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Welcome to the "Artisan Toolmakers Corner". At Highland Woodworking, we have a variety of vendors who put a lot of time and effort in handcrafting each of their tools that might one day end up in your workshop. We wanted to give our readers and customers a little background about where their tools are coming from and the toolmakers who are making them.

Shenandoah Tool Works

by Jeff Fleisher
Shenandoah Tool Works

My name is Jeff Fleisher and my friend, Norm Reid, and I are the co-founders of Shenandoah Tool Works (STW) and are proud to be working with Highland Woodworking, both as tool review and book review authors for Wood News Online, and now as tool manufacturers as well.

Shenandoah Tool Works is located in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley in the western portion of Virginia. Norm and I founded Shenandoah Tool Works with the guiding principle that woodworkers who take pride in creating high quality and beautiful woodworking pieces also take pride in the tools that help them create those pieces. Our goal is to produce innovative and high quality woodworking tools that are also tools of beauty that would be a special addition to any workshop.

Highland Woodworking has recently begun selling our Woodworking Mallets and Awls made with a Padauk hardwood handle. Padauk's deep red color is very similar to Highland's logo and theme colors, which makes this a special collaboration. These tools are available in Padauk uniquely from Highland Woodworking.

STW Woodworking Mallets

Shenandoah Mallets are made from steel in 1 lb. and 1-1⁄2 lb. weights. The hardwood handles are hand- crafted from exotic and domestic woods of exceptional beauty. Our premium steel mallet heads are fabricated in a Vermont family-owned foundry. The handles are hand turned to our own specifications in our New Market and Delaplane, Virginia workshops. We use only the highest quality figured domestic and exotic hardwoods.

The Metal Head

The concentrated weight of the mallet head provides a focused force so that the mallet head does all the work and not the wrist or arm. The head is made from oil hardened steel with a Rockwell 28-32 rating.

Why a metal head? Historically, virtually all mallets were made of a hard, oily wood called lignum vitae. It was popular for its heavy weight and durability. In fact, in the old days bearings on ships were often made of lignum vitae. At some point lignum vitae became scarce and other woods were introduced for mallet making such as beech and other hard woods. These woods were much lighter than lignum vitae and as a result, a much larger mallet was required to have the same impact as the lignum vitae.

A metal head mallet provides increased weight in a much smaller head size. The smaller head size allows the user to hold the head in the palm of their hand for light, gentle taps or to hold it lower on the handle when heavier, more bold, strikes are necessary.

We are often asked if the metal head dents or cracks a gouge or chisel handle. We have not seen this in our use of these mallets and our beta testers have not had any issues either.

Unique Handle Shape

Shenandoah Mallet handles are designed to be held in two positions:

  1. "Choked Up" with the hand at the edge of the steel head for delicate work or when maximum control is necessary.
  2. Or, near the end of the mallet for chopping out large sections, such as when reducing a background or creating a mortise.

Shenandoah Tool Works Woodworking Awls

The Shenandoah Birdcage Awl is designed for both beauty and a level of functionality that makes it perfect for starting and drilling holes. Our Birdcage Awl is completely fabricated in our home state of Virginia. The O1 steel shank is produced by a blacksmith friend located in Bergton, VA and the awl handles, like our mallet handles, are turned in our New Market and Delaplane workshops.

  • The awl's shaft is hand-forged and twisted from 01 steel with a Rockwell hardness of 62.
  • The tip is sharpened for use in starting and boring holes, which the square shank then widens through repeated twisting.
  • The 1-3/4" handle is sized to fit comfortably in the palm of the user's hand and allows application of a generous amount of pressure and torque when twisting the awl.
  • The finger grip is positioned in precisely the right place to enable a firm grip in use.

Each Shenandoah Awl handle is personally hand-turned from a solid block of figured hardwood.

Who are we?

You may have seen both of our names in the bylines for the tool and book reviews that we do for Highland's Wood News Online , with a very short bio at the end of each article. Here is a slightly expanded version of who we are:

Jeff Fleisher - I have been working with woodcarving, furniture building and woodturning for over 20 years. My focus on woodcarving is a style called "Chip Carving," which is a decorative style of carving. I incorporate my interests in these various mediums into my woodworking pieces.

My work has been featured in the book, The Art of Chip Carving , by Wayne Barton, the leading chip carver in the United States. I teach 'Fundamentals of Woodworking,' 'Building a Shaker Table' and 'Build a Period-style Keepsake Box' classes at our local woodworking store in Leesburg, VA, and Chip Carving at the North Bennet Street School in Boston, MA. I am a former president of both the Northern Virginia Carvers and the Woodturners of the Virginias in Mt. Jackson, VA. You can see examples of my work at www.jeffswooddesigns.com .

Norm Reid - I enjoy both woodworking and woodturning in my shop in Delaplane, VA. I turn high- end pens using figured domestic and exotic hardwoods. As a recognized expert on old hand planes, I teach hand plane restoration and hand plane usage classes at two local woodworking stores. I currently co-teach a series of classes on the use of hand tools in woodworking. I am the current president of the Woodturners of the Virginias.

I've recently published my first fiction novel, The Hero of Gucci Gulch , which is available on Amazon. A sequel is in the works, along with a book on landscape photography.

Norm and I would like to thank Highland Woodworking for the opportunity to provide information about Shenandoah Tool Works and our innovative woodworking mallets and awls. We also thank them for working with us to provide this unique version of the mallet and awl with a Padauk handle. Please take the time to take a look at these unique products here at Highland Woodworking.

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