If I Could Give Every Woodworker One Tool…


The goals for the first day of the “Hand Tool Immersion 101” class at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking were simple:

  1. Sharpen a 1/2” chisel to perfection.
  2. Sharpen and set up a block plane so it could take fine, fine shavings.
  3. Grind, sharpen and set up a jack plane.

Of the three goals, I was most excited about getting 18 vintage jack planes set up and running. If I could give every woodworker in the world one tool, it would be a jack plane set up with an iron that was ground, honed and polished with an 8” to 10” radius on its edge.

That tool can accomplish incredible feats of flattening. With this tool, you can flatten a board of any width – you are limited only by the length of your arms. Machinery be dammed.

Plus, a good jack plane is handy when working edges, or anytime you need to remove a lot of wood in a hurry.

Thanks to the help of Raney Nelson of Daed Toolworks, all of the students became grinding aces in short order. Then they honed up their irons, tuned up their jack planes and started destroying the sample boards we gave them.

Tomorrow (Tuesday) we start on the real stuff – building a tool chest with only hand tools. Then we’ll find out if the first day of teaching was worth a dang.

— Christopher Schwarz

P.S. So after a long day or hard work, the entire class retired to the forest behind the school to cook dinner, drink a beer and talk about woodworking. As I scooted off to bed, they had built a fire in the school’s fire pit and were talking about the day ahead.

You can follow the classroom experience with the hashtag #babyanarchists on Instagram.

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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12 Responses to If I Could Give Every Woodworker One Tool…

  1. Aaron says:

    Sharpening, the gateway to successful hand tool woodworking. It wasn’t until I took a class at Roy Underhill’s Woodwright’s School that I knew what truly sharp tools could do. This first day will serve them well their entire life.

  2. Rachael Boyd says:

    out of all the jacks I have picked up at garages sales and 2nd hand stores not a single one had any radius at all.. sharping is the one most important things you can teach a student.

  3. toolnut says:

    Day one would be a great class all by itself.
    And I have to ask: Shower facilities for the campers?

  4. Martin Green says:

    What a great first day teaching those basics will stay with those baby anarchists forever and improve them all beyond what they thought they could achieve. I meet so many woodworkers that consistently use dull tools

  5. Andrew says:

    Well, you’ve got to start somewhere. I’ll volunteer to be first. Where should I send my address to get my jack plane?

  6. Dan Zehner says:

    Sounds like an awesome class! And yes, a good sharp jack plane is most excellent. 🙂

  7. I have come to the conclusion that sharpening has to be taught.

  8. Alvin says:

    Are there any good in depth sharpining videos and or books? I can get a good, I think, egde but it seems to take me forver and a day. Plus the stones i have require soaking and its a big mess.

    • When mastered, unless regrinding a new damaged edge, most tools need less than 20 minutes at most, and most less than a few minutes to take a scalpel sharp edge…I agree with Bridgerberdel above…this is a skill best learn from someone “in person.”

      I was taught as an apprentice and by my late teens early twenties was teaching others. It took a long time to understand why others find it so mysterious and difficult. Now understanding this, I am a better teacher for it…

      I couldn’t agree more with the premise of this post…I would just add…a “in canal” corner chisel and an “out canal” #5 swoop gouge…to the list of tools that should be easily understood in sharpening…

  9. I’ll say that I didn’t know what a jack was capable of until I tried Chris’s during one of his classes. The first thing I did when I got home was radius the iron and setup an old Stanley #5 that had been dormant in my shop. It’s a go-to now. As many times as I’ve read about it, it wasn’t until I used it that the light finally came on.

  10. David Carroll says:

    Wow some of those No. 5 planes must’ve been pretty warped. Days and days without a Schwarzpost! Lap away! I reach for my No. 5 more than any other. Cheers!

  11. brewerdave says:

    I applaud what you are doing with the new anarchists. If you were pressed, what would you consider as a progression of basic shop projects for the new woodworker? Maybe a sawbench, workbench etc?
    How about furniture? I know you are working on furniture of necessity (hurry up please), but maybe a few basic projects to ease us into the craft? Simple chairs, a table, a desk and such.

    Cheers from the City Tap on October 17th

    The Brewer

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