I looked down the list of people that keep up with us on Facebook yesterday evening following a post I posted 3 days ago. It had 41,000 look-ins and 1.2k likes. At one time, even say just 2 years ago, most of the views would have been from two continents and mostly two countries. Today, that’s changed markedly. Of course it’s not just Facebook. Add as many thousands to my blog and then YouTube too and the picture gets ever bigger. An arrow drops every second or even part second on all five continents around the world now and it continues to grow steadily. The amazing thing to me is that what we do defies everything that might limit the training we pass on to others around the world simply because of our advocacy in the use of hand tools. Beyond that too, what everyone seems to say is that they like the genuineness of what we’ve been accomplishing. There is no gimmicky razzmatazz, no advertising from us and no sponsoring links to tie us down. Whereas we do support our work with online membership for some of our training, the bigger percentage of what we share is free. Not following the path of advertising and sponsored links has been well supported by everyone and this brings me to the point of this article.
I read the comment below which was sent as a private message. I have copied it in here but left ID out because it’s not intended to harm or offend any individual. It does help me to make a point though and it may help everyone to understand better just how we are reaching the countries and the continents around the world:
“We cut them [hand cut dovetails] occasionally but more frequently order the boxes pre made from Richeleau. The Summerville Jig and a great Triton router and table and i can do a great job almost straight out of the box. We have hand tools and use them frequently and correctly for 30 years now, but I also have a truck full of Festools, Makitas, and more, and they’re what I earn my living with. I could no more afford to build a high end house full of built ins and custom designed features with only hand tools any more than I could park my truck and drive a horse and buggy to the jobs. And yes, I find the work to be creative, peaceful, Zen ful, and relaxing. Also profitable enough to have raised a family, saved a bit for my last days, and even bought a great sailboat. I’m sure you can do about anything that can be done with wood with a few simple hand tools and I can do quite a bit myself, but most of the guys who fawn over hand woodworking have never even finished a complete piece, where I finish many in a single week.”
I receive such comments fairly frequently and I know that they usually don’t understand the point of what we do. Here’s the thing. My blog is important to me. Because I do promote hand tool woodworking as an important part of life that brings great reward does not mean I am knocking those who make their livings reliant on machine-only methods. There is really no need for anyone to defend their methods because our audience is not necessarily the professional at all. Anyway, I have aways enjoyed writing my blog even though I am not really a writer. I write because of the burden I often feel that most people are not looking for a truck load of power tools nor a mass making business but a period of regeneration in their home workshop using methods that give brilliant results. Also, I write because I know that in some countries machine work has replaced what I have called real woodworking. This led to great criticism from many quarters at one time, but, being experienced for decades in both realms, I concluded for myself that the two realms were really distinctly different methods of working and far from one and the same. I know, you all know that. When I pick up a book or a magazine it seems that for the main part editors have had small imagination. Basically they seem always intent on showing comparisons between the same range of power equipment or offer options as though the two separate areas of hand and power woodworking are just different sides of the same coin. The side that gets the greater press has always been the machine side, but we have caused the editors to change course in recent years, even if just a little. Today, they give a little more than the token nod to hand tools that they did in the past. Wahey! Good for us! Try to remember that, unlike our work, their work is generally continent-specific. They don’t think or reach very far beyond their borders because, well, a machine made for one country often will not work in another or more likely is just not available there. I have worked in Mexico and the USA and traveled to other countries too. Chalk and cheese, night and day differences separate them. So our outreach reaching the five continents and then principalities too makes a hugely different outreach for us. Try to imagine our teaching handwork to people watching from a smart phone in say for instance Estonia or Japan. It makes a huge difference to the recipients in many ways. For instance too, some in some east European countries have let me know that they have never seen an all-metal plane to work with. That they have no electricity where they live and that a bandsaw people buy say in Canada or the USA or the UK would never happen for them. Look too to the continent of Africa. The same issues in some parts. What we buy and sell by the thousands in a week via eBay doesn’t happen for everyone. Many of their questions looking for a solution come in via email, regular mail, Facebook messages and so on. They all get answered and usually within a few hours or at most a few days. Of course this has increased a thousand fold in four years, to such a degree that we have needed to extend the work of those working with us to help me out. We have had to take on additional staff to ease the load and keep pace with the developments.
I cannot begin to tell you how blessed I am in the changed work that I am adapting to. All the time I have been filming the rocking chair series the guys interact with one another striving to help people through the comments sections of different areas. I want everyone to know that these guys never complain, are never scathing and are always seeking to be a genuine solution to every question that comes up. THEY AMAZE ME!!! They are always kind to me especially and then with one another too. Nothing is too much trouble for them and I just wish I could record the conversations they have when I overhear them trying to resolve the wide range of problems they deal with to make it all happen as smoothly as possible for all. Considering that most of the questions come in from what we give for free I think that, again, THEY ARE AMAZING!!!
Does this help? I suppose what I am saying is that woodworking on five continents and in 195 countries means different strokes for different folks. I try to recommend what people can get their hands on and sometimes that means comparing a £12 plane with £300 plane without dissing the one over the other. Perhaps even making tools like planes and chisels. Sometimes I will work with one tool for six months to make sure that what I suggest as an option will definitely work and then hold up for them. Bow saws made from wood with a hacksaw or bandsaw blade dehardened and retempered takes time to practice but I do it because someone in Somaliland or in a region of China can’t get their hands on some things that we take for granted every day; something as ubiquitous as a western or Asian handsaw, perhaps a plane or a chisel for instance.
The Real Woodworking Campaign
The real woodworking campaign has been ongoing for me for almost three decades. In recent years, through the internet, teaching, traveling and meeting with groups wanting to understand and make change happen, I have been able to to disabuse people on some continents of assumptions that everyone can afford expensive hand tools or that everyone owns a bandsaw or at least can get their hands on one. On the other hand it’s been just as much work to disabuse people of the idea that they even need such equipment or that they cannot work with wood without machines, a massive workshop or whatever. If you must split wood with an ax for table legs and then shape them with the same ax then you can enjoy that just as much as if you shape them on a lathe. Both methods will give enjoyment I think. On masterclasses it is the same. We have made this as affordable as possible and it is working for everyone easily. It’s easy to stop for a few weeks and it’s easy to reengage. No penalties, just a quick click and you are in or out and then back in whenever you want. I love that they did this.
I know that this was a long post but I just wanted to say a big THANK YOU! for all of you that have supported this work through the decades. Our outreach keeps expanding because of you and the people I work with. What a gift!