The “Cut the Cord” Workshop


This past weekend, I taught a 2-day workshop at Lie-Nielsen we called “Cut the Cord: Build a Table with Hand Tools”. My goal for the weekend was to instill a pre-industrial mindset and approach into the minds of the 15 students in attendance. The project was a taper-legged table from rough cut white pine (a simplified version of the table in our upcoming "Tables" video in our Apprenticeship series ). They needed to work fast - no time for fussy nitpicking. To set the tone, we looked at some examples of pre-industrial work and then watched a brief early 20th-century film of Swedish woodworkers. They were all blown away at the workmanlike pace these guys kept. Then I sent them to their benches with a stack of lumber.


The students worked their butts off. Most of them had never done woodworking like this before. At the end of day one, there was a mountain of shavings that I’m told surpassed any other workshop they’ve had. I was impressed.


The heart of this class was learning efficient stock prep with hand tools, working with reference faces, and drawbore mortise-and-tenon joinery. It was fun to see students relieved to find that usually the most efficient way to do each step is also the simplest. I joked about how my approach was “very scientific” and “calculated” as I undercut most everything and ripped wood off with the foreplane.


At the end of the second day, many of the students were drawboring their joints. If we had a few more hours, we would have had several standing tables. It seems everyone went home happy and exhausted. They told me they learned so much and were so glad they came. Mission accomplished.


I loved this class and am working to refine it to make it even better so that students can get even more out of it. There has been some talk about possibly doing it again next year. No promises but it would be fun.


Thanks to Tom and Deneb at Lie-Nielsen for having me. I am honored to be able to teach at such an incredible hub of knowledge and skill. If you can make it out to any of their workshops, I highly recommend it.

- Joshua