Precision with Hand Tools



Hand tools open up new vistas of efficiency, accuracy, and enjoyment for woodworkers, even those with modest skills. This is a class to ramp up your hand tool skills — smoothing surfaces, shooting edges, fitting joints, cutting beads and curves. Only we’ll link those tasks to the reality of building a fun little table with lots of design possibilities. The Fun-O-Meter is going to be pegged.

We’ll use machines lightly where they work best — bandsawing legs and cutting mating mortises and tenons — but otherwise work by hand through a range of typical tasks hand tools do best: flattening, truing, shaping, and smoothing surfaces to a polish.

We’ll talk about ways to integrate hand tools in your process, sharpening, tuning, and lots about design and detail.

We'll be building a small side table (the twist) as they are an ideal project to hone some skills and try out some new design ideas.


You have 2 choices for materials: 

  1.  Bring your own, milled and partially sized to the cutlist. You can use cherry, walnut, alder, or Douglas fir. If you want to use something else you must contact me for an okay. 

    There is not a great deal of wood involved, and perfect wood is not necessary, but being friendly to hand tools is.
  2. The School will provide you with a kit in cherry. If you would like us to prepare the stock and have it ready when you arrive please select the materials deposit during registration. We will contact you before we order the wood to confirm the pricing. We plan to do this one month before the class. We want to make sure the leg blanks will be stable by the time class starts. The School provides the materials at cost with a labour charge and a small administrative fee. We expect the kit to cost less than $150.

The Cutlist

From Garrett:

The place to start is a basic design. We’ll be building small tables, so sketch out some ideas but don't go beyond a top about 14" wide and 24" long. I suggest you splay the legs about 3°, or whatever looks best to you (looks better than square, and is more stable). Look at my Fine Woodworking article on a similar table from Jan/Feb 2004. (Just ask and I can send it to you.) There are lots of places for playing with design so don’t be put off this table might be too simple; it wont be. You have overhangs and edges and many details to work out.

The idea is as you to do hand tool exercises such as jointing two boards, you are assembling your top (and with an invisible and strong joint!). Or when we work on edges, ditto the edges of your top. This should (and will be) fun, so be willing to experiment. I am a real believer in learning while doing. 

For the overall wood you have some choices: cherry, walnut, alder, or Douglas fir. 

For the cockbeads, if you choose this path — these are small beads applied to the bottom of the aprons — I would use something harder and with a pleasing color contrast. I like rosewood, ebony, walnut, maple. 3/16" – 1/8” thick, the length of each apron, and about 1" wide. 

Come with your 4 aprons and legs partially made, your top as a single board or 2 (or more if you have to, but a 2 board match looks best). 

Plane the aprons to thickness (13/16 -3/4”), rip them to width (3-5/8”), and leave them long. Figure an extra inch in length overall for the tenons in the legs. 

Keep your top pieces overlong and wide for now. Plane them to 7/8” or 13/16”, but DON'T glue them together yet. 

Rough cut the legs and leave them long too.

They taper from 1-3/16" at the top to whatever looks best to you at the bottom. They taper from top to bottom. Length is up to you. An extra leg is a good idea. You can keep them as square “bolts” for now. 

Look for a blank that's rift sawn, ie the growth rings are at 45° to the surface. This will produce the best legs, most pleasing from all angles.

Questions? Just ask Garrett


If you are planning to bring your own tools, which we recommend, please review  Garrett's Tool List.

You are welcome to use the School's tools. Each workbench is equipped with a set of Lee Valley / Veritas tools and had a good selection of teaching hand tools. However, you will learn a lot more if you bring your own tools and learn to tune them under Garrett's watchful eye.


This class should not be your first time working with hand tools. If you have self studied and completed many of the projects in Jim Tolpin's "The New Traditional Woodworker" or have taken hand tool classes elsewhere or have other equivalent experience then this will be a great class for you.

Students who have taken Jim’s Hand Tool Heaven class or the Hand Saw Essentials and Hand Plane Essentials classes in our Basics Of Woodworking program will find this a great class to add joinery skills to their repertoire.

Class Information and Registration

This class overlaps with the Wooden Boat Festival in Port Townsend. It can be difficult to book lodging at this time. Fort Worden State Park is offering a dormitory style accommodation option for students this week. Room and breakfast at $59/night. Contact Connor Ferry directly to book:

Class starts at 9:00am on the first day and ends at 5:00pm
Please read our What to Expect page for general information about the School.
Please also read our Registration Policy.

Class size: 10
Cost: $ 750
Optional Kit Deposit: $ 50

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.