Nostalgia or No?

My working with hand tools has nothing to do with a reluctance toward living in a post modern world; just so you know. I’m just thankful I do, and that I feel to a balanced degree I’ve been able to embrace it. I always like seeing old workshops with wood leaning against rustic walls and scarred bench tops, tools spread around and shavings ankle deep that were never swept for a decade but scuttled into every corner and such. But I like more modern workshops too, as long as they don’t look like kitchens that is, and, contrary to those who think they know me as being this or that, I like all kinds of workbench be that English, German, Asian, or anywhere else in the world. Do I like any particular workbench over another? Well, I think that that’s really quite a silly question, don’t you?. Doesn’t every hand tool woodworker like almost any workbench that works and works well? That’s me, I just like all workbenches as long as they are not, well, too pretentious or prissy, and then, all the more, funnily enough I like workbenches made from greenhouse staging and kitchen tables and picnic benches too. They all mean honest work to me and I love when woodworkers put a spin on their own working environment. Who wouldn’t? Except the exclusivist.

Who wouldn’t like a workshop like this one anyway?

My world enjoys a limited yet balanced outlook surrounding the use of machines so here again I seem always in need to dispel the myth put out that I don’t use any machines or that I don’t like the use of them, that’s been too silly too. Just because I have views that people might do too much with machines and miss out on developing their real woodworking skills does not mean I don’t like or don’t use them. Far from it. I use a machine at least once or twice a month and I have much of my project wood milled to near size by my friend Chris who also mills the hundreds of parts it takes for my classes.

People should just check in with me first, or check my blog because I have said it often enough, I do like machines and I use machines, but only a fraction of the time machinists do because I have skill and have found the ideal balance twixt machine and hand work. I have never used the term power tools in general but that’s just me. Call a spade a shovel and a machine a machine no matter the size or whether it’s static and bolted to the floor or hand held. But I do shun robots and robotics, copy machines run by computers and such like that. This seems more to me to be a sphere I care nothing for because its purpose is more for the unthinking  automaton realm that displaces workmanship and any thought of craftsmanship.

I would have been very disappointed had I used some kind of copy router instead of gouge work.

My work world seems different to the world of other woodworkers in the professional realms. MDF and pressed fibreboard are not a part of my world at all except perhaps to use for full size layout of a project. I remember MDF coming in in the 70s when all the woodworking magazines extolled it as the new future for wooden components. I tried to imagine what would have come up with the Mary Rose had everything m[been made from MDF. Of course it’s a hideously  characterless product developed yet again for the mass-making world and adapted by the small scale user to cut costs beneath the facade of fine (meaning super-thin) veneers. Biscuits hold the components together at the corners and other intersections and the edges are lipped with oak strips only. It was hailed as the new material of the modern era for the evolving world and I see friends in woodworking who trained in college and university courses that do little more than feed sheets of MDF into machines much of the day, week and month and have multiple thousands of pounds in tuition debt they will likely never be able to repay. Oh well.

So, does this smack of nostalgia? Not at all, I just chose to guarantee what I made for a hundred years so my bones can rest in peace when I go.

In my work world I still draw and sketch out my ideas with a pencil. I do this because I can use pencil to flex and bend lines in my mind to the paper, i like to shade and shape with it, add depth, texture and substance that’s mine not a machine’s and, and, because I have always used hand sketches in my work, I never lost a single bid on a furniture design because my customers watched me sketch out the design and witnessed their and my ideas blend into an emerging drawing from the lead of a pencil point on a sheet of clear white cartridge. Now I am not saying that CAD drawings don’t have their place and work well, not at all.

I think it was the blend of artisanry with being able to convey the envisaged work that somehow seemed to project something to them that hitherto they were unsure of. Was the thought possible and if it was who could pull all of the ingredients together. Without formal training my drawings became my signature. Prior to this new era where scanners and digitised sending made communication crystal clear, the lines were inevitably blurry. The days of fax machines was relatively short lived, but `i have to say, there is nothing like watching a sketch come from a soft lead pencil.

