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Crazy Stuff Stumpy Thinks About #41: Will woodworking become the next TV dinner?

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Blog entry by StumpyNubs posted 12-16-2013 04:57 PM 972 reads 0 times favorited 22 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 40: Stumpy Nubs: Troll Hunter (They taste like chicken) Part 41 of Crazy Stuff Stumpy Thinks About series Part 42: VIDEO BLOG- What makes hardwood hard, softwood soft, and where's it cheap? »

I believe it was Bob Dylan who said, “The times, they are a-changing”. I tend to agree for two reasons: First, anyone who can become a musical icon without the ability to sing has to be a genius. But more importantly because, in my reasonably short time on this earth, I’ve noticed the “a-changing” first hand. Since I spend most of my time in the workshop, it’s natural that I’ve seen a great deal of changes in there. I used to think of the shop as a safe haven from the advance of civilization, but like the cold air through the cracks around the windows and doors, the outside world has managed to seep in. Joy came to work last week wearing “skinny jeans”, a trend among the young and, well… skinny. She is neither. Randy got his ears pierced. He doesn’t wearing rings in them, he just got the holes. Classic Randy.

Not all “progress” has been bad. We have a television in the shop, even cable. Now I can watch Roy Underhill cut himself while I cut myself. With wireless internet I can check one of the bazillion woodworking sites for advice at any point in a project. (My favorite is stumpynubs.com) My iPad is a digital library of woodworking books and magazines, all at my fingertips. My laptop can control two of the cameras we use to film in the shop, and my smart phone can control another. I have a little Bluetooth headset I can put on when I’d rather listen to music than hear what people are saying to me.

And the wonders of technology have made their way into our tools too. SawStop already made a table saw that won’t cut fingers and they’re said to be developing a miter saw, even a band saw for all your hotdog cutting needs. Rockler made a compact CNC machine for the small shop, and now they have a computer operated router fence. Even the truly “traditional” tools have been upgraded. Veritas and Lee Nielson have revolutionized hand planes while Hock and IBC have brought cryogenic technology to our tool steel. Lathe speeds are digitally controlled and the tools are carbide tipped. Sharpening is done with diamonds and specially designed honing films. And most of this has happened in the past decade!

It’s undeniable that technology has invaded our workshops. The only question is whether it’s a good thing. To me, there’s a lot of pleasure to be found in the old tools and techniques. A properly sharpened hand plane cutting a tissue thin shaving is one of the greatest joys in the woodworking world. But if advanced tool steel can keep that plane sharp longer, I’m all for it. If a table saw can cut with an amazing level of precision, while keeping my fingers off the shop floor, that’s a win-win situation. I’ve always been a technology junkie, I make a living on the internet, for goodness sake. But there are limits, even for me, and especially when it comes to woodworking.

CNC woodworking is a good example. I have absolute no problem with it, don’t get me wrong. But as these machines get more advanced, at what point does it become something other than a craft? If a computer cuts all the parts for you, are you really woodworking, or are you just assembling a puzzle? Sure, you still have to design the project, and prepare the stock which may involve table saws and planers and various other woodworking tools. But how long will it be before we’re just downloading the project from the internet, throwing some MDF on the table and letting the computer do it all?

That’s the future of furniture manufacturing, there’s no doubt in my mind. Companies like Ikea will be selling completely computer manufactured pieces, untouched by human hands until the consumer opens the box, some assembly required. It may be made out of wood, but it won’t be woodworking. Technology will have completly taken over the craft and turned it into the equivalent of microwaving a TV dinner and calling it cooking. A generation of kids raised on their I-pads will have little use for woodworking when they grow up. Why make it when they can buy it, sit on it, and play video games? The “modern” workshop will become a rarity and cookie cutter furniture will be the norm in all but the wealthiest homes. With new 3-D printing technology, and the growing environmental movement, even wood will become obsolete. Enjoy your oak cabinets while you can, soon they will be spit out of a print head as one big piece of composite material. Woodworking icons like Abram and Underhill… and Nubs… will be a forgotten memory.

