The Naked Woodworker – A Must Have for the Beginner

Naked Woodworker
Recently, my friend Mike Siemsen and the folks over at Lost Art Press put out a DVD called “The Naked Woodworker“. The DVD is aimed at the new woodworker who has no tools and no idea where to start. I picked up a copy to watch and then donate to my woodworking club’s library. After watching it, let me just say, that if you are the new woodworker I just described, you need this DVD. It will be the best $20 and the most valuable 4½ hours you can spend before you start woodworking.

The first disc of the 2-DVD sets starts with Mike at the MWTCA meet, buying tools. He tells you what to look for and what to avoid when shopping for tools. But most importantly, he focuses only on what tools you will need to complete your first two projects, a sawbench and a workbench.

This section alone is the kick in the pants that so many new woodworkers need to stay focused. I’ve long suggested that when you’re new to the craft you should focus on a project and let your project dictate the tools you start with, not the other way around. But far too often, the focus of new woodworkers is to try and buy every tool they think they might someday need before they ever cut a single piece of wood. Mike’s no nonsense approach to tool shopping shows you how to focus only on the good user grade tools that you will need to get the two projects done, without spending a fortune in the process.

In the second half of the first disc, Mike talks about how to get your new tools ready to go to work. Regardless of whether you go the new tool or old tool route, you need to know how the tools function, and more importantly, how to maintain them and keep them working like they should. All tools get dull in time, so knowing how to keep them sharp is the most important skill any new woodworker can learn.

The primary focus on this part of the disc is on sharpening plane irons and saws, but Mike does briefly discuss the setup of the rest of the tools he bought as well. Then, using a simple and inexpensive sandpaper setup, Mike sharpens the blades for all of the planes he bought in the first part of the disc, and shows you how to adjust the tools and get them working properly with minimal fussing. There’s no uber tuning and shaving measuring going on here. These tools are set up to build stuff, not show off on internet forums.

After the planes are set up, Mike moves on to the saws. The difficulty of sharpening ones own saws is so over exaggerated it can be sickening. The fact of the matter is that it’s really not that hard. It’s no harder than learning to sharpen a chisel or plane iron. It takes some practice, and while your first sharpening is not likely to result in perfection, it will still result in a saw that cuts better than a dull one. Mike shows you how simple it is and discusses both rip and crosscut saws, again, focusing on getting the saws to an acceptable working level, not striving for perfection.

Disc 2 is all about getting to work with your new tools. Mike builds a sawbench and Nicholson inspired workbench in this disc. The saw bench is straight forward, simple and inexpensive. The design gives you plenty of sawing practice, requires no complex joinery, and results in a rock solid, sturdy sawbench. Oh, and he builds it using only a pair of 5 gallon buckets to work on, because that’s probably all you will have to work with.

Then Mike goes on to build a full sized workbench, again, only using the sawbenches to build it, because that’s all you will have. Mike’s modified Nicholson bench design is really simple to build and incorporates a bunch of really great, inexpensive workholding options. Maybe I like the design because the way he built it is so similar to how I built mine, but it’s simplicity is only outdone by its functionality. Mike has made this bench so easy to build, using no complex joinery, that I’m betting my 9 year old daughter could almost build it with very little help from me. This is the first workbench every new woodworker should build.

So to repeat what I wrote above, if you are a new woodworker, just getting started, buy this DVD before you do anything else. If you follow along with Mike’s teachings in this video, you could have a basic tool kit, a sturdy place to work, and be on your way to building furniture in no more than a week or two.

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6 thoughts on “The Naked Woodworker – A Must Have for the Beginner

  1. Hand tools are very addictive in fact so addictive that sometimes you convince yourself that you need a particular to get the job done when you know you can achieve the same result with the tools you have on hand so basically it turns into a collection and most often not used. I don’t condemn anyone who does this because I am equally guilty of it, it’s what we love, it’s our passion. It be a tragedy if all those wonderful tools would never touch a piece of wood gathering dust and rust on shelves or just simply displayed in glass cabinets, only the. Would I consider it a waste of money.

    On the other hand it is a good practice for any new woodworker to buy the essential tools and master them before expanding his list.

    Saw sharpening is a must and it’s something I myself have not learned yet so maybe if not anything else but the sharpening side of this DVD its sounds like a good buy.

  2. Btw I forgot to mention Tom Fidgens saw bench is far more practical than the one offered by the naked woodworker, I am currently building this bench for myself to replace the current one I have.

    • I like Tom’s saw bench quite a bit. However, for a new woodworker with little to no experience, or a solid place to work, Tom’s bench can be a bit more of a challenge due to the slightly more complex joinery. The chisel work required to build Tom’s bench really calls for a solid place to secure the work. Without a workbench, however, this is somewhat of a challenge.

      Mike’s design is more approachable for someone with zero experience and no workbench, in my opinion, as the construction is simpler.

      • Yes you are right without a work bench it would prove to be quite difficult but you have to hand it to the Japanese who can comfortably work without a bench they make it look so easy.

  3. I have already acquired the mp4 version of ” Naked woodworker”. I think it’s a beautiful instructional video because it show us , beginner woodworkers, that a few, rusty, tools could build almost everithing. No need of complex and expensive tools. Keep it simple!

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