Apply this to planing some curly maple or sycamore in front of your would-be customer and letting them touch the silky smooth surface and you transfer the imagery from a two dimensional world to a three-dimensional world. Tap a frame with mortise and tenon joints together encompassing a raised and fielded panel in front of them and you begin to see that it is not nostalgia that always kept me in work but people who loved the idea of buying their possessions from a man or a woman skilled with their hands.

 

Whereas it is a changing world, and CAD and CNC methods have their place too, they have also seen to something of the demise of skilled workmanship, there is and always will be a gathering of people who both desire to work with their hands for a goodly proportion of their work and those who want to know that what is being made for them is made truly by hand rather than pressing keys on keyboards and pressing send to connect to the robots and automatons to the boards on the platen.

Of course I like that there is and always will be a place for nostalgia, I am not talking of nostalgia at all. I don’t believe that the destruction of looms and related equipment was just to halt progress, I think that the Luddites wanted to preserve a way of life. Frankly, my work would still be as economic as many machine operators who rely solely on machines and whose work looks like it was machine made. In my world of making and designing, drawing, sketching, hand shaping, planing and trimming with chisels is a place where I can and still could thrive perfectly well.

My tools and planes, my workbench with its vise from almost a century ago look, well, nostalgic, but because they look nostalgic does not mean nostalgia. For me it means realness, genuine workmanship. I still wake up on a Saturday morning ready toi go to work on the sixth day of every week. I only look forward to a day off because my body tells me its a good thing to do. I have only looked forward to Friday evening and a weekend off when I have been on a conveyor belt working for a mass maker of some kind.

I like drawings, sketches and paintings by skilled and novice artists sympathetic to recording history and such. Aldren  Watson, Eric Sloane, Tunnicliffe even and many more. I would that more art depicting true life were available to us but again it’s not about a nostalgic past that encourages me on against the flow but the reality of the pleasure they have always brought me in the using of the benches, the tools and the wood. In the early days I wasn’t at all adept in using them as I am now. I couldn’t take a saw, alter the pitch or profile for a wood or a different purpose in a matter of minutes as I can now and nor could altogether understand the fineness I was looking for. I haven’t ever wanted to hold the world of woodworking back from progress but I never wanted to abandon proven technologies that continued to be highly effective and I think deep down inside we most of us feel the same way, but might not have developed the missing ingredients that make hand tools work so very, very well.

28 comments on “Nostalgia or No?

  1. Don’t be afraid of robots and computers. You already use them, I can say you are kind of pioneer in using them. You used them very effectively to build this blog and videos. Equipment you used is not soulless, it’s made by humans, there are a lot of work and clever peoples soul in computers, cameras, airplane autopilot, etc. It’s an amazing technology, we should respect and appreciate this work.

    I can say more, this new technology give a chance to small artisans and individuals to compete with big factories. The problem is we don’t know how, because it’s new. This is why you and other artisans have to figure it out, how to use this new tools. We should know how to do it manually, using machines or automatically. Humans have creativity, we should focus on creativity and let machines do repetitive, boring, dangerous work for us.

    • I’m sorry, I don’t think anyone should automatically assume if someone comments about robots or computers in the negative or more passive light that they are somehow “afraid” of them. I am in no way saying they don’t have their place in commerce and industry and to accuse anyone of being ‘afraid‘ takes it to a new level of darkness. I never said I was afraid or even implied it in any way. Deploying adjectives like that only shows all the more that you miss the whole point. That is far from the condition I find myself in.
      Separating the human hand from the work and working something thorough a computer is a clever development in machine work and a very different thing to hand work. It is not and can never be the same as man or a woman working with a chisel or gouge edge and reaching into the wood through the sensitive mechanism of the human worker. We are not at all talking apples for apples here my friend. I am not afraid of technology or machines in any way but I do know that technology intended for industry and to replace skill generally detaches the senses of humanity from the task. If I send a router onto a platen by way of a a computer programmed to that end and the router routes out a hundred of the exact same shape of a saw handle it become to me quite the soulless task resulting in a soulless handle and that’s all there is to it for me. I feel absolutely separated from the task and absolutely nothing for the result no matter how good it feels in my hand. I did not make it, the machine made it. A computer may be a tool in the modern use of the term, but it is not the extension of man’s hand in the expedition of work, so perhaps new definitions are needed here. Whereas making a hundred saw handles for commerce is indeed a good thing, relieving the tedium and distancing the danger, these are elements for commerce and not for the home maker who is looking for the challenge of working wood in real ways.
      Oh, and most of what you say is made by humans, computers and cameras, are not really made by humans but more mere human assembly working via conveyor belt technology watched over by programmed people I believe.
      Being protective of something you really value is not the same as being afraid or fearful usually but just full acceptance and appreciation for well-proven technology, that’s all.

