How many are we?

The question has come to my mind lately as to how many woodworkers there are who are focused on using hand tools eschewing the use of power tools.

Defined in the strictest sense and including only those who do so by choice as a hobby and have a reasonable collection of tools (eliminating kids with pen knives and third world carpenters working with a single rusty plane or brace, but not Windsor chair makers or instrument makers), I would guess that we are indeed few in number- possibly numbering fewer than 1,000 worldwide.

This blog gets well over 100 visitors on a daily basis, but I don't think that the majority of my visitors fit the hand tool woodworker description in the strictest sense.

I am now tracking over 50 blogs on this site, but relatively few are dedicated entirely to hand tool woodworking.

The neaderthal forum at is quite active, but there is a lot of activity from neo-neaderthals, or those those who favor hand tools, but would never give up their bandsaws, planers, drill press, etc.

If we include all those who have mixed shops, but favor hand tools, the count would grow dramatically. For many, that is the sweet spot. Even more have power shops and use an occasional hand tool.

What do you think? How many are we, and are modern neaderthals going the way of the ancient neaderthal man?

Book review: Workbenches: From Design And Theory To Construction And Use

Workbenches: From Design And Theory To Construction And Use by Chris Schwarz is a book that every amateur hand tool woodworker should study thoroughly.

For most hand tool woodworkers, there is no more important tool in our shop than our workbench.

I just don't know how I can overemphasize the significance of this book. If you are thinking about buying or making a workbench, you should just get it. If you must, borrow it, but get it.

Chris describes in great detail the building of two different workbenches that would be appropriate for the vast majority of woodworkers. Both the English (Nicholson) and French (Roubo) benches he describes are surely among the greatest workbenches ever made.

He also includes a helpful section about work holding to help you determine which features you should add to your bench according to what type of work you want to do.

For the novice, the whole workbench thing is a bit overwhelming. What a face vise, end vise, doghole, holdown, quickrelease vise, twin screw vise, and many other terms mean are made clear and easy to understand and apply by this book.

Although I have been totally impressed by this beautiful, nicely done book, I have waited until I finished building my bench (guided mainly by this book), to write a review. This subject is so important to hand tool woodworkers, I didn't want to get it wrong. Frankly my opinion has matured, but not really changed. I still think this is an awesome book that every new woodworker (and a lot of veteran ones) should study carefully.

I do have a few suggestions, Chris, for a future version:

1. There is no discussion of how to build a workbench without having a workbench. Admittedly, this is a difficult topic and varies depending on the methods used, but a few pointers would be nice. For those of us trying to build this with hand tools with no bench to work on, well, it ain't easy. It is sort of like trying to change a light bulb in the dark.

2. Perhaps it should have emphasized a bit more, not only how heavy these benches are and how tiring it can be to build one (which it does quite adequately), but specifically how hard they are to move and how dangerous it can be to try it by yourself. Moving the various components around to work on them can definitely be non-trivial.

3. I would like to see a design for a portable bench that one person can move and set up in a minute or two sort of like a folding table. Ideally this one should be easier to build. Perhaps it would be a decent answer to point number one above.

Anyway, thanks Chris, you nailed it with this book.

New feature – classified ads

**Edited: This feature was never used and has been removed due to lack of interest.**

I am offering registered users the chance to post ads and notices for free. Registering is also easy and free.

Currently, the functionality is very simple and straightforward. Ads are good for 30 days and are renewable by going in to edit your ad and clicking the appropriate check box. Pictures are limited in size to 800×800 pixels.

There is no private message system. You must provide contact information. A good way to do this if you have a website is to include a link to the product listing page on your site.

Beware of publishing your regular email address. It will not automatically be obfuscated. I would suggest setting up an alias email address that you can later delete without interrupting your business or life.

You may post as many ads as you want. Your ad should be something that would be of interest to the woodworking community. Vintage electric tool ads are welcome. Legitimate businesses may post at will. Do not post anything that would be offensive to any of our users.

Ads are not filtered, previewed, or approved by anyone but the original author.

