My hands have always provided for my needs and the needs of my family. I think most people like myself are happy to work this way and there are few smells like the smell of lumber that evoke a passage of time when we were infused with something bigger than ourselves.
Woodworking has given me a balance I strive for in the everyday of life. Balance is as critical to my wellbeing as the food I eat and the air I breath. WIthout balance in the way I work and the things I do I can soon feel quite lost.
I am often criticised for my stand in encouraging people to work with their hands more. My belief that skill can be for everyone seems to annoy the machinists in the world of working wood, yet I have never said that there was anything wrong with machines except when manufacturers, magazines and educators present the machine as an evolutionary advancement that bettered hand skills and methods. They have said and done that for five decades to my knowledge and that is where the rubber hits the road for me. I think that magazines in some measure attempt to address some of this with articles on hand tool techniques and so on, but they are, whether they say they are or not, controlled by their advertisers and their advertisers are powerfully mass makers of machines. They are the TV promoters that have the biggest clout and even that is quite fine with me. In fact, it’s nothing to do with me. They must sell what they mass-make. That’s what their business is all about; selling machines and related equipment. It’s when I see a world filled with frustrated woodworker who thought that they could accomplish with machines what we can do by hand more quickly and efficiently that I fee it’s time to say that this or that is not true.
Woodworking for me is about working the wood. If I feed a board through a machine, the end result is perhaps a parallel board or billet with squared edges to boot. The surfaces are never finished well enough for all aspects of my work and if I have one drawer to make or ten I personally would never use a router to make each joint. To me it seems quite, well, primitive. No matter how you slice it a machine cut dovetail looks like a machine did it. Hand cuts, even though equally perfect, look hand cut. People don’t come to me because I am efficient and have the machines to get the job done yesterday. They come to me because they want something made by hand. I use machines on the work, most of the time to dimension my wood, but I still prefer to hand cut my joints, plane and scrape every surface, layout every project full size on a big board and everything else by hand. It’s dead simple; my life I mean.
Finding the balance is the answer to fulfilment. That’s my thought for the day. There is something about being rooted and grounded with a thorough working knowledge of both machines and hand tools. You can learn enough about machine woodworking in a few days. mastering skills can go on all the way through your life. Depends on what you want.
When I sign my work, I want to know that it was made to the best of my ability and that the finished work reflects integrity