      • Sorry for “afraid”, I’m not a native english speaker, maybe I don’t fully understand this word. I’m glad you are not afraid.

        For me, computers and cameras are made by humans. They are designed, engineered, programmed by humans. If you know how it works, you’ll see a lot of human spirit and soul. Conveyer belt and assembly is just a way to distribute this technology to the peoples, this are amazing inventions too. We can mass produce copies so many peoples can afford this products. It’s important to see that today more and more peoples can afford a mobile phone, imagine if we make phones by hand. I suppose you use a mass produced car, mass produced computers, phones. I personally see a lot of peoples worked hard to produce that and I respect them and their product. There are many products that don’t need to be personalized but have to be exact and work for us.

        Compare hand drawings (hand made) to photography (machine copy), paper support and mail to digital images distributed over internet. Both are filling good. The same should happen to hand woodworking and cnc, machine work, both have rights to life and prosperity.

        Computer can handle a router and produce 100 saw handles. But you don’t see it can produce 100 different saw handles or 100 totally different objects for you. Here is the value for both a small artisan and a home maker. In my opinion producing 100 saw handles and then try to sell them, pay publicity for that is a wrong approach. Machine should produce on demand, what needed and no more, and this is the difference between machines where you mass produce the same piece by setting up jigs and CNC, robotics where you can produce what you need in quantity you need and produce it locally. Machine should scan my hand and produce a saw handle for me, another one for my daughter or my wife. If I want a hockey stick, machine will produce one for me, adapted to my height and size. I can focus on design or I can just play hockey. This machines are in early stage, they will improve in time, be simple to use, cheap, safe, will make no noise or dust, they could handle a chisel instead of a rotating tool.

        There are peoples that think with hands, there are peoples that don’t think with hands, it’s like peoples that work better with text, images or models. There are peoples that love watching football on tv, there are other that hate watching on tv, there are other that love playing and don’t love watching.

        Personally I love working with hands, I love the smell, and music of cutting wood with hand tools. But I love technology too. Machines save our time, so we can have more time working with hands and delegate all we need fast or don’t care too much or it’s too complicated or boring to machines. I love your work, and love your approach, I also love the work your team is doing, I think they are younger and help you a lot, they are doing great job, it will be nice to make them more visible too.

  2. I don’t have a water tight garage so I have to do all my work outside,I made a stand for my rabbit hitches to sit on at a height where I can just reach forwards to clean them out,that had doubled into a log store for the fire,and now with a sheet of ply and varnish,triples up as my work bench with my record junior vice.
    I had a disused footon,with what looked like pine structure,a I bought another used footon frame for £10 of eBay and spent about a month planing the very notty,twisted,bowed and cupped 83mm x 1300 planks true,it took for ever due to the weather and taking them from 20mm down to 9/16 for my tool box.
    It’s my very first project and it’s been a baptism of fire,many pieces had opposing grain with 3-4 knots along 24″ length.

    I can see the benefit of using planer thicknesser but would have missed out on the challenges this very difficult wood offered.

    It gave me a huge respect for Paul’s fitness,I’m 35 and thought I was fit,but boy oh boy does Paul make peeping wood look easy

  3. It’s my nerves mostly. I simply can’t take the screaming router no matter what I stuff into my ears. It reminds me of a bully with it’s forceful aggressive removal of wood. I’m a practical man or at least I think so. I can’t seem to wrap my head around jigs being more complicated than the project at hand just to use a router. I have an old Stanley rabbet plane. I can set it up and cut my rabbet at will. I also have a router that will do the job, but I find myself sweating, swearing and fantasizing the sale of the machine the whole time I’m setting it up. Its never used any longer. It’s was a gift so I’ll just continue to provide it room and board.

