Disposabilty, the Culture of Uncare and Uncraftsmanship

Of course you can’t uncare because  ‘uncare’ is not a verb, and generally we use ‘uncaring’ as the typical adjective. But I used uncare to encourage you to think about something that has increasingly troubled me and it ties in I think with the loss of crafts posts I posted on recently. Uncraftsmanship is not a viable word either, of course, but the comments to my recent blogs surrounding the question of how we perpetuate craft and the art we pursue in the doing of it shows that people outside and inside the profession really do care. I just wish those inside the profession would take more care over glib comments and realise that they have bought into something that altered the perception of the carpentry craft by just mindlessly following a pattern of carelessness, that’s all. They have united with manufacturers to present a culture of uncare. Thats one thing, but they have also rendered themselves part of the consumerist disposable society in that they don’t know how to take care of the simplest of tasks–saw sharpening! The good thing is that amateurs now have that in their arsenal of skills and so it is now protected and preserved as is the future of hand work. Amateurs, once scoffed at, now know more about skilled furniture making and woodworking than colleges and universities ever did. Hurrah!

This is one of the Irwin brand saws used in construction. It has a Teflon coating (Polytetrafluoroethylene or PTFE) to reduce friction but it is a throwaway none sharpenable saw.

I have always looked at hard-point western saws with disdain even though they cut well across the grain and in the engineered boards that they are mostly designed for. As I walked across the local job site recently the carpenters had left for home. The saws they’d used for the job were still new and totally usable still, but there they were pitched and ditched and left for dead. I saw it clearly that the whole saw catered to not caring as it does when you visit the timber yard to buy wood and the same saws lie buckled and dulled, kinked long before they’ve done much work because the users had no clue on how to use or care for them and, well, they’re just throwaways. Imagine this then; those same people might well see their whole craft through the very same eyes, nothing more than a throwaway craft. Then try to explain to them about a craft being lost. In these people craft has no real meaning. Any person who leaves any saw out in the elements on stone, gravel, brick or concrete has lost all respect for the tools and the craft of joinery, woodworking or whatever. The craft to them has become as disposable as the saw; just not worth saving.

One modern maker, Spear and Jackson, has taken to decades to revert back to the making of sharpenable saws and it is indeed an excellent saw too. Additionally it takes and holds a good tooth-point cutting edge, so here is a saw that will last you fifty years and many more too!

So my using saws from 50 and more years ago that did not have hard-point teeth have proven the better economic choice. So why was this an option for me and not others today. The main reason is a belief that the evolutionary process gave us throwaway saws and therefore are the more advanced position. Simply not true at all.

This standard hard-point has become ubiquitous on most job sites.

My advantage is that I can, if I want to, buy a throwaway saw OR I can sharpen non-throwaways. My advantage is that I can also sharpen saws to specific tasks, alter the aggression and develop a profiled tooth for a designated task. When you do sharpen your saws and use them through years instead of days or weeks you end up with the key ingredient to craftsmanship and that is the very thing the culture of uncare promotes—care!

Oh what a sad day when such things happen to a saw only few weeks old and professionals in the industry just arrogantly brag that they, “Just throw ’em away” because it is cheaper and more efficient!” This is what Irwin and the likes have contributed to my craft and many people followed mindlessly on in accepting it.

Oh, and here is the difference between the then and today’s PC culture. Had I left any saw lying on gravel or concrete the men I was working with would have said, “You should be ashamed of yourself. Pick it up and put it safe.”

OK, and here is my question. Is it more economical to buy throwaway saws than sharpen them? This is the standard phrase given to me when proponents of throwaways stand in front of me and I ask them why they buy them. Watch out for the upcoming answer on my blog with a video on Paul sharpening his saw to show you something very controversial. You will never have seen it done like I do it or explained either, and you have never seen the same speed and efficiency!

77 comments on “Disposabilty, the Culture of Uncare and Uncraftsmanship

  1. So sad but true.

    Skills aren’t taught so there is no appreciation for the tool.

    Instant gratification and lack of understanding.

    All because we have the attention span of a goldfish.

  2. Almost all products today are made with built-in obsolescence. Tools are no exception. The manufacturers spend their marketing and advertising money ensuring that users return to the same company to replace the product that has expired or broken or, in the case of hardpoint saws, has become dull.
    It is my firm belief that these attitudes, at least in some areas are changing. Environmentally minded people and governments are changing ideas. In Sweden for example there is a movement to repair goods to make them useful again. Tax incentives make people think twice about discarding possessions. As I have said before the consumerist “use it and throw it away” model is unsustainable.
    It is up to us to change the way things are done.

  3. I am darkly amused by this post, because I am typing my reply on the freaking apotheosis of disposable-tool culture, a smartphone.

    You talk on your videos and blog posts about “lifetime tools” a fair bit. Keeping well-made tools for a lifetime is a strategy that is in fundamental conflict with selling lots of saws so that the saw company can pay dividends to investors.

    • Your comments are true to a point.
      If all people were give the opportunity and learn not just wood working, as Paul advocates, perhaps more people would buy tools not just for today, but for life. More people doing with their hands , could mean more sales. The world talks of materials shortages, then throw away, as in the case of a saw, because there are so few people ready or able too show/ teach how to maintain equipment/ tools.

      • If you live in a tiny space, or relocate often, it will cost more storing and moving all this for life tools. Many times they are just thrown away, to buy new ones could be cheaper. Hiring a tool could cost as much as buying a cheap one. Borrowing is not a good option too.

        One of the problem is if we really need so much tools and possessions?

  4. Globalisation has skewed the economics, especially the economics of labour – on the face of it, it is more economical to throw a saw away because the worker who made it in China, or other 2nd/3rd world country was not paid anywhere near the same amount that the 1st world person was paid who make top notch saws. Governments (through economic zones, inefficient tax collection and lack of services) and big box stores (though mass bargaining) have exerted 1st world power over poorer 2nd/3rd world people to convince them to work for less. For the average worker on a job site, they don’t see that they are throwing money away that should be going into the worker’s pocket because of the out-of-sight-out-of-mind thinking.

    I think the calculations of the economics is also superficial. Again, on the face of it the two price points do make it look like one saw is way cheaper than the other, but when you factor in things like the plastic handle that someone will have to deal with a thousand years from now, the damage to the environment done in producing a saw so cheaply (coal power, dumping toxic materials, etc.) then things start to change. It’s obvious that producing a one saw with a wooden handle takes much less energy and resources than producing 600 saws (6 saws bought per year x 100 years) and a few files.

    That being said, I’m not an economist, but from a devil’s advocate perspective I wonder if you could argue the opposite of what I’ve just said – producing 600 saws employs more people for longer than producing one saw, so if you take the purpose of economy/business to employ people then the throwaway saw is better??? That’s probably a debate for the pub.

