New Year’s Resolution: More Woodworking by Hand

In 2014, I want to train my hands to be able to do more woodworking tasks — by hand.

Wood shaving and number 4 smoothing plane

More shavings, less sawdust.

Yes, there is a romantic notion about working by hand — using grandpa’s tools, no electricity, and an elite sense of completing something with your hands. I admit that for me these notions ring true to a degree, but for me there is more to it.

Noise Threshold

My wood shop is in the basement directly below the bedrooms. Since the birth of my children, I find less opportunity to work in the shop, and much less to run my machines. The router is loud. Very loud. The newish belt-driven table saw is loud (but not as loud as the old direct drive). The planer is much louder than the jointer. In short, hand tools allow me to spend a little more precious time in the shop, especially when the kids are sleeping.


Again, because the shop is in the basement, I tend to track sawdust and other debris into the house. I know there is some aspect of this that continues with the use of hand tools, but when was the last time the smoothing plane sent dust flying at 3400 RPMs? Never I hope. So in an attempt to make housekeeping less painful, my new motto is: More wood shavings, less saw dust.


Because I have not trained to be a furniture maker or carpenter, I do not have the muscle memory to set a tool to task and expect a great outcome. No, I mostly have to painfully concentrate to get a modest outcome. I have to pay acute attention to every little tool stroke and hope for the best. There is little instinct and a lot of effort. In all of this focus I find peace and a relaxation. I find renewal and revitalization. I find exquisite beauty in my materials and peace within myself.

Putting the Pieces Together

Over the last year, I have completed a few projects with hand tools. I have found that by spending so much energy on paying attention to what I am doing, I actually have a better understanding of what is going on. How a joint fits. How smooth a surface is. And of course where I went wrong in the process. I feel like I gain some sort of understanding when I slow down and focus on the task at hand as opposed to looking too far forward to the end result.


Way deep down, I hope that hand flattening the cherry slab in my shop will result in me loosing 25 lbs and a couple of inches in my waist. If this is true, just maybe I can use my HSA to fund new tool purchases in the light of getting healthy.  Let’s hope that this is the case.

What are your DIY resolutions for 2014? Tell me in the comments.

For inspiration for your woodworking station, check out Jeff Devlin’s Home Workshop.

2 Responses

  1. Chad says:

    I love DIY people because I’m one of them. It can be a fun and rewarding adventure that will enable you to save a ton of money.
    Very good write up and those are great projects you did.
    DIY is in my blood because my Grandfather was a self-employeed painter/carpenter for over 50 years. I started learning the trade when I was 10 years old. Those are lessons at will last a lifetime.


About Dan Lipe 


I’m a Senior Interaction Designer, focused on creating compelling and intuitive user experiences. During my 15+ years in the design field, I’ve worked in print, corporate identity and digital media ...

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