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Beginning Woodworking (woodgears.ca)
259 points by Tomte on Nov 19, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 88 comments

An alternative path would be going with hand tools. Mathias Wandel is a very good wood worker but he tends to use a lot of power tools, not all of which are affordable and they require a ton of space. If you're interested in hand tool work, check out Tom Fidgen's (the Unplugged Woodshop) and Paul Sellers' YouTube channels.

For a budget of about $1000, you can get a very nice, full featured suite of hand tools that you can build pretty nice projects with. And this price is for getting premium quality tools brand new. If you've got more time than money, you can get second hand vintage tools from online auctions and real estate sales and refurbish them to work as good as new ones (I wouldn't recommend going this path if you have no prior experience).

By contrast, you'll blow your entire $1000 budget on a table saw and a planer, and you can't even get very good ones for that price.

Word of warning: do not buy new hand tools from the big box hardware store. Either buy vintage ones or premium tools from woodworking speciality stores. Modern, mass produced hand tools (e.g. saws with hardened teeth) aren't very good, they're harder to tune and are not designed to last a lifetime.

Working with hand tools isn't all that much slower than using power tools, unless you'd do something very repetitive where you do the same cuts on a ton of pieces.

I do woodworking using hand tools almost exclusively (I visit a shop once a week, where I have power tools). I find it really enjoyable and relaxing compared to working with power tools with all the noise, the dust and the danger (the power tools at the shop aren't great quality).

I'd recommend the following tools to get started:

    * A rip saw and a cross cut saw (or a Japanese Ryoba which has both)
    * 4 chisels: 1/4", 1/2", 3/4", 1"
    * A #4 smoothing plane (if you have a good workbench or intend to build one)
    * OR a low angle block plane (if you don't have a bench)
    * Sharpening equipment because tools don't come sharp out of the box
    * A saw file if you got a re-sharpenable saw
    * Optional: a coping saw or a fret saw, depending on what kind of joinery you're into
The above will cost around $200-300 and is enough to do quite complex projects.

The Anarchist's Tool Chest by Christopher Schwartz is a great book for understanding the basics of woodworking using handtools.

Both of these books are excellent.

I'm lucky enough to have a full three car garage full of top-of-the-line power tools, but there's no substitute for a set of well sharpened chisels and a few handplanes (and the skill to use them).

I absolutely endorse the idea of starting with hand tools.

Christopher Schwartz has gone so far as to create a list of the 48 hand tools you should buy (in order). It's in the above referenced book, and you can also google it.

Agree 100%. And even if you progress to power tools, using a plane teaches you about tearout and grain direction. Everyone thinks "against the grain" means "across the grain", but it doesn't.

If you look at the side of the board that you are planing the grain (unless it is super straight) will tilt up to the face you are planing. If you are planing in the direction such that you sheer off the fibers, that's with the grain. If you are planing such that the blade digs in and tries to lift the fibers up, that's against the grain and causes tearout.

A jointer is just a plane with 3 blades running really fast. It can produce tearout just like a plane. So you need to know how to look at the board and turn it so that you are with the grain. Hand tools teach you that in a hurry.

Paul Sellers series of videos are an engaging introduction to woodworking, focusing on why we have certain hand tools as well as the surprising amount they can accomplish.

His woodworkers bench project is a great place to start when planning an entry level tool set.


This is offtopic, but I put "unplugged workshop" into Google (without the quotes) and got very few results. I added "tom" to the end of the query and instantly found his page. I would have thought the first (less specific) query would have generated too many results and adding more terms would have narrowed it down. In this case, the opposite appears to be true.

Even though I own some rudimentary power tools, including an ancient Sears tablesaw, my hand tools get the most use. For one thing, though I have made a fair amount of furniture, the biggest return on my woodworking skills has come from maintaining my house. A few basic tools can go a long way.

Besides, the tablesaw is almost always piled with crap, mostly from bike maintenance. ;-)

>or a Japanese Ryoba

I remember reading about Japanese saws in the Whole Earth Catalog years ago - and it mentioned how they were different in design and features from traditional Western saws, with some advantages. (Used to do amateur carpentry as a hobby when a teenager.) Do you know about the Japanese saws and their benefits? I remember some had very different appearances from Western ones. I looked in Wikipedia, but interested to know your opinion anyway, if you know about them.

