The Slightly Confused Woodworker

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A Quick Woodworking Rant..


When I’m master of the Woodworking Universe….
There will be no more hand tool/power tool discussions. I read a blog entry this weekend that got me started again. A well known woodworking writer/author was asked what the difference was between power and hand tool woodworking. He replied that hand tool use took more skill. I have to completely disagree. You can just as easily butcher a board with power tools as you can with the hand tool variety. They both take skill and practice to wield.
In my humble opinion, for basic cabinet making (carving and turning are completely different animals)  power tools give you a major  advantage in only two areas: ripping a board on a table saw, and cutting dovetails with a jig.
As for ripping a board with a hand saw: I’ve done it, it’s actually fairly easy with straight grained material, and a sharp saw. Where is the skill vs using a table saw? I’m not sure. You will need a strong arm, but when it comes down to it you still need to measure and lay out accurately no matter which method you use. If you need a workout then go for it, other than that I’m missing where you need some special skill to do it.
As far as dovetailing jigs: I don’t use one because firstly I enjoy cutting the dovetails by hand, and secondly because I don’t like how they look. But once set up they do make cutting dovetails much faster, and I guess they have jigs out now that make dovetails look more like a hand cut dovetail. Hey! Whatever floats your boat! Again, you still need to do an accurate lay out.
Every woodworking operation requires accurate measuring and lay out no matter which tools you are using. Cutting a tenon? You have to lay it out accurately, the sawing is the easy part, whether you use a back saw or a table saw. Mortises, rabbets, dadoes, case pieces…all need to be accurately measured and layed out, bottom line. No power tool on earth will help you do that , at least not that I’m aware of. Sure, power tools can possibly help you work more quickly, but not much. There is one big difference between handtools and power tool use, your hand tools need to be sharpened correctly. That is the one skill set that possibly sets handtool and power tool use apart. And may be the most important “skill” a  handtool user posseses. Some power tool users I’ve talked to know little about sharpening. I’ve been using handtools for around two years and I’ve just gotten to the point where I am sharpening on a consistent level, though I believe that a person who woodworks more often would certainly have quicker results. I’m still a weekend warrior. Still, sharp tools make everything easier, but the sharpest tool still won’t lay out the joinery for you.
I use both hand and power tools. I think many woodworkers fall into the same category as I do. If you use one over the other please feel free to keep it to yourself. You all sound like facists.
When I’m Master of the Woodworking Universe…
There will be no talk about freehand sharpening vs using a jig. I use a jig to sharpen my chisels and plane irons. So what? If I hear another pretentious twit talk about how freehand sharpening is better and saves time I’m going to lose it. How is it better? Somebody tell me?? Please!!! And saves time!!!! Where am I going? What is this a race? For the love of God, isn’t it enough to use handtools? Now some joker has to tell us that we aren’t sharpening traditionally enough? Here’s an idea. If you are about to put in print some nonsense about free hand sharpening, take a step back and whack yourself in the hand with a yard stick. If that is your method, then great!! If there is a nuclear war, or a comet strikes, and I can’t find a sharpening jig then I’ll learn how to sharpen free hand.
When I’m Master of the Woodworking Universe
Popular Woodworking Magazine will stop being so preachy. I will preface this by also saying that I do enjoy the magazine, but get over yourself. You would think that everything printed in the magazine is Nobel Prize worthy. Here’s a newsflash: It’s not! And some of the hardcore subsribers are even worse. One blogger called it a “Holy Publication” Are you kidding me? The latest issue kind of sucked, and was about 3 light years away from a religious experience, No offense, but you’re good, not great.
When I’m Master of the Woodworking Universe…
Chuck Bender of the Acanthus Workshop ( will get more recognition. I’ve taken about a half dozen woodworking classes and the two weekend classes I took with him were the best. You pick up a lot of info at one of Chuck’s classes, you simply need to listen. My advice is to pretend you are a Nazi spy among the American Prisoners at a POW camp; if you keep your ears and eyes open you will learn a lot. He also has an internet show called NO B.S. Woodworking that I want to sign up for as soon as I get my head out of where it is. Chuck is just that, NO B.S!  No preaching, no pretention, no process oriented woodworking ( whatever the hell that is! ) Just the best methods from a guy who has done it on the front lines forever. And to top it off it’s fun.

If I offended anybody I don’t regret it..This is a rant after all…


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August 2012
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