    Matt

    • Well, Matt, you make some interesting points, but I would have to disagree with you on several salient ones.

      First of all, it is all too ubiquitous for those of us suffering what I shall call “first-world-self-loathing” to assume that China “or other 2nd/3rd world country” cannot possibly make top notch tools as we can. I am sure that China would differ with your assessment on their nation status, and would find your apparent smugness off-putting at best.

      Then, to assume that “we convince them to work for less” needs some proof. In fact, study India and see how those who are indeed paid less than we are enjoying luxuries comparable to ours–a matter of cost-of-living.

      I could also argue with your most important point about cost and environmental impacts as well, but insofar that this oversimplification often demonizes industry, which does not need to be the case. It is certainly possible to mass produce fine products with great efficiency, long life span, and complete recyclability.

      So, back to the self-loathing that I see so often. Why do we do it? Is it penance for that we would never change? I have yet to find one person who wants to go back to the days where you have to keep your stuff repaired whether you want to or not, and regardless of the cost. We certainly don’t want to keep the old harvest gold appliances around, do we? Until we handle the answer to this question, complaining about how we oppress others, and the economics are unfair, and big industry pollutes, and “fat cats” pay dividends to stockholders (uh, which happens to be my only certain retirement)…all is just feel-good noise-making.

      • You should have left India out of it. There are two classes in India, those that have luxury and those that do not. There is not middle class at all. Rich or poor and that is it. I would venture to day it is the same way in China.

    • There may be a corporate/company contribution to this waste, but candidly I think user laziness is more the culprit. Not just too lazy to do the sharpening, too lazy to even learn the skill of sharpening.

      • I agree with you 100%, Joe. This unplugged process we cherish is a passion and takes time and guts to learn. In today’s culture, the masses just don’t want to read, to learn, or to embrace what You, Paul, and so many others embrace. Ergo, I am worried that someday my tools will become piles of rust for the generations to come to wonder what they may have been.

    • Interesting points there Matt. The only thing I’ll say about throw away saws is that I have 2. One is in shocking condition because I picked it up off the ground. I used that to cut all the kingspan insulation slabs for my house plus the rock wool insulation in the attic. The other I use on modern hard materials like chipboard, and IKEA stuff. They save my resharpenable 10tpi panel saw for the nice jobs in real wood.

  5. A very good point Paul. I have seen saws treated like this and worse. Unfortunately there is also a schoolboy mentality on building sites; just as boys want the ” in” phone etc. On sites no one wants to be the boy with the wooden saw. It extends to footwear, trousers and hoodies. Wrong brand: ridicule.
    Care for hand tools : ridicule. They have no value as “real work is done with machines”
    Pathetic, laughable and lamentable. Sadly, very true.
    The amateur does indeed have the true value of craftsmanship in his or her hands. It will flourish in sheds and garages .
    House builders are only interested in quick and cheap results and leave home owners to replace the warped MDF in kitchens and bathrooms. Fix the gaps around the windows . Repair the rotten frames etc . If of course they can find someone who can.
    Maybe the amateurs are missing a big market.
    I regularly attract an audience when working in pubs and shops. The 150 year old saw , the wooden jack plane and the wooden chisel all making repairs . The quiet, the pile of saw dust at my feet compared to the scream of a chopsaw and the clouds of dust. People are fascinated. Being able to talk whilst working wood. Stopping to give children a go. It is all too much for them to take in. The diamond plate and the oil stone restoring an edge; most people seriously think chisels are bought sharp and are faulty if they go blunt !
    There is work to do my friends.
    Let the Irwinites perish in the darkness of their ignorance.
    We shall shine like a lighthouse , guiding the populace to a new haven where real wood, crafted by hand is the answer to their plight.

  6. Not sure if it is a “uncare” culture or not. I do know that globalization has pushed the limits on what a person must get done each day. It doesn’t matter whether you are on an engineer, a doctor, or a carpenter. There is a point where I don’t have time to take care of one more thing. Much like the auto mechanic complaining that customers don’t change their oil often enough (or the spark plugs), or the dentist complaining about your flossing habits. In today’s world there are trade offs and in the end it all comes down to time commitments. Where does this task fit in the 24 hours I have available each day. I am not saying that this is unimportant, but I am saying that it is a matter of priorities and I will not say that I know which things should be more or less important on the priority list of someone else.

  7. Paul, having seen videos in which you tempered steel for “poor man’s” spokeshaves and wooden hand planes, is it possible to unharden these disposable saws to the point where you can sharpen them?

    I have already bought saws I can re-sharpen so it’s a moot point for me. I am mostly curious if this can be done.

    What else could you do with the steel from a “disposable” saw blade?

    Many thanks.

    • Joe, surely you can temper the steel back to a point where sharpening is possible.

      I just toss the saw into the electric kitchen oven and let it sit there for 20 minutes while observing the oxides on the steel changing colors. You can check the hardness vs. temperature and color for example here: http://anvilfire.com/article.php?bodyName=/FAQs/temper_colors_hardness.htm

      Mind you that only premium saws are made from 1095 spring steel, throwaway makers use lesser grades. Uniform dark straw would probably be fine.

      You can also recycle the blades as thicker scrapers, scratch stock blades or even small leaf springs.

    • Hi Joe,

      A friend of mine took in a few tools to be resharpened and asked about the hard point tenon saw he had. The reply was straightforward “We grind all the hard point teeth off and cut, sharpen and set new ones. The steel plate is generally ok . ” He still has it as a backup and yes it does a reasonable job.

  8. I have tools I bought in the early 80’s, still going strong. If you think about the hours worked / price paid, they now would cost ‘Cents’. Even taking in to consideration the maintenance over the years. Do the cost analysis of hours worked / throw away and the numbers are plain to see. I’m preaching to the converted here but shame on the generation that can’t be bothered to look after there tools and have pride in there care

  9. Does this mean Japanese saws are junk? We’re Japanese saws ever made to be set and sharpened or have they always been disposable?

    • The makers of these saws developed their own market of disposable saws so that woodworkers would return to them for replacement blades. So, yes, though there is 5% resharpenable amoiunt of these saws sold, mostly they are disposable.

  10. PC culture is like this, because it’s not mature yet. Every year we get better and better hardware and software, a lot of new features. It’s very young and exploring possibilities right now. Another problem with PC components are so small, you can only replace them. However you don’t know internals and peoples creating all of that, they care a lot about their tools, reuse and polish them a lot.

