All Replies on I'd Like Others Opinions, Handcrafted Vs Machinery , Where Does The Line Stop?

  • Advertise with us
View Blackie_'s profile

I'd Like Others Opinions, Handcrafted Vs Machinery , Where Does The Line Stop?

by Blackie_
posted 10-30-2013 10:58 AM

1 2 next »
87 replies

87 replies so far

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

29552 posts in 2390 days

#1 posted 10-30-2013 11:23 AM

A lot of it will always come down to personal opinion. To me mass production usually means lack of imagination. Tools are tools. It’s the person using them that makes the difference for me.

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View bondogaposis's profile


4822 posts in 2403 days

#2 posted 10-30-2013 11:47 AM

If you make it at home in your shop it is handcrafted, if it is made in a factory it is not.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View Tedstor's profile


1643 posts in 2684 days

#3 posted 10-30-2013 11:58 AM

Bondo said it. ^^

View Joe Weaver's profile

Joe Weaver

517 posts in 3738 days

#4 posted 10-30-2013 12:02 PM

what bondo said

-- Joe, Ga

View Blackie_'s profile


4883 posts in 2564 days

#5 posted 10-30-2013 12:08 PM

Good Points, Monte I can also add passion, skill and creativity would be other good examples.

-- Randy - If I'm not on LJ's then I'm making Saw Dust. Please feel free to visit my store location at

View firefighterontheside's profile


18512 posts in 1908 days

#6 posted 10-30-2013 12:14 PM

I definitely consider what I build in my shop to be handcrafted and I use all the usual power tools.

-- Bill M. "People change, walnut doesn't" by Gene.

View rhett's profile


742 posts in 3719 days

#7 posted 10-30-2013 12:19 PM

Once robots are involved or multiple people combine to make or assemble runs of a same item, it becomes manufactured.

If a profile is made with a router and not a moulding plane, is it handmade, what if you use a shaper? What if a woodcarver rents a space in an industrial park, is he manufacturing carvings now? Power feeder for safety; does that make something less “handcrafted” because you work smart, to avoid the possibility of loosing your hands?

Handmade is using your hands to make an item. The rest is splitting hairs, JMHO

-- Doubt kills more dreams than failure.

View jerrells's profile


918 posts in 2936 days

#8 posted 10-30-2013 12:24 PM

If one uses hand power tools in your shop I consider it hand made and that does include a table saw and bench mounted router. I draw the line at CNC equipment which is becoming popular. Mass production is fine as long as you are the mass and (as stated) not a group of people. I, also, have a real problem with purchasing something, like a birdhouse, at a craft store and painting and decorating it and call that hand made. This is my two cents worth.

-- Just learning the craft my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ practiced.

View Oldtool's profile


2659 posts in 2242 days

#9 posted 10-30-2013 12:31 PM

Very interesting topic, which I too have wondered about this many times. In my humble opinion, it goes like this:

Handcrafted means that each build (final product) is made by one – or maybe more, not decided on this yet – craftsmen, one build at a time. By that I’m saying “handcrafted” items are not produced in quantity by men and/or machines where each one is exactly the same as all others in every dimension, shape, finish, or appearance. Examples: components of cabinets all run through the saw rapidly one after another to the exact same size, or a stamping of components where every one comes from the same die with the exact same shape (and defects in shape sometimes), or all components are painted – stained – textured – etc one after another without regard to eye appeal. Now for appearance: these mass produced components are them assembled by man or machine without any regard for proper fit, regardless of how they fit together or look in final appearance.

Handcrafted however, consists of items assembled from components each made with either motorized or non-motorized tools, then assembled with precision, fitting each to the other, tweaking – sanding – planing – scraping – reshaping for proper fit, so the final product becomes one (master)piece. LOL. It is the attention to detail, the fitting of the components into the final assembly, that make a build handcrafted.

Anyway, that’s my opinion, right or wrong.

-- "I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The point is to bring them the real facts." - Abraham Lincoln

View Loco's profile


210 posts in 1801 days

#10 posted 10-30-2013 12:43 PM

First you must select a tree.

-- What day is it ? No matter. Ummmm What month is it ? No moron. I paid for a 2 x 6. That means Two inches by six inches. I want the rest of my wood.

View Clint Searl's profile

Clint Searl

1533 posts in 2413 days

#11 posted 10-30-2013 12:44 PM

Why is this important?