BUYER BEWARE. There is absolutely no mechanism in place to guarantee the identity of the seller. Just because someone claims to be someone you trust, does NOT mean it is them. For instance, it is entirely possibly for a scammer to register the name of a famous woodworker or respected tool reseller. There is no mechanism in place on our part to verify either the product or service being offered or the identity or location of the seller.

SELLER BEWARE. Read the above warning and realize there are no protections or guarantees for the seller either.

This is intended to serve simply as a public bulletin board. There is no system in place to facilitate payments or trades.

In no event can or its owner, Luke Townsley, offer any recourse for any use or misuse of the system.

If there is any interest, additional features may be added. At some point, I may add charges for posting ads or for add on features. Currently, there are no plans in place to do so.

Please delete ads that are no longer valid.

I reserve the right to delete any ad for any reason and/or to terminate the bulletin board system at any time or for any reason.

Please let me know if you have any questions or comments or difficulties viewing or adding an ad.

Luke Townsley

Over 10,000 pageviews! is continuing to attract more and more users. In the last month, we had over 10,000 pageviews, over 3,000 visits, and more than 1,500 absolute unique visitors! The average time spent on the site is 3 minutes and 47 seconds or about one minute per page.

Thanks for stopping by, and as always, let me know if you have any comments or suggestions for the site.


Is technology where it’s at?

In the US, there is a current discussion about a presidential candidate who apparently doesn't know how to used email. The question raises an interesting point.

Without going into the politics of the whole thing, which is a subject much better suited for other blogs, let's just look at the question of whether or not it is vital to be technologically integrated in this day and age.

If a person is, let's say over 50, is it vital that they get a computer and get into the internet age? I say no. I am not even convinced that the young should be totally immersed in it. Knowing how it works and understanding it is one thing, but for some of us, we would be better served to “just say no”. For many more of us, we would be well served to limit our exposure.

I am not even talking about the renowned sinful temptations and cyberdangers of the internet. I am just talking about wasting our precious time in the pursuit of “efficiency.”

You see, there are things that computers speed up in a terrifically dramatic way. There are other ways it just doesn't live up to its promise. We need to be wise and discern between them.

Like the Mennonite and Amish communities, perhaps we would be well served to take a long hard look at what technology brings us and adapt only that which we are really ready to deal with and which serves us in an overall sense.

For some of us, that might mean not having a computer a home. For others, it might mean having an aggressive filter for our internet access. For others, it might mean checking our email only once daily. For others, it might be a decision to use a hand plane instead of a CNC machine.

The fact is the internet brings the world to our desktop. We should ask ourselves if we really want it there.

The plug is pulled

My dream is to one day have a shop that is “powered” by hand tools. Why hand tools? Well, for starters, I always seem to do things the hard way. Aside from that, there just seems to be a superior level of craftsmanship that those who work with fine tools seem to be able to attain. Some would argue that hand tool craftsmen have to reach a high level of ability just to be able to produce anything. Perhaps that is true. I intend to find out.

Personally, I am not particularly interested in reproducing “period” furniture although I find the methods and designs interesting. No, my dream is more that of mixing and matching old and modern techniques, designs, and even tools to produce things that are unique and useful and made by hand without the aid of power tools. Understand, I don’t have anything against buying wood that is already surfaced. Really, I don’t have anythings against using power tools. I just want to build unique things without them. I don’t plan on selling my power tools. I just don’t plan on using them for fine woodworking.

This blog is my journey. I am starting at ground zero. I have a good deal of experience working with power tools as a teenager, but essentially none with hand tools. I don’t really know how to sharpen anything properly. I guess I have never even used a quality hand tool.

For me, this is a hobby. I have no intentions of ever trying to make a living working with hand tools. I am one of those modern guys that likes to do manly things, but ends up stuck behind a computer or buried in books for entirely too many hours every day. This is my therapy.

I hope this blog will prove useful to you if you have dreamed of embarking on a similar journey.

In the meantime, here are some user forums that I have found to be helpful:

Luke Townsley
The following license applies to this article:

Creative Commons License