    However I can observe, in constructions, furniture making, etc. there are a lot of peoples that don’t like their jobs very much. There is another problem with management, they are totally different and it’s easier for them just to buy new saws, than manage saw sharpening on the site, they want job done fast, with no excuses that saw was not cutting, they will add all to the price customer will pay 2-3 saws actually.

    Non professionals buy just what is cheap or available, they probably need to cut something a couple of times in a decade, mostly they don’t use the saw, and they don’t want to know something about the saw. In this cases they expect saw or chisel to be already sharp, they don’t have to buy 10 tools and have a workbench. It’s mostly for one time job.

    Problem is deeper, look at car repairs or home repairs, they are not repairing they replace big chunks. We change our car regularly, instead of changing parts and improving the car. Cars, could have a modular design, we could change, improve some components, but for many reasons it’s not like that, we have to buy a new car and dispose the old one.

    Why this happens? Because it’s simpler for use. Simpler to sell. You can use less qualified workers.

    I personally don’t like disposable things, except medicine for example.

  11. Hello Paul,

    Yet another poignant and thought provoking post- another gleam of insight in my everyday life, thank you.

    I notice that the last few posts of yours seem to be taking on a, not foreboding, but nostalgic note of trepidation. A subtle tone that’s not lamenting per se, but worrying about the future of crafts, craftsmanship and attitudes of society in general.

    I think I am confident that I speak for everyone who reads these posts, plus your millions of viewers and followers, in saying that we do care. The reasons we care are as myriad and individual as we are, but I am certain that high at the top of the list of reasons is that we care about every stroke/piece/feature and joint we make because “we know it’s there”. I believe this is the true mark of both aspiring and seasoned true craftsmen; the attitude and standard set as an internal personal benchmark, usually a lot higher and more rigorously scrutinised than any observer. You hit the nail on the head with your “when a tenon snaps” post. It is from the striving towards our standard (the journey), and occasionally hitting then raising our benchmark where we find our fulfilment, not the cash or the praise from others (although these are nice too).

    By definition us types are, and will always be, a rare breed. No matter how hard we strive to pass on and expand our skills and sow the seeds of our attitude and approach, those seeds will only really grow in like minded individuals. It’s lonely I know to be so different, stand here and try our best to change the world, only to be disappointed when people gaze blankly as the message isn’t heeded or understood. I believe this may be the stone in your shoe as it is mine.

    TAKE HEART however. Although we are the minority, our type will always be around in society. Think rationally, and realise that it was us who developed all these crafts from scratch back in the mists of time, through necessity. Even if skills/crafts are lost (such as the horse collar making), if there is a need it won’t be beyond our types’ capabilities to rediscover those skills and redevelop the necessary crafts- again over tens or hundreds of years if need be. The particular tune may indeed be forgotten, but the ability to sing will always survive.

    And all of the above does, can, and will happen whether the other 90% of the population understands, cares, etc. or not. Thanks for being our voice, further, wider, more persuasive and inspiring than we could ever be.

    • Eloquently stated. We may lose the song but never the ability to sing. Sadly, we may have to “reinvent the wheel” at some point and it will be folks like us that do so.

  12. I think that a major issue when it comes to saws is ignorance. I have a (probably 1980s) Spear & Jackson tenon saw that I was given as a child. It’d become blunt, and while I never had the heart to throw it away it was obviously left unused (and I bought numerous disposables over the years).

    Since learning how to sharpen it’s become my most used saw – I have no qualms about cutting even abrasive wood materials with it as I know I can return it to a sharp state in minutes.

    Having just purchased a couple of old saws (delivered to my workplace) my colleagues were somewhat surprised that I’d buy such a thing; “how do you possibly sharpen a saw?”, they asked.

    And that’s the root of the issue; disposable saws have become the norm, such that the vast majority aren’t even aware it’s possible to resharpen a good saw.

    Having learned that, I’m now appalled by the wasteful notion of buying and throwing away a saw after a few months of use; such an environmentally unfriendly thing to do.

    I do think that Paul’s point about mentality is a good one too though; a disposable tool culture likely does promote a lack of long term care in one’s possessions, so I suppose it could well also affect the attitude to the work itself.

    I wonder how many building site workmen might actually be interested in the idea that that could buy and own a much higher quality saw, and then use it for a lifetime?

  13. My dad never sharpened his saws, because he did not know how. He also did not trow them away, so I now have 60 years old, dull, never sharpened saws.
    Thanks to Paul I know how to sharpen them and will give them a new life.

  14. Once again I must spring to the defence of the humble “throwaway hardpoint saw” ! One of these has three lives as it dulls, 1/ for new timber 2/ for old timber particularly floorboards 3/ cutting Thermalite/Celcon blocks, then you can throw it away. But hold on – I use bits of the blades as notched spreaders for Amtico style glues. I do of course have resharpenable saws but they don’t go on to jobs.

  15. My brother in law is in the construction business. If he ever even used a hand saw he would toss is on the ground like you showed. There is such pressure to make profits that speed is more important than care or craftsmanship. Most of them are using the newest battery powered tool, which are being improved on all the time so they get replaced every couple of years. The workers are disposable also, when they get into their 40s and 50s they are worn out and can’t work anymore because of joint problems or arthritis. They also throw away a lot of materials! Look in the big trash bins and you can see sheets of plywood, Sheetrock and all kinds of perfectly good wood. It’s not craftsmanship, it’s slapping up a building as fast as possible. Time is money to them, and the heck with the waste.

  16. It seems to me to be the utmost disrespect to use renewable resources such as wood to create cheap, poorly made products that break, go out of style, and end up filling our landfills. How much more disrespectful is it to the non-renewable resources and the workers who retrieve them to create disposable items (tools, appliances, toys, cars, etc) designed to fail and be tossed on the waste heap.

  17. My city manager said to the the media that the typical home in our community has a thirty year lifespan. I own one of these “starter” homes an indeed, the roof needs replacement, the siding has become warped, the soft wood trim is rotting and to make it right will cost a third of the purchase price. The workmanship is laughable. Why did I buy? Location and cost.

    As I become a more skilled craftsman, I think about what I can make and who I can sell to. A fair return prompts a high price. My market becomes not my peers but the carriage trade. I suppose it has always been this way. Even Paul boasts about his sales to presidents and government.

    Economics rule and until the robots come and we all live on our government supplied basic income the quest for the lowest price will continue.

    Thanks for the ramble.

