Woodworking Without Power Tools, A Life - Long Love Affair With Hand Woodworking Tools
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Woodworking Without Power Tools, A Life  -  long Love Affair With Hand Woodworking Tools

Woodworking is as much a relationship with your materials and your woodworking hand and power tools as it is a livelihood. When starting out as a woodworker / carpenter in 1974, I had been in a furniture making program in an art school on the East Coast. There I had learned the basics of using chisels, mallet, and hand plane and as well power tools such as planers, table saws, drill presses and jointers. I had been taught to square up a piece of raw lumber with a hand plane and a square. I had been taught to lay out and to cut dovetail joints by hand; to make mortise in tenon joints by hand. I had been taught to cut a perpendicular edge on a piece of hardwood with a hand saw.

Transitioning into the commercial world of jobs and deadlines and thinking out of the box brought me into a whole new relationship with these old friends—the tools in my tool bag. Little did I know I would have a life long love affair with these cherished implements of my trade.

I am now in my mid 60’s and have left the carpentry and job work site behind. I saw over my career a great popularization of power tools. Now nearly everyone with an interest is home improvement owns a router these days. It was not so when I started out.

When I began working as a carpenter for a small privately owned company, house restoration was on the rise in the cities. People had become interested in remodeling their house to the standards of its elegant past. People like myself were hired as craftsmen and craftswomen in order to bring a bit of the artisan to the work site.

We often came to the residential projects before electricity was installed (or plumbing!) We used cross cut and rip hand saws to cut materials. We used hand planes to true the edges to 90 degress and we sanded the elements by hand to 320 grit.

Sometimes we made our own woodworking hand tools on site to perform specific functions such as scribing a line off an uneven wall onto a piece of molding that needed to dead-end onto a brick wall. Or creating a beading scraper out of a piece of an old industrial band saw blade using a file. I had learned many of these trade tips as i had worked with old timers before I got to the field. This information would prove invaluable in so many ways.

Because I learned from folks who had done this for many years, I found I made a fast and deep friendship with my tools and materials because I saw the intrinsic built in benefit from it. I learned to use all the traditional hand woodworking tools. I became proficient at using a small low angle hand plane until it became like an extension or a part of my hand. It performed its function perfectly.

Later when I went to work in a shop and actually came indoors these skills went on to show me their value. In repairing antique furniture for instance I used many of these job site carpentry skills with me and I saw them develop there even more. In the years to come I ran my own woodworking shop making custom contemporary furniture. More than once i had to repair a piece with methods I had learned when just starting out.

There is something about the relationship between the hand, the tool and the material that creates a revolutionary leap in the mind. You evolve so to speak in what ever you are doing. Over time without really contemplating it you are teaching your hands and fingers to think. They no longer work outside of you but inside of you. As if different parts of the brain are being fired in tandem. And as a result you grow more intelligent in a very practical way. Not in a factoid swallowing way but in an ease with seeing a situation and allowing your body mind and spirit to accomplish the task because you have already done the hard work of creating an inner language with your tools and materials.

Now I sell woodworking hand tools and power tools through my business GNUMarket. I enjoy seeing what is new that is coming down the pike and what remains tried and true. It is amazing how consistently the old tools stay relevant and just as amazing to see what can be accomplished in the workshop or on the job in less time than ever. Check out my site when you need a quality woodworking hand tool or power tool you want to make a life-long friendship with.


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