I can answer this, I've used both in my shop (pictured below).

I much prefer the Japanese style saws (and I have some very nice old as well as modern, aka expensive, western saws).

I like them better because they cut on the pull stroke (I find it easier to cut accurately that way) and they have a very thin kerf (easier to cut less wood, also possible to do more delicate cuts).

Japan Woodworker (now gone) used to have Korean copies of a dozuki for about $30. The closest I've been able to find is the Lee Valley version:


Unfortunately, that saw is now $42. Here's a good getting started article that references the same saw back in 2007, it was $19 then. If someone finds a source for saws like that that is cheaper than Lee Valley, please post it.

I'd start there, those are fine saws. Don't get sucked into spending a boatload of money on hand crafted yadda yadda saws, these saws are delicate in comparison to western saws, you don't resharpen, you buy another one when it is time.

Everyone likes shop pictures, here are some from mine:


Thanks for the info.

Good shop pictures.

> Do you know about the Japanese saws and their benefits?

Yes, I use both, Japanese pull saws and Western "push" saws and both have their good and bad sides.

First: Japanese saws work on the pull stroke, Western saws with a push stroke. This requires very different handling of the saw (body position, etc). It's difficult (if not impossible) to rip straight with a Japanese saw in a typical stand-up position with the work piece in a workbench vice. Japanese woodworkers work sitting down on the floor, and rip saw by standing up, foot on the work piece.

Second: most modern Japanese saws have hardened teeth and can't be sharpened, the blade is disposable and you put in a new one. Western woodworking saws (not your big box store construction saw) can and need to be sharpened (they're not sharp out of the box), and it's pretty easy to sharpen. A good Western saw should last several lifetimes if kept in condition. My Japanese saw needs a replacement blade after two years of work.

Third: because of the pull stroke, the saw plate is much thinner and the cut is narrower. I might be able to use the piece straight off the cut with a Japanese saw if I saw straight enough. With a Western saw, I typically plane the end grain a little (optionally on a shooting board) but I often have to do this with a Japanese saw too (because my sawing skills aren't good enough to hit the knife mark on both sides).

If you're getting into woodworking and have no good saws, I'd recommend getting a Japanese Ryoba, which has a fine cross cut side and a coarse rip cut side (cheapest alternative for a fine woodworking saw IMO). The rip cut is too coarse for fine joinery, so you could get a Western Gent's saw or Dovetail saw to complement.

In Internet discussions, Japanese saws are often said to be "better" than Western saws but it's not true (unless you compare it to a big box store hardened teeth cross cut saw). Both Western and Japanese saws are capable tools in the hands of a craftsman and it boils down to getting practice with the tools you have.

Thanks for the answers. Interesting stuff. I think it was a Ryoba I saw in the catalog long ago.

Ryoba is the most common type, it's the two sided (rip/cross cut) backless kind. They're really widely available these days - I've seen them in my local big box hardware store.

Dozuki is a back saw, with usually fine teeth and narrow kerf (my favorite Japanese saw is a fine cross cut Dozuki). A Kataba is a backless, single sided saw.

There's a handful of other types too but they aren't nearly as common.


Agreed. For myself, I find I like working with high-end plywood in my projects (I started making speakers and MAME cabinets, heh, heh).

That means though that the smaller hand tools won't fly. My table saw is what I use 90% of the time.

Orbital sander, drill, the occasional router...

At the same time, I had no need for a planer, joiner, lathe — those bits of large equipment.

I've gotten by without a bandsaw as well (but that would sure be nice form time to time).

But Mathias is right, start small, see what calls you. (Hand drill and circular saw is where I began. I made what I now call "dorm furniture".)

I recently sold my Delta Unisaw to make room for a CNC milling machine. Something had to go and that was the obvious option. Since then I've been thinking about a replacement for the tablesaw functionality (mainly ripping) that might occupy less space. Router guide tracks are one possible solution.

Any suggestions?

If it's only once in a while there is a trick you can use with a circular saw (a retired fireman from Texas taught this, found him on some usenet group decades ago).