  18. This is weird–I kid you not. Last night I dreamed that you came to my humble basement and were praising my efforts at restoring {and using} old tools. I was taking you back to the airport and noticed you were driving, and I was in the passenger seat. I had to say, “you know you’re driving, right?” You perked up and started paying attention to the task, but you kept drifting into the oncoming traffic. I remember thinking this poor guy’s brain is wired backwards. The whole episode was rather zany. I’m not sure where all this fits in, but given that I actually have restored and savored using old hand tools as a result of your instruction and philosophy–and from the day I first found your videos (two years ago) have become a great fan. Thanks for doing what you do. All the best. Wm

  19. Your question is, for me, the easiest of them all to answer: No and never. I was raised to detest waste. This applied to everything from food to a lowly thumbtack. I was taught to purchase wisely and to take care of those things. As a young boy my my grandmother always cautioned me to fill my plate with a careful thought. In my teenage years I bucked that advice and for supper that night I ate the left over food that I had filled my plate with that morning. Even if it would’ve been that throw away saw above, I was taught to use and care for it like it was the last saw on Earth.

  20. I believe it comes from growing up on a farm in the 70s, but I treat very little as disposable. I buy used automobiles and drive them until they are falling apart. I bought a used house and repair it myself. 95% of my tools were bought used and restored. If I can’t buy something I need or want I either improvise, modify or make it myself. I am still using the same microwave I bought in 1999. I have never understood the disposable culture.

  21. I a trend to making disposable products has indeed affected society and change how we work and behave. Most have lost valuable skills, become lazy and/or focused on other priorities. There is also a disturbing trend in the upcycling movement where items including neglected old tools and vintage furniture are repurposed instead of restored. Among my 2 dozen or hand saws I have two that are “throwaway”. I wonder can I grind down, joint and cut proper teeth in these saws? Can I cut the plates into scrapers?

  22. When I was a young man we always worked 8 hours a day and half a day on Saturday. That Saturday morning was dedicated solely to sharpening tools. Even the employers knew it was a good investment.
    Out in my shop, I have a disston D-23 I bought in the early 1960’s. you can’t see your face in the plate anymore, but it still cuts like it did back then, and it doesn’t owe me a cent.

  23. Disposable tools are the result of “progress”. Paul, I know that you lived in Texas for a while and they are pretty much “laid back” as opposed to the rest of the Country (USA), I live in the Northeast and up here, everything is due yesterday! Here, there is no patience, no second chance, no forgiving. You do it right, you do it fast and you get it done yesterday!

    So we are at a construction site for a new home and one of the carpenters stops cutting studs because his saw has dulled. He sets up to sharpen, sits down and begins. As he progresses, another carpenter has to sharpen his saw so he sets up next to the first and they sharpen and converse, no big deal, right. The foreman arrives with the client and they see the two men sitting and talking. The fact that they are sharpening their saws means nothing, the fact is that work has stopped and that is not tolerated. You see what I mean? Progress! This is the main reason the disposable tool was designed. When the saw dulls, you drop it and pick up another and continue.

    Now in my book, you bring several sharp saws to work. When one dulls, you put it in the box, pick up a sharpened saw and continue. To me, that is the way to go. But wait, that means that the sharpening would have to be done on your own time! Well, we can’t have any of that, can we? Sorry, I have more respect for my tools. I use them, refurbish them and adjust them as much as humanly possible before I ever say good by to a tool. I have three hand saws that I purchased on eBay made in the early 1800’s. I keep them sharp and straight and I will pass them on to my grandchildren when the time comes.

  24. Paul I love your channel,
    I subscribe to your philosophy of re-sharpening saws, in fact if I could afford to buy a saw I could re-sharpenen I probably would, new or second hand, expensive in Australia.
    In the street where I live there are currently several houses being built, I walk past them every night and I have never seen a discarded saw lying there in the dirt, to generalise by insinuating today’s carpenters treat their tools with disrespect because you have seen a few or indeed a lot of discarded saws is unfair.
    I’m sure that in your era there were carpenters you worked with who where very good, and some possibly who were a bit slapdash, todays tradies are no different I would argue, some are good, some are very good, and some sadly are less than good.
    Whilst you may have the time to re-sharpen teeth for cross cutting or for ripping timber you are surely not suggesting that is viable in today’s building industry, albeit okay for DIY enthusiasts like myself.
    I’m sure there may be some chippy’s out there who do that, and maybe some who would like to but the majority would not be able to, we are all time poor, if the crew who added my recent roof addition had not used circular saws for their birds mouth joints as well as the other thousands of cuts they made over a three day period it would have made the job last that much longer, thus increasing cost, not withstanding the wear and tear on shoulder and hand joints from cutting thousands of metres of timber by hand over the years, a cost we all have to pay for via NHS or equivalent health institution in your particular country.
    Whilst you can re-sharpen saws to alter the aggression of a cutting tooth for a designated task is great, you have the time to do it, but a 25 year old carpenter with a big mortgage and a family to support might not have the time, it’s not because they are uncaring, its just reality.
    I love using hand tools, we have that luxury, but to generalise that todays woodworkers either in a factory or on a building site are some how inferior because some tools they use are disposable is a luddite type of thinking, and a tad elitist.
    Again I must emphasise that I love your channel and your general philosophy on carpentry, but I look at the first comment after your lament, Ray Pope’s assertion that “skills are’t taught so there’s no appreciation for the tool”, what a load of rubbish, to suggest that Colleges are not teaching necessary skills is just utter nonsense, your fan club is very loyal, but thoroughly out of touch with the 21st century.
    I could have argued another ten pages of the the good ol days mentality, but I have a some dove tail joints to make
    Regards
    David, Fremantle, Australia.

    • This a long one so I will bullet point my response:
      1) All of the craftsmen I worked with were all skilled; if they weren’t they didn’t have a job!
      2) Why would it be different in today’s industry than 55 years ago? We were under pressure from bosses back then, perhaps more so. You’re suggesting it was easier; it wasn’t. It seems much easier today. I watch tradesmen sitting staring at cell/mobile phones and clicking thumbs a lot of the time.I wasn’t allowed to whistle at work as my boss said, “YOU STOP THAT WHISTLING BOY—I don’t pay you to whistle!” Not saying I at all agree with this level of harshness, just countering your suggestion that somehow life was easier ‘back then’. Also, I realise that people carry around a lot of their information for work on their cell/mobile phones so for many it is their notebook.
      3) Why different for the building traders than amateurs?
      4) If I could do it between being of age 15 to 25 and be married at 22 and have a mortgage too, a car payment a newly born daughter why cant any 25 year old? I don’t get the logic here.
      5) We never drew a comparison between carpentry work cutting bird’s mouths to form eaves with circular saws by the hundreds and using a handsaw. You introduced this to exaggerate your point. My point was about hand saw teeth and throwaway mentalities verses someone who has trained himself to sharpen a saw in 3-4 minutes. People do this all the time with me. It is an accusation rather than a statement when that was not the case at all. You see it all seems so reasonable when you do that but the saying goes, “He who frames the issue determines the outcome.” Here’ the proof.
      6) It doesn’t take more than 3-4 minutes to sharpen a saw as long as it is done in a reasonable time; that is before the teeth are worn too much I mean.
      7) Who generalised that ” that today’s woodworkers either in a factory or on a building site are some how inferior because some tools they use are disposable.” but YOU AND YOU ALONE. This is highly disingenuous on your part.
      8) You use the terms ‘luddite’ and ‘elitist’. Really, is that where I came from? I would argue my corner on this because this NEVER happened, David.
      You say that you love my channel and my general philosophy and could argue all the more with ten more pages, but you determined the basis for the argument by adding content that I never said. You and everyone else is entitled to air their views and we generally only edit out foul language and aggression. This feels more like passive aggression fleshed out with padding to make your argument valid when what you say was said was never said at all.
      This seems to me not even mildly disingenuous but quite loaded and with an accusatory agenda.

