Thoughts for today

I think that real woodworking is to work wood by hand and not machine. I say this because the energy I use and the thought processes I use for hand work are so very radically different than those I use for machines. I am no novice in either camp. I have used them both in equal measure for 47 years. Both have their place, but woodworking with machines was not  a progressive advancement that bettered what existed but simply a way of mass making and or lightening the burden of otherwise extremely heavy work. Engaging our senses to work the wood and the response we make to those senses is to enter a world no machine-use only woodworker can enter. A machine only woodworker cannot transfer the sensing of hand-tool use to machine woodworking because one, he doesn’t have the skills and two, they are not interchangeable; both are diametrically in opposition.



This comment, no matter how true, can be highly conflicting but I in no way want to do that. I simply want to help those who rely on one camp only to investigate the other and find the balance between the two. I have set certain limits in my own walk and use machines for somewhere around 5% of my working time. This may vary and may well depend on time constraints. I would rather spend a little more hand time on my work than fill the workshop with noise and dust.But more than that, I want the engagement with my raw wood that I find only possible with hand tools. In this I discover identity, fibre, substance and beauty. Exploring the sub tissues with a 1/2″ chisel or planing the surfaces brings change stroke by stroke. With a mortise machine or a planer, I see none of this. I feed the hole at one end and the wood comes out at the other.


Smell from friction between the plane sole and the surface of the wood is different than breathing dust. Until you’ve riven a two-foot diameter oak log with a sledge and three or four wedges you will never know the smell of it or know how the fibres and cells cling to one another along the riven gap. These are things we workers of wood remember as we draw the mortise and tenon together in the final throws of our work. Who can know such things in this day. Who will restore such things to dwell upon as we do.