Essential Hand-tool Kit

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Whether he’s teaching at North Bennet Street School or working in his home shop, furniture maker Dan Faia wants certain essential hand tools close by. As it happens, the compact tool rack also featured in this issue holds them all. Your list may vary, but this comprehensive list of hand tools for layout, surface prep, shaping, and joinery is a good starting point for any aspiring hand-tool woodworker.

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Published at Wed, 28 Oct 2015 04:00:00 +0000


How to Turn a Basic Bowl—Part 2

Ed Pirnik and Cari Delahanty

Perhaps the most alluring aspect of turning is the speed at which a skilled craftsman can crank out a finished project. With turning—everything goes quickly, be it stock removal or finishing, everything seems to happen at warp speed: no messy glue-ups, no labor-intensive finishing.

stringing In this two-part video series, celebrated turner Richard Raffan demonstrates how to turn a basic bowl, complete with decorative beads. Beginning with a cherry blank, Raffan rough turns the bowl, offers tips on drying, and caps things off by adding two decorative beads and a beeswax finish that goes on fast and offers lasting protection.
1 line How to Turn a Basic Bowl—Part IRichard Raffan demonstrates rough turning techniques for a basic bowl.
How to Turn a Basic Bowl—Part II
Learn how to finish the final shaping of the basic bowl, with tips on sanding, finishing, and more.

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Published at Fri, 29 Nov 2013 05:00:00 +0000


Dan Smith’s Dream Shop and Tool Chest

  • Very nicely produced video. Great job Ben!

  • Congratulations !
    What a legacy you are going to leave behind for your sons one day.
    I know ,I have been privileged to have had my foundation laid by my father .An excellent hoby to compliment surgical skills.
    Gert du toit ,gastrointestinal surgeon.

  • Sorry. We don’t have plans for any um… plans of this cabinet.

  • Are the plans going to be available to download?

  • I should have taken my American exams and done orthopaedics! When I was a student in Oxford I played tennis with a newly appointed Professor of orthopaedics. We had lots of discussions about the overlap with woodwork. Power tools were just being introduced to orthopaedics then. Can you wash out my arthritic ankle? (Only joking). What a superb workshop. I live in crowded England. No hope of achieving what you have here. I have holidayed in Maine. Higgins Beach. Very beautiful.

  • To JohnOSeattle;

    The radial arm saw is a Sears Craftsman circa 1973, identical to the one I received when I graduated from high school and that I still use in Missouri. Found it on Craigslist for $75, but it took some work to restore it to its current state! The lack of sawdust is because we hosted my younger son’s wedding in the shop and just restored it to its rightful use before the shoot.


  • A little detective work via Google reveals:

    Dan Smith is an orthopedic surgeon in St. Joseph, Mo., who specializes in reconstructive surgery, including knee, shoulder, and hip replacements. But woodworking has always competed fiercely with medicine for his attention: His subscription to FWW dates to issue #19, when he was a third year medical student, and he admits he would read it before reading his medical journals. Over the years, in addition to making clocks, built-ins, and many pieces of furniture for his family’s house in Missouri and for a summer place in Maine, Smith has also built four boats.

  • What does the shop look like during a project. This a beautiful shop and high end craftsmanship. How do you support this or is it a hobby. In other words, does the shop earn its keep?

  • Can’t view the video…

  • Easily in the top 5 shops I’ve seen for ambience. Very well done!

  • bmd November 5th

    What do you do (or did) for a living $?
    Nice building, shop and geographic area!
    Maybe too nice to work in…?
    I hope you have so much fun your tools get dirty.
    Birdie Miller

  • Very nice tool cabinet! Hope it turns into an article

  • I couldn’t help but imagine this is what it’s like to wake up in heaven. Complete with music. Great Shop, great job on the video.

  • Beyond the call of duty!
    What is the machine make/ model (Radial arm Saw ?) near the featured tool cabinet.

  • A dream come to life I’d imagine.

  • one word ok two WOW, WOW!

  • Absolutely beautiful! Amazing tool chest, shop and boats! And to my surprise well away in the corner a wood lathe with a guard. Not often I see those. Also nice video production!

  • That shop is inspiring! Great lighting … and just has a great feel about it. I love it.

  • Gorgeous. I am so jealous!

  • There will be more information in the Tools and Shops issue coming out next week.

  • Beautiful. Are there plans available for the tool chest?

  • Good job Ben and Cari! Where’s all the sawdust?

  • (Why?)

    Published at Wed, 26 Oct 2016 14:35:09 +0000


    How to Engineer an Expanding Tabletop

    John Hartman, Ed Pirnik, and Gary Junken

    When it comes to building an expanding table, there are several ways to get the job done. Butterfly tables store the leaves beneath the top. When the top is pulled apart, the leaves swing up and unfold. It’s a beautiful solution but difficult to build. Perhaps the most common method is a top that pulls apart to accept leaves which simply drop into place, but that means storing the leaves in a dusty closet until they’re required.

