Handtool Heaven
with Jim Tolpin and Faculty

Hand Tool Woodworking Series Level: Beginner


A class for beginners at hand tool woodworking (or just to woodworking).

This is the class that developed as Jim Tolpin wrote "The New Traditional Woodworker". You can buy and read the book before class and then bring it along to be signed or purchase a signed copy when you arrive at the School.

In this class, you will learn a boat-load of tips, tricks and core techniques that will convince you that hand tools—once properly setup, sharpened and handled—are not all that difficult to master or tedious to use and are anything but obsolete. Contrary to the “norm”, you will discover the pleasure of working wood with tools that don’t make noise, don’t make dust, and therefore don’t require you to protect yourself from them.

Over the course of the week, you will make (and take home with you) a selection of layout tools and workbench accessories that are essential to hand tool woodworking. With each project you will learn to choose the appropriate tools for the task at hand, set the tools up properly and practice the skills you’ll need to work as efficiently (and therefore as enjoyably) as possible.

We order the projects to present progressively more challenging tools and techniques. In most cases, you will actually use the tool or accessory you just made to help build the next one. (You can the layout and bench tools in the last five images in the slideshow above.)

You will understand:

“The more power you apply to the process, the further you get from the product.”
(from “Woodworking Wit and Wisdom” by Jim Tolpin)

Class Description

Here’s what you will experience over the five days:

  • Handsaws:
    Handsaws: Learn efficient and accurate ripping and crosscutting tricks and techniques; How to build and use a shooting board to quickly true end cuts.
  • Hand planes
    How to tune and sharpen a hand plane for maximum performance; how to efficiently dimension and smooth a board to a flat, mirror-like surface and with a straight and true edge. How to use specialty hand planes to make grooves, rabbets and profiled (molded) edges.
  • Chisels: 
    Learn efficient techniques for chopping and paring with a razor-sharp chisel honed to the proper angle. Create simple jigs to ensure accuracy in joint-making.
  • Joinery: 
    Gain practice with chisels and handsaws  (plus some layout tools) to make a variety of basic joints, from a simple lap to a basic through dovetail.
  • Curved work with hand tools: 
    Learn how to saw to a curved line with a frame saw (a hand-powered version of a bandsaw); smooth and true the curved edge with a compass plane; and shape the edge with a tuned and sharpened drawknife and spokeshave.

The Full Course Plan: 

Read the Handtool Heaven Lesson Plan (which hosted on Google Docs in comment mode - no sign in needed). If you have questions please add a comment and we'll respond. 


  • You do not need to bring any tools to this class. The School has workbenches fully equipped with high quality hand tools. We strongly encourage you to put off tool purchases until you have taken this class. You will understand what a good tool looks like and how well it can work.

More about this class



Class Information and Registration

Full Disclosure: 

Jim Tolpin takes the lead teaching role on this class - focusing on the demonstrations and lectures in the mornings. Other faculty (professional woodworkers with deep hand tool experience) will run the afternoon work sessions. This allows Jim to balance his teaching with his family duties and his writing. You'll still get plenty of Jim!

Class starts at 9:00am on the first day.

Please read our What to Expect page for general information about the School.

Please also read our Registration Policy.

Class size: 10
Cost: $700
Materials Charge: $ 35



2014 Classes:

When you click on the Register link you will be able to register for the class or, if the class is full, sign up for the wait list.

April 14-18, 2014 Hand Tool Heaven Register
May 12-16, 2014 Hand Tool Heaven Register
June 23-27, 2014 Hand Tool Heaven Register
August 4-8, 2014 Hand Tool Heaven Register
September 15-19, 2014 Hand Tool Heaven Register

If you'd like to ask questions - please feel free to contact  us - (360) 344-4455 or by email.

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Port Townsend School of Woodworking and Preservation Trades Copyright © 2007-2014. All rights reserved.

200 Battery Way | Fort Worden | Port Townsend, WA 98368 | (360) 344-4455 | email

The Port Townsend School of Woodworking and Preservation Trades is a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit. Any donations made to the School are tax-deductible to the extent provided by law.