      • Paul the point I was making about skilled craftsman was that some would take more pride in their work than others, and that is just the way it is with today’s tradies.
        Paul I never suggested things were easier 55 years ago, you are wrong to say that, things were if anything much harder in that era. The point you make that you were not allowed to whistle at work for fear at getting yelled at is a good example of that.
        I thought for a moment there you were going to have a go at men sitting staring at their mobile phones clicking thumbs, I would suggest a mobile phone would be an important tool to have for a self employed tradie in todays job market.
        Bullet point 3, Why different for the building traders than amateurs you ask, well in my case it’s time, if I possessed a saw that I could sharpen myself, I could walk out into my shed, place the saw into my vise, and as an amateur sharpen the teeth over the course of 15 minutes or so, I am not time constrained, where a trades person may have time constraints.
        Your bullet point 4 suggests that that because you could do all those things at age 25, every body else should be able to or indeed would wan’t to is equally illogical, my assertion was that to stop and hand sharpen a saw every hour or so on a work site is unrealistic, whilst it might take you a few minutes in your work shop, I would suggest it might take a little longer on site, multiply that by 8 or 10 chippies and who knows how much of the day would be spent saw sharpening.
        Bullet point 7, I would argue that comments you made such as “Professionals in the industry arrogantly brag that they “just throw ’em away” is a generalisation
        e.g.
        Other comments you made…”I just wish those inside the profession would take more care over glib comments and realise that they have bought into something that altered the perception of the carpentry craft by just mindlessly following a pattern of carelessness, that’s all. They have united with manufacturers to present a culture of uncare. Thats one thing, but they have also rendered themselves part of the consumerist disposable society in that they don’t know how to take care of the simplest of tasks–saw sharpening”
        Mindlessly! I have more faith than you in todays tradies…
        e.g. “Oh what a sad day when such things happen to a saw only few weeks old and professionals in the industry just arrogantly brag that they, “Just throw ’em away” because it is cheaper and more efficient!” This is what Irwin and the likes have contributed to my craft and many people followed mindlessly on in accepting it”. YOU DID SAY THIS PAUL!
        I always thought that passive-aggressive meant not stating your disapproval to the person directly, calling me passive aggressive for expressive a view point that differs from your own is very disingenuous.

        • No matter. It does ultimately come down to individual experiences. Carpenters and jointers do come into my workshop periodically and say are you still using those, we just buy throwaways these days! There are good carpenters and bad ones, careful ones and careless ones. ~The latter being the ones that did and do brag arrogantly and mindlessly. I have never had this with amateurs funnily enough. Not so far, but I am sure they are out there too. So we can end it just disagreeing here.

    • Hi David,

      I live in Perth and was on an actual job when the other chippy, who was about 25 and was qualified under a Tafe course said. ” I wish I knew how to do that”. I was using a No 4 smoother on a piece of small detailing . I wasn’t sure what he was saying so asked. He replied he wished he knew how to use a hand plane. I asked what was covered by way of tools in his course and he was only instructed in using power tools . He also had a problem with breaking chisels. We worked at the same job for several weeks on different aspects. In some areas he was extremely effective and well versed. Detail work I was asked by the client to redo. This wasn’t the younger carpenters fault, he had a good attitude and was willing to do the work and work hard. He had simply never received suitable instruction in vital aspects of methodology and approach. I also had a vehicle full of powered equipment, to use when required to supplement my hand tools or the other way around as required. I have had other clients comment on how many tools I have in order to do a job. This is based on what they have seen the other tradespeople use on the same job that I was making good so it was not a high benchmark. The core group of hand tools I use are the same ones that Paul has built the foundation of his teaching on. I did it by default, they came about over time through learning on the job and fulfilling a need as I am largely self taught . Increasing the potential of each hand tool is a constant and broadens what is achievable when power tools cannot or should not be used. Out of touch? In order to not repeat the mistakes of the past it is essential to understand it. The fundamentals do not change and modern methods are, or can be an extension of them. I don’t think that baseless sentimentality has any real merit. An appreciation for the foundations of which we have come from is something else again. If you want a resharpenable handsaw you can try second hand /antique stores, council recycling shops, gumtree, verge pickups for bulk rubbish, Hand tool preservation society of Perth to name a few options. I use a nameless, probably 1960’s steel backed, beech handled tenon saw daily for work and it cost $5. I understand the pressures you speak of, our cost of living is high in WA but unfortunately the quality of what we receive is often not good. You are correct in what you say about the variety of tradespeople – there are good, bad and indifferent. The attitude behind it with the mix of values and beliefs more often than not dictate that.

  25. I am just in from the shed for lunch, where I have been sharpening my collection of old saws, which I learned from you Paul., and for which I am very grateful.

    Sharpening has always been was a very calming and satisfying experience for me, such that I bought several old Sheffield cut-throat razors on the internet about ten years ago and learned to sharpen and shave with them. Although this hobby might be too close to the bone for most people, it has certainly saved me a lot of money in ersatz disposable single-use razors with “eco-unfriendly” plastic handles, like disposable saws.

    Furthermore, using a brush and shaving soap is infinitely cheaper than buying cans of shaving foam and one never runs out just when one needs a shave; similarly a sharp saw. There is also a lot to learn from the internet about the many Sheffield craftsmen cutlers who made these razors in years gone by, always from Sheffield steel.

  26. Hi Paul,
    You have once again hit the nail on the head. I grew up in an environment where my Grand Father taught me to buy the best tool I could afford and take care of it. I am now 70 and still using his tools that were passed on to me along with all of my Father’s tools (they all work very well if not like new). I too have bought tools and will pass them on to my Children and Grand Children along with the knowledge I have to use and care for them. I wish I could do more. Sadly we are in a time when people purchase something and expect it to wear out or quit working before it should, like this computer I am using. Many tools are just not made with the same pride as in the past. Saws are just the tip of the ice-berg.
    Keep up the good work Paul and Thank You.

