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Essential Woodworking Hand Tools DVD Set
By Paul Sellers

DVD Review by J. Norman Reid

Some of us learn best by reading. Others find they comprehend a subject better if they can watch as it's being performed. For this reason, the best learning environment is one where a subject can be approached in alternative ways. That way, we can learn by the method or methods that work best for us as individuals.

With this three-DVD set , accomplished hand tool woodworker Paul Sellers offers a great companion instructional method to accompany his recent volume, Essential Woodworking Tools . Beautifully filmed and carefully rehearsed, these DVDs give those who are visual and audial learners a valuable resource for understanding what are the essential tools, how to set them up, sharpen them and put them to use.

Sellers begins the first DVD with sharpening, starting with the kit he uses-- a set of three diamond plates he lubricates with ordinary window cleaner. He mostly hones his blades freehand and shows how any woodworker can do this. He finishes by honing on a grit- charged strop, taking as many as 40-50 strokes with heavy pressure applied. You can build the strop for yourself, and he shows you how.

His next major topic is planes. He shows how to refurbish a Stanley No. 4 and make it into a good user, first flattening the sole and sides, then knocking off the sharp edges with a file. After disassembling the plane completely, he cleans the japanning and hones the frog mating surfaces on his diamond plate. His example had a slight hollow on the back of the blade, which he flattened with a hammer. Then, the hollow removed, he flattens the back and front bevel on his diamond plate. He files off the arrises—sharp edges—to reduce the chances of leaving tracking marks. He cambers his blades by adding finger pressure to the sides of the blade while honing it. After setting the primary and microbevels, he strops the blade using green honing grit.

Next come spokeshaves, especially the Stanley 151. Start by flattening the sole on the diamond plate. Note that, unlike plane blades, the spokeshave sole need not be completely flat. To finish, he flattens and sharpens the blade and the underside of the cap iron.

Rabbet (rebate) planes are essential tools in his toolkit. So are plow planes. You want a plow plane with a fence and a depth stop. The Record 044, a British make available at used tool dealers or on eBay, fits these criteria. To put it to use, he polishes the blade back and then hones the primary bevel. But there's no need to go overboard here; these are very forgiving, he states.

Another essential tool is the router plane. He uses an old Stanley model, though modern versions are also available. You can make a wooden base to fit the plane you have, if needed. He shows how you can easily do this and enhance your hand tool skills in the process.

The second DVD begins with layout tools, which are essential to producing quality work. The combination square tops your list of needed tools. It must be accurate, so check it periodically for accuracy; Sellers shows an easy way to do this. Other critical tools are a marking knife and a sliding bevel gauge. Chisels and gouges, especially a quality set of bench chisels, are also essential.

More time is devoted to the subject of saws , and Sellers demonstrates techniques for using them, sharpening them and taking out excess set by hammering the blade against another hammer.

Scrapers and abrading tools are needed to attain a fine finish on wood and to create curved shapes not easily achievable with other tools. These tools include rasps and cabinet scrapers. Sellers shows how to hone and adjust a scraper plane blade and card scraper, essential if they are to produce shavings rather than dust.

Boring and drilling tools are another important part of the woodworker's toolkit. Sellers not only describes the tools but also shows how to sharpen the bits and how best to use them. Also essential for marking drill locations, starting screw holes and even finishing some tasks of boring is the birdcage awl, whose sharpened, four-sided shaft is ideal for cutting into the width of the hole it creates. A mill file to sharpen drill bits and the awl is also needed. The DVD concludes with a presentation on hammers.

The third DVD in the set is focused on using some of the tools previously identified. The first of these is a simple graphite pencil—wooden, of course—and Sellers lays out an angled bridle joint to demonstrate how to achieve accurate results, including how to hold a combination square in use.

He uses a chisel and mallet to quickly cleave waste wood from the cheeks of the bridle joint tenon. Gouges are used for curved work and embellishments, which Sellers demonstrates by hollowing out the bowl of a spoon with a sharp gouge.

Planes can be used for rounding over as well as cutting chamfers and smoothing final surfaces. Spokeshaves are excellent for rounding arrises and for other shaping operations. Sellers shows why to always work the grain in a downhill direction. He continues by demonstrating the plow plane and router plane.

Saws are next and Sellers shows sawing techniques, how to hold the saw and how to start a cut without first pulling the blade to create a slight groove. He shows how you can make a saw oiler from a small can, some rags and light oil. He demonstrates how to use a coping saw.

Final topics include using a cabinetmaker's rasp to shape the body of a spoon before finishing it with a file and scraper, boring through holes without tearout on either side and putting mallets and hammers to work.

This DVD set is a good companion to his recent book on the same subject . Sellers takes potentially daunting topics and makes them understandable and approachable. His emphasis is on keeping things simple and he does just that for the viewer. Because he focuses on the basics, this set will be most helpful to beginning woodworkers. It will also appeal to those whose learning style is best accommodated by visual presentations rather than reading. For these woodworkers, this DVD set will be a good way to gain the basics of how to build and use an essential base of hand tools.

Find out more and purchase the
Essential Woodworking Hand Tools DVD Set

J. Norman Reid is a woodworker, writer, and woodworking instructor living in the Blue Ridge Mountains with his wife, a woodshop full of power and hand tools and four cats who think they are cabinetmaker's assistants. He is the author of Choosing and Using Handplanes . He can be reached by email at nreid@fcc.net .

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