Upcoming Workshop — Refurbishing Tools, Apr. 1, 11 a.m.–3 p.m., $50 ($40 for members)

This year we’re building a timber-frame workshop and we’ll have classes almost every weekend, covering this build from start to finish. See our Events page for the complete schedule, which is being finalized at this time. Classes typically run $50 with a cap of $500 for ten or more. See also: Timber Felling (Mar. 11), Toolbox Building (Mar. 25).

Workshop Details

This class will be a hands-on workshop refurbishing tools from rusted to ready to use. Rust removal, re-grinding, sharpening, rehelving, what to look for in purchasing antique tools and what supplies are necessary to upkeep and refurbish tools at home will be covered. We’ll also discuss using modern electric tools to do the work and what is possible without breaking the bank. This workshop will focus on the needs and interests of timber framing, so bring your tools to work on! This course will not cover fine reconditioning for valuable antiques, this is about making user tools useful again.

You’re welcome to buy your tools ahead of time* and bring them for work, but much information on finding and selecting good antiques will be covered and it’s ideal if you already have some hand-me-downs or neglected tools to work on. For later workshops and the joint cutting class, timber-frame students will need to have the following at a minimum: a crosscut saw and framing chisels (1″, 2″). Additional tools for refurbishing may include a corner chisel, a slick, felling axe, a broad hatchet or broad axe, brace and bit set, framing augurs in 1″ and 2″, a carpenter’s axe, a jackplane, jointer plane, – or other rabbeting handplane, draw knife, antique framing squares. We can discuss and work on anything and it will make a good example for discussion.

Places to buy include, but are not limited to:


When selecting antique chisels, look for a relatively flat back and that the cutting edge steel is still relatively long. Older framing chisels had tool steel edges welded to soft steel (or iron if really old) bodies. Look for a weld line where that steel is joined and make sure there’s still plenty of tool steel there. A back that is slightly rounded can be flattened, but if it’s been significantly rounded over, it will take too much effort to make it a good user chisel. Rust on a chisel is okay, but look for and avoid pitting in the steel. If it’s been blued or discolored by heat, or been through a fire, avoid it. Some chisels, such as Sorby, have tang and ferrule construction, I prefer a tapered socketed handle because it’s far easier to replace the handle but both were used in the framing periods. Whatever handle must have a ferrule on the striking end to protect from splitting.
New framing chisels are still available today, check out Barr Tools, Sorby from Lee Valley, or Etsy. These will all need sharpening as well and the prices are significantly more than an antique. 
These rules apply to slicks as well. 


Antique handsaws should not have major pitting, have a relatively straight cutting edge and a handle intact and preferably tight.  Antique saws were filed either rip or crosscut.  You’ll want a crosscut in the 8-10 tooth per inch range, but a rip in the 5-6tpi would be useful as well.  )

We’ll stop for a brown-bag lunch (please bring your own). Please wear clothing appropriate for the activity: close-toed shoes, perhaps light work gloves, hair tie, clothing without dangling parts, etc. If you have favorite eye and ear protection feel free to bring them. We’ll have drinking water and snacks available, but please bring your own additional beverages and lunch. We will be indoors (garage workshop if warm enough, indoors if cooler).

The workshop will take place at the Low Technology Institute: 11927 W. State Road, Evansville, WI 53536 (located just south of historic Cooksville: take 14 south out of Madison; left on 59; the institute is the fifth house on the right in town with a sign out front.). It will take place on April 1, at 11 a.m.

Please RSVP by purchasing a ticket through our online store. Price is $50 (or $40 for members). Space is limited and we will keep a waiting list. Get on the list by “purchasing” a waitlist ticket at no cost, also in our online store. Also, participants must fill out this liability waiver. Your RSVP is only complete when the waiver is filled out.

Donations are always welcome to help defray the cost of our workshops and programming. We are a member-supported organization.


Todd Fleming is a professional remodeling carpenter, experienced in both framing and finish carpentry.  He focuses on bringing traditional craft and knowledge back into house carpentry.  He got started with hand tools in knifemaking but found a passion for traditional woodworking, he has a wide experience across many areas of working with wood and a love of axes and hatchets.  

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