    Furniture maker Tommy MacDonald conceived of a hybrid solution. Two expansion leaves, one under each end, are pulled out from under the top on angled rails. It’s a solution that’s easy to construct, and allows for all the parts to rest within the table. That means no more trips to the closet for those extra leaves when company arrives.

    Learn how the mechanism works with this short animation.

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    Published at Wed, 03 Dec 2014 21:16:23 +0000


    Build a Shaker Lap Desk

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    This classic Shaker lap desk is made of white pine and features exposed dovetails, breadboard ends with cherry pegs, and a small inside drawer. The case is traditional dovetail construction, with dividers set into dadoes inside to form handy compartments, including a tiny inkwell drawer. The bottom extends beyond the case and has a quarter-round profile routed into all four edges. Lap desks were designed two centuries ago to function as  miniature traveling offices with room for paper, envelopes, pens, and ink. Today, their precise joinery and elegant design still proves popular, whether they are used for writing the old-fashioned way or as storage space for a laptop or tablet.

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    Get the Full-Size Plan

    Build a classic Shaker lap desk with this printed plan. Designed by veteran woodworker Christian Becksvoort, this charming traveling desk recreates the era when pen and ink reigned. To craft your own version, one that can house your laptop, start with a copy of the Shaker Lap Desk printed plan.

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    Published at Wed, 13 May 2015 00:08:45 +0000


    Cherry Chest of Drawers

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    Build a classic chest of drawers that features a variety of dovetail joinery and Shaker-inspired elements using this article with fold-out project plans. Fine Woodworking’s art director, Michael Pekovich, also an avid woodworker, shares his methods for cutting dovetails with a combination of hand and power tools, cutting sliding dovetail slots accurately, and attaching molding with dovetailed keys, a method that allows the chest to shrink and expand with changes in humidity. Careful grain-matching and graduated drawers accentuate the piece.

    From Fine Woodworking #170

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    Published at Tue, 06 Sep 2016 04:00:00 +0000


    The Modern Master: Allan Breed

    Growing up in New Hampshire, Allan Breed began buying, repairing, and reselling antique furniture in his early teens, and before he was 20, he was serving an apprenticeship in conservation at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. In the decades since, he has worked as a consultant and conservator on some of the most prominent pieces of American period furniture, and has reproduced hundreds of pieces, including the famous Nicholas Brown Desk and Bookcase, and the Newport secretary built by John Goddard that sold at auction for $12.1 million. Prized by Sotheby’s and Christie’s as an expert on period craftsmanship, Al also teaches classes in carving and period furniture making in his New Hampshire shop.

    Allan will be giving two presentations at Fine Woodworking Live 2017, Classic Furniture Carving, and Reviving Great American Furniture.

    Classic Furniture Carving:
    Master period furniture maker Allan Breed demonstrates the core techniques and tools used to carve the hollow shell and applied leaf-and-vine detail on the drawer front of a classic Philadelphia lowboy.

    Reviving Great American Furniture – Highlights and Insights from a Storied Career:
    A furniture consultant to museums and major auction houses as well as a master furniture maker with four decades of experience in the shop, Breed has examined, restored, or reproduced some of the most famous pieces of American period furniture. In this talk, he selects a handful of the most interesting pieces he’s worked on and describes the craftsmanship and style, materials, tools, and techniques that went into them, and the people who made and owned them.

    Go to to find out more about all of the presenters this year.

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    Published at Thu, 05 Jan 2017 21:35:51 +0000


    Display Cabinet on a Stand

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    Joinery takes center stage in this cabinet-on-stand. The base and case are made with contrasting woods, but the straight grain of the riftsawn stock unifies the two. An apron and rail on each side of the case make for a strong, light-looking base. A wide upper front apron paired with a narrow lower rail accomplishes the same objective. The base is joined with through-mortise-and-tenons, lightened with tapers and curves. Latticework on the front door dresses up the dovetailed cabinet on top.

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    Get the Full-Size Plan

    Printed and digital plans and a cutlist for this project are available in the Fine Woodworking store.

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    Published at Fri, 02 Dec 2016 13:51:02 +0000



    Weekend Project: Build an Arts and Crafts Bookcase

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    Of the many qualities that help define the Arts and Crafts style, perhaps the most apparent is straightforward and honest joinery. Wedged joints and through-tenons show the world how a piece was made. Quartersawn white oak, the quintessential Arts and Crafts material, was clearly the wood of choice for this bookcase.

    Mortise-and-tenon joinery usually requires precise fitting; however, these long through-tenons need to be a bit loose to fit easily through the mortises. The wedges provide holding power at three locations. The back of the wedge pushes against the outside face of the side. This does nothing until the angled front of the wedge starts to press against the angled slot cut into the tenon. Then the wedge pulls the tenon through the joint until the tenon shoulders lock against the inside face of the case side.

    Cut Mortises With a Plunge Router and Template
    I cut the mortises using a plunge router, a 5/8-in. straight bit, a 3/4-in. template guide, and a mortising template . The template, made of 1/2-in. medium-density fiberboard (MDF), is milled as wide as my case side and with perfectly square ends.

