Ever since I started blogging I have never felt on my own and that’s because of how you’ve always responded through the years. No matter what methods you use to make wood work for you, it does not take long to find likeminded people to unite with. Green woodworking, wood turning, intarsia and instrument making and dozens of others have their unique group of followers. Whereas my work revolves around hand tools and hand tool woodworking, my reasoning might be a little different. I often hear people say what difference does it make which methods you use if the end result is the same? well, it makes a huge difference.
Experience tells me that many hand tool operations are far more efficient by hand just as many machine operations are more efficient by machine. Machine woodworking and hand tool woodworking are technically unrelated but that’s my view. I think mostly that choice is more a matter of preference. The difference for me, beyond the fine finish on wood that the hand plane mostly gives me, is how I feel as I manipulate the tool in the wood. Split-cutting a tenon beats the screaming router hands down. On the one hand I must protect my ears, nose, mouth, eyes and face throughout the whole operation, on the other I leave my hearing totally exposed so I can indeed enjoy the sounds of splitting cutting my wood close to depth, paring is near silent, planing reaches deep in me and then sawing the cheeks of a dovetail and tenon, what can I say?
On the one hand I must wrestle the torque of the router and indeed sometimes muscle it ti task, on the other I am completely relaxed in the chopping, paring and finessing. Now that’s just me. I should say here that I am probably just as experienced with powered equipment of every kind from massive tenoners down to the ubiquitous router of modern times, so it’s not through inexperience that I choose one over the other. Most of my decision making comes from whether I choose protective ways of working wood or the freedom I get from wearing very little. Some have laughed at my head gear when I use the bandsaw. It does look like something out of science fiction, I admit, and I actually do not need it because my extraction leaves nothing to harm me in the atmosphere, but I feel an obligation to my audience. They may not have as good extraction or any at all. Better the precaution.
The bandsaw has been a sensible addition to my filming. We have never hidden the reality of sometimes using pre-dimensioned wood where I either buy in pre-milled stock that’s readily available or indeed have a friend mill it for me rather than occupy valuable workspace with several machines. My reasoning is truly sound. In actuality I have always relied on machines and especially when I worked as a full time producing craftsman. Today my audience are less likely to have machining as an option or desire. Many though expressed difficulty in cutting stock down to lesser proportions for a variety of reasons. In reality most machinists extol the virtue of the machines for dimensioning but then spend a great amount of time developing jigs to work in the machine rather than developing skill and muscle to create what wood actually give them great pleasure should they venture the steps.
It’s surprising how many woodworkers are fearful of messing up sharpening edge tools, scrapers, saws and so on. that’s why we have spent so much time and expense on educating a new generation of woodworkers. The bandsaw is really an ideal machine for resawing as it was intended. It’s truly versatile and takes the smallest footprint. Only recently did I reintroduce it to my workshop space because when I moved from my castle workshop in North Wales to Abingdon it meant storing it for a few years. I do like machines. It is unlikely that I would reintroduce them to my workspace again though. The peace I now enjoy, alongside the health and welfare, cleanness, quiet, versatility and so much more far exceeds the benefits of owning so-called power tools. It’s my belief that developing skill to use hand tools is where the true power tools are.
The survey we recently put out was truly spectacularly inspiring. We found out what people in over 30 countries worldwide valued as furniture for their living rooms and this will so help me in my considerations for the series of pieces I will be making into the future. Keep an open mind for this. I think some things might surprise you. After the evaluation is all done I may need to put out some more questions to clarify what we have learned.
Thank you so much for taking this seriously. I cannot ignore over 900 people answering the questionnaire on living room furniture. You are truly amazing people!