There’s always talk of what tool is the most important in any workshop. Is it the table saw, or the router, or the bandsaw? Well, as a hand tool guy, I’m screwed if it’s any of those. Nope…I think the most important tool is one that never shows up on the lists of important tools.
It’s easily upgradeable to some extent. No matter what you need it to do, with a little research and perseverance, it will rise to the occasion. This tool will never let you down unless you let it.
It’s even electrical. I know, and that’s hard to say since I’m a hand tool kind of guy. But the facts are facts, and this thing uses electricity, though much less than a PM2000.
The thing is, you can’t loan it to another woodworker. Not only would you never get it back, but you physically can’t loan it to them, though they can make use of it from time to time.
It’s the ulitmate set-up tool. Without it, setting up any task would be impossible.
This tool, this wonder of engineering, can’t be bought at Grizzly or Amazon. It’s not on sale at Lee Valley or anywhere else for that matter. You can’t buy it, but that’s OK. You don’t need to. It’s in it’s protective case, with you right now.
Your brain. It does all these things, and much more. Your brain is what helps you recall how someone told you to cut dados with hand tools, or how to make a raised panel for your cabinet doors. It’s also the tool that helps you figure out how to do something for the first time when you’re drawing a complete blank. It might not be revolutionary, this technique you devise, but it’s yours. You worked that out…you and your most important tool!
The funny thing is, since we all have this tool, we tend to forget it. On many forums, people default to a power tool solution when the question is specifically about hand tools. Other times, they default to buying a shiny new tool since you don’t have a tool that does it automatically already. For generations, craftsmen have build quality furniture with hand tools. Then, they started incorporating power tools into their shops. So, when someone wants to know how to make mortises without a router because they can’t afford a decent one, we (collective “we”) shouldn’t be telling them to save up and buy a router. Why not tell them to use a forstner bit and their drill, or an auger bit, or just use their chisels?
If we did, then this person would get a chance to upgrade their most important tool, so that next time their answer won’t be to spend hard earned money on a tool, it’ll be to figure out how to make do with what they have.
But maybe I’m the only one who’d rather see this world. I think I’ve already established that I’m a “outside the box” kind of thinker ;)
-- "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!