After I reshaped my saw handle, the one on the new-version, inexpensive Spear & Jackson resharpenable saw I recommend to just anyone and everyone, the one shown above in its original state from the maker, I felt all the more in tune with it! yesterday I crosscut 20 boards with it running my saw plate to my knifewall and I could not fault it for performance. It is one of the sweetest little saws to use, takes and holds a good cutting point whether rip or crosscut and it costs less than all the other resharpenable saws on the market just about — maybe around £25, Euros or US dollars. It’s a good and fair price for such a saw with a hardwood handle and great steel, I think. The reshaping of the handle brought me immeasurable joy and doubly so when I was able to show you how to do it for yourself!
I’m one of those people who believes that some things we do in the present somehow manage to telegraph through into a spiritual future. For me, shaping a handle is shaping the future, it’s shaping the mind, reshaping it, and then giving new purpose in the most positive way.
When I repurpose pallet wood (not a species) to become a shed I take something destined for pulverising or even just the landfill or burning and give it a different value as well as a new purpose.
Transformation is what humanity is largely about. Transformative processes make life better, for the main part that is, by enabling us to make comfort from the harsher coarseness of raw materials. In times past, populations made all that they needed, they grew food and shaped life more for good. We are so disposable throwaway society today that it seems that even people have become expendable. We must guard against this, otherwise we will return to the central days of the Industrial Revolution when orphaned kids worked in factorial orphanages situated by factories at the age of six on up and died at aged 17 from emphysema. We as humans texture life be that in good and bad ways. The Industrial Revolution was for the longest time hailed as a British marvel to humanity. Today we see more the negative ramifications of destruction and consumerism than we do the positives. The reason is because it’s true. How many drive massive diesel-fed cars without shame because they can when others travel the public transport to halve the carbon footprint because they want to see and make a difference.
It would be wrong to decry all as wrong. We all have benefits from industrialism. And it wasn’t industrialism necessarily that caused the problems! It was the insatiable greed known now as consumerism! Greed of consumers and greed of profit mongers with no soul. They feed off one another day in day out.
I rely on a marvelous contraption that enables me to painlessly inject my body twice a day and painlessly with insulin. The piece comes from industrial developments in many fields including plastics. I dial in precise quantities, change the needles for each shot in two seconds, press the plunger and the exact amount enters my body when the plunger stops. I recall forty plus years having a glass and stainless steel syringe with countless parts that all needed dismantling to boil and sterilize the same to prevent any kind of infection. These are two industrial developments that benefitted me but 50nyears apart; steps if you will! The old needles were painfully inserted into the skin through constant reuse and unfortunately could not be resharpened. I say this because at the end of the day we are intrinsically inventive. We are born to make and that anatomy of our bodies and minds show that, unlike all other animals, we can capably reinvent wheels into a million different configurations. When it comes to mouse traps we have hundreds to choose from too. This is who we are.
Some of our villages and towns were known locally, nationally and even internationally for furniture making while others, my home town of Stockport, for instance, were known for making hats. A few miles away, the town of Macclesfield was called silk town because it had a silk weaving industry, as did the neighboring towns of Bollington and Stockport. Here in the town in which I now live, Abingdon, the once well-famed MG cars were once made. The local pubs have nostalgic images of the car and the factory and the workers who once worked there. Not the same car or company, the MG cars are now made in Shanghai, India and Taiwan. It’s wholly a Chinese car.
Intrinsically, all people are makers, growers and bakers and cooks. In the mix, of course, there are designers and investors, Inventors, business entrepreneurs and many more.
Did you ever ask yourself why you like to grow, a few things, bake, cook and make things from raw ingredients? Why you find it naturally drawing to pick up something rough and work it into an art form, grow food in your garden or on your window sill and then too raise an animal or two for eggs or to eat? What about the woman and the man plugging away at a computer all week who swings an ax to split firewood at the weekend so that the house is warm and toasty.
This inherency, my friends, is indeed who and what we are. The most common of all English surnames is Smith. By origin, the name Smith comes from the word to smite or strike, as in ancient forms of metalworking. Hence we have blacksmith, tinsmith, goldsmith and silversmith. Then, of course, we have leathersmith and other names ending in the name smith too.
My dovetailing was both quick and slow. A corner like this one takes me about three-quarters of an hour, but I allow myself the benefits of being distracted with other important things like taking my granddaughter through fields and woods to feed the ducks and geese by the lake behind my workshop. It takes a while to steer an almost-but-not-quite-two-year-old quarter of a mile past blackberry bushes when they are ripe and ready to eat. But steer I do and then I sit on a stump with her for ten minutes as we watch the establishment of hierarchy between waterfowl as they fight their way to supremacy and relegation for the tiny morsels we send overarm and underarm to them. We so enjoy the swing park too!
I have not lost the thread on building the houseful of furniture at all. The pandemic necessitated many changes and hopefully we will all ultimately be advantaged by the changes wrought by its ravages to our cultures. It’s an unfortunate thing that life seems to be reverting in many ways to its former self of normal selfish carelessness. My hope in many spheres is that the economy will indeed change to become more controlled by the lesser demands rather than its former controlling and thoughtless self where many if not most were governed by impulses driven by clickbait and things they never thought about until two seconds after they saw it. I have spent several months as others have in a sort of survival mode trying NOT to rely on the fakeness of so-called science and struggling to take ultimate responsibility for my own life and the life of others. There has not been sufficient data with this new pandemic to predict the future as we have seen, but after the dust settles I am sure that that half of the world that says there is no such things as COVID-19 will believe that it does and take the very simple precautions to prevent themselves from infecting others with their two diseases — unbelief and COVID-19.
My prototype is coming together nicely with nine dovetails per corner coming from two chisels, a 10″ R. Groves brass backed dovetail saw, my Thor chisel hammer and a few pencil lines following a combination square and a knife — the Stanley folding pocket knife for the knifewall is, of course, my non-negotiable.
Today I will finish the corners and negotiate some 17″ long sliding dovetails. I am getting ready for the doors and drawers. It’s a bigger project for woodworkingmasterclasses.com. I am using some oak I have had in stock for ten years or so for the final version. This prototype I will likely use myself for storage. The thing I love the most about my work is that rough-sawn wood of any kind gets made into something nicely refined and fully joined together by tradition. Thankfully I will never use a biscuit or a domino in my remaining lifetime of joinery. This, along with my never having used a power router to cut a dovetail, is most satisfying. It means I remained in control of my life and was never tempted from what I believe in and that is that hand-cut joinery is the true power of my lived life.