The New Traditional Woodworker
From Tool Set to Skill Set to Mind Set
by Jim Tolpin

210 x 275mm

Published by Popular Woodworking Books, Ohio USA


ISBN 978-1-4403-0428-6

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As reviewed in The Australian Woodworker Issue 159

It has been said that successful people concentrate upon their destination but the happiest people are those who concentrate upon the journey.

If you want to finish many projects, a conventional workshop full of machines and power tools is your only option. But if you want to enjoy every moment of the creation of a project, to see the wood transformed stroke by stroke, shaving by shaving, to watch as the beauty beneath the surface is slowly revealed, you can choose an environment similar to that enjoyed by craftsmen in centuries past.

In recent years there has been something of a revival of this way of working with wood, so much so that those who pursue it appear to have earned a special title - the New Traditional Woodworker.

In this book, Jim Tolpin extols the virtues of working with hand tools, but he is far from blind to the advantages offered by machines, particularly when it comes to the preparation of the raw material.

In his Introduction, he remarks: 'The bottom line here is that New Traditional Woodworking is not about going back in time to endure a tedious vocation. Instead, it is about immersing oneself in a pleasurable vocation.'

Later in the book, Tolpin has this to say about machines: 'I still use a few electrically powered tools in my workshop. I'm not willing to exasperate bursitis, old rotor-cuff injuries and carpal tunnel problems to maintain the purity of hand-ripping long boards to width, hand-resawing thick stock into thin stock or hand-sawing and hand-planing large volumes of rough lumber true and to dimension.'

For all of the rest of his woodworking, however, the author elects to use hand tools.

The first section of the book - a little less than half of the total number of pages - is devoted to the New Traditional Woodworker's workshop and its tools. In essence, this is a short course in hand tools - what they are, what they do and how they are used, plus notes on which of the tools might be most useful in a practical contemporary workshop. The scope is comprehensive, while the text is both easy to read and supported by clear, attractive photographs.

The author calls the second section of the book Shop Projects but it is probably more aptly described as a series of essays on subjects related to the main theme.

They begin with comments on the necessary 'mind set' followed by remarks about the way in which wood must be selected when you are contemplating almost the sole use of hand tools.

Other topics covered by the essays include: Try Square, Winding Sticks, Workbench Tote, Oiling Pad, Diagonal Testing Stick, Waste Backing Block and the Six Square Process.

Tolpin's treatment of each makes interesting reading. Whether they inspire you to become a New Traditional Woodworker is probably less important than that they offer much to learn, to consider and to absorb into your own working practices.

Photos: Colour

Units of Measurement: Imperial



Section One - The Shop
Size, Heating, Lighting and Layout
Hand-powered Tools

Section Two - Shop Projects
The Mindset
Selecting Wood
Try Square
Winding Sticks
Face Planing Stop
Bench Hook Pair
Edge Planing Stop
Sticking Board
Workbench Tote
Oiling Pad
Diagonal Testing Stick
Vise for Sharpening Saws and Scrapers
Sawbench Pair
Waste Backing Block
Drawing Bows
Sticking Board for Dowels
Six Square Process