-- Clint Searl....Ya can no more do what ya don't know how than ya can git back from where ya ain't been

View Tedstor's profile


1643 posts in 2684 days

#12 posted 10-30-2013 12:51 PM

Describing what “handcrafted” means might be difficult…......but we all know it when we see it.

Does the use of an electric mixer or gas range disqualify a cake from the term “homemade”?

View BENTWOOD's profile


373 posts in 1834 days

#13 posted 10-30-2013 12:55 PM

Made and prepared by hand frokm start to finish with use of hand tools (manual or electric) rather than by machine and/or software.


View RogerBean's profile


1605 posts in 3005 days

#14 posted 10-30-2013 01:02 PM

I suspect there is no definition that will stand up to much scrutiny. The maker gets to call his work whatever he wants, and the customer is equally free to disagree. Even the “factory” argument doesn’t work either, as many high end makers have a “custom shop” staffed with highly skilled craftsmen who can (and often do) make one of anything. The good news is that we all get to make our own call. :-)

-- "Everybody makes mistakes. A craftsman always fixes them." (Monty Kennedy, "The Checkering and Carving of Gunstocks", 1952)

View Blackie_'s profile


4883 posts in 2564 days

#15 posted 10-30-2013 01:27 PM

Clint Greg posted a topic in the forums “Woodworkers and Artists against mass production” that this derived from, and thus raised this question in me, does it have to be important?

Thanks all for the great comments.

-- Randy - If I'm not on LJ's then I'm making Saw Dust. Please feel free to visit my store location at

View HorizontalMike's profile


7767 posts in 2966 days

#16 posted 10-30-2013 01:37 PM

IMO, “handmade” is a single craftsman(person) making the entire piece and not just a part of something else, from start to finish , regardless of tools used (assuming NO autonomous robots).

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

View Woodbum's profile


814 posts in 3117 days

#17 posted 10-30-2013 02:07 PM

Who cares? but here’s what WEBSTER says:
hand·made adjective \ˈhan(d)-ˈmād\
: made with the hands or by using hand tools
Full Definition of HANDMADE
: made by hand or by a hand process Examples of HANDMADE
received a handmade sweater at the baby shower

First Known Use of HANDMADE

Related to HANDMADE

Synonyms handcrafted, handwrought

Related Words homemade, man-made, manual; bespoke (also bespoken), crafted, custom-built, custom-made

Near Antonyms automatic, machined, mass-produced

This pretty well sums it up.

-- "Now I'm just another old guy wearing funny clothes"

View Woodwrecker's profile


4164 posts in 3627 days

#18 posted 10-30-2013 02:20 PM

If my hands are involved, it’s “handcrafted”.

View Earlextech's profile


1162 posts in 2742 days

#19 posted 10-30-2013 02:25 PM

Clint’s brevity always makes me smile.

-- Sam Hamory - The project is never finished until its "Finished"!

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2742 days

#20 posted 10-30-2013 02:39 PM

Monte and Bondo’s comments are spot on! Really can’t add to their wisdom.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View GFYS's profile


711 posts in 3523 days

#21 posted 10-30-2013 03:01 PM

its kinda humorous really…
The best compliment to give a craftsman is “your handmade item is so flawless it looks machined!”

View BinghamtonEd's profile


2298 posts in 2421 days

#22 posted 10-30-2013 03:08 PM

I just ordered an electric branding iron from Rockler the other day that says “Hand Crafted by ” with my name on it. I did not have to sign an affidavit that I use only hand tools, so legally speaking, you must be able to hand craft things using power tools. If the black helicopters swarm in and revoke my branding iron, well, then I guess it’s limited to hand tools.

-- - The mightiest oak in the forest is just a little nut that held its ground.

View Underdog's profile


1130 posts in 2087 days

#23 posted 10-30-2013 03:17 PM

Take the “handcrafted” argument to the extreme, and soon you’ll only be able to use whatever tools you were born with.

Many of the old craftsmen mass manufactured things with hand tools. They got so good with their methods that they could make stuff with hand tools faster than I can make them with power tools.

Does that mean the old craftsmen’s products weren’t hand crafted?

View Underdog's profile


1130 posts in 2087 days

#24 posted 10-30-2013 03:20 PM

Furthermore, if the old craftsmen could have used the tools we have available to us today, they would embrace them whole-heartedly. They were trying to make a living best they could…

We have an awful romanticized notion about craft and art today.

View Loren's profile


10476 posts in 3700 days

#25 posted 10-30-2013 03:24 PM

Look up the Arts and Crafts movement and William Morris.

