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The New Traditional Woodworker

From Tool Set to Skill Set to Mind Set

By Jim Tolpin

Format: Paperback

SKU# Z7129

Working Wood, Not Machining It

If you're more interested in working with wood rather than machining it, you will be relieved to learn that expensive powered machinery isn't required to build furniture. You can also forget the dust masks, face shields and hearing protection since many of the safety concerns related to woodworking — the use of power tools — are eliminated. In this book, you'll learn to set up a hand-tool woodworking shop, then discover the toolset, practice the skillset, and understand the mindset — effectively completing a comprehensive course in hand-tool woodworking.

In The New Traditional Woodworker, you will learn how to set up a woodworking shop in which hand-powered tools will be your primary means for making furniture projects — just as they were for artisans up to the generation of our grandparents. Unlike working wood with machines, hand-tool woodworking requires far less space and expense, makes almost no dust or noise, and incurs little danger. Your woodworking shop could be a spare room in your house, and your spouse and children would be safe being with you while you work. As Jim Tolpin guides you through the process of making a set of simple, yet essential, wooden layout tools and accessories for your workbench, you will learn the toolset, practice the skillset, and understand the mindset that you need to make furniture efficiently and enjoyably by hand. When you have completed these projects, you will have effectively completed a comprehensive course in hand-tool woodworking.

Over the last three decades, Jim Tolpin has been a professional woodworker building boats, timber-frame houses, and custom cabinets and furniture. He has also authored books and articles about general woodworking, cabinetmaking and finish carpentry — and more recently about home design. His how-to articles have been published in most of the major woodworking magazines including; Fine Woodworking, Popular Woodworking Magazine and Fine Homebuilding. He writes regular columns for CabinetMaker and Woodshop News magazines and has written a number of feature articles for Cottage and Coastal Living magazines. He has also produced 12 books in this period of time, that have, together, sold more than 750,000 copies. Jim is one of the founders and faculty members of the Port Townsend School of Woodworking.


on April 20, 2011 – The Renaissance Woodworker

A good woodworking book makes you want to drop everything and head to the shop to try out what you just read. Jim Tolpin's new book The New Traditional Woodworker does just that…several times.

Anybody who has read any woodworking books knows who Jim Tolpin is. His power tool books could be considered to be text books. I remember being very inspired by Jim when I attended his design seminar at the 2009 Woodworking in America Design conference in St. Charles, IL. Here is a guy that after decades of running a professional cabinet shop, decided to give up the power tools and build furniture by hand entirely. I kept asking myself, "is this really the "Table Saw Magic" guy?"

When I created the Hand Tool School, I wanted to build a comprehensive course for woodworkers who wanted to work by hand. Along the way, the woodworker would learn many skills and apply them while building simple yet very useful shop appliances. So reading Tolpin's book was an affirming experience as this is exactly the model he chooses. Hey if Jim Tolpin thinks this is the way to learn then who can argue right??

Within minutes of cracking the cover I was immersed in familiar exercises and instructions on flattening boards, squaring edges, and cutting joints. Let's be honest with the exploding internet community most of this stuff is covered in forums and blogs so if you have paid attention there won't be any new techniques. What you won't find anywhere else are the little tips and methods of execution that only a craftsman of 30+ years can show you.

I consumed this book in a matter of hours. I actually read it cover to cover. The last time I did that was with "The Joiner and Cabinetmaker" and that was mostly a fictional story! Tolpin covers tools and what they do, but also how they do it. He attests that understanding some of physics behind a tool, the woodworker learns how to choose the right one for the job. There is also a lot about the mindset of the hand tool woodworker. This is particularly interesting again based on Tolpin's extensive power tool background. Speed and process change, but also the motivation to build and the ability to derive simple pleasures from the sound of the plane. This style of woodworking becomes less about the deadlines and more about the process.

This is a modern take on hand tool usage. Tolpin has a shop that is stocked with old and new tools. I think this is an aspect that can be very inviting to many woodworking hand tool initiates. There are some brilliant masters out there who use nothing but vintage tools and time honored techniques with no gimmicks. Tolpin is hardly gimmicky, but he is not afraid to use a modern design if it makes his work more enjoyable. What's more, Tolpin freely admits to having his lumber supplier plane his wood so that his work is lessened at the milling stage. He will still flatten his boards by hand, but once they have been skip planed his work is decidedly easier. I think this simple act alone is kind of a permission slip for the aspiring hand tool woodworker to buy a thickness planer and not worry about the smaller boards. I firmly believe that learning how to flatten and plane a parallel face by hand is a skill all woodworkers should possess, and I think Tolpin would agree with me. Frankly, once you know you can do it, why not save that skill when your tooling won't help you like on that 20″ wide single board case side or table top. I found this refreshing that an accepted "expert" endorses this method.

The second part of the book is dedicated to small shop projects that will help build your skills. These are shop appliances that the new woodworker can feel okay about them not being of show quality. The project are helpful additions that will allow you to work more accurately and efficiently. Projects like winding sticks, a straight edge, bench hook, sticking board, and more. The one criticism I would have would be that throughout the book, there is a chicken and egg paradox where Tolpin illustrates the building of a project using the assistance of one of the projects later in the book. This is a small point and frankly if you are completely new to hand tool work, there are some things you just need to have to build others.

On the whole, one could really treat this book as a hand tool class. Follow the instructions and build the projects and you will learn fundamental skills that can help you build just about anything later on. Additionally, you would end up with many helpful shop appliances. This book is an exciting addition to Tolpin's library and I think it perfectly illustrates his transformation from machining wood to working wood.

Right now Popular Woodworking is offering this book for only $17.81 as compared to the normal $26.99 retail. I highly recommend you pick up a copy today.

SKU Z7129
Author/Speaker/Editor Jim Tolpin
File/Trim Size 10.875 x 8.25
Format Paperback
ISBN 13 9781440304286
Number Of Pages 176

Retail: $26.99

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Another outstanding book by Jim Tolpin! Review by Daniel

A few years ago, shortly after this book had been published and purchased by me, I had the opportunity to take Jim's "Handtool Heaven" class at his school in Port Townsend WA. Having read this book, I had some expectations of the course as it was supposed to be based at least in part on the content of the book. I was pleased to find out that both the book and the course were stellar, and Jim's teaching style in person was exactly like his writing style - clear, intelligent and with a touch of humour and humanity. I was thoroughly impressed by both and would heartily recommend them.

(Posted on 3/20/2014)

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