Friday, September 10, 2010


My choice to find a balance in the work that I do is a choice that was born in the inner most part of me. The struggle to resist the temptations of modern technology to produce the best work I can isn't really a struggle at all. Its been labeled as such. For me the true struggle is for one to limit oneself saying,"Well I only use these kinds of tools" or, "Power tools aren't for fine work". Now I will say that I don't use power tools for my joinery because I feel like that joints cut by hand are better,stronger, and more accurate. The essence of woodworking is to take carefully selected planks and shape them into something that looks like it was cut from the same tree. The fact that many can do fine joinery using only power tools is apparent everywhere. Just look in any woodworking magazine, and see the books dedicated to working only with table saws. I've seen makers cutting dovetail joinery with one of these beastly machines. My personal conviction on power tools is in line with something I read in the writings of James Krenov. The lesson here was why expend all of your precious energy in mill work, and then have nothing left for the finer things such as the joinery, or taking the time to read the grain and expose the best parts of each plank. In my own shop I've begun to separate things. I have a "machine room" which is the basement of my home. This is the place where Ive worked for years. I've done fine work in this space, but always felt intimidated by the crudeness of this space. Its perfect for the dirty mill work. In a completely separate but adjoining room I've set up my bench, and my growing collection of fine hand tools. This is the place where the "magic" takes place. The walls are painted a nice dark tan, and the window trim brown. There is a large brick hearth and log burning fireplace as well. This is a refuge, and where the dirt and grime of mill work is not allowed. This is a place where the rough sawn planks ascend into fine pieces ready for joints to be hand cut, and assembled. The lesson I've learned here, is that a balance of modern tools, vs the ancient tools can be combined and one can truly excel in the kind of work they do. There are no boundaries, but then again there are personal standards that are followed strictly. I do own a table saw, and have owned this machine for years. It cuts true, and fast, but the edges are all perfectly straight and square. A sharp blade leaves minimal marking, but this is hardly the surface of the fine work I want to leave behind.