Clint Harp Shares His Favorite Woodworking Tips and Tools
The former Fixer Upper star has been busy since his time on the show. Find out which of his projects helped launch Harp Design Co., plus his carpentry advice for beginners.
Fans of Fixer Upper know and love Chip and Joanna’s trusty handyman Clint Harp. Since his days on the show, his life has certainly calmed down, but it’s anything but boring. His company, Harp Design Co., which he co-owns with his wife, delivers handcrafted furniture and products across the country. He has also found time to write a book and star in a DIY Network show. Bottom line: This man works hard.
Despite balancing the roles of business owner, author, and TV star, it's clear his love for his craft remains. And why wouldn't it? In the clip above, Clint fondly remembers literally dancing on a table to give it that worn-in, well-loved look. We caught up with Clint to learn the latest woodworking trends and tips, plus gain insight into the project that launched his career.
What is a good starter project for a beginner woodworker?
“Simple, simple, simple. Don’t start by trying to make a canoe—you’ll frustrate yourself. Literally make a box. Make a planter for your backyard or a square mailbox. Just something that is so simple, you can’t screw it up.
One of my first projects was a table. And it was very simple—square legs, a top, and a skirt. It didn’t bog my mind down with a ton of details. It allowed me to expand on a very easy idea, and then you can go from there.”
Related: How to Make a Farmhouse Table
What are the five tools you must have in your shop?
1. Lathe: Number one is my lathe. That allows me to turn table legs and candlesticks. I think that the lathe is the piano of woodworking. The lathe allows you to do so much more—table legs, candlesticks, bowls, you name it.
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2. Table saw: A table saw is a must-have. You’ve got to have a table saw.
3. Chisel: Really, really sharp chisels are so important. That’s really where all the fine work is done, so that’s super important.
4. Hand planers: I love a really good hand planer. It’s good for cleaning up work and just a great tool for a lot of different things. There’s something very satisfying about planing something by hand every once in a while. It feels good to really get yourself into the work.
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5. Hammer: A really solid hammer. Keep it simple. A hammer is something you always take with you—a go-to hammer or mallet is always nice to have.”
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Are there any woodworking trends we should look out for?
“No pun intended, but handcrafted [the name of his book]. People are realizing, 'I can make something, I can do this, and I don’t have to buy it from a big box store.' There are a lot of people that are getting back to their roots. They’re tapping into this creativity that I believe has been there all along. We’re seeing it come out and it’s really great.
Another thing I’m seeing is a singular focus for craft people. For me, I love building tables. I can do it over and over and over again. It’s just what I like. All the other stuff is great, but I’ll let someone else build the chairs and someone else build the beds.”
What single project are you most proud of?
“Aside from my marriage with my wife and my kids—because those are ongoing projects that you’re constantly working on—I think it would probably be the first table that I made, that we still have to this day.
I made a table and an armoire for my wife. Those are the things that I showed my grandfather with a couple pictures that I had of them. He ended up sending me $1,250 to go and buy real tools so I can make more furniture because I wanted to ultimately do it for a living. Those tools that I bought with that money are the same tools that I built Harp Design Co with. It all started because of those pieces.”
Speaking of your family, when do you and Kelly collaborate professionally?
“We’re both 50% owners of Harp Design Co. There’s a bunch of products in there that she’s completely curated herself. She’s worked with artisans, whether they be local or somewhere else in the country. Our storefront in Waco, that’s all her. I helped build it out, and I make the furniture, the cutting boards, and all the other stuff that fills the shop; but the rest of the shop is all her.
So my wife and I are constantly working together on stuff. And sometimes that goes well, and sometimes it’s difficult. It’s difficult to make decisions with people who aren’t your partner in life too. I’ve learned a lot about myself in the process. I’ve learned to let go. It makes it more enjoyable when we come together on a design decision."
Do you have any advice for spouses working together?
“Turn it off. And be really strict about that. There will be plenty of times when it will bleed over into your life. Make sure you turn it off and never ever lose the ability to laugh at yourself and to laugh at whatever is going on.
If you begin to take it too seriously, then it really can just beat each other up. If you can keep it fun and you can compartmentalize it, great, but if it takes over your whole life and wellbeing, then it’s not worth it. But you can do it without all those things happening. We are proof of that, I think, and we work hard at it.”
Have you kept in touch with Chip and Joanna since the show ended?
“Oh, I definitely keep in touch with them. Chip’s on the back of my book, so obviously we corresponded about that. I built a table for their restaurant a few months ago. It’s definitely not to the level it was when Fixer Upper was going on. It’s like we’re all taking a breath now that that’s over. We still keep in touch.”