View AngieO's profile


1267 posts in 2199 days

#26 posted 10-30-2013 03:50 PM

Good question to spark some thinking. I agree with alot but Bondo sums it up for me.

This past week I made four picture frames. I didn’t cut the tree down myself. I didn’t mill the board either. I did take a rough cut board and use it on the joiner, the planer and the table saw to make them all the size and shape I wanted them. And then I used the router to add a rabbet and a decorative edge. I made four at a time because it was actually all one project and because it’s easier to do. Even though I had a little “assembly” line going with these four frames… each one is unique. Luckily they are all the same dimensions (was hoping for that lol). But on each one of them the wood grain is unique so they don’t look like replicas. I think they are handcrafterd.

And… if my daughter would have helped me make them… I’d still consider them handcrafted. :)

View Loren's profile


10476 posts in 3700 days

#27 posted 10-30-2013 03:53 PM

Also, if you have to ask at what point it becomes mass produced,
you don’t have the equipment to do mass production. CNC
machines with panel conveyer systems, dowel inserters,
case clamps, 24 spindle duplicating carvers and so forth…

Don’t worry about it.

View Jim Baldwin's profile

Jim Baldwin

56 posts in 2410 days

#28 posted 10-30-2013 04:43 PM

I’m sorry but none of your arguments or rationals mean a thing…

It makes absolutely no difference whether an article is made entirely by machine or hand, or whether in a factory or garage. The quantity is also irrelevant as mass-produced articles are often labeled as “handcrafted” (such as Sees’ Candys or Rolls Royce etc). The term “handcrafted” is merely a product sales label and nothing more.

“Handcrafted” is on the same par as “all natural” which also means precisely nothing (there’s absolutely nothing in the universe which is not “all natural”). If you want to be technical, than any product which involved at least some handwork, could be labeled as “handcrafted” (this includes the use of finger-tips on keyboards).

I met an Amish woodworker once whose old red-barn-workshop was festooned on the outside with archaic farm and livery tools etc. The inside however, was chocked full of modern CNC equipment. Of course he said “we assemble everything strictly by hand”. Of course this was true and so everything as they say, was “handcrafted”.

It’s useless to argue about it… I prefer instead to produce a product worthy of the “handcrafted” label and all which that brings to mind. Let the proof be in the pudding. Neither the wire-whip nor the ten-speed-blender, is what you put in your mouth.

-- Jim Baldwin/

View bigblockyeti's profile


5157 posts in 1772 days

#29 posted 10-30-2013 04:53 PM

If you have people working for you, paid or otherwise doing repetitive work toward creating what ever it is you’re making, then I would consider it to be manufactured. If your using a CNC router cutting out parts to be assembled into what every you’re making, it would be manufactured. Even using jigs to make a job more precise and/or safer I wouldn’t consider to be a disqualifier as to being handcrafted. I do think that the volume of an exact same piece, over and over again, would subjectively take something from being handcrafted to being manufactured, but again, that’s subjective and I don’t know at what volume that would be.

View dbray45's profile


3320 posts in 2828 days

#30 posted 10-30-2013 05:26 PM

A silversmith in Williamsburg summed it up this way—

In Colonial times where everything was made by hand (silversmith wise), the goal was to make it look like it was made by machine. Now that everything is made by machine, the goal is to make it perfect but to let very subtle things stay to show it was made by hand using only hand tools.
Adjust this to work for you as you see fit.

-- David in Damascus, MD

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


15375 posts in 2670 days

#31 posted 10-30-2013 05:53 PM

In mom-and-pop diners and restaurants I see signs for “Homade Pies” and deserts and even chili and it always makes me wonder if grandma bakes in her kitchen then sends to goods for sale. Surely you can’t home – make something in a place of business, it’s contrary to reason.

But to look at the opposite, the generous interpretation is the pie (for example) isn’t mass produced in a factory, frozen, then baked and sold.

Handcrafted has come up before, and it’s a very squishy word. Don’t know what it intends to convey, other than to asert it’s not a ‘factory piece.’ I’d think at that point it’d be better to simply put your shop name on it and be done, so people know where it came from.

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

View Texcaster's profile


1287 posts in 1725 days

#32 posted 10-30-2013 09:18 PM

As Jim said above, ” handmade ” is a con. How well made and pleasing is the finished job? Charles and Ray Eames come to mind.

I have 6 J39 Borge Mogensen dining chairs from 1955, still with sound joints, the seats want reweaving. They are Oak with 3/8 steam bent I/4 sawn backs. They blend very nicely with my ” handmade ” furniture.

