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A Beginner's Thoughts #1: Moving to the Dark Side...

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Blog entry by MikeInPenetanguishene posted 01-27-2010 06:03 AM 1260 reads 0 times favorited 17 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of A Beginner's Thoughts series Part 2: Leaning back... »

... as I’ve heard some hand-tool users call it. Yes – I’m talking power tools.

Mind you, I have a fair set of power tools now, but my initial intentions for this hobby was to learn the craft via hand tools. However, the more I read, learn and do woodworking the more I’m drawn in to, not only the ease of use, but also the plethora of information available for power tools. Seems that every tutorial I pick up involves some use of a power tool, beit a table-saw, drill-press, router, etc.

As my wife so eloquently reminded me last night – I’m not getting any younger and by the time I get, learn and master the hand tools needed to complete a project I’ll need to build myself a stand to keep me vertical in front of the workbench.

So, couldn’t sleep last night thinking about this and have decided that I want to ‘practice’ woodworking (sounds like a doctor eh!) in whatever way allows me to build stuff right now. Don’t get me wrong – I still want to learn as much as possible about using hand tools and lets face it, there are times when a hand tool can’t be beat, but, I am conceding to the fact that power tools just make the job easier, faster and more repeatably accurate. All valuable to a beginner like me.

I think that’s why I’ve been secretly (even to me) building my flotilla of power tools. First it was a compound mitre saw that I got new, but practically free (that’s another story and what started this insanity), then a set of Ridgid 18V power tools (six or seven tools I believe), then the Ridgid table saw, a free 6” jointer. Now I’m looking at a planer which will get me real close to the dark side with little chance of turning back.

The thing is, I’m comfortable with this decision. I enjoy working with my hands, even though they lack skill. I enjoy the smell of freshly sawn wood, whether its from a table saw or hand-saw. And I enjoy admiring my finished projects even with all the faults that only you and I would see – well, maybe a few other too.

Funny thing is, I’ve been a professional photographer for over 20 years now and also run photography workshops. I see the same passion in my students eyes for photography that I now have for woodworking. I’m swiftly sliding down the slippery slope of tool acquirement, hoping that the next tool I purchase will take me to the next plateau I so need to achieve. I’m a student again, a beginner, and as dangerous as a white belt in a karate class (they’re the most dangerous you know – they don’t know how to control their punches!)

But being a professional photographer, with all the gizmos, gadgets (you would call them clamps and jigs) and power-tools available (BIG megapixel cameras) – I know the real talent lies with those that have patience, learn the craft from the basics up and understand (and appreciate) the journey of building not only projects, but skill and knowledge too.

After all, I don’t develop film and prints in a darkroom any longer – I’m DIGITAL!

Cheers y’all

-- Mike Guilbault, Penetanguishene, Ontario



17 comments so far

View Todd A. Clippinger's profile

Todd A. Clippinger

8901 posts in 3560 days


#1 posted 01-27-2010 06:44 AM

A perfect analogy and sound reasoning for power tools.

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana, http://americancraftsmanworkshop.com

View a1Jim's profile

a1Jim

115202 posts in 3038 days


#2 posted 01-27-2010 06:55 AM

Let the power tools begin and you off. Enjoy the journey.

-- http://artisticwoodstudio.com Custom furniture

View Ecocandle's profile

Ecocandle

1013 posts in 2527 days


#3 posted 01-27-2010 07:26 AM

I have no doubt that were power tools available 300 years ago, the craftsmen of the day would have used them.

I think it is fine. I don’t think it is the dark side at all. :-)

-- Brian Meeks, http://extremelyaverage.com

View PflugervilleSteve's profile

PflugervilleSteve

99 posts in 2503 days


#4 posted 01-27-2010 09:37 AM

An electrician I worked for back in high school said something that’s stuck with me ever sinice. USe the right tool for the job. Figuring out what tool that is can be tricky though.

I started with power tools, and have a nice set. I’m actually swinging back the other direction now, in that having discovered JUST how AMAZING a Lie-Nielsen Low angle smoothing hand plane is to use, I’m picking up some hand tools and integrating them into my projects more. (I’ve always hated sanding!)

I think the trick is to use the power tools for the “heavy lifting” and switch to hand for detail and finishing.

I’m looking forward to trying out my Stanley Bailey #8 that’s inbound from ebay, but if I’ve got 50+ linear feet of stock to true up, I’m probably headed for my Delta 6” jointer first.

View Steve's profile

Steve

19 posts in 2511 days


#5 posted 01-27-2010 11:39 AM

Yep. It’s a funny thing many start out loving the power tools but along the way many get side tracked into the old method of hand tools. Some for and against considerations (a light hearted look anyway)

1. It takes a lot longer to cut a digit off with a hand saw, most stop before they are completely through. (Japanese saw being one of the exceptions!)

2. If you make a mistake in a production run with a hand saw you find out before you have done 300 of them (Personal experience.)

3. If you do make a mistake with hand tools everyone can hear you, with no roaring machine to drown out your disappointment.

4. Big plus now, power tools are a lot cheaper than many hand tools, go figure.

5. With Hand tools you seem to spend a lot of time sharpening ‘em, power tools you seem to spend a lot of time replacing ‘em.

Still who really cares as long as it brings people closer to the wonderful world of creating through the medium of wood.