  27. I have the distinct impression that the defining words of our time are ‘Quick and Easy!’.

    At least, that’s what I notice every time I see TV commercials. In Dutch, the phrase is ‘lekker snel, lekker makkelijk!’, bandied about every opportune (an inopportune) moment. I’ve been known to utter that phrase at various times during the day myself, in parody. It’s always about ‘Quick and Easy!’, far less about the opposite, durability and quality. To me, ‘Quick and Easy!’ appeals to the negative, to laziness.

    If it’s quick and easy, it has market appeal. Whether it is ordering food (take-away), removing leg hair, disposable plates and cutlery, ordering a holidy, buying clothes…. or using a saw. ‘Quick and Easy!’, easy to buy, quick to use, easy to throw away and buy a new one.

    Trouble is, the things worth doing in life are rarely ‘Quick and Easy!’, despite marketeers’ efforts to try to convince us so. Now I’m writing this I’m struck with the thought that the ‘Quick and Easy!’ attitude is actually the major cause of the environmental problems and, perhaps, even the feelings of emptiness and alienation so many are experiencing?

    One thing’s for sure, making a dovetail-joint isn’t nearly as ‘Quick and Easy!’ as hammering in a few nails and calling the job done.

    • There is a place for nailed joinery of pieces and then for dovetail furnishings. I like the idea of nailing my seed trays together because it fits the job. What many seem to be missing in much of this and something I used to miss too is that people are now looking intently for the journey as well as the finished product. They like spending time even on tedious things and work that is indeed high demand work. I attribute this to a general lack of fulfilment in the day to day of work and home life.

      • In my case it’s not a lack of something that drives me to your ways of working Paul, it’s that I can’t stop thinking about it. When I’m not working wood, I visualise it. When I was a kid I spent hours in my dad’s garage trying to make things, most of the time it didn’t work out but by God I loved it. My Dad would look at what I was making and would say, well I never would have thought to make it that way. I learnt a lot from him, I’m learning more from you. My new focus will be rote repetition and it’s going to be awesome!

  28. I am a retired General Medical Practitioner but made my first item of furniture aged about 12 years. I have continued to make furniture out of necessity and increasingly as a leisure pursuit. Despite having a reasonable range of have tools I never possessed a quality large hand saw until recently. I tried to make the best use of hard point saws by caring for them as you would an expensive saw until they dulled too much to be tolerated. It was a revelation to discover Paul’s channel and the ease with which saws could be sharpened. I recently bought a Spear and Jackson hand saw like the one earlier referred to in Paul’s blog and I agree that it is a much better saw than you might expect given S&Js output of disposable saws in the recent past. There is a strength and rigidity in the blade which inspires long powerful strokes that zip through most material you might encounter. I will keep a disposable hard point for dirty wood and for the odd occasion I might need to saw laminated worktops.

  29. The hardpoint saws have been a blessing for building site carpentry. Today’s skilled professionals meet a great deal of different materials, many highly abrasive, such as MDF, chipboards, laminates, plastic etc. Often, in the first fix stage of the job structural timbers can be quite wet. The hardpoint saw works well on all those materials. Sadly, using fine handsaws or even more modest tools like the S&J range is too punishing. Perhaps the only way you could fully appreciate the construction industries needs is to work on a modern site for a couple of years. Likewise, if they were to work in your world they’d soon appreciate fine handsaws and what they can bring to the work.
    During the 1990’s I had the pleasure of working alongside a very skilled carpenter and joiner during my apprenticeship. He’s now retired. Although he started with quality Sandvik saws he switched to hardpoints due the reasons I outlined above. However he still kept, sharpened and used his 14″ Disston tenon saw for fine work at the bench.
    The well regarded Japanese woodworker Toshio Odate also discusses the change in materials being a big pressure for both workers and tools makers.
    I can sharpen and care for my tools, saws included just fine. I often choose to use a hard point when they suit the material at hand. This contrasts with your assumption that the main reason for the switch was due to a lack of skill or appreciation of the craft in being able to sharpen a saw.
    I would however like to point out that your work in providing reliable methods for looking after tools is very welcome and gives people a resource that is most valuable. Not sure if this post will be published, my last one wasn’t. I’m fine with that, it’s not my blog. I just hope you read it, if nothing more to reassure you there are different pressures out there and there are still may of us who take huge pride in our work.

    • I think you missed the point. I don’t really have a problem with hard point saws as such as they do cater for materials ill suited to saws you might have a higher regard for. I indeed would rather use and do keep an Irwin in a bas for outdoor work and also for OSB, pressed fibreboard and other such materials. No problem at all. I do however also keep it in its original sleeve and keep it clean and off concrete and brick to prolong its life. I would not want to use my saws on the engineered materials mentioned which are developed for mass making of product and buildings including what is miscalled joinery today. It is more the attitude we have been dealing with generally, Graham, and the question of whether the embraced culture of disposable saws (or any product) doesn’t at the same time engender the spirit of neglect. In my view it is more a question of whether we shouldn’t be considering this as an issue at the very least and even address to try in some small way to counter it rather than, as it seems some do, just accept it without regard.
      On a final note, I think that you may just give too much credit that professional carpenters can and do sharpen their saws. The carpenters I’ve met through the years give me no confidence the skill of sharpening will be preserved by their efforts as O have yet to meet one, besides yourself, that can actually sharpen them.

  30. Ok, sorry I didn’t get the gist of it first time. I’m not sure what to say in regard to neglecting a tool, of any kind. I too keep my saw clean and cared for, regardless of it being a £5.00 Irwin, restored and saved saw or one that belonged to my Great Grandfather. I suppose caring for things that provide for the family is something that just seems obvious to me.
    Perhaps if there are saws that are discarded on the ground it was perhaps nothing more than saws being blunt and not being disposed of properly?
    I suppose areas all vary the brutal materials are normally found in the second fix world of carpentry, I’ve not heard that work called Joinery before. I suppose the regions vary but I’ve broadly thought the carpenter in on site, the joiner in the workshop, for the most part at least.
    Although it is sad others don’t care about some of their tools as well as they could there is little that can done. The more you can demonstrate good methods of preparing and caring for tools the people who do wish to care for the things will find the information.

    • I’m sorry, Graham, I don’t want to drag this out. Yes, one of the three saws was obviously discarded but this was no less wrong or less non-caring because it should have gone to recycling. The other two saws were newish and very little used. I follow the progress of the job site generally for personal reasons and I too can make excuses like maybe this or maybe that but one of the saws this week, again a relatively new one, was left under a concrete block and a cast iron manhole cover. In a discussion about this with friends this morning we all felt like we had seen such saws left in adverse conditions in the last two weeks. I don’t think what we are saying is at all unfair or indeed unusual. In the big metal strongbox where the carpenter is working and in which he keeps his power tools on the job it has stencilled on it, ‘OOOOOOOOOOO Joinery Company’ Essex.