-- Mama calls me Texcaster but my real name is Mr. Earl.

View hobby1's profile


336 posts in 2349 days

#33 posted 10-30-2013 09:35 PM

This is my opinion, that you requested in your post, for our opinions.

All power tools that require a manual controle, for the end product, produces a manual (handcrafted) article.

Any time the workman has no controle over the process, it is no longer a handcrafted article.

The whole project can contain both manual, labor, (handcrafting) and automation labor (computer controled), therefor the end results, will be a handcrafted project, with automative parts integrated.

If the project is assembled without the aid of manual labor, it is definitively, an automated produced project.

So the fine line, is not a fine line it is a well established boundary, when you consider the percentage of manual labor versus nonmanual labor.

Sidenote, every powertool, that requires manual controle, is handcrafting process.

This is an excerpt from the innernet.

“Numerical control (NC) is the automation of machine tools that are operated by precisely programmed commands encoded on a storage medium, as opposed to controlled manually via hand wheels or levers, or mechanically automated via cams alone. Most NC today is computer numerical control (CNC), in which computers play an integral part of the control.”

View pintodeluxe's profile


5723 posts in 2865 days

#34 posted 10-30-2013 09:43 PM

Stickley used mortising machines, why can’t we?

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View TerryDowning's profile


1078 posts in 2169 days

#35 posted 10-30-2013 09:59 PM

I can’t believe I read this thread. I should have stopped at Clint’s response it make the most sense to me.

-- - Terry

View Illinoiswoodworker's profile


36 posts in 1941 days

#36 posted 10-30-2013 10:58 PM

It is hand crafted whether I use power tools or not. What about “Amish made” cabinets? They farm out quite a bit of the cabinet to “non Amish” people and they don’t say 45% Amish made.

-- I love the smell of red oak in the morning..........

View Blackie_'s profile


4883 posts in 2564 days

#37 posted 10-30-2013 11:15 PM

What’s with the negative comments? If you don’t have any thing to bring to the table then don’t, what am I supposed to do with a comment like I can’t believe I read this thread, blah blah blah ?

-- Randy - If I'm not on LJ's then I'm making Saw Dust. Please feel free to visit my store location at

View Blackie_'s profile


4883 posts in 2564 days

#38 posted 10-30-2013 11:20 PM

I want to thank everyone for their comments.

-- Randy - If I'm not on LJ's then I'm making Saw Dust. Please feel free to visit my store location at

View Tooch's profile


1776 posts in 1928 days

#39 posted 10-31-2013 01:30 AM

Definitely a tough call. sometimes I’ll glue up pieces of stock 60” long, then cut them down into five separate 12” cutting boards. mass production or hand-crafted?

Depending on your definition of mass production, they are mass produced… but made by one man. tough call with a big gray area!

-- "Well, the world needs ditch-diggers too..." - Judge Smails

View bondogaposis's profile


4822 posts in 2403 days

#40 posted 10-31-2013 02:25 AM

Definitely a tough call. sometimes I’ll glue up pieces of stock 60” long, then cut them down into five separate 12” cutting boards. mass production or hand-crafted?

Not a tough call at all, if you made 10,000 a day that would be mass produced. Five, at time = handcrafted. Factory assembly lines where one person does only one simple mind numbing task all day long, that is mass production, a home shop situation where where a single person conceives and then executes every single step in the process of completing a project is handcrafted.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View Roger's profile


20929 posts in 2856 days

#41 posted 10-31-2013 02:03 PM

That’s gettin to be too “politically correct”...... IMO, hand crafted is something that is built by you, no matter how you build it, what you used to build it, etc. It is made by you, so, you have the right to claim how it was done the way you see it.. That’s my story, n I’m stickin to it. :) Hand tools, or power tools, etc., is just part of the process.

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed.

View HillbillyShooter's profile


5811 posts in 2344 days

#42 posted 10-31-2013 02:12 PM

Agree with Roger up to the question of digital CNCs, which I haven’t fully resolved in my mind.

-- John C. -- "Firearms are second only to the Constitution in importance; they are the peoples' liberty's teeth." George Washington

View Bluepine38's profile


3379 posts in 3137 days

#43 posted 10-31-2013 02:46 PM

What if I carefully hand build a cnc machine, as a lot of people are doing, does that mean it produces
hand built items? I think I will go play in the shop and have fun, thank all of you for sharing your version.