  4. Having spent most of my early woodworking time constrained by the need to work, I did tend to use anything that would speed the process up. Machinery used in conjunction with jigs, producing immaculate dovetails, mortices, tenons all perfect and done with relative speed. Biscuit joints wow how easy was that..
    Now being a lot older and a little more time on my hands I find that the workshop electricity bill is slowly dropping. Wandering around the car boot sales seeking out bargain hand tools is all part of the fun. Making poor man tools which work is great. Thank you Paul for all the good work that you do that has persuaded me to try the hand working route. I,m no Chippendale and certainly no Paul Sellers but hey do I enjoy the things that you have taught in your amazing You Tube videos. Many many thanks mate long may you continue

  5. Pity your blog can’t transmit the senses of smell and sound. In the first picture I can imagine the combined smells of moist, slightly fungal walls mixed with the scent of various woods, perhaps combined with a hint of linseed oil (to me, the smell of my grandfather’s shop). And hear the rythmical sounds of a plane, or a chisel being hammered. Relaxing, re-assuring, confident. The sounds and smells that will lure passers-by to come into the shop and satisfy their curiosity, whilst admiring the work being done.

    Whereas the second picture screams annoyance to me. Whining screaming machines, throwing dust in your face and the air. Necessary at times, but something to be reduced to the absolute minimum. The things that cause people in the room to leave at the first opportunity available, and not coming into the shop in the first place unless they really, really need to be there.

    I enjoyed zooming-in to the top picture and just looking at the shop. The drill stand in front of the window…. I notice not a single dove-tail in it (grins). Then there’s the key hanging at the extreme right. I’m now also less ashamed to admit to all the nails in my shed to hang tools from.

    I also noticed two saw-set pliers in the picture (just left above the plane you’re holding). I’ve noticed the type on the right is the one I always see you use. I have 3 of the model at the left of it. I noticed that, when setting even a relatively coarse saw (7 PPI), my saw set was set at its ‘finest’ limit. Am I right in thinking that the left model is more suited for coarse saws, whereas the one on the right and which I normally see you use in your videos, is meant more for finer saws?

    Curious, as the image of the two different saw sets hanging next to eachother suggest to me they have different uses, or otherwise complement eachother. But perhaps I’m mistaken – I’m interested in your opinion on the matter.

    • Regardless (though I am eager to hear them myself) of Mr. Seller’s answers to your queries, I wanted to thank you for making this comment.

      Reading your observations of the first picture made me click to view it full size…and I’m so very glad I did! It’s just a beautiful shop, isn’t it? It’s not fussy and perfectly organized (though I’ve no doubt that the owner knows precisely where everything is) and some tools hang on nails instead of meticulously crafted, purpose-built holders; some of the racks and such are simply, but functionally, constructed without worrying about perfectly cut dovetails and so on…and the *tools* …my goodness, aren’t they just gorgeous? No electric drill, or circular saw, or electric router ever made could hope to be as lovely as a carefully tended handsaw or bit-brace, much less a well-cared-for wooden plane! I have some health difficulties, so I sometimes have to resort to the assistance of electrical tools, especially for dimensioning and such, but I can’t emphasize enough how much I dislike using those tools. Well, aside from the cordless drill, I suppose. I don’t mind that one as much as the saws, heh. Anyway, thank you again for moving me to see the wonderful details in that photo. I feel uplifted, if that makes sense? 🙂

  6. Paul,

    You are a master of using machines, whether they are hand held mechanical or the use of a blog or video, After all it’s how I met the tool master. (When I was searching YouTube for building my bench and found this guy making one from 2×4’s…LOL!)

    I believe in the artisan and the artist who take us out of our passive vision filled lives and encourage us to make mistakes and learn from Murphy and Sellers. I really enjoy your writing and more so your teaching style which is soothing.

    One of my heroes is James Krenov. He like you was a master wood and wordsmith. I learned from him to appreciate the wood I work with and be aware of my interaction with tools. He is gone but left us his knowledge and passion. For me you fill that void.

    I can’t afford a cnc machine, and I prefer using hand sketches and 1/4 size models, but I do appreciate CAD and 3d modelling so others can push the envelope of creativity. What I really like is when they do that while respecting the values and integrity that you espouse.