Summary: make a guide, clamp the guide to the work, rip with a circular saw.

Buy a 4x8 sheet of masonite and a decent circular saw if you don't have one (note that even if you like a a worm drive like the Skillsaw SPT77WML, the traditional circular saw with the blade on the right side works better, more of the base will be on the guide).

Measure the distance from the blade to the saw blade (and standardize on a particular width of blade, a thicker blade will mess this up). It's typically about 5 inches, give or take.

Chalk line an 8 foot by 10 inch chunk, cut that. Go to the opposite side of the sheet and chalk line an 8 foot by 4.5 inch chunk (if your saw has a different distance to the blade adjust accordingly).

Take the smaller chunk and glue it to the bigger chunk, lining up the two edges you just cut. Make sure that the bigger board sticks out more than the distance between your blade and the edge of your base (in our example that's 5 inches, we are putting 4.5 inches on 10 inches, leaving a 5.5 inch base).

This leaves the factory cut edge of the smaller chunk as the guide. Clamp that contraption someplace where the edge overhangs by an inch or so and put your saw on it, push up against the lip made by the smaller chunk, and cut off the extra 1/2 inch.

Presto, you now have a guide. Want to rip a sheet of plywood? Measure, clamp the guide to the marks, run your saw along the guide, away you go. Clamp the guide over the chunk you want and you don't have to worry about saw kerf, it's coming out of the waste.

Once you have one of these you'll make another one only about 5 feet long so you can do cross cuts.

If this isn't clear, email me and I'll try and draw a picture. It's really a lot more simple than I've made it appear, the details are there because it's easy to not think of one of them (like changing saw blades). For that reason, and others, I have a dewalt saw that I use only for these guides. Circular saws are cheap enough that I have several, the guided one, one with a diamond blade for cutting up my driveway, a worm drive for framing, a battery one for when I have no power, etc.

Matthias Wandel makes facinating youtube videos, look through his youtube channel. He's made loads of his own woodworking machines, marble machines, mouse traps, lots of tests on woodworking methods like joints and dust in the air, etc etc. He's an ex-RIM engineer with a family history of woodworking, his high intelligence and skill for making things make amazing videos, been following him for years.


I really enjoy watching his videos, not because I have any desire to start woodworking, but because I really appreciate his approach to problem solving.

He's also the author of the gear template generator program, which is, in itself, quite cool: http://woodgears.ca/gear/index.html

I discovered it when I watched the video about the making of the Wintergatan marble machine.

In addition to being cool tool in itself, the evaluation copy wobbly mode made a fun little reverse engineering challenge :)

Of course I advise you to buy it if you use it for more than RE exercise.

For any channel visitors: be sure to check out the glorious pantorouter.

That thing is amazing!

There's something so satisfying about woodworking, that I've never felt with other, similar skills, such as metalworking (except maybe blacksmithing).

The most satisfying and long lasting thing I have from high school is probably my cabinet set I built. They actually look really nice (probably because you can't see my amateur attempts at dovetails), and they're built to last.

I guess it's because cabinetmaking is so permanent. You build a flatpack cabinet in an afternoon and you don't feel bad throwing it out 6 months later, because there's a million like it. But when you make your own cabinet from scratch, there's just so much care and effort that goes into it. My cabinets were built to last. They didn't have any veneer on them, and all the joints were dovetail joints, they do contain some plywood for the side paneling though, but I don't really see that as cheating myself.

It's something that software lacks, I've nuked entire directories of a project that I may have spent a week or two working on. If I spend 2 weeks working on a woodworking project, I'm not going to throw it out and start again.

It's unfortunate that I haven't been able to do much woodworking since I left home, since I no longer have any tools, and I've been moving too often to build up a supply.

Luckily there's a "Menz Shed" nearby where I'm living now, which has woodworking facilities (and also acts as a social and support group for men).

One aspect I enjoy about woodworking is that there's no "undo". Or "repeat".

When you've spent 10 hours doing joinery on a work piece, you tend to be really careful before sticking your knife, saw or chisel into it. And when you realize that you've done a knife mark on the show side, you know you've fucked up (just did this last week on a piece with 30 hours in it).

