Good hand-tool first projects?

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Forum topic by nordichomey posted 10-02-2010 03:00 AM 3644 views 0 times favorited 13 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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100 posts in 2521 days

10-02-2010 03:00 AM

For those who like to work with traditional hand-tools… What are some good projects for someone (me) who wants to work on developing my hand-tool skills? I like a challenge, but….

-- nordichomey

13 replies so far

View swirt's profile


2107 posts in 2391 days

#1 posted 10-02-2010 05:23 AM

I agree with 3fingerpat’s suggestion of a pair of sawbenches and other shop aids that will further help in your use of hand tools (bench hook, shooting board, workbench, tool tote…)

-- Galootish log blog,

View Gregn's profile


1642 posts in 2403 days

#2 posted 10-02-2010 05:30 AM

Depends on what your skill level in joinery is as to the type of project you want to do. Pat has a neat project that is also pretty handy and has some tenon and mortise joinery using drawbore mortise and tenon joinery. A good solid joint for a project. Then again I also agree with Jorge with doing a step stool with a combination of dovetails and mortise and tenon joinery. You could also make a side table with a drawer to make several different joints from dovetails and mortise and tenon joints as well as a half lap joint in a bottom stretcher mortise and tenon into the legs. How equipped you are for hand tools will also determine your limitations. Just looked at your projects which leads me to recommend Pat’s project to keep it relatively simple to start with. Drawbore joinery will allow you some fudging room with the mortise and tenon joinery. What joints have you done well with hand tools if I may ask?

-- I don't make mistakes, I have great learning lessons, Greg

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10850 posts in 2535 days

#3 posted 10-02-2010 05:46 AM

let it bee a copple of sawbenches , yes I did say a copple of sawbenches
it will make it alot easyer to saw long boards and can dobbel as sawhorses
or have bigger things on when you work on them and the bench/a table
is tooo high and the flor is too low


View pmayer's profile


847 posts in 2485 days

#4 posted 10-02-2010 01:05 PM

I agree with the step stool suggestion. Then, watch a few Roy Underhill episodes and you will get all kinds of ideas.

-- PaulMayer,

View helluvawreck's profile


22669 posts in 2286 days

#5 posted 10-02-2010 01:21 PM

I think that simple dovetail boxes are a good place to start, then a dovetail stool with tenons; and then maybe a wall cabinet with dovetails, tenons, and a mortise and tenon door. On the shelves for the wall cabinet you could use sliding dovetails. Then maybe you could do a shaker bedside cabinet. There are many projects that you could do. There are several good books on this subject that have suggested projects in them. Another good way is to go through a series of classes whose purpose is to lead someone through a series of projects for learning hand tools. Good luck.

-- If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away. Henry David Thoreau

View TheGravedigger's profile


963 posts in 3444 days

#6 posted 10-02-2010 01:48 PM

Another idea would be a small wall cabinet – think medicine cabinet or something similar. This allows you to do dadoes, rabbets, grooves, mortise and tenon, and dovetails all in the same project. It has the added virtue that most of your joinery will be hidden by the door and trim pieces in the event that they turn out less than perfect.

Many people consider the dovetail to be the heart-and-soul of hand tool work. I disagree. I would say to first perfect your mortise and tenon joint, and move on from there.

If you’re looking for a good mortising chisel, I can highly recommend the Ray Iles models at Tools for Working Wood:

-- Robert - Visit my woodworking blog:

View canadianchips's profile


2310 posts in 2417 days

#7 posted 10-02-2010 01:57 PM

I agree with others. Build yourself some supprot devices to hold your work properly when using hand tools. The image of holding a 2×4 across your knee and sawing off the end, just isn’t a good one ! Make saw horses , and table that support your work. With hand tools you need to hold the material better than when using power tools. Planing lumber is a great example, you need both hands to push the plane, a method to hold your board is greatly appreciated . Chiselling mortises. A SOLID work table is very nice !(No bouncing). Cutting dovetails find a good wood vise.

-- "My mission in life - make everyone smile !"

View nordichomey's profile


100 posts in 2521 days

#8 posted 10-03-2010 05:22 AM

Thanks for all the input. I had thought of the step stool, but the saw benchs never crossed my mind.

Gregn – I have not done many joints WELL withhand tools. However, I read a FW article about the 5 minute dovetail and find it a great way to practice. Just using a bunch of scrap wood I have been practicing doing a simple one pin-two tail dovetail. Projects :-) ... I just finished a torsion box workbench I will get the pictures posted this weekend.

Equipment – My hand tool equipment is limited but growing. LA block plane… recently flattened the sole and honed a sharp edge. What a difference!!! Favorite hand saw is a zona razor saw but it is limited. Advice on good cross cut hand saws to start with?

-- nordichomey

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10850 posts in 2535 days

#9 posted 10-03-2010 06:18 AM

to start with as crosscuting saw you can use and not so expencive Bachosaw
and if you feel for it changes the handle with a homemade wooden one
the bacho you can get in different prices I have the xproff as they call it
its a little thicker in the blade but that can be an advance when you ruoghcut to lenght
unfortunely the teeth is hardened so you canĀ“t sharpen it without re anealing or buy a new

but again you proppely want something like crown ,adria ,veritas ,finns pax ,
or make some framesaws and then there is japanese saws as well
there is so many brands out there so you have to deside the pricerange you want
but remember both crosscut and ripsaws
then again what shuold they cut i size as you sayd the zona is only for fine things
then what next in range to cut up or down what do you want to make in the future


View nordichomey's profile


100 posts in 2521 days

#10 posted 10-03-2010 04:28 PM

Dennis – Thank you for the insight!

3fingerpat – Great review! You have some great reviews. I really like Landon’s tool box. Looks like a fun project. You better build him a handy manny tool box as well. I have a 4 year old who wants me to build one of those.

-- nordichomey

View nordichomey's profile


100 posts in 2521 days

#11 posted 10-03-2010 06:39 PM

just down loaded the pictures to the computer… Do you have to use photo bucket to post? My wife is much better at this.

-- nordichomey

View nordichomey's profile


100 posts in 2521 days

#12 posted 10-03-2010 07:13 PM

The new bench is posted!

-- nordichomey

View ShannonRogers's profile


540 posts in 3207 days

#13 posted 10-04-2010 09:02 PM

I may be blasted for self promotion here, but I am creating a hand tool school over at my Renaissance Woodworker site that is designed for just this scenario. I completely agree with many of the suggestions above and will be launching this virtual school on October 16th. The first semester will be 12 lessons over 6 months designed to teach the basics and include many small projects for use around the shop. The final project will be an out of the shop furniture piece. I’m still filming and editing the HD video content but I hope the school will meet some needs and grow with the students based on their suggestions and desires.

-- The Hand Tool School is Open for Business! Check out my blog and podcast "The Renaissance Woodworker" at

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