Sunday, July 5, 2009

Let's Be Rational!

I have started this blog with one goal in mind. To help those who are suffering from woodworking dimentia. The inability to decide on "What tool should I use" or "Should I use a power tool or hand tool" and the ever popular "Maybe I should just turn a baseball bat on my new eight hundred dollar lathe, and club myself repeatedly, because so far that is all I can make." This blog is aimed more towards the beginning wood enthusiast, but seasoned professionals may occasionally find a morsel to use as well. So let us start with the big controversy.

Hand Tools vs. Power Tools

There seems to be a very defined line separating those who need voltage to get it done and those who like it "unplugged" so to speak. Power tools are convenient, time saving and tend to be easier to do projects with minimal detail, for the most part. With hand tools there is a real satisfaction of actually "handmade" attached to using them, but are tedious and time consuming to master. So what direction should you go in ? I say both! Keep your power tools, but slowly start adding hand tools to your arsenal, a chisel here, a hand saw there, and practice using them, before you know it you won't set up your dovetail jig to do one or two dovetail drawers because by the time you get the jig set you could have already done it by hand. Here is an example. Several years ago I wanted to learn mortise and tenon joinery and decided on a machine to do my mortises (Hollow mortiser) until I saw how much they cost. So I researched hand tool methods to do them, and went that route instead. So one honking mortise chisel and two backsaws later I was off to my so called shop to start chopping. Endless frustration ensued for the first month, and the second, third and so on. Just when I was on the verge of giving up, I decided to compare a joint I had just completed with one of the first ones I did. I was amazed and delighted at the difference in the two. I had actually become fairly proficient at it. So the point is I will use hand tools when I have a small amount of things to do (I still cut all of my mortises by hand) ,but if I have twenty or thirty tenons to make, it's time to fire up the table saw. The truth of the matter is this. You should learn to use as many types of both as possible, if you truly want to do woodworking. There are things one can do that the other cannot. Embrace both freely and try to blur the lines between the two schools of thought, because if I had to choose between my router or my dovetail saw, let's just say i wouldn't.

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