4 Reasons to Try Traditional Hand Tool Woodworking
By Joshua Farnsworth
Here at the Wood and Shop Traditional Woodworking School, and on WoodAndShop.com we mainly teach the use of quality, historical construction methods. And in our woodworking school we mostly use antique style woodworking hand tools. Why do we love using traditional woodworking hand tools to build furniture? For several reasons:
1. Hand Tool Woodworking for the Quality:
A growing number of people have become dissatisfied with the modern throw-away lifestyle. Inexpensive, and cheaply made furniture and products have flooded into our homes, and they typically find their way out our doors, and to the landfills not long afterward. Most modern furniture is meant to last one or two moves. It’s a cycle of consumption that was unknown to our ancestors, who lived in a time when furniture and other goods were built to last a life time…usually multiple lifetimes.
Here at WoodAndShop and at our traditional woodworking school, we don’t dictate a certain style of furniture, but we do insist that furniture be built well; really well, with traditional wood joinery techniques, which include dovetail joints, mortise & tenon joints, tongue & groove joints, dado joints, and more.
While I certainly use power tools for many tasks in my workshop (see how I square boards with power tools), I find that I have become a better furniture maker by incorporating the use of woodworking hand tools. I understand furniture construction in a much better way because I carefully shape each piece of wood with my woodworking hand tools.
And believe it or not, using hand tools can often be faster than using power tools. If I’ve got one or two mortise & tenon joints to cut, it’s faster to make with woodworking hand tools than by setting up all the power tools to make the same joint. I’ve seen woodworkers spend all day building a jig so they could make a wood joint, when I could have made the same joint in a few minutes with woodworking hand tools.
2. Hand Tool Woodworking for the History:
I love the history of classic furniture construction and love the history behind heirloom woodworking hand tools. It is so interesting to pick up a 100-200 year old hand plane, and think of the person that used it to create beautiful furniture in a time when there was no electricity or modern conveniences.
And quite often you’ll see the original owner’s name stamped into the tool, along with spots where their hand wore into the wooden tool. If you ever get a chance to visit the Hay Cabinet Shop at Colonial Williamsburg, you’ll get to feel what I’m talking about (you can see the tour series that I filmed, here).
When you start to get interested in hand tool woodworking, you’ll quickly become addicted. A natural high comes from finding and refurbishing these vintage woodworking hand tools. You can check out my hand tool guide here to assist you with getting started in choosing the right woodworking hand tools.
3. Hand Tool Woodworking for the Safety
While using power tools can be quite safe, if you follow safety guidelines, there comes a certain sense of comfort knowing that large blades aren’t spinning thousands of miles per hour, just inches away from my hands. Even though I have a safer SawStop table saw, I still get on edge when using it (which I think is a good thing). Using hand tools certainly isn’t without any risk, but the risk is much smaller. Just a short while ago a friend of mine cut off the tip of his thumb on the power jointer at his work.
He just let his attention slip for a moment. And a couple weeks ago a follower sent me a message letting me know that he had cut off much of his hand on his table saw. I also have a cousin who cut his fingers off on a table saw a few years ago. Will those experiences stop me from using my power tools? No. But it does make me more nervous, and aware. Yes, I love being able to mill up most of my boards with my power tools.
But I try to do as much of my furniture making with hand tools as is practical, and all of our classes are focused on hand tool use. Using woodworking hand tools just gives me a lot more peace of mind.
4. Hand Tool Woodworking for Peace and Quiet
Perhaps one of the greatest reasons why I love building furniture with traditional woodworking hand tools, is that it gives me a quiet, peaceful break from the fast-paced, loud, and intense world that I am part of. Being able to escape that, and cozy up to one of my workbenches, with a very old hand plane in my hand just gives me the warm fuzzies. And it relieves a lot of stress. I have four wild kids, and I must admit that on occasion I need to slip out to my workshop!
So those are the four main reasons why I love hand tool woodworking. Why do you love woodworking with hand tools? Comment below to let me know. Also, below you’ll find a bunch of my free resources to help you get started using traditional woodworking hand tools:
5 Great Hand Tool Working Resources at WoodAndShop.com:
If you’re interested in getting started in traditional woodworking with hand tools, utilize some of our free hand tool woodworking resources on our website, or even come take a class in our woodworking school. Here are a few hand tool woodworking resources that you’ll find helpful:
#1: Check out our Buyer’s Guides for Woodworking Hand Tools
The most visited part of our website is our woodworking hand tools buyer’s guides. These guides will help you understand which woodworking hand tools you need, which tools you don’t need, and where to find the best deals. A lot of woodworkers tell us that these hand tool guides saved them a lot of time, frustration, and money.
We’ve produced hundreds of free woodworking videos that you can watch to learn traditional hand tool woodworking, and some woodworking with power tools. Our woodworking videos are organized into easy playlists, including woodworking tutorials, woodworking workshop tours, and fun tips & tricks.
If you’re interested in checking out all of our past tutorials, articles & videos, head over to our blog. Here are some of our most recent woodworking blog posts for you to scroll through. And if you want to be notified, by email, every time we release a new article and/or video, you can click here to subscribe to our newsletter for free! Here are some of our most recent blog posts:
#4: Get Involved on our Hand Tool Woodworking Forum
Wanna connect with like-minded people who are interested in traditional hand tool woodworking? Got questions? Wanna show off your furniture or tool rehabs? Visit our free forum. We have 18 different forum categories, ranging from woodworking workshops, to woodworking hand tool rehab, to classified swapping, to workbench building, to chair making!