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Thread: Neander Interview: Leif Hanson

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Plano, TX

    Neander Interview: Leif Hanson

    1. Name (and nick names)
    Leif Hanson

    2. Age/DOB

    3. Location (present and previous):
    I grew up in rural North Dakota, and have lived the last dozen years or so in North Idaho.

    4. Tell us about your family:
    Sandy and I have been married for 7 wonderful years. She has three children from a previous marriage, all grown and out of the house. My mother passed away just before Thanksgiving, so dad is now living with us.

    5. How do you earn a living, woodworking or other, any interesting previous occupations.
    Until recently I was employed as an architect with a local firm until dad needed my help - so I've started my own business so I can stay at home with him, but because it all happened so fast, I really haven't had much of a chance to get it off the ground yet. I'm still doing some freelance work as an architect.
    I grew up working in the family business, which was a small town lumberyard/hardware store, where I also did a fair amount of residential design work. I spent a good part of my twenties living large and riding a motorcycle around the country, and worked my way through college as a finish carpenter in the west-central lakes region of Minnesota. I graduated with degrees in architecture and in fine art.

    6. Equipment overview (hand tools and other):
    One look at my tools would show I'm no collector - most have been gathered over the last 20 years as they were needed, and none are what I would consider highly valuable - though all (or at least most!) are of good quality. I have the standard array of both power and hand tools, though I do confess to having a bit of a thing for hand tools, hand saws in particular. I recently restored an old Foley Filer that I think is a pretty neat tool... What a Rube Goldberg device those are!

    7. Describe your shop:
    Right now, my shop is a 12 x 24 single car garage stuffed to the gills. I'm hoping to build something larger in the next couple years if I can somehow afford it, but who knows?

    8. Tell us about the hand planes you own, and your favorite one(s) to use:
    I have the standard assortment of Stanley Bailey type planes, block planes, spokeshaves, router planes, several shop made wooden planes, and a couple dozen old molding planes that were made by the Sandusky Tool Co.. I can't say there are too many favorites, but I do enjoy using the old molding planes when I can. I also enjoy using my old Stanley 45 on occasion.

    9. You favorite chisels:
    I have an old 1/8" Buck Bros. chisel and some no-name 1/2" chisel that I've thinned down to get into tight areas that I am always reaching for. Past that, I've got an old paring chisel stamped "Rich-Con" (or something similar) that I love to use. I really love the length and balance of that old chisel.

    10. Your favorite handsaw(s):
    I have this old 10" "Warranted Superior" backsaw that must be close to 100 years old that I've owned for many years that has been my favorite for a long time. Its handle is a bit of a club, though - so I don't use it as much now that it's not the only one I own.

    11. Do you use western tools or Japanese, why do you prefer the ones you use:
    Western tools, mostly - because that's what I was trained on, and that's what I'm used to. There are good tools in both camps, however.

    12. Do you have a woodworking home page:

    13. Do you have any influences in your work? Certain styles or designers you follow/prefer:
    I can't say I follow any one style. I love traditional, modern, post-modern - I could name all the different movements off, but so long as there is good design and it's well done, I'm a fan. Last week I was marveling over a particularly well-crafted Queen Anne style highboy, and this week I found myself perusing David Finck's web site and found his work quite inspiring. As someone recently remarked to me, I'm always amazed (and humbled) at how much more there is to learn.

    14. Do you have any ancestors who were woodworkers that served as inspiration?
    My dad, obviously. I grew up in his shop, tearing apart and putting together hot rods and Harley Davidsons, and of course doing woodworking. He learned from his grandfather, who started as a blacksmith and wheelwright, who later built houses and furniture. Another great grandfather of mine was well known for his lathe work, building furniture such as baby cribs and spinning wheels, all done on a treadle lathe, even after he lost a leg after hitting his foot with an adze while hewing some birch.

    15. What is your favorite neander project, or part of a project, you have ever done and why:
    I've got to say that making handsaws and other hand tools is a lot of fun. That's a task I took on for my own benefit a couple of years ago to teach myself more about the craft, and get more tools for myself at the same time! I also enjoy carving - any carving - even though I'm not all that good at it, it's usually one of the most fun parts of any project. I think it's working the wood directly with chisels and gouges that does it for me.

    16. Do you believe there is any spiritual dimension to woodworking with hand tools:
    Spirituality, devotion, that sort of commitment or experience - that's something that can be said of any craft - it's the point where the craft becomes art, at least for me. Imbuing one's individuality on the wood is the goal, and it's what separates the good from the great... something sorely missing from most machine made pieces. Not saying that it can't be done, but it's less likely to happen - you are more likely to impart the soul of the machine onto the wood rather than the hand of the artist.
    Hand tools allow you to truly experience the wood you are working, and forces you to work in harmony with it - something I think is very important, and an aspect of woodworking often lost when working only with machines. They will most often find any one board's individuality a nuisance rather than an opportunity.

    17. How much of your work is done by hand tools. Do you use whatever is best for the job or do you use hand tools even when they are less efficient:
    Most of the prep work I do with power tools - ripping lumber by hand is a repetitive, laborious task, something machines are particularly suited for, for example. I still use power tools all of the time, when the task calls for it, and I'm certainly not ashamed to say that - but I find it way too easy to screw up with power tools (and I'm truly accomplished at that!), whereas I seem both more patient and more successful when I use hand tools, so they get the call more often than not. For me, there is a balance between them.

    18. What is your single most favorite tool, and why.
    I don't think I have a favorite past the one I have in my hand. Each tool has their use, and when you find any good tools' sweet spot, it all seems to come together. I do confess to having a certain fondness for tools that have been handed down to me from previous generations of woodworkers in my own family, though.

