Being a lover of Japanese design and tools, I’m embarrassed to say I only picked this book up in the last year. I was anticipating a straightforward, almost encyclopaedic, approach documenting the history and use of most Japanese woodworking tools. I got that, but also so much more. The stories Odate tells of his youth and apprenticeship are truly jaw-dropping, and reveal as much about working wood in Japan as what life in a fascinating and secluded Pacific country was like when he was young. I was five minutes into this book, and I guess I had an astonished look on my face, when my wife politely asked how I was enjoying the book. I looked up in bewilderment, paused for about five seconds, and said “It would take me an hour to explain what I’ve learned in the last five minutes,” and went on reading. Even though this book has been around for decades, it’s worth reading today.


You can bookend my 30 years of woodworking with two volumes. Roy Underhill’s “The Woodwright’s Shop: A Practical Guide to Traditional Woodcraft” (U of North Carolina P) marks the beginning. Today, Steven W. Semes’ “The Architecture of the Classical Interior” (Norton) makes sense of all the conflicting mishmash of “design speak” tossed about. Hope I have another 30 years in me so the Semes book will someday be a midway milepost in a long, rewarding journey.
I’ve built workbenches with more than 100 students. In every class, there’s one guy who wants to put a vise on every corner of the bench. Not because it’s a partner’s bench for two people. Just because he wants it that way. While I support your freedom to choose, I also don’t want to spend two weeks installing complex tail-vise hardware on your bench when we could be building furniture instead.
For one, the bench itself is a good size. While its width as a tad short at just over 1 ½’, the length is a great 5’ long. Even better, this bench is made out of birch wood. Birchwood is similar to beech in that it is strong but soft enough to prevent inadvertent dulling of your tools. However, birch has a bit of an advantage over beech in that it is not a porous which makes staining on the Windsor Design a more worry-free affair.

“Traditional woodworking using hand tools can offer a more satisfying relationship with the wood and the creative woodworking process. It’s quieter, cleaner and maybe even a little spiritual. It’s no surprise that many “”plugged-in”” woodworkers are returning to the roots of this treasured skill. Where some hand-tool books focus solely on the use of hand tools, Made By Hand takes you right to the bench and shows you how to start building furniture using these tools.
Featuring each piece in highly-detailed, exploded drawings and applying time-honored dimensions and ergonomic standards, this comprehensive visual sourcebook takes the guesswork out of furniture joinery, assembly, dimension, and style. Woodworkers of any skill level will benefit from more than 1,300 crisp and detailed drawings that explain classic solutions to age-old problems, such as hanging a drawer, attaching a tabletop, and pegging a mortise.”
This table top is also made from the hardest wood out of any manufacturer we reviewed: oak. In fairness, this can be both a blessing and a curse. The oak wood is extremely durable and noted for its lack of a porous nature. This means the top can withstand plenty of abuse from tool and workpieces. Moreover, you will not have to worry about liquids like lacquers and stains from being absorbed into the top. That said, the hard oak can also do a number on tool sharpness, dulling them prematurely if they are not carefully handled.
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