them. This includes electronics, robotics, woodworking, metalworking, fabric arts, plastics, leather, jewelry making, the list is endless.

Littleton Common Makers (LCM) is available for member use, with classes open to the general public. It's currently limited to age 18 and above. It's an evolving work in progress, so capabilities and options will change over time.

All the credit for making this happen goes to my friend Faisal Mohammed. He had the dream and put in all the work to find a space, pay the rent, secure insurance and other paperwork, organize and administer membership, and prepare everything for use. He's the one who's made the initial investment in this community resource. The more of us who join him, the better it will be!

The Littleton Common Makers website is Like LCM itself, the website is a work in progress. For all inquiries, send email to

The Lowell Sun has also published a nice article about Faisal and LCM here.

Getting There

Littleton Common Makers is located in The Littleton Mill, just off Littleton Common, at 410 Great Rd, Littleton, MA, right by the Rt. 119 exit off Interstate 495 (map here).

The main parking lot is near the traffic light at the eastern end of the 495 overpass. There are a number of entrances to the building. The proper one to reach LCM is up the small outside stairwell with the signs for Dolphin Insulation, New England Yoga, and Indoor Batting Cages.

Look for the second-floor entrance from the deck at the top of these stairs from the parking lot.

It's a maze inside to reach the space, so look for the signs to Littleton Common Makers. From the entrance:
  1. Go straight to the end of the hall, past the batting cages on the right. 
  2. Turn left.
  3. Go to the end of the hall, through a small tunnel into the older building.
  4. At the Victory Liberty Loan poster go up the stairs on the right.
  5. At the top of the stairs turn left and left again to the hall behind the stairs.
  6. Turn left again.
  7. Head in the direction away from the orange double doors.
  8. Head to the end of the hall.
  9. Go up the stairs.
  10. At the top of the stairs turn right.
  11. Head to the red double doors.
  12. LCM is the white door to the right of the red double doors.
Open House Nights

Faisal has a standing open house at LCM every Thursday from 6-8pm. (subject to cancellation, check or send email to to confirm).


A variety of equipment covering a range of maker disciplines and crafts is available for use by anyone who has completed the required training and been checked off in its use.

Some equipment has metered usage to ensure fair access and manage wear and duty cycle. Some has associated materials cost.

Training classes will be offered at modest cost to ensure proper usage to avoid injury or damage.

Current equipment includes:
  • Workbenches
  • Woodworking hand tools
  • Electronics worktable
  • Laser cutter
  • 3D printer
  • Sewing machine
Note that most of the equipment is member-owned and rented to the makerspace. Like me, other members had things in their basement and garage workshops that they wanted to move to a more publicly-accessible location. Renting the equipment out helps cover the cost of ownership. Some of it is lighter-duty consumer-grade, some is heavier-duty industrial/professional-grade.

Is there some equipment you'd like to place at Littleton Common Makers? If so, you should consider becoming a member!


Membership is on a monthly basis, payable by credit card online via Square, or by check. Depending on membership level, members enjoy access to the space (controlled by RFID key), storage, time allotments and discounts on metered equipment, and discounts on classes.

There are currently three levels:
  • Full membership, $75/month. This offers 24/7 access, with storage.
  • Partial membership, $50/month. This offers limited access (weekdays 6-8pm, weekends 9am-5pm), and no storage (all work is "bring in, take out").
  • Military and emergency personnel discount membership available.
To join or for further details, send email to

Note that partial member hours will expand as membership grows, since a full member must be present.

Woodworking Classes

This is where I will now be teaching my hand tool woodworking classes, both paid private and group classes and free classes for veterans. If you're interested in any of these classes, you can leave a message at 978-772-0030 or send me an email at

I've moved my four Paul Sellers-style student workbenches out of my basement workshop to the space, and once I get fully organized, I'll have all of my student tools there as well.

This means that these tools will also be available to members who have completed training. I offer the following training class:
  • 3 hours of hands-on instruction for $64 (includes $10 materials fee).
  • An additional hour of hands-on practice time is available for $18.
  • Covers basic use and handling of the following unpowered hand tools:
    • Workbench and work-holding
    • Handsaws
    • Handplanes (including router plane)
    • Chisels
    • Measuring and marking tools
    • Sharpening tools
This is an intensive boot-camp style introduction to these tools, just enough to get you working safely and effectively on your own. The optional additional hour of practice gives you a chance to spend more time getting used to them with an instructor present. The class does not provide detailed coverage of woodworking techniques; for that, I offer full instruction.

Other Classes

Other instructors will be offering classes in their areas of expertise. As noted above, some of these classes are required before you are allowed to use the covered equipment.

Is there a class you'd like to teach at Littleton Common Makers? If so, you should consider becoming a member!

About The Location

Faisal working at the electronics table. The windows to his right look out onto the IBM building.

Matt working at the workbenches. The windows behind him look out toward Littleton Common.

The laser cutter with some laser-cut and laser-engraved wooden parts. This vents exhaust smoke out a tube in the window, an example of why you need a workshop to use this kind of equipments.

Faisal's original plan was to have the space in Ayer, because wouldn't it be great if it was 5 minutes from home? Unfortunately, there was no suitable venue that was affordable for a budding makerspace. By necessity it has to start small, then grow with success. Fortunately, Littleton is the next town over, so it's just another 7 minutes down the road.

The Littleton Mill is an old mill complex that's been converted into mixed use suites. Other occupants include a community theater, various one-room workshops and studios, small manufacturers, even indoor batting cages! Like all such old mills throughout New England, the place is a maze of buildings of various vintage, corridors, and stairwells, so it's easy to get lost.

I actually used to work right across the street back in the 90's at the King St. Digital Equipment Corporation facility (old DECcies still fondly refer to it as LKG). That later became Compaq, then HP, and is now IBM (you can see it from the makerspace's north-side windows). Ironically, Faisal is an engineer at a company in another old mill related to DEC, Clocktower Place in Maynard, MA. Known simply as "the mill", this was DEC's headquarters from 1957 to 1992. This area is a major part of the Boston 495 high tech corridor.

LCM currently occupies a single 650 sq. ft. room at the eastern corner of the complex (nearest the intersection of Rts. 119 and 110). As the membership and equipment grows, Faisal will rent additional suites, with the expectation that this room will become the "clean room" for hand tool woodworking and classroom space. The noisier and messier equipment will be located in the added space.

The building already has a well-established woodworking presence: my friend Freddy Roman, professional woodworker and restorer, has his workshop downstairs. I wrote a profile of Freddy several years ago here. At that time, he was sharing another suite in the building with renowned woodworker Will Neptune. Prior to Freddy and Will, that workshop was occupied by guitar-maker Julius Borges.

If you live in the area and are interested in tinkering with some of these things, join LCM or take some classes there!