“Don’t Go In There, Sir – It’s The HTOZ !”

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Blog entry by handsawgeek posted 08-20-2014 10:10 PM 1614 reads 0 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Most of the handsawgeek basement shop annex consists of an area designated as the HTOZ, or ‘Hand Tool Only Zone’.

It is a place in which power tools of any shape or form are disallowed.

It is where all of my Neanderthalistic (is that a word?) tendencies takes place.

Here’s a cartoon by me !!!......

To be honest, this whole basement annex thing came about when complaints were made to Mrs. handsawgeek that very little woodworking could be done in the winter because it was too cold in the garage. Promises were made to her that, if a shop could be set up in the basement, dust and noise would be kept down to a minimum. It was added that I could make her some really nice stuff in that shop.

She bought into it!

The ‘Zone’ is roughly a 6’x 12’ end of the partially-finished basement. There are no electrical outlets within its carefully demarcated borders. Lighting is a combination of natural sunlight that comes in through the south-facing window well, an overhead fluorescent, and a task light on an extension cord. There are even a couple of candle sticks on the nearby shelf just in case the power goes off while work is in progress.

The zone encompasses the main workbench, hand tool storage, lumber storage, a shelf unit lined with cigar boxes full of hardware, and a sawbench.

Oh, and a collection of hand tools, as well.

Nothing else.

It must pointed out, that, at this juncture in time, I am what would be termed as a ‘hybrid’ woodworker. The areas outside of the HTOZ are populated by the table saw, planer, lathe, band saw, drill press, etc., as well as the hand power tools –drills, jigsaws, router, sanders, circular saw….

I am finding that I gravitate more and more to the hand tool side of things as the days (and hand tool collection) progress. In other words, it means the bulk of my woodworking time is spent in the HTOZ.

In fact, I am totally weaned away from use of the table saw. The last time it was fired it up was last fall when I helped a neighbor rip a long piece of wood trim for a project he was working on. Enough competence and confidence has been gained with the use of handsaws that the TS will soon be offered up on Craigslist – with no reservations.

Come to think of it, the power drills, sanders, router, and jigsaw have not seen much action lately in favor of their hand tool equivalents. About the only power tools that have recently been used are the band saw, drill press, and lathe. Geez, the slide down the slope has progressed much further than had been imagined!

In addition to power tools, anything made of plastic is not allowed to reside in the HTOZ. This includes tools with plastic handles, plastic tool boxes, Akro-Mills parts cabinets, hardware bins from the BORG, Rubbermaid totes from Wally-World, etc. The only things made of plastic present are the glue bottles and sawdustike. Otherwise, it’s strictly metal, wood, stone, paper, and glass (and Altoids) in the handsawgeek HTOZ.

Many readers may think that this is a bit weird and excessive, but hey…you’re visiting a blog written by a guy with the word ‘geek’ in his online handle! What else should you expect?

This doesn’t mean that plastics don’t get used in other areas of the shops.

My all-time favorite screwdriver happens to be a Snap-On ratchet type with a bright orange plastic handle that was purchased back in 1990. There is a lot of history and stories surrounding this tool, maybe even enough for its own future blog subject.

But even this much-loved favorite is not permitted to pass within the borders of the HTOZ!

Want even more weirdness and excessiveness? Plywood is rarely used, and mostly for shop fixtures. Manufactured wood product (Wooden Spam) is completely banished from the area. IKEA not spoken here!



But it’s my shop.

The HTOZ is the haven where I can go to get away from the noise…and the dust… and the items that our traditional woodworking ancestors did not have in their shops. A place where there exists an atmosphere evocative of earlier times and where I can look at a piece in progress and realize that it is being quietly fashioned using only my hands and some well-tuned hand tools.

Perhaps it is my little rebellion against all of the pervasive technology, the raw commercialism, and the made-in-China, plastic throw-away items of our modern society.

Yes, the handsawgeek HTOZ concept may seem weird and excessive, but I can’t think of any other place, along with the gardens outside, or the music room upstairs, where I would rather be spending my free time.


-- Ed

4 comments so far

View kajunkraft's profile


159 posts in 2354 days

#1 posted 08-21-2014 02:28 AM

I once met a guy like that. Tried to call him a while back and the recording said the number was no longer in service.

View BTimmons's profile


2303 posts in 2629 days

#2 posted 08-21-2014 03:03 PM

I totally understand doing things your own way for the sake of mental well being. I love my planes, chisels, and spokeshave, I just can’t imagine being without my table saw.

-- Brian Timmons -

View handsawgeek's profile


648 posts in 1540 days

#3 posted 08-21-2014 03:51 PM

Hi, BTimmons
Thanks for the reply.

It did take some time to convince myself to move past using the table saw. It could almost be described as going through withdrawal from an addiction. There would be many times while working on a project that I was tempted to put the hand saws down and take the work to the table saw. It was a sort of a crutch.

The thing that really made the transition much easier was the simple act of building a knee-high saw bench for ripping and crosscutting larger boards, and a bench hook for the back saw on the finer stuff. This made all the difference in the world. Without these accessories, transitioning to hand saws would have proven much more difficult. And, of course, using well tuned and sharpened hand saws is critical, as well.

Once it was learned that I could actually cut to a line while keeping the blade square to the work, it was all over. I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a substantial learning curve and practice involved in acquiring that skill.

I suppose that if I worked as a high volume production shop with a lot of repititious operations, the TS would be indespensible and necessary. But, I’m just a one-off hobbyist, so I find it quicker and more efficient just to grab a handsaw and saw bench to make most cuts, rather than perform the required TS setups.

One thing that I haven’t yet learned is how to re-saw with hand saws. For the time being this is still being done on the band saw. But it is on the schedule for future Neanderthal self-training!


-- Ed

View stefang's profile


15947 posts in 3478 days

#4 posted 08-21-2014 05:06 PM

I can relate to the joy of using hand tools, and I use them too, quite a lot actually, but when you get old like me I bet you will want a table saw, a bandsaw a….............well, you know what I mean.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

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