Feed back from various continents

The feedback I received as to whether other countries and indeed continents has their own woodworking magazines is as expected disappointing if not alarming. As expected, the US, Britain and Australia seem to lead in that they have a sufficient array of magazines to keep a modest amount of articles about the art and craft of woodworking alive amidst the excesses of what has been erroneously dubbed power woodworking. Mainland Europe for some reason seems to be the most sadly lacking after Asia as a whole. I think that this is a language issue in that English seems the common language by which woodworkers unite. Many Europeans having their own country language as their first language have no magazine at all. Others have DIY related to home making magazines, which stymie woodworking to the realms of chop, nail and screw rather than really engaging with the art of the craft as we do. That doesn’t mean that there is no one there with the desire, just that there is limited resource for them. Now when I travel to France or Holland, Germany and Belgium, Belgium is my mother’s homeland, I find fascinating methods of working wood that parallel the work of my own country but with diversification. I find horned planes and chisels that are different and moulding planes that are shaped differently too. That means that there is a a culture behind it that defines it and that culture is not being preserved and conserved in the doing of it. It would be inadequate for Belgium or Holland to read only magazines from say the USA and expect that magazine to preserve its country’s culture even though certain methods and techniques cross geographic bounds. There are sizes and proportions, woods and techniques of work pertinent to those cultures and Sweden and Denmark, Poland and Latvia all have differences in their workmanship as diverse as the languages that preserves their unison as a country. To see this distilled onto commonality would leave an aspect of their culture sadly lacking so just what can be done for us to learn of their methods without losing that cultural identity.

Is there an evolving new genre woodworker in each country yet to be born? The amateur taking on the constraints of what was in the craftsmanship of their early masters yet to be rediscovered and practiced even or especially on a non-commercial level? The conservation of craft through people who are discovering their county’s passed on a personal level and a uniting of artisans that can do what people like Robin Wood has done with the HCA? I think so. I still wonder what kind of magazine could unite these many diverse cultures from around the world that work and worked  in wood. Don’t you?

7 Comments

  1. mr Chris on 12 September 2012 at 6:18 pm

    Hi Paul,
    where in Belgium is your mother from?
    As regards woodworking in Belgium and France, I think it is a lifestyle question, the attitudes to manual crafts in both Belgium and France are very different to the attitudes in the Anglo-saxon countries, and thus there is no market for woodworking magazines.
    Another question: a friend a passed on his grand-father’s wooden plane and the blade is very hard and will take a lot of grinding to get it into shape. Is it likely to be worth the effort?
    thanks again for all your blogs.

    • Paul Sellers on 12 September 2012 at 6:52 pm

      Hello Mr Chris,
      My mother is from Ghent, which is where I spent many happy times.
      Let me think about the plane question. I will get back to you.

  2. Paul Sellers on 14 September 2012 at 4:03 am

    I am saddened by that true reflection, but I know without good teachers the schools are not where it is at. There are good teachers that have sparked a love for working wood without even saying anything. My first woodworking teacher influenced me. He verbally told me not to become a woodworker, but his life and skill working wood told me I must. I followed his unspoken advice. That was fifty years ago. No regrets.

  3. Paul Sellers on 14 September 2012 at 4:15 am

    We in the US and Britain often hear of German-made tools in favourable terms and so too its efforts to apprentice yet I have seen a decline in what once came from its manufacturers and training traditions. That’s the same for British makers and trainers too. I hope that it’s not too late to see this turn. Some Canadian, American and British makers hold their own when it comes to quality.

    I hope one day we will see a new strategy emerge from a genre committed to understand what working wood is really all about, don’t you?

    • J Guengerich on 14 September 2012 at 5:21 am

      This is one area where I am going to not consider ebay. I have this desire to help a few of the companies that make affordable hand tools.
      Lee Valley sells this drill that I believe is made in Germany, where my ancestors hail from; http://www.leevalley.com/US/wood/page.aspx?p=32294&cat=1,180,42337&ap=1
      Braces made in France (try to find a brace that is made in the US today; http://www.leevalley.com/US/wood/page.aspx?p=32300&cat=1,180,42337&ap=1
      I know other online stores sell these tools, from the same makers, too.
      I can buy vintage tools off ebay but I won’t be supporting the companies that are trying to keep the hand tools… in our hands but I do use it to buy tools that are more affordable used than new.
      Just food for thought.

      • Paul Sellers on 14 September 2012 at 8:55 am

        I think that that’s a good thought. I hope everyone understands that I simply don’t want people not to work wood because they are hindered by costs and that all that was once good from European makers is not necessarily the case today. Many as I have said try living off their father’s reputation and they are doing nothing more than using Sheffield and England as validation for what is being made in Asia and packaged with names like Record and Stanley and so on. No sign on the package to show these details any more.

        • J Guengerich on 15 September 2012 at 2:56 am

          Very good point Paul.
          I recognize and follow your advice for ebay purchases… I’ve bought so many #4s that I am going to fix them up and see if the local school would take a few as a gift to the wood shop and for some of my family and neighbors that like to work wood.
          For items like planes, spokeshaves, drawknives, etc…ebay is still the best place that I know of to find affordable vintage tools that perform as well as new tools costing many times their price.
          BTW, everyone can relax… I’ve stopped buying planes.
          Maybe a new handplane magazine for other countries could research outlets for their culture’s tools? Local markets, and maybe find unknown or start-up online places where tools can be found or traded for?
          I think we could continue to help each other out.

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