Imagine if you will a man gifted with his hands and having no ability to design. What piques your sphere of creativity as you work? Is it the wood or your workspace, the influence of other designs or perhaps the tools you use?
I picked up a copy of Fine Woodworking recently. I laughed at the cover and was then saddened by the creativity of a man that would spend half a day making jigs for machines to cut dovetails that could have been completed by hand in no more than an hour. It’s nothing to do with me how people work wood, or work machines that work wood instead of them, but how does that relate to working wood? My thoughts seem not to match those of others. Most say the bandsaw method is the smart way. They go on, “Surely if it makes the task easier that is a good move.” My question is this. If jigs make steady your hand and fully guide the work to task, how is that you making a dovetail? Just thoughts really.
Another issue was the cover title. “Half-blind dovetails in half the time.” What was the time halved? No one gave a time it takes to cut such a half blind dovetail so how was the time halved? I can pretty much guarantee that using the methods used with the bandsaw and router it didn’t actually save any time at all and it more likely doubled it. Question statements like these. Question the invasion of creativity. Is there any real value to this or is it just another gimmicky substitute for craftsmanship. Perhaps it’s just selling the magazine that matters, but don’t let the statement determine the response. It certainly made no difference to the cutting efficiency or the accuracy. It’s simply, well, interesting.
I think that the prize goes to the man that invented this uniquely designed machine and then made it. The first bandsaw was invented by an Englishman named William Newberry in 1808 and in him lay the art. Xeroxing a copy of a smiling woman doesn’t make you Leonardo Da Vinci, so neither does a routed or half routed dovetail mean you cut the dovetail. Why would anyone cut by bandsaw something that could be so much more easily cut by hand and why remove the waste wood and risk the slip with the router when the chisel does it so much more cleanly without having to wear dust masks and ear protection and then clean up the shop for half an hour. Seriously. When you turn a bandsaw on; just turn it on, it pumps dust into the atmosphere you live in for at least an hour on the first revolution and that’s without making a cut. You then breath that dust. What do you do when you complete cutting on the bandsaw? Do you keep your mask on for an hour afterwards, or are you like me and you can’t wait to take it off? Just thoughts really. I use a bandsaw, I think it’s a true work saver, but I use it for serious work. I question when I turn it on, to check myself.
That said, the bandsaw for me takes out much of the donkey work in many manual tasks. Where you draw the line makes all the difference and when the machine substitutes for skill I feel somehow that I cross over some kind of line. Now that’s me and not everyone should feel the way I do.
Jonathan Binzen and creative writing that supports creative and aspirational work
I continued to read the whole issue of Fine Woodworking and saw designs that truly inspire. Few magazines accomplish that, but Fine Woodworking does so every time for me. Jonathan Binzen was once senior editor with Fine woodworking and usually, if not always, has the back page of the magazine these days. Jonathan captures the creative sphere of of other creative woodworkers with his articles. He writes with understanding the heart of the one who makes what he giftedly writes about. He captures atmosphere and mood, shapes the texture of life being lived through working people trying to make their living from the passion they have for wood and tools and designing. I’d like to talk to Jonathan one day. I think we’d have a lot in common about wood. Perhaps one day it’ll work out.