-- Cheers, Steve

View woodworm's profile

woodworm

14164 posts in 3051 days


#6 posted 01-27-2010 12:18 PM

As my wife so eloquently reminded me last night – I’m not getting any younger and by the time I get, learn and master the hand tools needed to complete a project I’ll need to build myself a stand to keep me vertical in front of the workbench”.....ROFLOL…!

You should have learnt from the late Sam Maloof how to stand infront of workbench until the age of 93.

-- masrol, kuala lumpur, MY.

View stefang's profile

stefang

15512 posts in 2795 days


#7 posted 01-27-2010 12:55 PM

Very well said Mike and I couldn’t agree more with you. Since it is all about enjoyment we are free to use whatever tools we want on the day. I like to think of my machines as apprentices (most of them more skilled than the master) and my hand tools as craftsmen. Most woodworkers seem to be practical as opposed to fanatical and I do appreciate that fact. Also it is good to know that you are a professional photographer and so will not be posting fuzzy pictures taken in the living room which make the walls look pink.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View clieb91's profile

clieb91

3492 posts in 3395 days


#8 posted 01-27-2010 02:03 PM

Well said Steve. Have fun on the journey, no matter which tools you use. I too have a fairly large supply of power tools but at the same time the older tools come in handy for some projects.

My recent project with my daughter being one of those time. A three year old with a drill is a bad idea but she was able to help me drill the holes using a yankee screwdriver.

Look forward to seeing the future projects from you.

CtL

-- Chris L. "Don't Dream it, Be it."- PortablePastimes.com (Purveyors of Portable Fun and Fidgets)

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2136 posts in 2569 days


#9 posted 01-27-2010 02:48 PM

Thanks for sharing your thoughts Mike. You threw in some very apt analogies between the world of photography and the world of woodworking. I am rather new to woodworking myself and I also understand those feelings in regards to hitting that middle age mark. And while I appreciate the fact that there was a Sam Maloof who stood in front of the bench at 93, I haven’t found the contract from my maker yet that said I was guaranteed another 50+ years.

Woodworking, to me, is a mix of practicality, a pleasurable hobby, and something that constantly challenges you to enhance your motor skills as well as your mental skills. The power tools I use are not CNC machines. I can’t just start it up, tell the system what I want, and bingo it is there. I know this from experimentation. I have left the wood by the machines many nights and woke up slightly disappointed that the wood elves didn’t transform it into that new table I was asked to build :)

Both hand tools and power tools have their place, their advantages, as well as disadvantages. If you find a balance that leaves you feeling rewarded, challenged, and yet not overly frustrated, then you are off to a great start in a wonderful hobby.

BTW – You will have to share your secret for getting so many free power tools :) Maybe the trick is to tell all your power tool buddies that you are into handtools and they start giving you machines? ;)

Welcome to LJ’s,

David

-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

View woodworm's profile

woodworm

14164 posts in 3051 days


#10 posted 01-27-2010 03:02 PM

David,
you got it right. Me too not sure whether will still be around to visit LJs tomorow.
But we must strive towards that, have positive thinking, the rest we leave it to HIM while we hope and pray
that our contract will not be terminated prematurely! ha ha ha…

I’m 56 now, hoe about you David?

-- masrol, kuala lumpur, MY.

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2136 posts in 2569 days


#11 posted 01-27-2010 03:08 PM

I am 41 right now Masrol. I just get a little confused over that because I know when I went to bed, a very short time ago, I was only 20…

-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

View MikeInPenetanguishene's profile

MikeInPenetanguishene

57 posts in 2521 days


#12 posted 01-28-2010 06:08 AM

I’m sure that as my experience and talent improves that I’ll find a happy medium of both power and hand tools.

.. and regarding the posting of fuzzy photos – as a professional photographer I can tell you with utmost confidence that if I display a fuzzy photo that it was intentional. We call that ART and charge more for it!! ;)

-- Mike Guilbault, Penetanguishene, Ontario

View stefang's profile

stefang

15512 posts in 2795 days


#13 posted 01-28-2010 12:36 PM

Hmm. Maybe I should become a professional ART photographer.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View John Gray's profile

John Gray

2370 posts in 3346 days


#14 posted 01-28-2010 08:59 PM

Thanks for the post!! I too am experiencing the dilemma of using power versus Galoot tools. I really appreciate everyone’s input here as food for thought and I will be following the post looking for more opinions.

-- Only the Shadow knows....................

View MikeInPenetanguishene's profile

MikeInPenetanguishene

57 posts in 2521 days


#15 posted 02-18-2010 07:35 AM

Well tomorrow I get my 220 outlets installed. Then I’ll be able to hook up my ‘new-to-me’ 15” planer and start working some REAL wood! I’m excited. I still want to redo the blanket box lid I mentioned in another blog post (no… I haven’t got to it yet!) – but I’m yearning to try something new. So many projects – so little time – so little money. Maybe I’ll buy one board at a time. Maybe I can convince my wife she doesn’t really want that diamond ring for our 10th Anniversary next year? Nah.. that’ll never work. [sigh]

Patience. I know I used to have some – quite a lot – but can’t seem to find it anymore. Maybe I should find some before I get too involved. [sigh – again].

-- Mike Guilbault, Penetanguishene, Ontario

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