John Wilson’s ‘Making Wooden Tools’ (Get Some for Free)


In the woodworking world, you won’t find anyone more practical or resourceful than John Wilson of the Home Shop in Charlotte, Mich.

Virtually everything on his property was made by his own hands. He’s a furniture maker, boat builder, carpenter, toolmaker, sailmaker and machinist.

If you’ve ever built a Shaker oval box, you probably used tacks that Wilson made with ancient machines he restored. You probably used instructions that Wilson wrote and techniques he developed over years of work. You might have even used wood that he cut and took to a veneer mill.

He sells Shaker box supplies to the world through and teaches classes at his shop and all over the country on the box-making process.

And somehow through all this, Wilson also manages to write. Last year, he released his book “Making Wood Tools,” which he sell through his web site. It’s a book about making tools that really, really work. They aren’t precious trophy-like totems you’ll put on a shelf. They are designed to be put to work. And they are tools that anyone can build in a typical home shop – even the metal work.

I can speak to Wilson’s skill because I made his router plane (from a chunk of wood and hex key) before I could afford the Stanley 71. It’s a brilliant tool. As his editor at Popular Woodworking, I used his jack plane, block plane and spokeshave. These tools have it where it counts – a sharp blade held fast by a wooden body.

Perhaps the most brilliant part of Wilson’s book is how he introduces basic metalwork to a woodworker. Using hardware-store materials, Wilson makes blades for his tools. He hardens them with a torch and tempers them in the oven in the kitchen. And he makes it so easy you’ll wonder why you never did it before.

The book shows you how to make 12 tools plus a workbench, sawbenches and tool totes. What’s even more remarkable is these plans are “open source,” for lack of a better word. Wilson allows woodworking clubs and other not-for-profit entities to reproduce his plans for free.

Now Wilson has released a supplement to his book with some new tools to build – a large compass plane, a drawknife, shoulder planes and moulding planes. You can download the supplement for free from his web site using this link. You can also download a sample of his hardbound book here.

If you are interested in making your own tools, I think Wilson’s book is an outstanding resource. Highly recommended. The best way to order the book is to give John a call at his shop: 517-543-5325 or 877-612-6435.

— Christopher Schwarz

You can read a feature that Kara Gebhart-Uhl wrote on Wilson here.

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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5 Responses to John Wilson’s ‘Making Wooden Tools’ (Get Some for Free)

  1. tsstahl says:

    I’ve dog eared every article I’ve come across of his; I love ’em.

    I didn’t know the router plane article existed until today. I really could use a miniature version of the router plane.

  2. wvjack says:

    Chris, I called John Wilson to order his book, and was pleasantly surprised. No call screener, no receptionist, no indication of a business bureaucracy. He simply picked up the phone and answered my questions. He simply is sending out the book with an invoice. Very pleasant gentleman, very old school business model. Thanks for referring him to us. I’ll let you know about the book.

    Jack Machado

  3. Ham Salad says:

    Thanks for the link Chris! I looked at the TOC and knew all the different names from another book I picked up a few weeks ago called “The Tools That Built America” by Alex W. Bealer. Now I’d like to make some of the tools I don’t have Mr Bealer wrote about that Mr. Wilson shows how to make.

  4. Theodore says:

    I just got the book. It is great, and I am eager to dive in and make some of the tools. One thing – the supplement that John Wilson included in my copy has a few more tools than the pdf you link to here. The pdf looks like just a sample as well.

  5. phhortress says:

    Got the book last week and remembered tonight that he ships and asks for payment later. Totally forgot the payment part!

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