Can You Become A Traditional Woodworker Using Hand Tools?

Traditional woodworkers aren’t necessarily the type of people who refuse to use modern power tools to help them make items of furniture, and who work only by the light of a candle! 

It can be helpful to think of a traditional woodworker as someone who uses traditional techniques, methods and tools to make furniture and other items that will stand the test of time. It isn’t that they aren’t capable of using more modern tools and techniques, but they prefer to rely on the tried and tested tools and techniques that they know will help them produce furniture of a high quality. Alternatively, there are those woodworkers who make traditional items of high quality, durable furniture while using power tools, or a combination of both hand and power tools

Whatever type of traditional woodworker you want to become, it pays to master the use of hand tools before you jump straight into using power tools, as doing so can help you get in tune with the art of traditional furniture making.

Here is a short guide to using hand tools for making traditional items of furniture:

Know your tools

It’s important firstly, to take the time to understand which types of hand tools will be of benefit to you as you start out making furniture using traditional methods, and how they each work. For starters, you’ll need a workbench, chisels, hand operated planes and saws and marking gauges. 

Create your workshop and tool storage zone

You don’t need a huge space for your woodworking shop, but it must be large enough to accommodate your tools and workbench comfortably, while allowing not just you to be able to turn around, but for larger pieces of wood to be moved around, too. Perhaps you’ve already got an ideal space in mind, such as a loft, garage, basement or shed?

Learn the art of sharpening, tuning and maintaining your tools

Once you’ve purchased the hand tools you’ll need to start your first furniture making project, you must learn how to set them up properly, and sharpen them. 

Learn how to use your hand tools

Now that your woodworking hand tools are set up and sharp, it’s time to test them out and start learning how to use them. While some hand tools will be easier to master the use of than others, some may require a little more practise. Check online for some step-by-step tutorials, or join a local woodworking class or hobby group.

Learn the design process behind woodworking projects

From sketches and traditional furniture ratios, to woodworking design software and ready-to-make kits, good furniture doesn’t design itself! 

Choose the right woods for the right projects

It’s essential that you know all the different types of wood available to you, and which ones are best suited to which types of project. 

Learn the art of squaring and flattening rough boards

Rough lumber can easily be turned into dimensional boards that are square, flat and smooth, and using only such hand tools as saws, planes and measuring and marking tools. 

Learn laying out and cutting of joints

Now that you’ve got your beautiful pieces of dimensioned wood, you’ll need to learn how to join them together to make strong joints, using traditional methods of layout and marking.

Learn assembly, fastening and gluing

Assembling and fastening your joinery properly together is the next step in your traditional woodworking furniture making journey, and you can use a variety of methods to do this, from clamping and glue made from animal hide, to traditional cut nails.

Learn the art of finishing the wood

After putting so much effort into making your first item of furniture using traditional woodworking methods, your work will only ever shine and be truly appreciated if it’s finished appropriately, using oils, varnishes and waxes. 

And the answer is: yes, you absolutely can become a traditional woodworker using hand tools! To get started on your first furniture making project, purchase yourself a basic hand tool kit online, and away you go. 

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