Highland Woodworking Wood News Online, No. 162, February 2019Welcome to Highland Woodworking - Fine Tools & Education Learn more about Highland Woodworking View our current woodworking classes and seminars Woodworking articles and solutions Subscribe to Wood News
Here's My Workshop!
By Doug Finch
Spring Hill, TN

My workshop is a standard 20 x 20, 2 car garage in a very suburban neighborhood in Spring Hill, TN. By this point I've acquired quite a few hand tools, a bandsaw and a cheap Lowe's jobsite table saw. I turned 50 last year and my wife wanted to surprise me with a new table saw. She bought me a Grizzly table saw and wow, I love it. I divided my garage into a power tool side and a hand tool side. The workbench is made of planed and laminated 2 x 6, all done by hand. The legs are through mortise with poplar 1" dowels. In fact, aside from the Eclipse vise, there is no metal in this workbench.

On the power tool side I installed a Rikon dust collection (2HP) unit that I modified into a 2 stage system. I called the local car wash and asked them what they did with their plastic drums. The guy told me I could have all I wanted for free. This is my collection barrel. It does a fantastic job of keeping my table saw and bandsaw under control.

I grew up around woodworking but never really appreciated it as a kid. My father has been doing woodworking for 60+ years and had built many of the furnishings in our home growing up. The thing I remember most about my father is that he could do anything. He was a classic tinkerer. I have also become a classic tinkerer and it struck me one day how often my children come to me to "fix" things.

My wife approached me with the idea of building a deck on the back of our house a few summers ago. I thought about it and decided that I should be able to engineer something safe and appealing. My son and I took the challenge and we built it. Then we built a few flower boxes around it. By now I was bitten by the woodworking bug. I wasn't sure if this was a passing fancy or something I would really be into for the long-term, so I started collecting some inexpensive hand tools. I ended up with some old hand planes from the early part of the 20th century that I rebuilt and use to this day. I did the same with hand saws. I have several saws from the late 1800's that I've refurbished and use regularly. This became somewhat of an obsession and I now have quite a few very old hand tools that are all fully functional and very sharp.

I found something odd working with hand tools. I was always under an assumption that machines would always be more precise than any human. Hand tool work enabled me to become far more precise of a craftsman than I ever was before. I had tried dabbling in small wood projects over the years but always walked away believing I wasn't accurate enough to do quality work. Learning these hand tool techniques and using these archaic tools like marking gauges grounded my methods. Now I had consistency and accuracy. Chopping mortises and then fitting a tenon was so easy, now that I understood the mechanics and the fit was so precise!

Around this time I also started milling up my own small pieces of wood. I would find logs people wanted to get rid of. I sourced maple, walnut, cherry and some wood I still can't identify. Most people just wanted to get rid of these - I looked at this as an opportunity to mill and dry my own lumber for small projects. I still have a small stack of maple and what I believe to be water oak in my shop.

For a full year I did nothing but hand tool woodworking. I found this hobby to be the mental and physical relief I had been looking for. Milling logs into usable material by hand is not for the faint at heart. This is when I decided to get a bandsaw. I found one on Craigslist. It was an old Craftsman 12" that I ended up rebuilding everything on except the motor. It works very well.

Adding in the new power tools AFTER having gone through the hand tool work has really helped me to gain a new perspective on accuracy. I just finished up a small gift for someone where I milled up some figured maple and walnut. I'd say this project was about 50% hand tool and 50% machine work. It was as close to a perfect completed project as I've ever achieved. The sense of accomplishment I get when I look at a finished project is almost beyond words. I do this only as a hobby and have only done two small projects that someone paid for - everything else I do as a friend. The funny thing is that I've never really considered myself a "craftsman". Word is starting to get around and now I have people coming to me, asking me how to do "this or that". Others are asking about the possibility of commissioning me to do some work for them. I even have one acquaintance that is supposed to be on a crafting TV show that has come by to ask for pointers. I'm amazed and humbled all at the same time.

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