Random Musings #1: Just finished having a "think."

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Blog entry by SSMDad posted 07-27-2011 01:29 PM 1486 reads 0 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Random Musings series Part 2: I'm barred from my shop for safety reasons :( »

While I was just reading a review of a book here I started thinking about the nostalgia and admiration so many of us have for how wood was working in the ”old days.” I’ve seen a lot of comparison and puffed chests amongst the hand tool, power tool, and hybrid tool camps (to which I fall under since I like to use both).

It seems to me that the best practice (can’t get away from IT terminology) is to use whatever type of tool does the job best. Sometimes it’s a bandsaw and sometimes it’s a coping saw.

Do we actually believe that over the 1,000’s of years humans have been shaping wood, we’d always have nostalgia for doing it the old way? A century ago would a woodworker shun say a power lathe for a pole lathe, or prefer a handsaw over a table saw for repetitive cuts or ripping? I doubt it. Now are there times when I’d prefer using a cabinet scraper over sandpaper? Yes of course. Again though it would depend on the application.

Personally I’ve fallen into this too which is what brought me to thinking about it. My newfound passion is turning and while I’d really like to use a treadle or pole lathe, I’d not be trading my Delta variable speed for one any time soon. I still have a preference to carving with chisels and mallet vs power carving. Something about it just seems cheating to me although the outcome is the same, a beautiful piece of work! I doubt any of the carvers in history who worked months on an intricate armoire would pass up the chance to do the same job in weeks with a power carver.

Well, if you’ve read this far I really appreciate it and if not then fair seas to you. It was just something that came to mind and I wanted to get out. It’s probably been argued countless times and seems repetitive to many but to a newer woodworker who’s also pretty interested in thought processes and how people work, it seemed a good topic to explore in a non-combative manner.

Until the next random musing….

-- Chris ~~Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past."

5 comments so far

View Bertha's profile


13567 posts in 3175 days

#1 posted 07-27-2011 02:08 PM

It’s a very valid musing. I think it’s akin to restoring an old GTO versus buying a new Corvette. They’re both fast, they both get horrible gas mileage, but they’re very different. I like the idea of pushing around an old reel mower, but I cut my yard with a modern John Deere. I like the idea of old ice boxes, but I own a SubZero. When it comes to tools, I just like the nostalgia in my hands. I could admire and handle old tools for hours without touching a board with them. I would never own a new Corvette but I’d toil for hours fixing up an old GTO. I think it’s just a personal thing for some hobbyiests. You’ll never see a high-volume cabinet maker ripping stiles with an old handsaw. It’s simply a matter of whether or not I can afford to enjoy the process, in my simple mind.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View willy66's profile


44 posts in 3084 days

#2 posted 07-27-2011 03:03 PM

I’m with you guys, nostalgia and collections have their place both in idea and use. We are fortunate to have options that our predecessors didn’t, and SHOULD use them. Not that you have to it, but it is preference. A perfect example was last night. I was working at a costumers house, and she asked if I could hang two new doors for her. I didn’t have the tools with me, so I ran to the shop and picked up my skilsaw, laminate trimmer, chisels and hand planes. Once I started cutting out the butts, I felt like using the chisels instead of the laminate trimmer, because of mess, sound, etc. It probably took me a bit longer, but I FELT like using chisels. By the time I was finished setting the hinges it got to be close 8:15 and I wanted to get home. That’s when I regretted using my hand tools. But it was my choice, a choice that some people didn’t and still don’t have. It’s nice…who am I to judge whats right or wrong.

As Bertha says, it is a matter of whether or not we can afford to enjoy the process…..Well put.

-- -Willy, White Plains, NY

View longgone's profile


5688 posts in 3790 days

#3 posted 07-27-2011 04:04 PM

I enjoy using both my hand tools and my power tools. I grew up learning to use hand tools and I feel it gave me a better foundation for the skills I have learned over the years. Everyone would benefit from having a strong handtool background but powertools are also a great asset and convenience for doing a project.
It is best to have the best of both worlds.

View John Ormsby's profile

John Ormsby

1288 posts in 4219 days

#4 posted 07-27-2011 04:15 PM

Bertha, I don’t think 26 MPG for a new 430 HP 2011 corvette is bad highway mileage. My old 1963 stock corvette stingray got 19 MPG with a 300 HP engine and 308 rear posi rear end. That was great mileage back then.

In my work I use any tool that will get the job done right and efficiently. Good quality tools are always better whether hand or mechanical. They are also normally safer. ( I consider safety as part of the quality )

-- Oldworld, Fair Oaks, Ca

View BobTheFish's profile


361 posts in 3034 days

#5 posted 07-28-2011 12:34 AM

I think this is a great musing and very appropriate answer. Also, for as much as we love those old days, there were MANY MANY MANY screwups in the making process. A lot of decorative elements are in place to hide those.

We’re able to work more efficiently, and more precise….

however, some jobs do require hand tools, and using powertools for everything isn’t necessarily efficient or wise either.

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