The Woodworker Sessions Series is all about South African woodworkers sharing our craft and learning from each other. Our techniques, shortcuts, mistakes and triumphs all combine to grow our common passion - working with wood. I am always looking for interesting, intriguing and dedicated woodworkers to interview. If you are, or you know of a woodworker who fits the above bill, I would love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org
You are also most welcome to call me at 082-532-9661 or 021-705-1247 ext 313
Please offer your comments on The Woodworker Sessions in the comments section below each interview.
I have known Pierre for a good number of years. He truly epitomises the passion of the hand tool woodworker in every facet of his craft. Pierre pays immense attention to sharpening, honing and setting up his tools to perfection, allowing him to practise his craft with ease and fluidity.
Pierre Hansen is a true gentleman, humble, talented and immensely creative. Thankfully, he is also always willing to share his extensive knowledge and talent with anyone who is interested. If you ever get the opportunity to run his Lie-Nielsen No. 7-1/2 Jointer Plane (affectionately called the "Aircraft Carrier"), you will immediately understand his relationship with his tools!
Tobias: How, why and when did you become interested in woodworking?
Pierre: I became interested in building things at a fairly young age. I remember starting with a subject called “handwerk” in standard two at primary school (now grade four - for the younger generation). In these classes, we were taught to make thing with our hands, mostly from wood. We got to use small back saws, coping saws, rasps and files. These were used to cut out forms and to shape wood to make all sorts of things like knives, guns, breadboards etc. Through this, we learned basic skills and how to form wood into functional items.
From the first time I picked up a tool in these classes, I felt like I belonged and it felt natural using the tools. I went through my school years taking woodwork up to matric.
In high school I made a round top Imbuia coffee table with turning work and shaped legs. In matric, I built an Imbuia “riempies” bench with ball and claw cabriole legs. Unfortunately, this was also practically the end of me using mostly the hand tools that I enjoyed so much.
For the next 26 years, I did everything to earn an income working with my hands. It started with being a roof carpenter for a short time to building and fitting kitchens for many years, making cheap line pine furniture, building kids furniture, shopfitting and now building sets for lives events, corporate shows and conferences.
Definitely not the fairytale woodworking life we all aspire to have, but still an extremely informative journey, where I accumulated a wide range of knowledge and know how of industrial machines, semi-industrial machines, power tools and a ton of skills.
Back to my fairytale woodworking life that is a work in progress, I’m afraid.
About three years back, at the age of 40 and suddenly becoming a wise old grey man, I decided I needed to go right back to where it all started for me at age 10. The things that made me fall in love with working in wood all those years ago, were hand tools.
I started buying up old hand planes and saws online and at pawn shops and doing plenty of research online to find suppliers in South Africa that sell high quality traditional woodworking hand tools, especially those that are hard to find second hand or that are beyond repair, if found.
My modified Snap-Off Blade Marking Knife
That was when I came across BPM Toolcraft. Brian Thomas had just started looking into bringing my now loved Lie-Nielsen tools to South Africa. From this point I started accumulating a fair set of quality hand tools. My focus for the last couple of years, when I had the time (very demanding job with very long hours) was to pick up where I left off twenty-three years ago and grow by teaching myself new and better hand tool techniques and skills, that I could use in the fairytale woodworking life that I am trying to create.
Tobias: What aspects of your craft do you find most enjoyable and least enjoyable?
Pierre: From here on, I will try and focus more on my hand tools in answering the questions. Please keep in mind that I do have access to a full workshop with all stationary machines and power tools at my place of work, if needed.
For the most enjoyable part, I love taking just a vague ,spur of a moment idea and over-engineering the hell out of it, conceptualising of all the different ways of building the idea, to drawing a scale model of it in full detail using SketchUp. If the idea survives these steps and I actually get to the building part, it is then when the real fun starts.
I do really enjoy the whole process of the craft from hand selecting a piece of raw timber, knocking it down to smaller parts, dimensioning, cutting joinery, assembly, prepping for finishing and finishing. The most enjoyable part being doing it all, using mostly hand tools. I try to do at least fifty percent of the sawing, resawing and dimensioning by hand to practice the necessary skills and become more efficient. All of my joinery, pre-finishing and finishing is done by hand.
Now for the dislike. NOT HAVING ENOUGH TIME TO PLAY WITH MY HAND TOOLS. With retirement on it way, in 22 years, I will have the time!
Tobias: What are your favourite hand tools?
Pierre: Only two of them: LIE-NIELSEN and VERITAS
My absolute favourite workhorses: No. 62 Lie-Nielsen Low Angle Jack Plane. This plane does it all, from dimensioning rough timber to finishing. Open up the mouth, set it for heavy cuts and go to town, all the way to jointing shorter edges to smoothing for a finish!
Then there is my "Aircraft Carrier"! The famous Lie-Nielsen Toolworks No. 7 ½ Low Angle Jointer. When sharp and set up properly, it glides through hard maple like a hot knife through butter and is totally addictive to use!