    Love reading your posts and hey I have 2 sets of Aldi chisels.

    Thanks for all you do sir!

    Thomas Tieffenbacher/aka DocSavage45

  7. I suppose that it’s not nostalgia at all if what takes place is the production of a new piece of furniture by using tried and tested hand tools. If it was made today, it’s contemporary. I use a table saw to size salvaged wood (dark oak drop-leaf tables being so cheap and unloved), however I love it when I’m using the hand tools which make noise at an acceptable level. Is there a better sound in the workshop than a sharp plane taking shavings from seasoned wood?

    In any case, I don’t think that nostalgia is any way something to be ashamed of. I drive a modern car for everyday use, but have vintage cars from the 1940’s and 1960’s. They work, they bring me and people I meet pleasure, I can fix them without a computer!, and the supply of parts keeps numerous small businesses in existence. Add to that, the fact that many of the parts are recycled and you have the saving of resources. There is also a social aspect to such ownership, everybody wins.

    I decided that I could use a bicycle for local trips which were more than 10 minutes walk. I bought an old Raleigh Superbe, which has rod brakes, oil chain cover and the like. It really is superbe, comfortable and quick once it builds up momentum, and no need for lycra or bicycle clips.

    All those who use older hand tools should be proud of ensuring that they are employing items which waste no resources, and would otherwise be gathering dust/rust. In a throw away society, this is another form of ‘green’ woodworking. Keep it up, and more of I say!

  8. Interesting read Paul thank you. I’ve just completed redesigning 17 retail stores for a teleco (phase 1) and another 25 stores got an update as opposed to a full redesign (phase 2). It was MDF and Oak and everything is designed and produced on computers and CNC machines. Then there’s the signage guys who I produce all the artwork for and they produce and install it. I was the lead designer working in partnership with architects and I find it amazing what can be produced and installed in such a fast manner. It’s the scale of it that’s impressive, they fit out a store in days and move onto the next. It’s a pretty small team that handles everything. I walk into a store and see the physical of what I had designed but there is a disconnect to the actual making. This will most likely have a shelf life of only a few years when the business will need to update again to keep pace with emerging consumer trends. I love designing yet yearn to have that physical connection, to create objects of function and beauty that aren’t temporary and disposable. Like you I don’t have an issue with machines but I want more. It’s a shame when machines are used for everything. As you said in an industrial/commercial setting it makes sense but for a small workshop you can’t beat hand tools. As you have taught time and again they are just so flexible and adaptable to make just about anything.

    Less is more… more or less.

  9. Machines are dangerous and violent, period. Those that feel differently, you never had a saw blade fly past your torso or a router bit fly past your head. Something was looking out for me that day because I could have been blinded or flat out killed. What was it? The craft of working wood with hand tools. After my 2 near accidents, I switched to hand tools. “And that has made all the difference”. ~ Robert Frost

      • I had a flush cut router bit come apart and ball bearings flew in different directions. Also nearly got hit by a large circle of steel when it came off a lathe and rolled across the floor (I was in high school, someone forgot to tighten the chuck before starting). It’s mad what can happen.

      • Unpredictable issues crop up from time to time and there may be no rhyme or reason visible at the time. Flying regularly with my hand tools, cinching everything tight, my planes ALWAYS arrive in the destination country fully dismantled. Vibration alone is the cause. Harmonics centres the sound post in a violin or cello via air waves and such. We should never underestimate the amount of vibration in machines that can dismantle a blade or cutter or indeed any aspect of the equipment. That is why we maintain machines beyond just the blades.

      • Imagine the blade of a chop saw not being tightened enough. Imagine squeazing the on button. Imagine pulling the arm down. Imagine the blade flying off the arm, past your torso, and sticking into a basement wall. Imagine thanking god you were not killed.

