Learn How to Make Fine Furniture With Hand Tools

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Joshua Farnsworth at work. Photo: Mike Marshall.

Joshua Farnsworth has made a name for himself on YouTube as a teacher of traditional woodworking using hand tools. So skilled are his explanations and demonstrations that he is known among the living masters of hand woodworking. And they are the faculty of his new school for the tradition, the Wood and Shop Traditional Woodworking School, which begins this month, operating out of a tidy brick workshop building at his home in Earlysville.

“It’s a school of the historical methods of woodworking,” Farnsworth said. “We use antique tools—saws, planes.” 

His upcoming class will teach how to make a shaker candle stand. Also in the line up are how to make a backsaw, how to build a sailor’s tool chest, how to restore wooden hand planes, how to build a pair of dovetail saw benches, joinery with hand tools, and an introduction to hand tool woodworking. 

“It started for me in high school,” said Farnsworth, whose brother-in-law happens to be a cabinetmaker. “He’s well known in his area—Utah. He inspired me.

“I watched Roy Underhill’s The Woodwright’s shop on PBS. Now teachers from his Woodwright’s School are coming to teach here. Roy let me film DVDs of teachers at his school. Now they’re coming here!

Joshua Farnsworth in his woodworking school. Photo: Mike Marshall.

“Millions of people have seen me explain how to make something,” said Farnsworth. “I want really good teaching—patient.

“I want to try to inspire people to have quality furniture. Too much furniture ends up in the landfill these days.”

His workshop has 10 benches for students. Four stand against the walls and six are set parallel in the middle of the room. Six are a Moravian style from the 18th century that can be taken apart. A woodstove adds a cozy promise of warmth.

The eight teachers on the roster include Will Myers, Bill Anderson and Tom Calisto from Underhill’s Pittsboro, North Carolina, academy; as well as Kaare Loftheim from Colonial Williamsburg; David Ray Pine, who makes fine reproductions in Mt. Crawford; Ervin and Willie Ellis, Appalachian-style experts from Castlewood, and Farnsworth himself. 

Classes range from one day to six days long. Tuition is $160 per day of class, plus a materials fee. Instructors provide the wood students need. Absolute novices are admitted. There are no skill prerequisites. Farnsworth supplies the hand tools from his collection. Students are welcome to bring their own. 

Farnsworth makes furniture, but not for a livelihood. He’s been a carpenter and a photographer. But his day job is real estate appraisal.

“I have a lot of passion for history as I use hand tools. I can’t help but think about the people who used them to make beautiful things. I want people to learn to build something that can last multiple generations.

“Using hand tools helps you understand better what you are trying to do. Sometimes hand tools are actually faster than power tools with jigs,” said Farnsworth.

“A lot of students feel unsatisfied with what life is giving them now. They want to connect with the past and do something with their hands.”

Find the school’s website at woodandshop.com. 

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