Dave Jeske of Blue Spruce Toolworks
The Hock Tools Newsletter
from Issue #4/2013
Dave Jeske Talks about Chisels
in Port Townsend, Washington.
for his chisels and other gorgeous, precision woodworking handtools, he is known
as a consummate woodworker’s toolmaker. Dave’s research and knowledge,
humble dedication to the learning of his trade, as well as his reverence for the
history of woodworking and those tools necessary to the craft, make him a mighty
worthy toolmaker. Below, Dave speaks to us about his transition from being a
virtual woodworker to a producing woodworker on his way to becoming a
Dave and Blue Spruce Toolworks at a
Lie-Nielsen Handtool Event in
My journey into woodworking and hand tools began about ten years
ago. Before that I had been a virtual woodworker, faithfully watching Portland, Oregon.
Norm Abrams as he seemingly created masterpieces in mere minutes. His arsenal of tools was
impressive by anyone’s measure. Then there was that other show with an eccentric Roy Underhill who
expended vast amounts of energy using antiquated tools to produce objects that were functional, and
beautiful in their own handcrafted way. But I was an engineer and in my mind, precision came from
machines. So I bought a table saw and a router. I was now a woodworker. I could rip, and cross cut and
dado and……my work looked boring. I obviously needed more tools!
However, as I decided on the tool budget and looked at my available working space, questions began to
flood my mind. How did craftsmen of the previous centuries, before power tools were even conceived,
create such incredible works of art? I determined to learn and started reading. I found some on-line
communities that lived and breathed the virtues of hand tools in woodworking. I asked a ton of
questions and learned even more. I was still in the virtual
Dave's 1st
world but that was about to change. I wanted to make a
coming out of
hanging wall cabinet with a dovetailed carcass,
the virtual &
handmade divided sash for the door and beaded back
into the real
world. “Even
though the wall
cabinet was not
show-worthy it
turned out well
Page 2
A little progression of Dave's 1st Cabinet, from dovetails, to setting up the making of the door, to the door frame
being realized. It all begins somewhere: the plan and the execution. “I planned out the project and dove in.”
I planned out the project and dove in.
I wanted to use all hand tools. I didn’t own very many, so I decided to make what I could because it
was a challenge. I would scrounge the rest later. I needed to mark out dovetails, so the first tool I made
was a marking knife.
Dave's original
marking knives.
I also made some rather crude but usable dovetail chisels to chop out the dovetails. On the internet I
bought two refurbished saws dating back to the late 1800’s. I could not believe I was actually spending
nearly $100 for two old “hand” saws. However, when they were delivered to my doorstep and I opened
the box, my life began to change yet again. Here were beautifully crafted tools over 100 years old that
had been used for generations and were as good or better than anything I could buy new. The well worn
handles fit my hand as though they were made just for me; I couldn’t put them down. What was their
story? What had they made? Who had used them?
And then things begin to really happen in the real world, like using chisels with confidence, dovetails and
Page 3
About the same time I also discovered eBay and my eyes were opened to the world of antique tools.
After much searching, I found a beautiful ovolo molding plane made by Maddox of England dating
from the time of the American Revolution. It would make my sash. A 1/8” beading plane would
decorate the back panels. My only hand plane was a garage sale find, a Stanley #4c Type 11. I found a
dilapidated but restorable infill shoulder plane and I also bought a handful of miscellaneous chisels
from companies such as James Swan, Witherby, Buck Bros., and Butcher. I soon knew more about
antique hand tools than I did about woodworking. It was time to put them all to use. I sharpened
everything as best as I knew how (sure wish Ron’s book had been available!) and once again dove in.
Sometimes people have a tendency to fret and muse far too much over things. “Make a plan, make it
happen” was my pep talk to get me going. I practiced each step on scrap wood first and then on the real
piece. I was learning about the tools and how they interacted with
wood. What worked and what didn’t. How the tools felt in my
hand. I learned what they could accomplish and what my
limitations were. Even though the wall cabinet was not showworthy it turned out well enough.
Miter work. “I practiced each step on
scrap wood first and then on the real
piece. I was learning about the tools
and how they interacted with wood.
What worked and what didn't...”
A Game Box
Detail view: Hope Chest
The experience was the turning point in my woodworking hobby, and planted the seeds for starting
Blue Spruce Toolworks. I wanted to revive quality hand tools that were both beautiful to look at and
to hold, but were also premium performers. I wanted to make tools to enable woodworkers to do their
finest work. I wanted to make tools that craftsmen would pass down to the next generation as
something special. Someday someone may ask, “What was its story? What had it made?
Who had used it?”
Page 4
Eye candy for woodworkers and
toolmakers alike. The toolmaker
at Blue Spruce Toolworks has
definitely transitioned from the
virtual world to a very real
How did I actually start Blue Spruce Toolworks?
Well, that is a story for another day.
Thank you, Dave Jeske!
Thank You for Selecting Hock Tools ■ 31 Years of Excellence
HOCKTOOLS.com ■ The Sharpening Blog ■ @hocktools ■ [email protected]