    With the template made of MDF (left photo), you don’t have to mark mortises on the case sides, just centerlines. Use a folded index card (right photo) to set your router depth so that the bit won’t blow out the opposite face. Pop out the thin waste with a chisel.

    First mark the centerline of the template. On this centerline, lay out the mortises. Cut the mortises with a 3/4-in. straight bit on the router table, using a fence with stops clamped onto it. Cut the two outer mortises using the same stops and fence setting; flip the board over to cut the second one. For the center mortise, simply move the stops over to the proper position. If the template is square, the mortises will locate properly and be the same size. Finally, glue and screw a fence onto one end of the template.

    Only the centerlines of the mortises need to be laid out on the case sides. Clamp a side to the bench, align the centerlines on the template with the centerlines on the side and clamp the template in place. Next, set the bit depth. Put a folded index card on the benchtop and rest your router on the edge of the case. Then zero the bit down to the card and set the turret stop on the router to its lowest depth. This setting will allow you to rout almost through the case side but without blowing out the mortise or marring your benchtop. Then set another turret stop for the center mortises, which aren’t through-mortises.

    After routing, chop the mortise corners square with a chisel. I use a block of wood as wide as my mortises to check each for consistency. I also bevel the edges of the mortise with my chisel to prevent tearout when fitting the tenons.

    Cut Tenons and Wedges to Fit Easily
    Cut the cheeks and shoulders of the tenons with a plunge router and a straight fence. The fence rides tightly against the end of the board to locate the tenon shoulder. Cut one face of all of the boards about 1⁄16 in. deep and back to the tenon depth, then cut the second face so that the tenons will fit easily into the mortises. Next, on the bandsaw, rough out the waste between each of the tenons. Then reset your router bit to the full depth of the board and, in several passes, cut the shoulders between the tenons.

    Router with a fence (left photo) cuts clean shoulders between tenons and an angled block (right photo) sets the bevel. First, bandsaw the waste between the tenons. Then with the template tipped 7 degrees, the router will automatically bevel the slot in the through-tenon to accept a tapered wedge.

    I set up the router table with a fence to finish-cut the roughed-out edges of the tenons so that they slide easily through the mortises. Use a rabbeting plane to pare the tenons down on both their faces and edges. Work one tenon at a time until you can push all of the joints home by hand.

    Dry-assemble the case, then mark the outside face of the case side onto each tenon. Be sure to locate the end of the slot for the wedges 1/8 in. in from this line so that part of the slot lies inside the face of the case side. If you cut the slot flush with the case side, the inside face of the slot will push against the wedge, preventing it from providing a totally snug fit.

    Next, make a mortising template to router-cut the wedge slots in the tenons. The slot needs to be angled on its front edge, so glue a 7° angled block to the bottom of the template. Your plunge router will then rout at that angle. Rout each wedge slot with a 1/4-in. straight bit and a 5⁄16-in. o.d. template guide, and chop its corners square with a chisel.

    To make all of the wedges the same size and angle, you’ll need to make a simple tapering jig for the bandsaw. Cutting out the triangular shape of the wedges on a 3-in. by 5-in. piece of 1/4-in.-thick scrap ply gives you a place in which to hold your wedge stock as you pass it by the blade. Move the fence over to the proper spot and cut all of the wedges. Next, plane each wedge edge until the wedge fits easily through the mortise. Then clean up the angled face until it just starts to snug up when it’s about 1 in. above the top face of the tenon.

    Have a Plan Before Assembly and Glue-Up
    The top rail doesn’t need the strength of a tongue-and-groove joint, so after the case is together, glue the rail onto the top with biscuits. To keep it from twisting, add two dowels to the case sides. These dowels fit slots cut into the ends of the top rail. For easy assembly, use the offcuts from the top rail and toe kick as clamping blocks when gluing up these two curved rails.

    Shape the bottom of the case sides on the bandsaw and finish with a template router. Rabbet the case sides for the back on a router table. For a long-grain cut like this, a climb cut—one made with the rotation of the router bit—can help avoid tearout. File the shaped edges slightly round, then scrape and sand the entire case with 180-grit paper. Raise the grain with a damp rag and resand to get rid of any puffed fibers.

    Glue up one side at a time. With one side in place but unglued, apply glue to the tenons of the other side, gluing only the long grain. Don’t over-glue these joints or you’ll have a mess to clean up.

    After clamping, place the wedges and bang them home. I use a metal hammer for this because the sound it makes will change when the wedge is in far enough. Do not bang the wedge past this point. You’ll bust out the short-grain end of the tenon. This is why I left the tenon ends poking through the case sides at a relatively long 2 in. This much wood provides enough room to put in the wedges safely.

    Excerpted from:
    Shelves, Cabinets & Bookcases
    Editors of Fine Homebuilding and Fine Woodworking

    In just about any room in the house, it’s great to have some extra storage space to keep things organized and uncluttered. Whether you want to make a simple built-in or a high style bookcase, kitchen cabinets or a media center, you’ll find every last detail is here — with clear, step-by-step instructions and useful graphics.

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    Published at Fri, 26 Sep 2008 04:00:00 +0000