Then again, maybe not. Maybe people will get sick of the cookie cutter furniture and our natural human instinct to create will overcome our kids’ instinct to stare at LCD screens. Maybe the trend that’s leading us farther and farther from traditional woodworking tools and techniques will reverse. Technology is here to stay, no doubt about it. But maybe, just maybe it won’t take us too far away from those tissue thin shavings. Maybe our workshop walls will hold it at bay, allowing just the right amount to seep through the cracks, just enough to improve the craft without destroying it.

Or maybe robots will take over the earth and we’ll all be doomed. I suppose time will tell…

......................................................

Wanna laugh about woodworking? Read more of Stumpy's blogs or watch the greatest woodworking show since the invention of wood at Stumpynubs.com

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-- It's the best woodworking show since the invention of wood... New episodes at: http://www.stumpynubs.com



22 comments so far

View Mainiac Matt 's profile

Mainiac Matt

4165 posts in 1018 days


#1 posted 12-16-2013 05:44 PM

Stumpy is a Ludite, na-nana-nana-na!

:^)

-- Pine is fine, but Oak's no joke!

View lightcs1776's profile

lightcs1776

3714 posts in 344 days


#2 posted 12-16-2013 05:46 PM

My 11 will drop the Xbox, turn off the TV, or log off the PC if it means time in the shop with Dad. Woodworking, for me anyway, isn’t about the product, which you knoe is a really good thing if you have seen what I call woodworking. It is about taking a break from the rush of life and enjoying time either by myself or with family. No technology can replace it.

Edit: And Matt, I design computer networks, but think the Luddites were smarter than people give them credit …

-- Chris ** If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace. — Tom Paine **

View jdmaher's profile

jdmaher

288 posts in 1269 days


#3 posted 12-16-2013 06:25 PM

Well, we’re not quite at the level of individuals being able to design on their home computers and shoot a Wi-Fi message to their basement shop to spit that out.

For me, the VALUE of woodworking is being able to design and build exactly what I want for a very particular need. The artistry is in wood selection and arrangement. The rest is pure pleasure – for me; but plenty of people seem willing to pay actual money for such bespoke goods. Not from me, but from many.

I’m at the stage where I mostly use machinery to do what I don’t have the skills to do myself. I’m not likely to get good enough at hand jointing the stock for a large case piece (at least not anytime soon). Same for thicknessing. USED to be the same for cutting dovetails, and I just used to plain avoid curves until I learned hand work shaping.

I doubt that I’m ever gonna get very good at carving. Right now, I can’t afford a CNC, so I don’t carve. But I keep wonderin’.

Been doing computers for 40 years. Them machines need a lot a tending – but its very worthwhile work that’s makes a whole new world possible. Guess what? The computers still don’t do ALL the work.

Machines is just TOOLS. Human hands wield those tools. Been that way for quite awhile and I expect it’ll stay that way even longer.

-- Jim Maher, Illinois

View StumpyNubs's profile

StumpyNubs

6241 posts in 1490 days


#4 posted 12-16-2013 06:30 PM

The best part about computers is with one right click you can find the definition of Luddite.

-- It's the best woodworking show since the invention of wood... New episodes at: http://www.stumpynubs.com

View Mainiac Matt 's profile

Mainiac Matt

4165 posts in 1018 days


#5 posted 12-16-2013 07:28 PM

and the correct spelling :^)

-- Pine is fine, but Oak's no joke!

View StumpyNubs's profile

StumpyNubs

6241 posts in 1490 days


#6 posted 12-16-2013 07:59 PM

I noticed that too, but as you know, I am far too nice to point it out.

-- It's the best woodworking show since the invention of wood... New episodes at: http://www.stumpynubs.com

View Texcaster's profile

Texcaster

686 posts in 363 days


#7 posted 12-16-2013 08:32 PM

One of the great Luddite moments of modern times is Pete Seeger trying to pull the plug on Dylan at Newport in 65. The promising young folkie had the temerity to preform plugged in with Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper at the sacred event. There are many versions of what actually happened. Take your pick. Dylan’s Newport Fender just sold for $100,000,000.

