Manchester’s Revolutionary Heart

Touching down in Manchester, England has always had a special place in my heart, I think because I was born just 6 miles from there, but also because it’s the epicentre resulting in a revolution that captured the world.

My interests in industry parallels the progressive developments surrounding wood and its workings, so here I am in my fifth decade of making stuff from wood and I realise how little I really know. I do realise that the substance of working its fibres everyday in some great or small measure has been pivotal to my working knowledge so that I can understand through a more relational approach. There is no doubt that this one aspect demands a connection you can never get in any other way of working with wood or reading about it only. I recall those early days as a boy when a man took me aside to show me saws and saw sharpening. After that ten-minute session I thought I knew it all, but there are ways we sharpen saws for rosewood that we would not use for pine, spruce or balsa wood. When I was fifty I learned additional things as a result of the doing of it. In many ways it was the only revelatory way anyone could learn.

Every task for a new woodworker should be an exciting adventure into uncharted waters; full of surprises of every kind. There are experiments to do and tools to test out and compare. I don’t think that I would always listen to magazine gurus and forum debates and neither would I altogether dismiss what they say either. The reason I just posted on the #151 is that four years ago one such writer squarely stated that, “the #151 never really worked that well.” He was answering a question from a new woodworker. There are a zillion reasons that any tool may not be working well, but only experience in overcoming problems can resolve issues knowledgeably and quickly. The answer he gave would cause anyone to simply give in. I think that it’s important to do a little digging. If tools designed in the past were so bad then why did they use them for a century or more. If you used a well set and sharpened wooden jack or jointer plane on the right wood you would be shocked at the performance you would get, but the feel you would get would most likely blow your mind.

Dig deep into the history of woodworking and discover an area for yourself. Just take moulding planes alone. You my find yourself in spheres you never dreamed of. When I bought my first Joseph Marples handled plough plane and set that to work on a piece of 2 x 4 stud I was stunned. I ran a 3/8” X 1/2” deep channel 5 feet long in ten strokes without breaking out in a sweat. I reach for that plane whenever I have grooves to run and much prefer it to any table saw for many of my ploughing tasks.

Happy adventures!

1 Comment

  1. Jacob Butler on 24 January 2012 at 11:02 pm

    Manchester? Nay lad, Arkwright built is fost mill just darnt t’hill from mey, at Cromford.
    First steam engine in a factory, at Wirksworth, even nearer.
    Derwent Valley, Derbyshire, is where it all kicked off.