The Hand Tool workshop

by | Dec 6, 2013 | 24 comments

Over view of site

Hand Tool Workshop Exterior2

 Most of the buildings at our new premises are in need of fairly extensive works before we’ll start using them but I’m looking to gain the benefits of a new hand tool workshop straight away. Since we set up our filming room earlier this year we’ve had new neighbours on the industrial estate who’ve brought with them a lot of new noise. This has made it awkward to get on with any videos so I’m eager to get set up on our more peaceful new site.

Fortunately the building that’s in the best nick will be ideal for this. It’s a former stable and it’s going to be a very generous space for hand tool work which will benefit the videos no end. I’ll likely bring along my Little John workbench and will also have space for a longer bench if I find time to knock one up (possible video build?). As far as filming goes the space will allow us to stand the cameras from a better range of angles and set up some more professional lighting and sound absorption. Best of all though there’ll be far less distracting noise and having this more dedicated, separate space means we’ll be able to make videos more often.

The stable is solid but far from a perfect condition. One day it will have a full refurb with the roof off and the lot but since it’s part of a longer stretch of buildings we don’t want to do too much in isolation. With a few temporary improvements, addressing any leaks and the installation of a nice stove for warmth this should soon work well for what I need.

The fun yet daunting part of this workshop is that for the most part I have to set up from scratch. With most of my existing tools required where they are for bench building I’m going to have to think about new additions. I’ll start by bringing together the most basic of tool kits and will let you know whether I’m opting to buy these new, refurb old ones or even make them myself as I feel each tool lends itself to a particular option.

I’ll be keeping you updated with every step of this workshop and it should come together to form a nice series on setting up from scratch. I’m going to start by measuring up and weighing up the defects this afternoon – I’ll report my findings.

Hand tool workshop interior2

Feeding trough

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About Richard Maguire

About Richard Maguire

As a professional hand tool woodworker, Richard found hand tools to be the far more efficient solution for a one man workshop. Richard runs 'The English Woodworker' as an online resource and video education for those looking for a fuss free approach to building fine furniture by hand. Learn More About Richard & The English Woodworker.


  1. Richard Brunelle

    This all looks like a dream come true. Couldn’t be happier for you both. And can’t wait to watch the transformation.

  2. Ken

    Lovely to see this all happenig for you guys, very best of luck with it.

    PS…No rush for my workshop/living quarters guys. 😉

  3. Ian Elley

    Good luck with the whole project, with everything going on you have your hands full !! Look forward to seeing the updates as you go along, might be nice to see a tour before you get started if you have the time ? Hope all goes well

  4. barry oborne

    richard and helen,
    I think it might be worth considering making a list
    of all the work that people could help you with. I’ll net their are
    folks in your community of handbook lovers who would be willing
    to come for that kind of barn building experience. I’m planning a trip to the UK and maybe Canada
    for next year and will pay for it with the money I save
    from buying tools and bringing them back myself
    side stepping the enormous customs duty I’m
    paying here in India. How great it would be to lend
    a hand not matter how small in creating the new home
    of Maguire Woodworking Benches, the finest benches in the world.
    all the best,
    barry oborne

  5. Graham Haydon

    Wow! I can’t wait to see the new video content. The setting is wonderful, the structure has lovely textures that will add a very pleasing context to your work. I’m slightly gutted this is not in rural Devon making a trip to your new workshop slightly easier.

  6. Paul B

    Congratulations on the purchase! I’m not an expert but have had to do a ton of repairs on our old house in Toronto, so maybe you two will find this useful -I’m guessing that’s a poured concrete floor, right? In Canada we use a product called Dri-Core over damp, uneven basement floors. It’s a layer of dimpled waterproofing membrane stapled to a 2′ square sheet of T&G plywood. If the floor is reasonably flat and more than a couple inches thick, then a thin sheet of rigid styrofoam insulation with roofing plywood over it would be better/cheaper. You can drill through this sandwich into the floor, then drop a short length of plastic coated wire into the hole that gives the screw something to grab onto (use anti corrosion decking screws). I have the Dri-Core in my basement shop an find it really saves wear and tear on the joints.

    • Richard

      Thanks Paul, that sounds like a very interesting approach. I’m certainly keen to get the floor right in here as I’ve spent far too many winters stood all day on damp concrete. A well insulated floor is going to be a nice luxury! The floor will be one of the first things to consider so we’ll have some more info on it soon.

  7. Will Sirett

    Living the dream and I can’t wait to watch/read online your progress.

  8. Jonathan

    Nice bit of elm left in those cattle mangers?

    • Richard

      They appear to be mix maybe elm with some softwood, I’ll have to plane a bit back to be sure.

  9. Paul Chapman

    That looks like it will make a fabulous workshop – look forward to seeing it progress.

  10. Lynn Bradford

    How exciting! And what character those buildings have. If only those walls could talk! I think a video of your tool kit build is in order, especially if you restore the tools. I enjoy doing that myself.
    Congrats on the acquisition and best wishes!

  11. Marty Backe

    What’s kind of ironic is that you don’t need power in your new workshop because it’s a handtool workshop. But since you’ll be shooting videos there, you will need power for the camera/lighting equipment. Kind of a bummer.

    • Richard

      Ironic was precisely the word that Helen used. It adds to it that I need 60 bloody metres of armoured cable to get to it!

  12. Mr Ronald Carl Dennis

    Here is wishing you well on your forth coming transformations. The bench build is of interest, but the logic behind your decisions would be great fodder for the blog.

    Of particular interest is your decisions on bench placement, selection of tools, their placement, and related choices.

    I believe that this line of reasoning would be most useful to your reader base and provide the most insight from your years in the craft.

  13. Dave

    Looks like a fine place to set up shop. I’m looking fwd to your posts as to how and why your doing such and such… best of luck and have fun, along with the work

  14. robert putman

    richard and helen, this is all to exciting, and i cant believe how wonderful this new compound is going to be, its so perfect for your business and personal lives, i didn’t realize that the buildings were brick, and now seeing these pictures, how grand, i think you should leave the plant growing in the window, you could have some scenes that have that jungle look…lol…will you be moving into the house that is there, , cant wait to see the first video, this is just grand, wish i was over that way, would love to lend a hand on the fix ups…how fun it will be…..bob

  15. robert putman

    can you post some pictures of the place, there seems to be so much to see there, is the house kind of away from the rest yours also…i’m really excited for you guys…maybe you should have a moving in party…ill bring some beans and fresh bread…yea…..:)..i guess i would have to fly across the pond though…dang..

    • Richard

      Beans and fresh bread sounds good to me! The house in the top right is a neighbouring property and theres a narrow road running between us. We’ll be aiming to make a quick tour of the site soon on video to give a better feel for things.

  16. Matt

    Love what you are doing. I have just bought an 1870’s farmhouse and will be starting my workshop refurb too. Looking forward to watching an experts new place unfold. Good luck.

  17. Cormac Dooley

    I’m a civil/structural engineer with a lot of arcitectural experience and I’d love to help with the project in any way I can. If you need any help I’d be delighted (for free). The buildings scream possibilities. Take ye’re time and let them tell ye what they should be. I’m excited for ye at this stage. Such a passionate and beautiful project. Feel free to make contact.

    • Barry

      What a kind offer. Restores faith in folks.

    • Richard

      Cormac, that is an incredibly kind gesture and we’re very much taken back by this and everyone else’s support. Thank you

  18. Craig

    Looking forward to the seeing the new videos in the new space.


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