Dylan, like Tom Waits has written a vast number of songs. They are wealthy men just from the publishing rights. For them, it’s always been about the music, the words, and the singing is just the icing on the cake. The singing styles of both men have been a big green light for the rest of us.

I think there is a parallel for woodworkers somewhere in this.

-- Bill....... " was you dryin' your nails or a wavin' me goodbye?" Tom Waits

View StumpyNubs's profile

StumpyNubs

6241 posts in 1490 days


#8 posted 12-16-2013 08:49 PM

The difference between Bob Dylan and Tom waits is clear. Dylan moans and mumbles with a spine grating voice; while Tom Waits is AWSOME!

-- It's the best woodworking show since the invention of wood... New episodes at: http://www.stumpynubs.com

View Texcaster's profile

Texcaster

686 posts in 363 days


#9 posted 12-16-2013 08:58 PM

My favorite Tom Waits album would have to be ” Mule Variations ”.

-- Bill....... " was you dryin' your nails or a wavin' me goodbye?" Tom Waits

View ddockstader's profile

ddockstader

114 posts in 1951 days


#10 posted 12-16-2013 09:02 PM

My grandfather looked at earth’s worn cogs
Said things were going to the dogs.
His grandfather is his house of logs
Said things were going to the dogs.
His grandfather in his old skin togs
Said things were going to the dogs.
There’s one thing that I’ve got to state.
The dogs have had a good long wait.

View Rick M.'s profile

Rick M.

4142 posts in 1070 days


#11 posted 12-16-2013 11:41 PM

Some would say the grandfathers were right; especially the unemployed who have been replaced by robots.

Woodworking has seen a huge upwelling of classic techniques along with a swelling of young folks looking to work with their hands. Will that last, I can’t say, but I suspect that CNC and 3D printers will continue to grow in popularity.

-- |Statistics show that 100% of people bitten by a snake were close to it.|

View DIYaholic's profile

DIYaholic

13776 posts in 1365 days


#12 posted 12-16-2013 11:50 PM

There are Artisan Breads being made, consumed and most importantly, savored..
Brew Masters, at Micro Breweries, are pleasing the palettes of imbibers.

Perhaps our “good taste”, does not just exist in our mouths….
And Micro-Artisan Woodshops will be able to continue “Handcrafting” future family heirlooms!!!

-- Randy-- I may not be good...but I am slow! If good things come to those who wait.... Why is procratination a bad thing?

View lightcs1776's profile

lightcs1776

3714 posts in 344 days


#13 posted 12-16-2013 11:56 PM

My 11 year old, while making a family Christmas gift out of 1/4” birch ply and pine trim (and using the band saw with extreme supervision – my hands right by his) asked if there are woodworking classes. My 15 year oldwas rreal happy last week learning to hand plane boards. They will both be much better than I at woodworking. Yep, it can be passed onto future generations.

-- Chris ** If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace. — Tom Paine **

View whitewulf's profile

whitewulf

447 posts in 1627 days


#14 posted 12-17-2013 01:22 AM

A little darker future out there is in the wings. The “Neutron Beam Weapon” is capable of eliminating all human & animal life on the planet. Leaving plantlife(TREES) & insects. Let’s us hope some propellerhead, doesn’t program a robot to use it!

-- "ButI'mMuchBetterNow"

View rogerw's profile

rogerw

262 posts in 1379 days


#15 posted 12-17-2013 12:45 PM

As always, good stuff! You’re right about the tv dinner thing though they sure are convenient for me and the Mrs though.
I don’t think anyone could forget Abram or Underhill but that nubs guy, well that’s a whole different ball game in itself. lol.
I think as long as there are shop teachers and locals attracting attention and there are still trees then the art of woodworking will live on.

and as always I look forward to your ramblings. After all, laughter is the best medicine.
Roger.

-- >> my shop teacher used to say "do the best at everything you make for your mom because you're going to see it for the rest of your life!" <<

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