Someone asked me the question why use a chisel followed by a spokeshave to shape and shave wood when the bandsaw is so efficient? I am asked questions like this all the time and sometimes I want to, well, just walk away from the question and the questioner because I think that they most likely will not be open to my reasons as they have a made up mind that machines are exactly what’s needed for the task. How do you explain that you are not in the same hurry mode they are to get the job done? Or perhaps that you actually like a workout to the point that your muscles ache with fulfilment at the end of a good day’s workout rather than going to Gold’s Gym? How do you tell them that shavings ripple in the sunlight and you still love seeing them piled around your feet at the end of any given day, or that you like looking inside the massive pores of a white oak section of wood you just shaved with the spokeshave?
I think it’s true to say that 99% of today’s woodworkers have never known such things. It’s as if we have lost whole generations between the 1960s and today that have never actually worked wood but machines, and so they really do not see the things I speak of. It is hard for me to conceive that someone using an Arbortech carver and a Bosch angle grinder to carve a Windsor chair seat can ever feel that they are carving a sculpted chair. In fact, that’s ridiculous. So too the chainsaw carver sculpting a bear from a tree stump. All that has happened is they have abandoned skill development for power equipment that creates a very raw and rough substitute we might once have called a rough-out. Lazy carving really. Anyway, old fashioned though it may be, I still think that the chips are as important as the sculpting. Chainsaw chips and bandsaw dust don’t quite slice it for me. I never look at the jointer and planer shavings swirling around the dust collector and think, “My, how lovely they look!”
I still enjoy my spokeshave filled with shavings and my scraper defining my work. I like the bevel-down method for chopping coves and hearing the sound of the chisel hammer as the wood splits and separates at my bidding. I like taming the raw, shaping the wild and being creative in my workspace. If someone asked me these things, this is what I would tell them. In the world of creativity, I see that woodworking has been delivered the greatest blow of all. Dumbed down to the rotary cut, I find little more than chips and chunks and great amounts of dust swirling and twisting with every spinning wheel. Twenty years ago a man walking onto the job-site with a 12 volt screw gun was seen as progressive and ruggedly developed. He was after all a true power man. That same man would be laughed off the job today. More torque means real and rugged men. Torx bits and self-drilling woods screws mean even more power for the professional woodworker. Is life easier? I am not really sure. I know it’s much faster than it was. Does that matter more?
Now don’t get me wrong, there is a place for machines and screw guns, I am only asking the questions we should be asking here and perhaps answering the question with my questions.