Essential Woodworking Hand Tools

A Superb Reference for Anyone Wanting to Learn How to Use Woodworking Hand Tools.

Essential Woodworking Hand Tools

Essential Woodworking Hand Tools

I maintain a core list of a books that I refer novice woodworkers to, and that I consult when my memory needs refreshing. A few are inspirational books, like Krenov's 'A Cabinetmaker's Notebook' and Nakashima's 'The Soul of a Tree'. However, most are reference books meant to be consulted when you need specific information on design and technical issues. Books like Hoardley's 'Understanding Wood', Hylton's "Illustrated Cabinetmaking', and Flexner's 'Understanding Wood Finishing'.

I've now added Paul Sellers 'Essential Woodworking Hand Tools' to my list – it is, in my view, an excellent primer on selecting and using woodworking hand tools for both novice and hobbyist woodworkers.

Sellers has some 50 years of woodworking experience under his tool belt. He's a staunch advocate of the importance of developing and using hand tools, which he does through his online blog, copious YouTube videos, and at his New Legacy School of Woodworking.

Paul Sellers at Work

Essential Woodworking Hand Tools is a massive book – 480 pages and hundreds of photos – that covers eight core groups of hand tools: sharpening, layout, chisels and gouges, planes, saws, scraping, drilling, and hammering. There's also a short section on hand tool care.

Sellers focuses on what to look for in a tool and how to use it, not the brand of tool you should buy. In fact, he barely mentions a tool brand throughout the whole book. For example, in the section on sharpening files (pages 37 to 51) he discusses what they are used for, the different grades, shapes, and styles of files, how to take care of files, and how to hold and use them. 15 pages of practical information that will help anyone to maximize their use of this essential sharpening accessory. 

I like that Sellers doesn't attempt to cover every conceivable hand tool, but rather focuses on the tools that most woodworkers will likely use on a regular basis.

The book is written in a conversational style – it's as if you were listening to Sellers in the workshop explain various aspects of using a hand tool, not at all like he's lecturing to a crowd of people. It makes the book seem much more engaging to me. However, many of the sentences are quite long, and this is where the editor might have slipped up a tad – I much prefer shorter sentences as it makes it easier to digest the content.

Copious helpful photos

Each topic is supported by copious photos (29 in the section on sharpening files) and illustrations (2 for the sharpening files).  I found the content of the photos to be very helpful in understanding the text. However, may of them, particularly the smaller size photos, are on the dark side, and seem not to be colour corrected. 

Great illos; handwriting not so

The illustrations are excellent – in fact I would have liked to see a lot more of them. I didn't particularly like the use of hand written text, which I found difficult to read. On a number of illustrations the hand written text is almost illegible.

Still, this really is an excellent reference book, and will be an invaluable resource for anyone new to woodworking who wants to understand which hand tools are important to acquire, and how to use the tools. It's the next best thing to being in the shop with Sellers. The nice thing is that, with this book, you'll always have him there.

AUTHOR:Paul Sellers
Order Now From Lee Valley
FORMAT:Hardcover, 480 pages

Carl Duguay
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