Reply by BobTheFish

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Posted on Are you a woodworker or a tool setter upper?

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361 posts in 2789 days

#1 posted 06-11-2011 05:37 AM

I don’t own any powertools. I borrow and use them when necessary, but I guess I’m not even really a woodworker per se. I get my kicks designing a project and in finishing/refinishing. Repair is also nice, and I’ll use power tools for rough cuts, but hell, I don’t even have a hand plane. I rely on mainly sandpaper and a hacksaw, or use a dremel for cutting/shaping.

Years ago in HS woodshop, I wanted to learn how to do everything by hand. I did dovetails by hand (they were god awful, but damn it, it was hand done, and that alone was rewarding), sanded my tables flat with a sanding block, and so on.

I raise the ante on your “powertools vs. handtools”. Is it really woodworking if you’re just using someone else’s plans and ideas?

Granted, handwork is a valuable and hard earned skill, but if you’re building a table for the sake of building a table, (tops and legs, maybe an apron if it seems necessary), or making a chair according to plans you bought, or if you turn pens or make cuttings boards (even if they’re pretty), are you really learning about the materials? are you really understanding and talking to the wood?

When you use a joint, are you doing it because it looks pretty, or because it’s necessary for a joint of that particular strength to be used there?

Do you rely on the same mission style elements, or do you step back and try to add variation? Do you sit down and build your furniture before you build it?

Do you just use woods because they’re pretty, or do you plan out how your piece will age (The worst abuse is padauk for its vibrant color which inevitably fades. In fact, I bought bloodwood instead of padauk for an upcoming table project just for that reason.)

Do you take into account that your wood has unique characteristics beyond “indoor/outdoor” uses, and do you utilizes stronger woods fore thinner lighter designs where less strong woods might not be able to handle?

Do you mix media? I’ve seen recently some elements of brass incorporated in turnings that really rocked.

When it comes to finishes, do you just have one standby finish or do you take into consideration the use of the piece: a jewelry box might be fine with just a hand oiled finish, since it’s not going to get much abuse, but a dining table would really benefit from a much more durable finish. Do you consider stains as a way of dyeing the wood or enhancing?

I’m not saying that if you don’t you’re not a woodworker. In fact, These things are what draw me to the work, rather than the working of the wood itself, and why I don’t exactly claim to be a woodworker in the traditional sense.

But these ARE considerations that can bring a whole new level to how you “work wood”.

Back to the original question though: I have much more respect for the handmade method, but I think to each their own with their methods. Each person, like myself, is drawn to the working of wood for different reasons. Someone who works with machines may just get their kicks some other way.

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