-- As ever, Gus-the 79 yr young apprentice carpenter

View Blackie_'s profile


4883 posts in 2564 days

#44 posted 10-31-2013 02:53 PM

I can say that I like the answers and figured so from everyone as I’m on the same page as most of you but it was nice to hear others comments and opinions, it was helpful, thanks.

-- Randy - If I'm not on LJ's then I'm making Saw Dust. Please feel free to visit my store location at

View rance's profile


4259 posts in 3212 days

#45 posted 11-01-2013 04:38 AM

I pretty much agree with Jim Baldwin, dbray45, and Underdog.

ALL the things I build are handmade, whether I incorporate handplanes. portable power tools, stationary power tools, CNC, power feeders, spray guns, chainsaws, a sawmill, or any other tool in a shop. None of these tools could do a lick if me and my hands were not intensly involved. Someone else could not come in and use these same set of tools and get the same results I get if they did not have the knowledge of woodworking that I do. It makes no difference if I make 1 a week, or 100 a day. It makes no difference if I make them one at a time, start to finish or if I build them in assembly line fashion. It makes no difference if I work at home or in a warehouse-sized shop. The results of my work are pretty much the same. Although not as good as some or as good as I wish it was. :) Everything I build is handmade.

Here’s a generalization to chew on. Nothing made for Ikea is handmade. But ALL the pianos at the Steineway factory ARE handmade.

Interesting side note: CNC seems to be considered cheating because it takes away some of the hand work. Is that not what a hand-plane does? It takes away that awful hand-sanding. :) One can argue all kinds of sides of this, but in reality, most all of what we here on LJ build is handmade.

Blackie, I think your title for this thread is a little off. You’re pitting a TYPE of crafting(Handcrafted) against a tool category(Machinery). However, I think you’ve still amassed a good variety of opinions on the Handcrafted subject which I think you were after. :)

Here’s a previous discussion I had referred to in the other thread”What does Handmade mean to you?”.

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18310 posts in 3728 days

#46 posted 11-01-2013 06:32 AM

Not mass produced; one at a time = handmade.

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View Blackie_'s profile


4883 posts in 2564 days

#47 posted 11-01-2013 11:59 AM

Rance, perhaps I jumped the gun on posting this after viewing your link seems to make mine redundant, perhaps I should have searched before posting my topic only just couldn’t get past the laziness and the patience it’d take in digging not knowing what to look for.

-- Randy - If I'm not on LJ's then I'm making Saw Dust. Please feel free to visit my store location at

View HorizontalMike's profile


7767 posts in 2966 days

#48 posted 11-01-2013 01:31 PM

It is all about EGO.

The term Handmade is interpreted by so many as to connotate some mystical quality on the piece as to make it more valuable.

I suggest that that same mystical power is being cast upon those hand plane and hand tool users that REFUSE to properly restore an OLD plane to like new condition, all because they ALSO want that magical “Old World Quality” to be bestowed upon their own woodworking attempts by using such old very worn hand tools in the process.

Don’t get me wrong, I like old hand tools and I do like restoring them. However, I do realize a number of things, at least about old hand tools:

  • Old hand tools are NOT as good, lower quality, than many newer available tools of like kind.
  • Older tool’s “cheaper price” is an illusion, as older tools require much more effort to make them functional.
  • Older tools can be made to work well, but not without considerable effort, as stated above. That effort exceeds that $$ value of buying a higher quality tool in the first place.
  • That ”Mystical or Magical” quality is all in the mind.

At least that is MY opinion…

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

View dbray45's profile


3320 posts in 2828 days

#49 posted 11-01-2013 03:07 PM

I would like to look at Mike’s comment

The definition of quality – is what is acceptable.

  • Most hand tools offer the potential to improve the quality of the end product from what we could use without it
  • Many power tools will do the same but they automate or add power to a higher level but still require our involvement during the process.
  • Devices like CNC machines are automatic and requires presets or programing – then makes them – as many as you tell it to. Your hands do not interact directly with the tool during the process – say like a lathe, drill press, hammer, chisel, planer, jointer, etc…

The idea that the craftsman (or person) is taken out of the equation, how much is removed, what it feels like, how it looks, tested for square, how it fits, to me, that is where hand crafted is no longer there.

There is not mystery or magic – it is the difference between hard work and skill versus what an automated machine does.

-- David in Damascus, MD

View dbray45's profile


3320 posts in 2828 days

#50 posted 11-01-2013 03:09 PM

Will I use CNC technology – if it fits, yes! At this point, I do not choose to.

-- David in Damascus, MD

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

1 2 next »
87 replies

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics