Learning to work with hand tools takes a little guts, some basic dexterity and some background information. In today's shop, you supply the guts, anyone can learn the dexterity and the background is best gotten from a crusty German master cabinetmaker.
Now, if you don't have a crusty German master cabinetmaker hiding in the garage, we have something almost as good that should help you on your way. We've assembled 224 pages of the best writing we've done on hand tools at Popular Woodworking and Woodworking Magazine during the last 10 years and assembled it into a full-color and reasonably priced ($24.99) book that is now available directly from us and booksellers nationwide.
Hand Tool Essentials (Popular Woodworking Books) contains articles from all of our regular contributors during the last decade, including Lonnie Bird, David Charlesworth, Adam Cherubini, Don McConnell, Frank Klausz and magazine editor Christopher Schwarz.
The 43 chapters cover a wide range of topics, from how to assemble your first kit of hand tools at a flea market for less than $100 and tune them up, to advanced topics such as how to blend bench planes with power tools, how to make custom chisel handles and how to select an exotic infill handplane.
Not only is there a wide range of subject matter in the book, there's also a wide range of opinion on what are the best practices. We tried hard not to make this a dogmatic, you-must-work-this-way book. So you'll get a good dose of 18th century techniques and philosophy from Adam Cherubini, a firm understanding of the merits of wooden-bodied planes and spokeshaves from Don McConnell, and a modern hybrid of hand and power techniques from Lonnie Bird, David Charlesworth and Christopher Schwarz.
Here are some of the raw numbers on this book: We packed nine chapters in on sharpening, five on chisels, 10 on handplanes and five on sawing. In addition, we also squeezed in complete plans for a French-style workbench, an Arts & Crafts wall-hung tool cabinet, an English sawbench and a useful miter shooting board.
Armed with the complete picture of hand work in the modern shop, we think you'll be able to find the path that's best for you. And in some ways, that approach might be even better than the advice you'd get from an old German cabinetmaker.