Doing Power Tool Things The Neanderthal Way

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Blog entry by handsawgeek posted 11-07-2014 02:32 PM 1594 reads 0 times favorited 1 comment Add to Favorites Watch

“Why make billions, when you could make….millions?” -Dr. Evil

The handsawgeek Woodworking Library contains a fairly extensive stack of woodworking magazines. All are dated between 1992 and 1997.

These include Woodsmith, BH&G Wood, Popular Woodworking, Fine Woodworking, Weekend Woodworking, Woodworker, American Woodworker, Workbench, and several others.

That’s a lot of W’s.

These magazines were all obtained for free at the time.

Never mind how.

This stack of magazines is a huge resource of plans for all manner of wood projects from the early years of the DIY craze. TV Shows like Home Improvement, This Old House, and New Yankee Workshop were all the rage at the time. St. Roy’s Woodwright’s Shop was being aired, too, but I don’t believe it was as popular then as in more recent times. I know I never watched it back then.

These magazine issues were from an era when power tools largely ruled the home-shop woodworking world. This was reflected in most of the project plans and articles. The majority of feature articles were geared toward the use of table saws, jointers, planers, routers, and the like to properly build the project.

Advertisements exclusively touted the latest and greatest in power tools and must-have accessories. Each magazine published comprehensive buying guides for the best power tools on the market.

It was a happy, prosperous time for electrons everywhere…

Being new to woodworking around this time, I was bedazzled by all of this, and was caught up in the frenzy. When the (saw)dust had settled, I owned one or another version of most of the major stationary and portable power tools. Mostly the cheaper bench top versions because of limited finances, but, b’gosh, I had ‘em babies!

And how they would roar and whine and spew wood debris everywhere ….as I gleefully made stuff!

In these particular magazine issues, hand tools were largely mentioned in passing or as a footnote. Occasionally, an article discussing how to sharpen a plane iron or use a chisel would make a rare appearance. (These days, such articles are grossly over-abundant !). In some of the magazines, hand tools were featured as strictly historical articles – “Here’s what Grampappy used to build stuff with…..aren’t you glad we have routers and jointers nowadays…. ”

Ads for hand tools were small sized and buried in the back pages. Any hand tools appearing in the big, full page ads were seen as decorations hanging on the rustic workshop walls, or thoughtfully placed about a workbench – behind the biggest, newest power monster!

Back then, this state of affairs didn’t concern me at all. I wasn’t into hand tools. A hammer, screw- driver, and some pliers served just great in that department. I was fine with the ‘nowadays we have….’ mentality.
Today, in 2014, armed with a stack of magazines from 20 or so years ago, and a much different perspective on how I wish to pursue woodworking, I am intrigued with the thought of building from some of the plans therein. Only difference is – all of these power-tool -centric projects would now be done Galoot style.
Also, I have found myself drawn to the articles about hand tools and their use. The same articles in which I had passed completely over…. until recently.

So, I find it to be a really gratifying challenge to pore over some of those published plans and visualize how some of the operations, written and illustrated strictly for power tool users, could be done with the modest collection of hand tools that I own. Some of it I have figured out, other bits I scratch my head over. Then I remember that our woodworking predecessors, all those primitive Grampappies, did all of this kind of stuff with hand tools –and did a fine job of it, to boot.

Years ago, I had my collection of Woodsmith magazines stored in notebooks on a shelf in my garage shop. Some local mice found that the pages made wonderful nesting material. Very few issues of the collection escaped having their edges or corners nibbled away!


-- Ed

1 comment so far

View Paul Bucalo's profile

Paul Bucalo

687 posts in 1531 days

#1 posted 11-07-2014 02:39 PM

Nice collection. One can never have too many resources.

-- Paul, Upstate New York, USA

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