It's a very good balance to software engineering. It's (arguably) an engineering discipline but a very different kind.

I'm in Sydney and heard of the men's sheds. I heard they are aimed at older guys and a provide a community as well as tools. There are quite a few makers clubs here too.

If you get a chance, try learning how to turn wood on a lathe. I've got a very nice shop but if I had to shrink down to one tool it would be a lathe.

Using a lathe teaches discipline. If something goes wrong, it's your fault, you should have stepped away and come back more rested. As an ADD person, learning that I have the power to stop what I'm doing and try again later was enlightening.

I did a reasonable amount of woodworking and some metalworking in the 1990s, but have recently been looking in to more industrial, bulk processes for http://8-food.com/

Others interested in physibles with an emphasis on bringing prototypes to manufacturing ready status through an enhanced understanding of materials and transformation processes available to industry and their limitations, one book I can thoroughly recommend is Fundamentals of Modern Manufacturing - Materials, Processes, and Systems (4th Edition). While not uniformly detailed, it has a rigid, logical structure that most programmers will probably find appealing.

> but have recently been looking in to more industrial, bulk processes for http://8-food.com/

What IS that?

Mainland China-based automated food preparation and retail technology startup. Think "large (wholly-owned) network of vending machines you can order custom, hot, freshly prepared meals from via smartphone".

I was surprised to not see any comments here referencing ol' Dick Proenneke, whose creative, improvisational woodwork will, in my opinion, remain legendary for the duration of humanity. For most, his work won't be practical or directly applicable, but only for the most indifferent will it fail to be inspirational.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYJKd0rkKss Alone In The Wilderness, Part I

The need for stationary jointing and planing hardware seems to be the major obstacle to doing decent woodworking on a low budget. The cheaper machines have low maximum widths and low lifespans, produce fairly low-quality results and aren't even all that cheap. For a really solid and versatile planer/thicknesser (alias jointer/planer) it seems you'll have to spend a low-five-figure sum if you buy new from a respected manufacturer. And trying to plane well by hand instead is quite a serious adventure: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ojeul33vXL4

A cheaper option would be using a benchtop thickness planer (about $600 for a good one) and use a jack plane to flatten the other side. Ie. flatten one side by hand (doesn't have to be perfect finish, just mostly flat with no twist or cup), run it through the planer, then flip it around and plane to final thickness. It's a pretty sweet spot when it comes to tool costs, space requirements and time investment.

Jointing and planing is something I have an issue with being a primarily hand tool woodworker. I don't have a proper shop space so I can't be buying stationary equipment. I do visit some shops occasionally, and for my next project I intend to go to a shop with good machines and do all my jointing, planing and dimensioning. It's not very convenient (far away) or cheap (hourly billing), but it'll work.

For my previous project, I hand planed some of the work pieces all the way from rough lumber and it wasnt't that bad. But it did take a bit of time and my end result wasn't perfectly flat, square and parallel. But it worked out and the pieces were too small to go through a jointer and a planer anyway.

Buying pre-dimensioned lumber is also an option but a very expensive one. And wood doesn't like to stay flat when humidity and conditions change, so a minor touch up might be required.

Every decent woodworker eventually builds a woodworking bench. Having the top flat is critical, it becomes a reference surface. You put a warped board down on it and you instantly know that it is warped (obvious but I didn't get it until I had a flat bench).

There isn't really a good way to accurately flatten a surface that larger other than a plane. Here's some notes on my bench: http://www.mcvoy.com/lm/bitmover/lm/wood/bench/

I've had very decent results with a DW735 and Ridgid JP601, which all in you would have for $1,200 today. I was fortunate in that I got them both on clearance for about $200 each. It is frustrating being limited to 6" boards, but a sled would be an alternative for that. You don't need $10,000 to get good results.

+1. And you can look on craigslist, I've gotten some good stuff there pretty cheap (Stanley #8 for $10, fantastic instance of this tool, I wouldn't sell it for $500. Delta 8 inch jointer, the parallelogram one, for $900).

For table saws, the old craftsmen that look like this:


are actually pretty nice. I had one of those and it was really good about not spraying dust at you.