  10. Paul, I don’t know where to start to thank you for your insights and wisdom. Without progress, we would still be living in caves but that does not mean we shouldn’t connect with our ancestors. For years, the newest power tool (machine) constantly tempted me and although I have enjoyed creating from wood since I was a boy watching my grandfather use these very machines, I had no deep connection to the tools or my work. I did however have a need to use a rusty old Worth plane which was missing the depth adjustment wheel (which I still can find a replacement for), and it was this very tool that prompted me to do a Google search a year ago for “restoring and using a hand plane.” Nostalgia helped me to discover your YouTube videos, and a grand day it was. Now instead of searching for the newest power tools I scour eBay for old hand tool deals, prompting my wife to tell me she is tired of rusty tools showing up in the mail. With these tools, my soul has found a connection them and the wood I work. An unintended consequence of all this is also the peace I now enjoy from the sound of a plane gently gliding over, and sometimes coming to a dead stop on a knot, over scavenged wood. Combat has left a constant ringing in my ears, and power tools don’t help even with protection, as well as other scars. Although my woodworking has a long way to go, the inner-peace I enjoy a few times a week cannot be measured, so a very heart felt thank you for what you are doing.

  11. Great, great post, as usual.
    I do not consider myself a woodworker: nor professional neither hobbyist, I’m still on the learning process, but I love having my hand and mind and body busy with (hand)tools on (real)wood.
    Thanks for sharing your soulful thoughts with us.

  12. Paul,
    Some years ago a major food magazine interviewed famous chefs and cooks, asking them to name the most important tool in their kitchens. Some named their chef’s knives, a few named the food processor, and so on. When retired chef Rene Verdon (former White House chef under President Kennedy) was asked, he replied, “My two God given hands.”

  13. Paul, i very much long for the skill you demonstrate in the videos and i will try and try again. Fully understand the difference between the hand and machine in emotion. Started woodworking only month ago since i have some involuntary spare time around. Your videos and those of some others are the inspiration for me to continue. To use machines and to learn the patience to increasingly use hand tools. To move from imbalance to balance.

    Your thought are important to give me guidance, i enjoy the read.

  14. I did my apprenticeship in Sheffield fifty odd years ago with many men like yourself Paul. They were craftsmen like no others, although not in wood, but steel. There skills with hand tools was absolutely amazing. I’ve seen a skilled fitter using only a hacksaw and files make a special gear, that I bet could still working today, it took nearly four days to make, I could have turned the same gear out in one hour on a milling machine, and maybe minutes on a CNC machine. I have to say I was very proud to be associated with these men. Although it made me sad watching them hang on to all their hand tools as though they would always be needed, at the same time shunning machines. Being against their method of working was the only battle I had during the five years I worked with these men. Sure, the work they turned out was without a doubt first class as is yours. But their Yorkshire doggedness hanging on to hand tools, and other outdated antique methods of working, was one of he things that killed the industry I was training to be part of. The very heart of Sheffield was ripped out by other industrial centres in the world that did use modern manufacturing methods. Leaving behind the men using antique methods no matter how good the results. Having said all that, what I really think you should do, is point out to the new woodworking fraternity; the way you work wood and teach how to work wood is not perhaps the most efficient way. But a way you are skilled at and personally feel comfortable with. Pointing out there are other more efficient ways to create similar end results, without the fifty years? of experience you speak about. Of cause if you have the time to spare and fifty years to mature your skills, sure, go for it. I of cause admire your skills and the work you do. However, like many of your pupils I don’t have the fifty years to spare to hone my skills, so please try and build into you lesson some modern lateral tuition. I now thank you for explaining all the intricacies of woodworking, I have learned many things, but I can’t get the accuracies you get in your work, and want, so I rely on some machines that give me the end result I need, using your lessons to achieve these results.

    Therefore, what I suppose is, if your work is for a hobby and you have lots of time on your hands, not paying rent on the facilities, not paying for all the extra time utilities are being used, no problems, but if it’s not, you should consider machines to get the job done faster. On the other hand, I do like all the hand tool comments, so power to you. Most of us live in a free world, so whatever floats your boat.

    Apart from my comments above, I have a doctor friend that would argue the safety of hand tools, she’s had to handle many hand tool accidents, a popular one is getting skewered on a screwdriver. The last hand tool accident my doctor friend handled was a 25mm chisel through a man’s hand. Although I have to admit machines are more effective when it comes to maiming. The main thing in both cases is not to take chances, hand tools and machines will always take advantage of the negligent user.

