I’m a hand tool guy, at least for the most part. While I can see myself using power saws to break down stock, I’m just not interested in machine made joinery for the most part. I won’t rule out pocket screws here or there, because they do serve a purpose, but for the most part I want my tenons and dovetails hand cut. I even want my mortises finished out by hand. The trick is learning how to really use the tools.
Once upon a time, as we all know, these hand tools were state of the art. They were used to build everything that went into a home…after they were used to build the home.
Today, that’s not the case. We have table saws, band saws, power jointers, thickness planers, the works. What we still have today is craftsmanship. The truth of the matter is that the most equipped shop is useless in the hands of someone who doesn’t know how to use their tools. Hand tools are only ineffective under the same circumstances. But how does a guy who knows no other woodworkers in the general vicinity – much less hand tool types – acquire such skills?
Well, I haven’t finished the book, but I’m leaning towards the path of enlightenment resting in the book The Joiner and the Cabinetmaker from Lost Arts Press.
I have little doubt that you’ve all heard of the book. Well, I’ve been reading it, in case you haven’t. The book, for those who haven’t read it yet, outlines three projects. Those three projects run in skill required from a packing box that is mostly just nailed together to a chest of drawers with half-blind dovetails. The book itself is centered around the story of a boy named Thomas who was a joiner’s apprentice. It outlines all that he did in his progression from apprentice to journeyman. The path to enlightenment, if you will.
Some of the things Thomas does, I’m not going to worry about. I’ve straightened nails before, back when I worked construction right after I got out of the Navy. I’m not going to sweat keeping the glue hot because I’m not using that kind of glue. What I am going to do is learn from many of the same processes that Thomas does. He practices dovetails, so I will too, just to name an example.
Now, this won’t do everything I want it to do, but it’s part of the process. You see, I really don’t want to try to make a chest of drawers on a Workmate. It just doesn’t sound appealing in the least. However, a workbench and tool chest sound like great projects to build between the school box and the chest of drawers, don’t you think?
Anyways, it’s one approach. It worked almost 200 years ago, so it just might work now.
Of course, what’s particularly telling is the use of nails in many of these pieces. I wouldn’t have thought it, but there were plenty. This gives a guy like me hope :)
-- "Give me your poor tools, your tired steel, your huddled masses of rust." Yep, I ripped off the Statue of Liberty. That's how I roll!