I'm eager to make my workbench. Creating a workbench is a right of passage for the craftsman. There's even sub-reddit forum dedicated to it. Going from sawhorses to a solid, sturdy workbench must feel great.

I bought this video + plans set and built my first workbench:


It starts with Mike haggling with some used tool collectors for good deals, and then he teaches how to clean + prepare the tools for work. He then teaches how to build some solid sawhorses, and then a very sturdy workbench. This is all with hand tools. The whole thing was really cheap! Under $400 for me to get all the necessary tools and materials.

My build (before boring dog holes):


Congrats :) Well done!

https://www.reddit.com/r/woodworking/ is a great place to visit if you have any questions, or just want to see some amazing craftsmanship.

That sub has a great community. Very friendly, especially toward newbies.

Please include a link, I was just thinking about doing this over thanksgiving weekend.

Easy to build workbench, Mattias' own tutorial http://woodgears.ca/workbench/build.html

Workbenches https://www.reddit.com/r/Workbenches/

Also make sure to check out the Woodworking subreddit. Lots of great projects and comments.

Woodworking: all things made from trees. https://www.reddit.com/r/woodworking/

In all honesty I would caution against thinking you are going to just slap a bench together over the weekend, especially if you are just now looking for plans. Building a workbench is not the "hello world" of woodworking. If I can be so bold I would suggest you use the weekend to do a little research into different designs, think about your skill and space constraints and what you ultimately want to build.

Perhaps if you already have tools, a work area, and decent skills you could do this. But speaking as a beginner who had a similar idea not long ago, I realized a workbench required a level of skill I would be unable to achieve without more practice and, well, a workbench. In fairness I do strictly hand tools, so it's it a bit harder and the bench must be much nicer.

If anyone is interested, I ended up just getting this apartment friendly bench for hand tool use. You do have to hold your foot on the leg when planing but it works great for the size/money.


You should grab three or four bags of playground sand to add weight to the base. For less than $20 you would not have to worry so much about movement while planing. For a little bit more you could get some dumbbells and not have to lose all the flat space under the bench.

I desperately want this, but live far away and they weren't answering emails.


Would make one but it looks like it would be easy to screw up. Father in law is very handy so maybe I should ask him to help me out

*rite of passage (sorry for being that guy)

don't be a pendant. (some fuel for your fire?)

Making your own bench is a rite of passage for woodworkers.

I'm glad i did it.



Note the leg design, I swiped that from someone else, very simple, easy to tighten up, doesn't rock back and forth like a lot of other designs.

I've got a question sort of related to woodworking, indirectly. Supposed I wanted to build a stool. Just a simple design, with some flat kind of wood for the seat (plywood, maybe?) covered with some padding, and three simple legs consisting of rectangular prism shaped wood.

Even with my limited skills I could manage to find a way to attach the legs to the seat. What I have no idea how to do is figure out, given a particular choice of materials, how much to use. If I know my weight, and know that I'd use the stool for sitting and occasional for standing on when trying to reach something, how thick do I need to make the plywood seat if it is a given length and width, and what cross section do the legs need to bear that load?

I did the obvious thing, and looked for "Structural Engineering for Dummies" or something similar, but did not find anything. From the people I've talked to who build their own things from wood, they either build from published plans, or they use their intuition developed from seeing a lot of successful designs and make theirs similar.

Christopher Schwarz, who wrote "The Anarchist's Tool Chest", recommended elsewhere in the comments, also wrote a book "The Anarchist's Design Book". In it, he covers two basic, simple construction techniques for building what he calls "furniture of necessity".

He doesn't cover specifically a stool of the type you're describing, but he does discuss exactly the problem of joining legs to a seat, and gives several projects using the technique that could be adapted to what you want to build.

If you're looking to build something bar stool height, you'd probably need to add stretchers to make the chair strong enough. If you're going for chair height, you could trivially adapt the staked back stool in chapter 6 to your purposes.

In the interests of full disclosure, I own both "The Anarchist's Tool Chest" and "The Anarchist's Design Book" by Christopher Schwarz, as well as "With the Grain" and "Chairmaker's Notebook", which are also published by his company. My standing gift request is anything from Lost Art Press (said company) that I don't already own. I have no business interest in the company, but I do wish them well, because they publish excellent material.