  31. Since discovering this site I can say that I have been inspired to really make an effort to look after all my tools. I am reminded of my pops shed where all gardening tools were cleaned off and then the metal painted with old engine oil. They were old tools but worked fine. I am now 54 and have my oily rag in a can and do the same with my own garden tools. I love being able to sharpen older saws to make them usable again. This ability to sharpen saws was not present with the carpenters I was learning from in my first job at 15 years of age. They sent their saw off for sharpening over the weekend, ready for Monday. The articles I have read on this site have inspired me to take a sense of pride in looking after all the tools I use for my simple little projects and to seek to improve my work and the accuracy of what I do. I wish that I had perhaps not drifted away from carpentry to become a motor mechanic as I love working with wood, you can create things from it. With mechanics its just bolting pieces together.

  32. Appreciate the feedback. As I’m in the trade I feel I need to reassure you and others that we do take our work very seriously. I don’t want people to think that there is a lack of care about what we do. You will and clearly have found evidence of some poor treatment of some saws. Making a living was tough and still is tough, and most of us are doing our best

  33. I might be a bit older than most who post here. I’m American and still have the ration book in my name from WWII. I’ve seen a lot in the decades I’ve lived and gained some perspective (I hope).

    As I understand it, the issue you raise, Paul, is the issue of a throw-away mindset versus a mindset of making purchases of the highest quality. If so, I posit that this mindset shift began after the economic recovery following the second world war.

    IN the US more so perhaps than in Great Britain and other economies, the war brought women into the workforce in numbers never before seen. Rationing during the war meant that wages earned were mostly saved because there was little available for purchase. With pent up demand due to unavailability and excessive cash due to unspent wages, entrepreneurs saw opportunity. Almost any product – hard goods, soft goods, what-have-you – that could be put on the market would find many buyers. Even the cheap products produced by post-war Japan flooded American markets and succeeded. With available supply and wartime earnings in had and the grand economic surge that accompanied the return to the workforce of the millions of armed forces personnel, the economy lost much the old system values of use it up, wear it out, and make do that had prevailed since the Great Depression. [BTW: The GI Bill that turned out engineers, chemists, doctors, et al, in great number also supercharged the flow of money in the economy.] Madison Avenue and the corporate giants contributed to the throw-away mindset, too. Style was pushed to make consumers believe that style was at least as important as substance and even more so. Add 2 to 3 generations of children who never experienced or even learned about the old days, and you can see the impact that advertising and controlling product availability via planned obsolescence has had on thinking.

    I could go on, but I’ll leave these as food for thought that might evoke other comments on my points.

    • Hi! It enjoyed reading your comments which put me in mind of my Uncle Calvin who served in France during WWII. He was one of many that stormed the beach at Normandy. He grew up during the Great Depression and the “waste not, want not” lessons of his youth stayed with him throughout his lifetime. His opinions about the boom that followed WWII mirror yours. When I was a small child in the early 60s, I lived with my grandparents. All of their children (my aunts and uncles) lived in close proximity. I remember my Grandmama storing her entire wardrobe in a chifferobe. My aunts had small closets a little bigger than a chifferobe but not by a lot. I remember all of them wearing the same winter coats for a couple of decades and using the same purses for an equally long time. I think my Aunt Hilda had the most shoes….five or six pairs. She was the fashion plate out of the bunch! At any rate, my point is that I’ve seen a shift in my lifetime in how people view the things that they purchase. Where people once bought the best quality items that they could afford, took care of them and mended or repaired them until it was no longer possible to do so now they buy things with the expectation that they will simply throw them out and purchase new ones a regular basis.

      I was at home one day, sitting down and doing some mending and a young friend dropped by. I continued with my mending while we chatted. When I pulled out a sock and a darning egg, she asked me what on Earth I was doing…. she had no idea that you could actually mend a hole in a sock and she was facinated with the idea and the process. Here’s to hoping that more people will become facinated with repairing and mending instead of a constant cycle of buying, tossing, buying and tossing.

  34. My wife just told me yesterday that she saved a whole pile of handsaws from going in the trash at her employer’s yard, a local driller. She asked the owner why they were throwing away all those saws instead of sharpening and reusing them; he didn’t know you could resharpen a saw. Some of them were saws his father inherited when he started the business decades ago, so they were probably 100 year old saws and perfectly serviceable. The owner had the mechanics go sort out the sharpenable saws and figure out how to sharpen them.

  35. Paul, either bother to proof read your own work or instruct one of your neophytes to do it for you. You open your article with an analysis of grammar and language, and then promptly move on to violate the very laws of grammar you earlier held high. QUALITY, it seems, is your obsession, and you have a serious problem with the poor quality of tools being manufactured today. I, personally, would love it if you were to demonstrate the level of quality you expect in tools in your writing.

    • What a arrogant and foolish post here. Who exactly do you think you are? I see such comments everywhere from people that have no reading comprehension I suppose. Did you get anything from the article other than there were typos? I’m sorry, but do you pay for this BLOG and expect an edited piece. Many people above are whining they are good carpenters and chippys (whatever the Sam Hill that is), yet don’t have time to sharpen their tools. Yet they find time to change out blades, set up machines, etc. But here you are griping about grammar. However, everyone is entitled to their opinion so here is mine. Your post is foolish, petty and not warranted.

    • Darryl, I have read that same comment in various forms from different people many times on Paul’s blog. Truth is Paul has answered people on it many times already. I understand where you’re coming from and I know it irks some people but just consider how much of himself he gives freely. His books are carefully written and proofed, this is a blog. What would you prefer, less content that’s been proofed along with less videos, or more to read and consider and more to watch? Personally I am so grateful for all he does, even if it’s full of typos, it doesn’t stop me being able to understand what he’s saying. Does it stop you? Oh and I’m a designer so it’s my job to spot typos, bad grammar, widows and orphans. Wood for the trees.

  36. Hi Paul,
    It seems to mee that you have the impression that all users of saws in the past knew how sharpen a saw. I am sure that professional cabinet makers knew this but I am also sure that most users of saws did not.

    I inherited a number of old saws a few years ago. They came form a farm where I am sure the owners knew how to take care of their cows and how to tend to their forest but they sur did not know how to take care of a saw.

    They did file their saws but the result was horrible. Uneven tooth spacing, rake about 30 degrees, huge fleam angle, etc. They apparently just did not know how to do it. I can see how disposable saws came as a releif for them.

