Port Townsend School of Woodworking
Preserving the Tradition

Hand Tool Heaven

Get the foundations of hand tool woodworking in a single class. 5 day class based on Jim Tolpin’s book “The New Traditional Woodworker”.  


Hand Tool Heaven:
Working with Saws & Planes



A class for beginners new to hand tool woodworking (or just to woodworking).

This is the class that developed as Jim Tolpin wrote The New Traditional Woodworker.   Please note: we have copies for purchase when you arrive at the school for class.

In this class, you will learn a boatload of tips, tricks and core techniques that will convince you that hand tools—once properly setup, sharpened and handled—are not difficult to master or tedious to use and are anything but obsolete. Contrary to the “norm," you will discover the pleasure of working wood with tools that don’t make noise, don’t make dust, and therefore don’t require protection from them.

Over the course of the week, you will make (and take home with you) a selection of layout tools and workbench accessories that are essential to hand tool woodworking. With each project you will learn to choose the appropriate tools for the task at hand, set the tools up properly and practice the skills you’ll need to work as efficiently (and therefore as enjoyably) as possible.

We arrange the projects to present progressively more challenging tools and techniques. In most cases, you will actually use the tool or accessory you just made to help build the next one. (You can use the layout and bench tools in the images shown above in the slideshow.)

You will understand:

“The more power you apply to the process, the further you get from the product.”
(from “Woodworking Wit and Wisdom” by Jim Tolpin)

What our students say...

"I was excited to hear the history and principles behind every cut we do."

"It exceeded my expectations and drove all of the anxiety from 7th grade shop out of me. Thanks!"

"The class did not leave me with the idea that I need different tools to be a better craftsman – this is a plus."

"It was good to have the use of wicked-sharp tools."

"Excellent information, good pace and reasonable progression of projects. Did not expect to pick up so many excellent tips."

Class Description

Here’s what you will experience over the five days:

Handsaws: Learn efficient and accurate ripping and crosscutting tricks and techniques. How to build and use a shooting board to quickly true end cuts.

Hand planes
How to tune and sharpen a hand plane for maximum performance; how to efficiently dimension and smooth a board to a flat, mirror-like surface and with a straight and true edge. How to use specialty hand planes to make grooves, rabbets and profiled (molded) edges.

Learn efficient techniques for chopping and paring with a razor-sharp chisel honed to the proper angle. Create simple jigs to ensure accuracy in joint-making.

Curved work with hand tools: 
Learn how to saw to a curved line with a frame saw (a hand-powered version of a bandsaw); smooth and true the curved edge with a compass plane; and shape the edge with a tuned and sharpened drawknife and spokeshave.


You do not need to bring any tools to this class. The school has workbenches fully equipped with high quality hand tools. We strongly encourage you to put off tool purchases until you have taken this class. You will understand what a good tool looks like and how well it can work.

More about this class



Class Information and Registration

Full Disclosure: This course was designed and developed by Jim Tolpin. The lead instructor is Matthew Straughn-Morse for the August class. We usually visit Jim at his Hand Tool Woodworking shop during the class.

Class starts at 9:00 am on the first day in Building 315 at Fort Worden.
Please read our What to Expect page for general information about the School.
Please also read our Registration Policy.

Class size: 10
Cost: $750
Materials Charge: $55

When you click on the Register link you will be able to register for the class or, if the class is full, sign up for the wait list.