It happens from time to time, a new woodworker asks the inevitable question. The question is what tools are the bare minimum needed to produce quality work. Depending on the particular forum (i.e. internet forums), he’ll get different answers. Recently, this question was asked in the Neanderthal forum of one of the bigger sites. The person wanted to know about hand tools. Now, normally, the answers are tools like a #4, #5, #7 planes, chisels, etc. This time, however, someone responded about the romanticized view of hand tools many of us have. He has a relative who is a retired cabinet maker who gives the verbal smack down when this person gets a bit to misty-eyed about the past. He advised power tools like a planer and a jointer. Probably $500-$600 worth of machinery to start with, without even finding out if the new woodworker had the budget or space to house such equipment.
You see, as a professional cabinet maker, he had to work quickly and efficiently to maximize his production. He couldn’t spend all day cutting dados with a chisel. He needed a power tool that could knock it out in a couple of hours tops! Of course, to him, romantic notions of working with hand tools seems silly. However, most of us hand tool folks aren’t doing this for a living. This is something many do to relax, and have some really nice furniture in our homes (hopefully). It’s not necessarily something we’re doing to make a profit on.
Further, I don’t think all hand tool users necessarily have a romantic view of woodworking with these tools. There are folks like me who don’t really have the space to house large machinery. There are folks who have to worry about noise for whatever reason. Sure, there are romantics too, but is that a bad thing? Romantics create poetry, music, art, literature…and apparently fine furniture and wonderful wood items as well.
Romanticism about woodworking can probably be found amongst the power tool users too. Perhaps they are all power, but they still use the 1950’s table saw that was their father’s. There’s bigger and better out there, and they can house and afford these beasts. But Dad’s table saw is still their choice, because it was Dad’s.
I guess my point is, who cares if someone’s view of using X type of tools is romantic? Romance is hardly a profane word. I know, I was in the Navy. We’re experts on profane language! Instead, live and let live, and let the work speak for itself.
-- "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!