So I have decided, with great agonizing, to become a Neanderthal. I will be relinquishing my power tools at the end of my current project due to a time constraint on the commission. With any luck I will be sweating and frustrated by Christmas. There are several valid reasons which justify this move for me; thus the reason for the blog post. As I worked through this decision, I realized that a great deal of information is available for the power tool woodworker, the hand tool woodworker, or more recently the hybrid woodworker, but not a lot is out there in regards to why choose one over the other.
The reason all of this came up was due to the small shop that I use. It is a 12’x 20’ standalone metal building in my garage. I have had it for about 3 years now and feel that I have pretty efficiently utilized the limited space. With lots of bench top tools I was able to base the shop around a rather large table saw. However the space was not congruent to growth. As I looked into getting a larger band saw, a decent sized drum sander and a workbench, it became quite obvious that this shop setup was not going to cut it. Now I am far from saying that amazing work cannot be done in small spaces, I see it every day on this website. It’s just not pleasing to me and my personal workflow. So my solution to this was to move from the shop to the garage and use the shop to store all of the garage items in. Apparently this was not a solution as my beloved wife holds on to this delusion of a garage being designed to house vehicles, not tools. Hmm I’m still working on that.
This lead me to begin thinking about more hybrid approach, ditch the table saw for a sufficient band saw, and begin to collect the hand tools required to replace the functions of the table saw and using hand planes to do the job of a drum sander. This however quickly became an economic issue, with a family of four; it is very difficult to fit woodworking into an already tight budget. Selling the table saw and bench top band saw would not even reach half of what a large band saw would cost, plus the added expense of the hand tools that are required. However, by selling all the power tools, I would be able to have a respectable bag of hand tools. Between buying new and shopping around, I could potentially furnish a hand tool shop without spending a dime from the actual budget. Of course this involves some wishful thinking for Christmas presents.
So with space and money being the two biggest factors in my decision, there are some more minor supporting reasons that I have decided to go full on knuckle dragger. First of all, the Renaissance Woodworker, enough said I know. Shannon’s knowledge and passion for hand tools, and for sharing has been an inspiration for me similar to what most people say about Roy Underhill and others. As somewhat of an old soul and an embracer (is that even a word?) of the old world ways, his views have always resonated with me. Also I am reading a book by John Ortberg called “The Life You Have Always Wanted”. In it he talks about the disease of hurriedness. This has become a major theme in my woodworking. The hobby has become one of producing furniture over enjoying the job. I have fallen away from the love of woodworking, and instead fallen in love with the praise of finished pieces. My hope is that through the slowing down required by hand tools, I will develop a sense of patience in not only my hobby, but in my life as well.
So again, I will hopefully continue to share my thoughts and findings throughout this journey if for nothing else to hold myself accountable to the joy I desire from spending time in the shop and eventually passing the craft on to my two young sons. So now it’s time to get back in the shop and finish a dining room table that is standing in the way of my transition.
-- "As iron sharpen iron, so one man sharpens another" Proverbs 27:17