Traditional woodworking typically means working with hand tools. There are still many enthusiasts and professional who work with hand tools exclusively. And that is a school of thought in itself. Beginners, and the newly inducted, often have a belief about hand tools. They believe that they are easier to use. They also believe that far less number of tools will do the job.
Both these lines of thought can come undone without the right technique, or if you are not careful about a few things. You can actually end up collecting a LOT of hand tools and end up spending a lot of money. So what is it like working with hand tools. Here are some things you should be aware of.
The Good Thing About Hand Tools
The flexibility of hand tools is unmatched, provided you have the skill to use them. The machine wood working tools have their limitations. While a single machine tool can possibly perform a lot of functions a hand tool frees you from all limitations; e.g. the number of angles you can cut with a saw.
A hand tool teaches you the woodworking skill on a new and basic level. You can definitely learn your cutting on a table saw, but a hand saw just might teach you more and faster. While hand tools need skills to use, you will be surprised how quickly you learn that skill.
Sometimes there is no quicker way to do things than use a hand saw to perfect a cut or a chisel to fine tune a joint.
Hand tools may take longer to finish a project as compared to using power woodworking tools. But if you are making small and simple projects, this difference quickly fades.
Similarly, while you can make anything out of wood using hand tools, you can work in a much smaller place with a lessor initial investment. This is a huge advantage for beginners. They can start quickly, doing some real wood work with minimal fuss.
The Bad Thing About Hand Tools
Well, they are slower than power tools, which sometimes is not a bad thing. They require you to exercise greater control. You can get a straight cut from a table saw right from the start but getting the same from a hand saw needs practice, not to mention power and strength.
Similarly, a plane can take off a uniform amount of wood from a board, but a hand plane relies on the pressure you exert on it.
The expectations beginners have from hand tools can be all wrong. When the results are not as expected during the first try, it can cause frustration.
While theoretically you can make any wood project with only three kinds of hand tools, you can actually end up with a very wide assortment of hand tools for different needs.
As a beginner, if you do not choose the right project to work with, a lot of mistakes are likely to happen. This can lead to dis-alignment with tools and the entire project itself.
If you intend to make and sell wood projects, you will and should consider power tools soon.
Be somewhat careful in choosing your first projects that you want to build with traditional wood working practices. As we have explained, working with hand tools can be both frustrating and rewarding. Let’s keep a few things in mind to ensure that it’s the latter.
- Keep It Simple. No fancy curves and angels. Pick up a project that uses one kind of joinery. The odds are that you will have to make many joints to put your woodcraft together. By making more than one kind of joint you are increasing the chances of error. So choose a project that allows you to build in a straightforward way using only one kind of a joint. Another advantage of doing this is that making just one project will make you proficient with making that joint, for example mortise and tenon.
- Choose A Medium Sized Project. Do not choose something too small or too big. Medium size woodcrafts are ideal. We are thinking something like a side table or a book shelf to begin with. The reason for avoiding something smaller and bigger is that larger projects can get cumbersome and smaller ones are less forgiving of errors. You also don’t actually learn any furniture building skills by making small things like, for example, boxes.
- Avoid Colouring and Polishing. Colouring a project to look a desired way is a complete skill in itself. This part of the woodworking process has just as much potential of ruining the project as any other. Therefore, we want to avoid brining it into the picture all together. We do this by choosing the right wood to start with, the one that has the colour and grain matching the look you have in mind. And once the project is built you can finish it with a top coast of clear polish.
Recommended Beginner Projects For Hand Tools
Wooden Side Table.
This is a simple and versatile wood project. You can make it simple or intricate with complex angles and shape. However, it will always be an elegant wood craft. It’s a great idea to make a simple side table to begin with. It will still enable you to learn the essential wood working skills of joining wood to make the table top and making strong joints to support the structure of a furniture piece.
Lay your hands on an easy plan for making a simple bookcase that’s 2-3 shelves tall, not more. A bookcase is a wonderfully aesthetic project to build out of hand tools. It also gives you good experience with working with longer wood stock and with gluing and joining.
Wood Wall Shelf.
Once again a very simple and elegant project that you can make using a single type of joint such as mortise and tenon or even with dados and rabbets. This project is also a good exercise in planing and gluing wood working plan for a wall shelf.
Making a stool is simpler than making a chair. But there are usually compound angels involved to give the stool a decent shape and stability. You will quickly learn cutting angels with your hand tools and realise that they are not any more different or difficult than cutting square. Once again, this project gives with very good practice with essential wood working skills of joinery, planing, joining and gluing up a panel.
Wood Toys Are Great For Hand-tools
Kids toys are one of the top grossing industries of all and growing at a non-stop rate. Now, playthings for children exist in all forms, from the fancy electronics to art & crafts involving sewing, painting, woodworking ans such.
Wood toys, from once being commonplace, are even a bit of a novelty now. And they lend themselves extremely well to being made from hand tools. There are a large number of varieties to choose from.
One can easily pick a basic shape and form and yet have a hot selling woodworking craft on their hands.
Although there is something to be said about making toys with hand tools alone. Its alright if you are making a piece or two. But often these toys have parts that need to be made over in duplicates. Using power tools makes this work faster since you can set your tool to a measured setting and then cut away.
The same speed can be achieved to a measure with hand tools if you improvise making jigs to speed up processes like cutting similar shaped parts of the toys.
Hand Tools You Need
You might be surprised that almost all wood working tasks can be managed by three essential wood working hand tools: a saw, a plane, and a chisel. Therefore, in order to finish the above hand tool projects you need:
- A jack plane – A panel saw – A back saw – A set of 3-5 chisels – Measuring and marking instruments like a tape, ruler, square, marker pen, knife, etc.
If you are buying your hand tools from the scratch, decide on your project and then buy accordingly. Do go on and tell us what your favourite hand tool projects are in the comments section below.