This post is way overdue. One of the books I’ve been itching to read is Vic Tesolin’s “The Minimalist Woodworker” (Spring House Press), a newly published guide for woodworkers looking to explore the craft without a shed-load of tools.
Vic, who works for Lee Valley Tools by day, is one of my favorite guys in the craft. He has a no-bull-pucky way of approaching life, work and the craft. And my hope was that “The Minimalist Woodworker” would capture Vic’s spirit and his voice. And it does.
The 152-page book is a great single-point introduction to the craft. It skips all the hand-wringing parts of the craft (waterstones or oil? Band saw or table saw?) and just lays out in as few words as possible what you need to get started. Beginners don’t need a fire hose of information to build a workbench – just a good plan using simple tools and straightforward techniques.
The first 60 pages of the book introduce you to the tools and how to set up and use them. Vic lists 27 tools as the core kit with another eight that are “nice to have.” It’s a good list – one I’d be happy to pass onto a friend looking to get started.
The remainder of the book is about building the projects that will allow you to enjoy hand-tool woodworking in a space as small as the nook under the stairs. Vic begins with building a sawbench and a “bent” a sawhorse-like buddy to the sawbench.
The other projects, all built from common materials, are equally useful: a shooting board/bench hook, a mallet, and English-style workbench and a hanging cabinet for your tools. The projects include clear drawings, a cutlist and lots of step photos to guide the reader through each operation.
If you’ve ever met Vic, you know that he doesn’t mince words or waste time. And this book is like having a casual conversation with him. He calls out any bunk (or deftly sidesteps it), and he doesn’t use 30 words when four will do. You can read this book in one sitting – a point I greatly appreciate.
I’m often asked what books would be ideal for a beginning hand-tool woodworker. And we publish a few of them, including Robert Wearing’s “The Essential Woodworker.” But I’ve now added a new book to that list of highly recommended “first books.” And if you are at the beginning of the craft or know someone who is, “The Minimalist Woodworker” is a great place to start.
— Christopher Schwarz