Opinions on The Hand Tool School... other methods?

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Forum topic by jgerman posted 08-02-2012 01:02 PM 9408 views 1 time favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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10 posts in 2155 days

08-02-2012 01:02 PM

I’m getting started in wood working. I plan to go pure hand tools at first, as a starting point.

I’ve been considering subscribing to the first semester (or two) of The Hand Tool School, but I haven’t seen much in the way of reviews so I’m not sure if it’s worth it.

I’d definitely benefit from something structured but I don’t know how valuable having those videos would be versus a couple of books and some practicing.

Anyone have any experience with that site, or advice for learning the hobby in general?

15 replies so far

View BerBer5985's profile


445 posts in 2421 days

#1 posted 08-02-2012 01:18 PM

I started getting into hand tools after watching two people in particular. One is Paul Sellers, and the other Rob Cosman. Paul sellers has a DVD collection and book that is fantastic and really teaches you without going out and buying 9 different planes abd 4 different sets of chisels. He also teaches you to hand sharpen in my preferred method. Check out where you can see a few you tube videos as well as his blog and can order his DVDs. I think they are the #1 thing to start with getting into hand tool woodworking in my opinion. The next is rob cosmans hand tool workshop. He runs a class online where there are hundreds of videos as he walks you through different projects. It’s about $20 month to join, but rob cosman knows his stuff too, albeit, a little different than Paul sellers approach. I think it benefits to gather as much info from different people and select the methods that work well for you. His website is There are plenty more out there, but I think for the cost and education received, I’ve learned a ton about working with hand tools and it really got me into doing this differently abd opened my eyes to a lot things! Have fun and good luck!

-- Greg, Owner, Quality Carpet One,

View David Kirtley's profile

David Kirtley

1286 posts in 2999 days

#2 posted 08-02-2012 07:10 PM

Well, watch a few videos of Shannon’s and see how you like. Same for Paul Sellers. Mr. Sellers has some on youtube.

No idea on pricing but I do like Mr. Seller’s style in the videos I have seen.

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

View Kookaburra's profile


748 posts in 2225 days

#3 posted 08-02-2012 07:32 PM

I subscribed to Hand Tool School – in large part because you buy the course, not a month of use. Since I travel a lot, I cannot consistently keep up, but that is OK with Shannon’s program. I can take as long as I want.

I do not know about the other options, but I also like that the Hand Tool School has a lesson and a related project in one set. If I remember correctly, there is a pretty extensive sample lesson if you want to check it out. A big factor in whether you are going to get a lot out of it is the instructior’s style.

Shannon is VERY responsive to emails and questions and will go out of his way to help you – something else I need. Drop him a note and tell him your situation. He may let you watch a full lesson to see if it is right for you.

-- Kay - Just a girl who loves wood.

View JimiThing's profile


22 posts in 2586 days

#4 posted 08-04-2012 05:31 AM

Check credentials too. I believe sellers in a studied woodworker, shannon, of the handtool school has little more experience than the average person on this site, has been a hobby woodworker for a few years…. im not convinced, ive seen all his free videos and he seems quite amateur. If it were me spending my 100 dollars for one project or “semester” id spend it elsewhere, one good class at a woodworking school would likely teach you MUCH MUCH more and be essential more skill building and valuable to you in the long run than one of his semesters. AND those classes are taught by professional woodworkers, who have decades of experience being cabinet makers and joiners and whatever else, not some guy in his garage who honestly came off to me as a little know it all-ish when I saw error after error in his work and advice. Learn the right way and get your lessons from a true teacher, not a student who thinks he should be a teacher…. everyone remembers THAT kid in their high school classes…. always trying to show everyone what they should do and answer or one up everything being taught… I always got a good laugh out of that. Anyway, shannon seems nice though, I would have a beer with him any day. Just don’t think those who have never REALLy learned much should be teaching anything.

-- Got Wood?

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Jorge G.

1537 posts in 2476 days

#5 posted 08-04-2012 07:51 AM

How about Charles Neil? A1Jim posted he is offering a free 30 day trial to his web site. I am not a fan of Mr. Neil’s delivery, but he definitely is a good and experienced woodworker.