  15. I trained as a draftsman back in 1967/68. At that time computers were talk of the future and in my training and early days in this field it was pencil, triangles, and other hand held tools of the drafting trade. Sketching was part of the process, the engineer would hand me a sketch, which I would add my notes and sketch lines to clarify what he was after, and then return a hand drawn print to him for correction and mark-up. All my woodworking plans for many years were not much more than sketches and a mass of math notes calculating margins and etc to produce the item. Today I use a CAD system to make working drawings of every part. Not because I love its use, but because I love woodworking and not all the hand scratched math notes. Once my drawings are completed there is no math, just a set of drawings that enables me to mill, shape, and produce the parts to my projects. We all have our own take on woodworking, mine is to produce high quality furniture that carries the precision of the CAD drawing translated to hand operations.

  16. I started the joinery craft using the basic tools I thought I needed, contractor saw, thickness planer, joiner, router. I have slowly transformed to using hand tools, and may from time to time use a router, because i don’t have the hand tool to make the cut I need, ( plough plane ).
    Nothing more enjoyable than working the wood, only wish I discovered it sooner,
    Working on a Grandfather Style Clock out of a piece of 5/4 Poplar, 8′ tall 12-14″ wide.
    : )

  17. Lovely post and very true to my heart. I’ve started my woodworking journey slightly later in life and I can truly say that for me after a career in the hectic corporate world I’ve finally found something that I love doing. I have no intention of going near any large power tools, and that’s nothing to do with the fact that I’m of a small frame and stature but for me it’s the love of working with a natural material and creating something beautiful ( By watching your videos) with my hands. Like others have said it’s about the touch and smell of the wood, the sound of the saw and the patterns of the grain that I love, but it’s also about slowing down and embracing the relaxation achieved whilst being absorbed for hours with nothing else but a piece of wood and a collection of hand tools
    Every time I walk into a workshop it reminds me of the hours my father used to spend finding all sorts of uses for left over pieces of wood. I would be there watching him for hours, I’d pick up the curly shavings on the floor and run them through my fingers. Recently I was involved in a timber framing project all built by hand and all women, what an experience that was and what satisfaction I achieved from hand sawing a straight line across such a huge piece of larch. Wonderful!

  18. The reason I like your videos is that you focus on hand skills. Most other videos (particularly US) are tutorials on how to carry the wood from the planer/thicknesser to the table saw/CNC machine etc. Obviously, if you’re a professional woodworker, you need all these things… but then, professional woodworkers are hardly likely to be watching a tutorial on how to do dovetail or mortice & tennon joints, are they?
    I have a 8ftX12ft shed (twice the size of the shed I had before) so I wouldn’t have room for all that equipment even if I could afford them. I think most viewers are people like me with limited space and equipment.
    I do have a small table saw with limited depth of cut so knowing how to rip a length of timber with a handsaw without going off the line is very useful. Even a simple box joint that could easily be done on a router with appropriate jig is much more enjoyable to cut by hand.
    It’s not about ‘nostalgia’… besides, most of my hand tools are older than me so I’d have to transgress to a former life to feel nostalgic about them. It’s about developing skills and the confidence that that gives. Machines can break down. Skill doesn’t.
    Also, the woodwork I produce is a process of doing enjoyable tasks such as sawing by hand, planing, chopping out mortices and so on. It isn’t about production so much as a form of meditation. I love that there are machines for doing a lot of these tasks and I love it when new innovations come on to the market. But that’s just an interest, not a passion.
    One of the things I like to do is make my own hinges. I use an electric scrollsaw with a low power microscope attached so that I can cut out very intricate shapes. Someone sent me a link to a laser cutter that was available and reasonably cheap. I thought about it for about ten seconds. Why would I want a machine to have all the fun?

  19. Thanks again, Paul, for your insights and no-nonsense reflections on life and workmanship. Amongst the abundance of videos the following may very well already be addressed – even if I haven’t found it – but I would really appreciate a lesson in drawing. Seeing examples from your journal, it seems you’ve found a good ballance between the technical drawing and the more artistic representation. I’m sure you’ve techniques and reflections on this part of your craft as well.

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