My other favourites are:
- Veritas Tools Combination Plane
- Self-made Marking Knife
- Narex Butt Chisel Set
- Lie-Nielsen Toolworks N0.102 Block Plane
- Lie-Nielsen Toolworks Scrub Plane
- Veritas Tools Marking Gauges
- Narex Mortise Chisel Set
All my joinery saws:
- Lie-Nielsen Toolworks Tapered Tenon Saw
- Lie-Nielsen Toolworks Tapered Carcass Saw
- Lie-Nielsen Toolworks Tapered Dovetail Saw
- Veritas Tools Saws x 6
Then, a very important set of tools… my sharpening equipment that make the above-mentioned tools a joy to use:
- Japanese Whet Stones
- Dimar Diamond Stones
- Veritas Honing Guide
Wenge & Leather Billfold Wallet
Tobias: What are your favourite power tools and stationary machines?
Pierre: My old Disston Panel Saw does a great job of knocking down timber to more manageable pieces. Then my Lie-Nielsen Scrub Plane will get the bulk of the twist and cup out quickly. From there the No.62 Lie Nielsen Low Angle Jack Plane steals the show.
Followed by tenon saws, carcass saws and dovetail saws. My Lie-Nielsen Low Angle Smoothing Plane comes with a built-in orbital sander, while a Cabinet Scraper deals with difficult grain. None of them are affected by load shedding and all of them run on man-power!
Tobias: What machines, power tools or hand tools could you not do without?
Pierre: Off the top of my head, the following come to mind:
- Lie-Nielsen No. 62 Low Angle Jack Plane
- Lie-Nielsen No. 7-1/2 Low Angle Jointer Plane
- Lie-Nielsen Scrub Plane
- Lie Nielsen No. 102 Block Plane
- Veritas Wheel Style Marking Gauges
- Veritas Router Plane
- Lie-Nielsen Tenon Saw
- Lie-Nielsen Dovetail Saw
- Lie-Nielsen Carcass Saw
- Veritas Combination Plane<
- Lie-Nielsen No.60-1/2 Block plane
- Engineers Squares
- Marking Knife (self Made)
- Lie Nielsen low Angle Smoothing plane
- Narex mortise chisels
- Pfeil bench chisels
- Knew concepts coping saw
Tobias: Do you use a dedicated space for your craft, what floor area do you have and how much time do you manage to spend on woodworking per week?
Pierre: This is where my fairytale woodworking life in progress comes in. I do and I don’t...
I own an apartment “flat”, where I also rent an almost one-car garage. It is shorter than standard: 4.9m by 2.7m. I share the garage with myself (space for home stuff that usually get stashed in the garage). There I can work, when it is not intrusive to other tenants that live above the garage! So, no loud work like chopping out mortises.
At other times, I take some tools to work to get bench time in when we have our quiet season. Now and then, I take some tools to my better half's place to get things done.
My trusty self-made Winding Stick Set
I have even gone so far as to go and play with my tools at BPM Toolcraft on event days!
Starting them young!
This year, my focus is to find a more suitable place where I can practice my craft and build on my woodworking life.
Tobias: What was the first piece you ever made, what is your favourite piece and what is the next piece you wish to build?
Pierre: My first piece that I was very proud of was probably an imbuia coffee table made at age 14. Although not perfect, it was not bad considering using blunt hand tools (unfortunately the norm in schools then). It was good enough to showcase in the school main entrance at the end of that year.
I think my favourite would be the Moxon Vise that I built a few years back. Although not the most challenging project, it was done 95% by hand.
My next is actually something I’m currently working on. It is a white oak tool box for some of my most used hand tools.
Tobias: What are your favourite timbers to work with & which timbers do you avoid?
Pierre: I like most timbers. As long as they are not Pines, plywood`s or MDF then I am happy.
A few favourites that comes to mind: Wenge, Padauk, Hard Maple, White Beech, White Oak and American Black Walnut.
Tobias: What is your standard finishing process for your pieces?
Pierre: It depends entirely on what the piece gets used for, so the finish can be anything from Danish Oil, Linseed Oil, lacquers and a combination of sanding sealer and Wax.
Tobias: If you could add another discipline of woodworking to your arsenal, what would it be?
Pierre: I think that becoming a competent woodcarver would take top spot, followed by woodturning.
I am not picky. All I want is every Lie-Nielsen tool that I do not already own!
I would also like to add the five basic stationary machines at some point:
- Band Saw (if I could have only one machine, this would definitely be the one).
- Thickness Planer
- 10" Cabinet Saw
- Varispeed Lathe
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- Tags: Disston, Hand Tool Woodworking, Hand Tools, Knew Concepts, Lie-Nielsen Toolworks, Pfeil, Shop Made Tools, Suehiro, Veritas Tools