Really there are a lot of web based “classes” I believe Marc Spagnulo (the woodwhisperer, what a dumb name) has a web based school. Rob Cosman also has a web based school.

Having said this, my take is that there is nothing in these videos that you cannot learn for free on Youtube, Tauton press books and the free news letters from the magazines. Best of luck to you.

-- To surrender a dream leaves life as it is — and not as it could be.

View ShannonRogers's profile


540 posts in 3789 days

#6 posted 08-23-2012 01:21 PM

Jeremy, since you started this thread and did in fact sign up for The Hand Tool School, care to share your thoughts? I’m constantly trying to make it a better experience and hopefully addressing any concerns. I would love to hear your feedback.

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

View jgerman's profile


10 posts in 2155 days

#7 posted 08-23-2012 02:15 PM

I’m still assembling my toolkit, cleaning the garage, and deciding if I really need to build a proper bench, so I haven’t done much yet.

I can tell you the factors that made up my mind though.

- I watched the intro and your presentation style was light and easy to follow, I’m more or less completely new to wood working so this is a huge bonus

- I already have some of the Paul Sellers DVDs but his style feels different than the vibe I get from you, or Chris Schwarz, Roy Underhill, etc. Maybe it’s a cultural thing.

- I liked the project path I saw in semesters one and two. You seemed to be taking me down the path I wanted to travel. Some of the parts don’t apply, for example, I can’t pick scrap up to make the winding strips, I don’t really have a scrap pile, but that’s not a complaint just something I have to deal with in my specific situation. If I come out of semester one with the skills to build the hanging tool cabinet I’ll feel like I got my money’s worth.

- The cost was right, $250 for two semesters is more than reasonable especially when compared to the cost of classes. And to be honest there are no classes (that I know of) in my area anyway so I’d have to travel and pay much more for less content.

- You’ve been responsive in the comments on the site, something I couldn’t know ahead of time but certainly a plus.

- There seems to be a cultural component to the approach to woodworking. I liked the DVDs from Paul Sellers but it seems culturally different than the stuff that I was seeing from you, Chris Schwarz, Roy Underhill, etc. Maybe that’s a US versus Britain thing. It’s hard to define.

That’s really all I can say so far. I plan on trying to find lumber for the saw benches this weekend, building those, then skipping back to lesson one for the winding sticks. I’m definitely happy with my decision so far. What kicked all this off for me was The Anarchist’s Toolbox, the New Traditional Woodworker, and The Joiner and the Cabinet Maker. So in the end I’ll be bouncing around a little using The Hand Tool School as my core path.

View Kookaburra's profile


748 posts in 2225 days

#8 posted 08-23-2012 02:43 PM

I had the same problem with my “scrap” wood for the winding sticks too! I did have an appropriate piece of cherry for the bodies, but I had to go out and buy the contrasting bits out of the cut-offs/small piece pile at my favorite lumber shop. Mine should be done this weekend – it has taken me a LONG time to get this far.

Next on my list is the saw bench – I have the wood for that. I am going to skip making the shooting board as I already have a set from Bad Axe – mine would never be that good.

And then it is on to the next project.

Shannon – I should probably have noted this on the Hand Tools site, but I also am still struggling to put together my tool kit. And I cetainly do not need the whole set for the first few projects (as far as I have watched). But I put a LOT of effort into getting most everything, assuming I could not proceed without the full kit. It might be nice to note in the write up for the first class which tools will be used when – and how far one could proceed with only a limited set. Then when time comes to use that dove tail saw or the dividers, the students could augment the kit with the new items.

-- Kay - Just a girl who loves wood.

View ShannonRogers's profile


540 posts in 3789 days

#9 posted 08-23-2012 02:58 PM

Jeremy, you bring up an excellent point. I have acquired a lot of scraps over the years and make a big assumption every time I suggest using scraps. Moreover, now that I work for a lumber company, the scrap pile I can access is enormous. I have put together lumber packs through my employer for Semester 1 as well as several of the other projects, but unfortunately regulations and freight costs make shipping outside of the continental US difficult. I really appreciate the feedback and am always just an email/skype/comment/etc away if you need help or have a suggestions.