Yeah, woodworking relies rather heavily on apprenticeship and oral tradition.

I'm more of a bodger than a structural engineer, but I will tell you two things: joints are the weak points, and triangle rigidity is your friend. If you go looking for pictures of stools, you'll see that only the very lowest "milking stools" consist of three legs and a slab. Almost all stools will have a subframe at the top which reinforces the seat and stops the legs from wobbling, and most will have pieces lower down making the legs into trapezoids (and providing footrests).

Furniture rarely fails with a clean snap in a structural member - more like a joint goes, rigidity is lost, and the thing folds over sideways.

You can work this out from structural engineering principals - Euler's theory of column buckling would likely govern the cross sectional area of the legs.

But yes, you're right, building things from wood is such a time-honored technique that it is rare for this to be required. Millions of stools, cabinets, and timber-framed houses have already been successfully built, so there's no need to reinvent the wheel when you can just copy what has been done previously.

I'd say start with pocket screw joints. You can buy a jig from Kreg for ~$100 for making the holes. You could build the entire stool in a few hours if you have all the right tools.

I like the pocket screws for beginners because it allows beginners to have some success and build confidence to do more. It also helps to finish a project if you don't have lots of time.

I wouldn't use plywood but something like poplar. It's still cheapish, it's easy to work with and it's reasonably easy to finish or paint.

Something nobody has mentioned is finishing. You can construct something beautifully with dovetails but if you don't finish it correctly you will ruin it. Conversely simple construction that's well finished looks great. Finishing in my opinion is the hardest part of any woodworking project.

I like poplar, the drawers of this tool chest are poplar:

http://www.mcvoy.com/lm/photos/ancient/9.html http://www.mcvoy.com/lm/photos/ancient/10.html

The problem with poplar (much like pine) is finishing. It tends to be blotchy like I think you can see in the pictures.

If you don't care about how it looks (I didn't for a shop toolchest) then it is a joy to work with. Planes really really well. Hard enough and strong enough (that chest is 20 years old and the drawer slides, poplar on maple, work great. Silky smooth feel to them).

Well, if you want it to be tough and durable I think the first think you need to do is choose a different material than plywood :)

Plywood is extremely strong...I'm not a furniture engineer but I'd wager there's no way a person would be heavy enough to break the seat portion of this hypothetical chair if you used 3/4" plywood

Plywood is strong in some ways but it's not really suited for a stool with legs attached how he described. Especially 3/4" plywood. As the stool was used the legs would work themselves loose.

A decent hardwood (maple, cherry, walnut, etc) would be a better choice and you'd want 4/4 or even 5/4 stock.

You get a hang of these things by building stuff, as well as looking at works and designs of others.

3/4" (~19mm) plywood is thick enough for most furniture projects. You could use 1" dowel for the legs and attach them by making a hole through the plywood, sawing a small split to the leg, drive it through and tighten it with a small wedge in the split.

> From the people I've talked to who build their own things from wood, they either build from published plans, or they use their intuition developed from seeing a lot of successful designs and make theirs similar.

Or just look at actual "shipping" furniture and borrow their dimensions.

Safety tip. Especially if you are starting with routers or jigsaws, get decent goggles+ facemask since stuff are flying everywhere.

I'm surprised most of these sites don't mention this.

Also, for table saws, there's SawStop. This is expensive, about $1500 for their table saws (made in USA), but protects you from lost fingers. Table saws cut off about 4,000 fingers a years in the US. SawStop has a system which detects a touch to the blade by anything conductive (such as a finger) and fires an explosive charge which jams a stop into the blade, stopping it in half a tooth of rotation. This costs you about $150. TechShop has these, and they get about two emergency stops a year.

The hot dog video may be the most convincing sales pitch in history.


The finger video is even more convincing (skip to 3:40):


I'm 100% against these in a serious shop. The reason? Most of my tools are dangerous. Bandsaw? Yup. Lathe? You bet. Drill press without a guard on the belt? Yeah, lost some hair to that, built a guard.