    This is one example: https://www.flickr.com/photos/95900130@N07/36516732371/in/dateposted-public/
    Excellent Swedish steel but look at how it has been filed…
    A close up: https://www.flickr.com/photos/95900130@N07/36485876492/in/dateposted-public/

    This one I did throw away. Some other saws were straighter and I managed to restore them. but I had to joint them a lot and re -cut all the teeth because the teeth locked just as the one on this saw.

    By the way. Should it not be possible to file a hardened saw with a diamond file?

    /Erik

    • Obviously not craftsmen or craftswomen but, no, I am not of the impression that all older generations knew how to do everything well. Sharpening saws with diamond files does not work too well because the nickel plating flakes off with the diamonds it holds

  37. I agree about societies disposable ways. Saws reflect the sad truth that everything in our modern consumerism is designed disposable. More junk for the junkies. As a small custom home builder many modern practices are in direct contradiction to the work ethic and craft my grandfather passed on. We need to look to our past to help remedy our future. http://modernantiquity.net/category/blog/

  38. Though my level of english is not good enough to understand completely all above written in previous posts, I will try to present my point of view. Sorry in advance if the text has some mistakes and if the post is rather long at last.

    I think that this use-and-throwaway culture has misunderstood the real meaning of some words. We tend to mix up “faster” with “better” and “better” with “cheaper”. After a few decades we have become the most faithful followers of the most famous of Victor Lebow postulates:

    “Our enormously productive economy demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfactions, our ego satisfactions, in consumption. The measure of social status, of social acceptance, of prestige, is now to be found in our consumptive patterns. The very meaning and significance of our lives today expressed in consumptive terms. The greater the pressures upon the individual to conform to safe and accepted social standards, the more does he tend to express his aspirations and his individuality in terms of what he wears, drives, eats, his home, his car, his pattern of food serving, his hobbies.

    These commodities and services must be offered to the consumer with a special urgency. We require not only “forced draft” consumption, but “expensive” consumption as well. We need things consumed, burned up, worn out, replaced and discarded at an ever increasing pace. We need to have people eat, drink, dress, ride, live, with ever more complicated and, therefore, constantly more expensive consumption. ”

    This was written in 1.955. THIS (sorry for capitals) is the true reason of all this things. It is not the ease or the rapidity.

    In the other hand, we mix up the meaning of some other important words. “Skilled” and “elitist”, for example. “Quality” and “price”. It seems too that we have also forgotten some of basic arithmetic, that that allow us to calculate how much is the cost of something extended to MANY years of use compared to something that looks cheaper but will go to the wastebasket soon. In Spain we have a proverb: “lo barato sale caro” (“cheap things turn into expensive things at last” could be an approximate translation).

    But, at least in my (personal) opinion, the worst thing in this matter is how we use the excuse of lack of time to justify some absurd ways to do. I’ve seen a lot of people who says “I don’t have time” when I say that I like woodworking with handtools, but I often see them wasting a lot of that time they say not to have watching dozens (if not houndreds) of stupid videos received in whatsapp. Almost all of them end saying “you would be faster if… “. Yes, I know: anyone can spend his time in the way he wants, but I’ve seen too much people using the excuse of lack of time for everything and wasting them in stupid ways after. I’m not talking this time about working time, professional use of working time if you want. I don’t talk about time dedicated to the effective production of something but in make-the-most-of-your-time questions, it seems there are so many masters that there is no room for apprentices.

  39. I am sorry I have not posted sooner. I have been busy rearranging my shop in a more efficient layout. A few have posted similar comments so I’ll be brief. much of this lack of respect for tools and the craftsmanship is the result of “Get ti done yesterday” mentality of to day’s industry. Many things are built strictly for looks. If you are familiar with Mike Holmes who has shows on the DIY network he talks about how homes are built from the inside out. If it is pretty it will sell. That mentality lives throughout today’s markets of nearly all consumer products. It’s all about numbers and production and it’s too expensive to hire good talent. Too time consuming to resharpen ANY TOOL. It’s sad that this has come to pass. However it is nice to see that one has options in the aftermarket to improve many things as long as we keep traditions alive!

  40. Dear Mr. Sellers,

    Thank you for your thoughts. They often mean very much to me, but never more so than just tonight.

    I tend towards the lackadaisical in some aspects of life. Not so much laziness as an impatience to move on to the next thing.

    I am currently engaged in building some shop fixtures. I used my Skilsaw to cut a few inches off a board and then placed the unplugged saw on the ground next to my work (I work outside under an awning in the summer, on gravel). I’m going to return to the project tomorrow night so I left my tools in place.

    I was walking off when this essay came back to me. I thought of your words. I also thought of my great-grandfather, a stern soldier of the Great War and a fine carpenter whose work can still be seen in my hometown. What would he have said to me, leaving my tools in the dirt?

    I’m not sure if it was his voice or yours, or the voice of multitudes, but this thought came into my head: “No man with any pride in his work would leave his tools laying on the ground.”

    I retrieved the saw.

    Many thanks.

    Dan

    • It doesn’t matter who’s voice, Dan, what matters is always respect. Respect really just means ‘looking again’, re spect, from look. I always feel better when I sweep and clean and put things in in order. The original use of the word art came from the Latin ‘work of art; practical skill; a business, craft’. When we sharpen, derust, clean and such we put and then keep things in a pattern of orderliness. This then speaks to others around you. The builders who are building our new workshop and office/studio for our now to be permanent home here in Oxfordshire have always kept the site in a good state of orderliness, which really spoke to me of an inner orderliness, concerns for all over safety and such in terms of getting things done appropriately and in order.

  41. It’s always bothered me to see the way that any tool, not just saws, are abused by those who should be caring for them. After years of repairing, restoring, and resharpening tools for friends and family who abuse them, I won’t do it anymore, and I keep my personal tools under lock and key.

    I once worked with another apprentice, who when his chisel got dull, would say “I’ll just get a new one.” He never learned to sharpen, never bothered to sharpen, just kept on buying cheap tools, and throwing the old ones away. Needless to say, he didn’t last long.

    The other apprentice and I both take pride in the care, maintenance and personal sharpening of all our own tools. One young man who came to work for us, had borrowed a chisel of mine, and dropped it, chipping the corner of the tip. When I came upon him, he was attempting to sharpen the chip out, (Sizable) on a very fine slip stone, and only rubbing the heel of the bevel. He got let go soon after, I’ve never lent out tools since, and it took me 45 minutes to carefully regrind the tip till I was happy with it.

    The stories could continue forever. At least when I die, my tools will be in excellent condition, as my great-uncle’s tools (Machinist) were when he passed them to me.

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