Kay, I have had this tool discussion with a lot of people advising them exactly what you say. Buy the tools as you need them and the whole kit isn’t necessary right out of the gates. However those one on one conversations and mentions during the live sessions don’t filter through to everyone. I’m seriously considering redoing a lot of the first lesson as I think the tool point needs to be made clearer. Tools (or lack thereof) should not be a stumbling block and I want to build some videos that can help the tool less get started with 2 or 3 tools and an outline of what to consider getting next as well as methods to restore and source tools. Easier said than done but I’m working on it.

Finally, I would urge you to consider building the bench hooks. The wider, low profile fence version (paring hook) gets used just about every day in my shop. Plus building it teaches you some invaluable skills on flattening a board and making a panel which will come up a lot later one as we build casework.

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

View jgerman's profile


10 posts in 2155 days

#10 posted 08-23-2012 03:03 PM

I’ll be running around trying to find a good place for lumber this weekend. I have a couple of places nearby I think I just need to check them out.

That’s a good point about which tools when. I bit the bullet and blew some cash last week so I think I have everything. The handsaws I skimped a bit on but they should be effective enough. Still need a bit and brace set and I actually only have one back saw which I think I can press into multiple roles, it’s the Wyatt Earp hybrid. If that doesn’t work out for me I’ll pick up a few more.

View jgerman's profile


10 posts in 2155 days

#11 posted 08-23-2012 03:16 PM

Shannon, I’m assuming you’re referring to Hard Wood To Go?

I initially dismissed that since the cost of shipping was so high, but it looks like the place for pick up orders is 5 minutes from my house.

View ShannonRogers's profile


540 posts in 3789 days

#12 posted 08-23-2012 03:32 PM

Yes Hardwood to Go is who I’m referring to. Even though it is a completely different incorporated entity owned by different people we are often considered the retail division of J. Gibson McIlvain (a lumber wholesaler) Currently I am Hardwood to Go. I pick the lumber maintain the web site, run operations, accounting, etc. I buy lumber from several wholesalers when they have overstock or “defects”. Plus I can buy specific material for special orders. For small scale stuff it sometimes takes a while since I have to either assemble enough buyers to buy in bulk or find a small overstock pack in a wholesale yard that they want to move. We rent space from J Gibson McIlvain’s lumber yard in White Marsh, MD just north of Baltimore.

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

View jasonburr's profile


25 posts in 1597 days

#13 posted 02-07-2014 04:36 PM

I know that this is an old post, but I found it when I was considering enrolling in the Hand Tool School. I wanted to give my initial impressions of Shannon and the content.

I could not be more impressed. The content is very good and Shannon’s customer service is even better. There are quite a few “Extras” you receive in the member’s section other than just the semester lessons. Also, I contacted Shannon with a specific situation I was having in purchasing a tool. He responded in less than 1 day, was detailed in his response, and set me on the right track. Before I purchased the Hand Tool School, I was considering some DVD instruction from Rob Cosman, David Charlesworth, or Christopher Schwarz. I am ecstatic with the choice I made if for no other reason than being able to have some one-on-one help.

I cannot recommend it enough. Thanks Shannon.

View helluvawreck's profile


31105 posts in 2867 days

#14 posted 02-07-2014 06:18 PM

I think that if you are going to go into woodworking that getting a basic set of had tools first is the best way to go. You are going to need a basic set of hand tools anyways and you should learn how to use them. Besides, you can make almost anything with hand tools only. Next you could get a basic set of portable power tools. With a basic set of hand tools and portable power tools you can certainly make almost anything that you want very efficiently. Again, you will eventually have to have the portable power tools anyways. Finally you can start adding the stationary power tools one at a time. This is a great way to do it because you will eventually end up with a complete shop but it was not paid for all at once. You’ll learn a lot more about hand tools and portable power tools and will appreciate them more. What you will learn will definitely show up in your work later on. This is just my two cents worth.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View jgerman's profile


10 posts in 2155 days

#15 posted 02-07-2014 08:44 PM

Since I asked the question I should update: I did subscribe to the first two semesters of the Hand Tool School. I haven’t had the time to approach the lessons in the rigorous way I’d like (but that’s coming) but I’m glad I subscribed.

Shannon presents information well, and you get a lot out of the subscription. It’s just a bonus that I get to support a local guy by subscribing ;)

I’d definitely recommend it to others.

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