  2. Thanks Leif!

    Your example in teaching others has been an inspiration to me. There's not too many secrets, just people who don't wish to share. You are above that and that motivates me to do the same.

    What is most impressive, though, is the devotion to family. My hat is off to you and wish you and yours the very best.

    Take care, Mike

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Grand Marais, MN. A transplant from Minneapolis
    Inspiring, Thanks Leif
    Live Like You Mean It.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Etobicoke, Ontario
    I'm honored to share a little cyberspace with ya Leif!!!

    I appreciate all your efforts in trying to teach us rookies how "easy" it is to make our own tools!!! I look forward to every one of your new web updates...keep them coming. One of these days, I'll make a saw...and failing that, I'll add my name to your extensive waiting list!
    Louis Bois
    "and so it goes..." Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Laguna Beach , Ca.
    Lief is a great woodworker and has the spirit of the craft. He loves to make saws amd beautiful ones! It is great to know more about you and your aproach...we have great depth here at SMC and Lief is a great example!
    "All great work starts with love .... then it is no longer work"

  6. #6
    Nice interview, and you make some wonderful looking saws. Can't wait til the day I get to sample one. Keep up the good work.
    "When we build, let us think that we build forever." - Ruskin

  7. #7
    Hi Lief and thanks for sharing your personal side with us. I feel like I know you as I have read so many of your posts both here and at another forum. You are so generous in sharing your vast knowledge with all of us. I'll never forget the time I posted a question here about which 6-7 saws would be best to have in a neander shop and I got a reply from you. It was like meeting and talking with a celebrity and I can't tell you how close I followed that advice in the days that followed in seeking out the saws that fit the bill.

    Again, thanks for sharing this interview as well as all else that you do.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Philadelphia, Pa
    I have always admired your work on hand tools. North Dakota, huh? Having spent much of my youth in South Dakota, I am sure we could talk about the cold till we were both blue in the face.
    Alan Turner
    Philadelphia Furniture Workshop

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Plano, TX
    Leif, thanks for your interview. I have always admired your skill with many of the hand tools. Several pages of your website are book marked on my computer for reference.

  10. #10
    Well, thank you all for the kind comments, and to Zahid and SMC for giving me the opportunity for the interview and to participate in such a wonderful forum! I feel I'm hardly worthy of the time... The people here are of the highest caliber, and the breadth of knowledge and passion for woodworking demonstrated here is amongst the finest I have had the privilege of encountering. Places like SMC are such a great resource for anyone looking for knowledge in the craft.

    As for my "teaching" - I just try to pass on what I know (which really isn't all that much!), and find that in doing so I learn as much or more about the process as anything, so find it a good way to learn myself. I'm just glad that others have found it useful,too.

    Oh - and a big hello to Dan Forman, whom I had the pleasure of meeting Saturday... He stopped by and I found myself gabbing away with him for a good long while. I had a good time visiting with him, and after he showed off his new infill plane to me, I let him go after at a knotty old piece of walnut with one of my old planes:

    Thanks for stopping by, Dan! And thanks again to SMC for the opportunity.

    Last edited by Leif Hanson; 02-28-2006 at 1:02 AM.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Spokane, Washington
    Ja, I met the famed Norseman this weekend, and had a grand time, hope he can say the same. He showed me around the shop, explained how this and that worked (his new forge, the saw sharpening machine), and we took out a few of the molding planes to play around with, which was a totally new experience for me. I brought out a few recently acquired transitional planes that had been giving me problems. Leif correctly diagnosed the difficulty (ill fitting levercaps), and set me straight on what could be expected in terms of precision of setup. After arriving home, I finished flattening the levercaps on a belt sander, and both planes are now capable of taking light, fluffy shavings, and ejecting them with minimal clogging of the throat.

    As to that "new infill", don't be thinking Anderson or Sauer, it's an old craftsman made panel plane with a bun that intrudes into the throat to the degree that it's difficult to clear the frequent shaving jams. We talked about modifying the bun a bit to allow more room for shavings to escape, and for manual clearance in case of a jam. Interestingly enough, I had a go with it last night and it performed better than it ever has, with little or no clogging, though as yet I haven't done any work on it. Maybe it learned something from all of those other old planes of Leif's, or maybe it's just a placebo effect

    I found Leif to be very generous in giving his time and knowledge to this reletively inexperienced woodworker, and wish him all the best in his new business venture.

    Last edited by Dan Forman; 02-28-2006 at 5:00 AM.
    Eternity is an awfully long time, especially toward the end.

    -Woody Allen-

    Critiques on works posted are always welcome

  12. #12
    You got to visit the Norseman, most excellent. Leif has always been one of the nicest people willing to share his knowledge with the woodworking community.

    So Dan, come on, fess up!

    Did you get to smuggle any saws back from Idaho? I'm curious what Leif comes up with this time around, he seems to finally be interested in making some saws again.

    It's sure good to see choice on new western style saws, it's like a re-vitalization. It seems to prove that people are willing to buy nice western style saws.

    Can't help but put a pic of Leif's handles here, I've always admired these Goncalo Alves handles.

    Life is about what your doing today, not what you did yesterday! Seize the day before it sneaks up and seizes you!

    Alan -

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Columbia, SC
    Lief, thanks you for the interview. I guess I know you most for your toolmaking. I admire your work very much. I light up every time I see one of your posts on this and other boards because I always know I'll learn something from it. Thanks for the inspiration you have given me and many others.

  14. #14
    Hi Leif!! Great interview!! Inspiring!

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Hutchinson, MN
    you sound like an ndsu boy, where did you live in ND? I grew up in eastern nd, but lived in bismarck for 20 years. just curious. those of us who lived in nd always have the expectation we could know each other or have acquaintances in common since so there are so few.

    btw, I've learned a lot from your site. the saws in particular are an inspiration for me.


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