You get the idea, tools need to be treated with respect.

I don't like the idea that one of them, that is dangerous, is now not dangerous. That tends to make me let my guard down and I don't want that to bleed over (pun intended, sorry :) to the other tools.

If I could make them all safe, that's a different story.

A friend has one - only time it fired was when he forgot to deactivate the safety mechanism and tried to run aluminum through the saw. Bam!

Not trying to piss on the technology though — great if it saves someones fingers. SawStop the company though is douche-ish (you can Google it to see how obnoxious they have been).

Bosch too now have a similar safety mechanism on some of their saws.

I have seen these, but the place that I know locally that has one, has never had the SawStop piece fire - however, it is very good to know that it is there, and the manager in charge of the wood shop feels very relieved about having it.

I have a Sawstop, it is a top notch saw, with excellent fit and finish; but it is made in Asia. It was designed by a company in Oregon.

Apparently wood dust—the invisible diesel-exhaust-like particulates, not the stuff you can see—is also a major health hazard, and will progressively destroy your lung capacity if you let it. A rubber mask with proper particulate filters is called for, as well as one or more forms of local or general extraction.

I grew up in a family full of woodworkers where I was the odd one out preferring building in code instead of wood. I like to think my ability to hold large software designs in my head comes from my moms ability to visualise and build large intricate pieces of furniture without written plans. I picked up all the basic skills around using tools living in a house with a large wood shop but I never developed my skills in it. Stuff like this definitely makes me think it'll be something I pick up again in the future as a hobby.

I like the design of the site. It loads fast, scrolls smoothly, works in mobile as well, does not break links / history.

You'd expect a woodworker to be able to make scroll work.


I highly recommend checking out estate sales for dirt-cheap, high quality woodworking tools and equipment. A lot of this stuff is built to last. Once you get past the old looking appearances, you will appreciate having spent 10 cents on the dollar for things you use once in a while to do great things in the shop.

+1. I used to feel creepy about going through some dead guy's stuff. I was having a beer with my old tool dealer (Dave Paling, long since passed on, unfortunately) and mentioned that to him. He fixed me by saying:

  Dave: "Larry, who do you want to have your tools when you die?"
  Me (instantly): "Someone like me, someone who will use them and take care of them."
  Dave: "And that's why you don't need to feel creepy, he'd be happy you got them."

Thanks for posting this link. I've been doing a little bit of woodwork while staying at my parents. It has been so fun playing with lathe, bandsaws, circular saws, routers etc. Woodwork is definitely something I'd like to do more of, and this resource looks like a decent place to start.

Can't help but mention this great video where an enthusiast woodworking engineer makes a parallel between tools in the real world and tools in computing:


Some relevant self promotion. When I picked up hand tool woodworking I went and made blog aggregator in the image of HN: http://www.woodspotting.com

For Bay Area people, there is techshop. Or, if you want to drive out to the Santa Cruz mountains you can check out my shop. We can always throw some firewood in the lathe and make some shavings.


I need to take some more pics and show the equipment in there better but you get the idea. Full on woodworking setup and some metal working (Logan quick change lathe, MIG welder, grinders, bandsaw, etc).

I'm going to be visiting SF/SV for 10 days in a few weeks' time and I'm an avid woodworker. Got any tips where to visit? Any stores where I could pick up some vintage tools or nice materials (like Japanese Shoji paper or Old Brown Glue)? Any museum or historic site with something curious for a woodworker?

I doubt I'll have enough time to actually work on a project but who knows. Perhaps there's an opportunity to cut a few dovetails and have a chat and a drink :)

I'm Larry McVoy, email is my initials at my last name.com. Send me an email and I'll start thinking about where to send you.



Email sent! Thanks!

Get to know your local saw doctor, most of us are happy to give recommendations, tips and the like. We often have good quality secondhand tools for sale.

Great article. I think that the advice on cordless tools is a bit off, maybe the article is a bit old. Most of the tools sold today are cordless. Drills especially can be used for many things, and you can use them more than once in six months.

I think the point is when it come to furniture, you won't need a drill that often to start with and you may forget to treat it properly, which would damage the batteries.

Mathias is the man!

Of course it's a .ca

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