Hand Tools


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Creation Date



Materials: Wood, Steel

Dimensions: Variable

Project Advisors: Rob Neilson

Year of Graduation: 2021



Artist Statement

I have researched and learned more about the history and tradition of hand tool woodworking. The more I research, the more I want to try my hand and develop those skills further. A large focus area in my research has been about the subtleties of adjusting tools, as well as various techniques for sharpening them. An interesting misconception about working with blades is that sharp blades are more dangerous, but that just isn’t true. If you cut yourself with a sharp tool, the cut will be clean and heal with minimal scarring and lasting damage, whereas with a dull blade, you aren’t so much cutting as you are tearing, which will cause much more damage in the long run. In addition to this, you are less likely to cut yourself with sharp woodworking tools, because it takes less force to cut material, which makes you less likely to slip and cut yourself in the first place. Sharp and well maintained tools are essential when working with wood, especially using hand tools, where you need the subtlety of a soft shallow cut or a deep strong pass.

I have a great love and respect for my hands. They may shake and be constantly rough and dirty, but they also have allowed me to create and design and to bring my thoughts onto paper and into three dimensions. There is a history of arthritis and other joint issues in my family, specifically related to hands so I want to appreciate and take advantage of my hands while they are still young and arthritis free. Hands can tell you a lot about a person. The type of work they do, how they take care of themselves, etc. With this series I want to capture my hands as they are now, because the hands I have now represent the person I want to be. For this project the sculptures were made using exclusively hand tools throughout. Using a combination of saws, chisels, gouges, and augers I turned six blocks of basswood into five sculptures of hands.

The first job I worked was doing lumber salvage, which entailed pulling nails, defect cutting, and treating bugs and rot on old wood. Typically we would get barn boards from the surrounding area, which included some 40-50 foot long oak beams. These beams were hand hewn by a craftsperson over a hundred years ago, and I was able to keep some of the offcuts, which I have held on to for almost 7 years. For the presentation of my pieces I made shelves out of those antique oak beams. Making the shelves I found that there is a great feeling of joy and connection to tradition working on antique woods using antique tools and techniques.

That job doing lumber salvage was my first real experience working with wood and definitely influenced my understanding and respect for wood as a medium. Wood can be both fragile and timeless. If the right conditions are met, wood can be reused and worked indefinitely, but if the wrong conditions are met it will disintegrate to nothing in a matter of weeks. Hopefully this series can provide as some sort of record of my hands, in case they can’t be maintained.


Copyright for this work is held by the artist.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.


Carpentry, wood, carving, tools, hands