Mark ( on October 27th, 2008

This post is the first in a series of DVD reviews that I will be doing here at the blog.  I am working with SmartFlix to help them develop a curriculum of instructional DVD’s for hand tool work in the woodshop. If you do not know about SmartFlix, take a look at my recent post on them.

After this Hand Tool course is developed, there may be other courses (Power Tools, Furniture making, etc.) that are are developed through my reviews.  My understanding is that they will offer the course in a different manner than the standard SmartFlix rentals.  For the courses they will rent the DVD’s to users for as long as they want them instead of for just one week at a time.

Just for the record, I have no particular affiliation with SmartFlix except for being a happy customer.  I will not receive anything for this effort except for the ability to review the DVD’s. My reviews of the DVD’s will be my own opinions.  If I do not feel that a DVD is worthy of being in the course I will make that known and it will not be included.

The three DVD’s that I viewed in this go around were part of a series by English woodworker and teacher David Charlesworth.  The first three titles in the series and those reviewed here are:

General Comments

These DVD’s were recorded at Lie-Nielson Toolworks in 2003.  Some of the footage shows David Charlesworth speaking to a class in a shop at the facility and other portions show him one-on-one with the camera in another location.   Some of the subjects covered are duplicated at both locations but the alternate scenes cover things a bit differently so, it helps to reinforce the points being made.

The video production is not fancy. However, it does the job adequately.  The clarity of the video and audio are generally very good and the use of graphics (though minimal) helps to reinforce the techniques being demonstrated.  There are enough close-up shots to adequately show the techniques, though I do think a few more close shots could have been inserted at times.

David Charlesworth has a very slow and deliberate delivery of the material.  He is very thorough and articulate.  His English slang for some things was not clear at first but, eventually it became clear what he was talking about.  In general, David is very methodical in his presentation – even repetitious. However,  in doing so he makes sure that important elements of each subject are reinforced.

Hand Tool Techniques Part 1: Plane Sharpening

Hand_Planing.jpgIn this DVD, Charlesworth covers what he feels are the three keys to effective pereparation of hand planes: getting a razor sharp blade, fettling the chip breaker and flattening the sole of the plane.  Sharpening of the plane blade is thoroughly covered as is the preparation of the chip breaker.  Though Charlesworth does not really show procedures for flattening the sole of the plane in this DVD, he does speak to why this is important.

The DVD starts with a discussion of sharpening with water stones as well as recommendations of two different brands. Also included are techniques for flattening the stones.  From there Charlesworth covers two different strokes for flattening the back of the plane blade – this is done in order to avoid tendencies for hollowing the stones.  Potential problems are discussed as well as their possible remedies.

Next is a treatise on sharpening the bevel of the blade including a discussion of grinding and honing angles.  Charlesworth chooses to always use a cambered blade and he discusses his rationale for this.   First is a demonstration of the Charlesworth “Ruler Trick” for honing the back of the blade.  For me, just seeing this one technique is easily reason enough to view the DVD.  This was followed by a simple and methodical method for cambering a plane blade using only finger pressure and a simple honing guide.

Charlesworth also discusses why the fit of the chip breaker is so important in hand plane operation as well as simple techniques for getting the best fit and operation.  Finally, the plane is set up with the chip breaker, blade.  Even this step is not without a simple tip for avoiding banging the freshly honed blade into the body.

Though this DVD is tailored toward sharpening plane blades (in fact, Charlesworth explicitly warns you never to use the Ruler Trick on your chisels) some of the the principes can definitely be extended to sharpening other tools.   All in all, this DVD shows a very simple, thorough and effective method for sharpening and getting the best out of your hand planes.

Hand Tool Techniques Part 2: Hand Planing

Plane_Sharpening.jpgWith the sharpening tasks behind him, in this DVD Charlesworth covers methods for hand planing edges, faces and end grain.

After a short treatise on what he calls Datum surfaces (i.e. reference edges and faces) Charlesworth develops a set of capabilities for hand planin both edges and faces of boards. These include what he calls Stop Shavings as well as Through Shavings.  With the use of these two techniques Charles demonstrates planing a slight hollow in the surface or edge thruoght the use of Stop Shavings and follows that up with through shavings in order to produce a perfectly straght or flat edge or surface.

Throughout this process with the use of simple a straight edge Charlesworth shows why he always prefers a slight hollow over a bump in the edge or a face of a board.  Similarly he shows how to eliminate bumps when they are discovered and aso covers the proper grips for hand planing and how the cambered blade works in the planing process.

In addition, there are sections on detectng wind with winding sticks and removing it with your plane as well as thicknessing a board to a gage line.  Also covered is the proper way to scribe a knife line and techniques for hand planing end grain and squaring edges with the cambered blade in the plane.

Though Charlesworth does most of the work in this DVD with a #5 Jack plane, he also shows the techniques with other planes including a block plane.  At the end of the program there is a bit of bonus footage covering how to flatten your workbench and showing how Charlesworth did exactly that to the bench used during the shooting of the DVD.

Even if you never plan to dimension rough boards with a handplane, this DVD offers techniques that are useful for fine tuning joinery and precisely sizing workpieces when building furniture. You’ll learn how the hand plane works and how to make the best use of it in your woodworking.

Hand Tool Techniques Part 3: Precision Shooting Simplified

Precision_Shooting_Simplified.jpgThis DVD is the shortest of the three reviewed here.  One might argue that it is the least useful however, my feeling is that there is tremendous value in the technques used for shooting accurate ends, miters and edges on smaller parts.

Throughout the DVD Charlesworth makes use of a very simple shooting board fixture and some accessories used with it to do miters in two different orientations.  Any inaccuracies of the shooting board itself and/or the squareness of the planes sole to its side are dealt with using a simple shimming technique to get perfect angles on the workpiece.  Also shown are methods for freehand shooting of edges for glue-ups as well as shooting veneer edges.

Something that comes out in this DVD is the “rhythm” of shooting a workpiece with a hand plane.  To me this is something that can only be realized though the use of video as a medium and not from reading it in a book.  Seeing and hearing this in action makes this DVD worth viewing.

As a bonus, on the DVD there are plans for the shooting board and accessory fixtures that can be printed for refence and building later.  Make a simple shoting board and armed with the information covered in the DVD you will have everything necessary for precision sizing of square and mitered parts.

If you are a new customer and interested in renting these DVD’s before the full Hand Tools course is developed, SmartFlix has offered readers of The Craftsman’s Path a $2 discount coupon for your use.  Simply use the coupon code: CRAFTPATH when you check out!

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3 Responses to “DVD Review: David Charlesworth Handtool Techniques Parts 1,2 and 3”

  1. Mark,

    Thanks for the great review!

    Your readers might also be interested in our subscription programs, which gives folks three DVDs to keep as long as they want, and the ability to swap out the DVDs at any time for the next ones in the series, all for just $22.95.

    We’ve got two universities that may be of interest: Woodturner University and Woodcarving University.

    I’m subscribed to both services (with my own money!) because I want to become better at the lathe and at the carving bench.

    If folks have any questions at all about SmartFlix or the university programs, please don’t hesitate to write to us at info (at) smartflix (dot) com.


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