The Slightly Confused Woodworker

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It’s not a blessing; it’s a curse.


Somebody dropped me a note yesterday wondering why I felt that “hand tool only” woodworkers were narrow minded; apparently I said that somewhere. Anyway, I don’t think hand tool woodworking is narrow minded in the least. Before I go on, I would like to reiterate that I am not a woodworking professional, or expert, or even a woodworking personality (but between you and me, I do have a little personality), but I am an expert at offering my opinion. So if I did at one time opine that hand tool woodworkers were narrow minded I wasn’t stating any facts, and I most likely never presented them as such.

To continue, I do not think that hand tool only woodworking is narrow minded; I’ll say again that we should all woodwork in any way that makes us happy. But, I do think that some hand tool woodworkers are narrow minded. Why? Because when you say such things as: “It takes more skill to be a hand tool only woodworker” or, “if you use power tools you are not a real woodworker!” or, “I’ll never use power tools again!”, I come to the conclusion that you are being narrow minded, and also somewhat of a douche.

Being a vegetarian isn’t narrow minded, but thinking that is the only way to be healthy is. Enjoying Stephen King books isn’t a narrow minded act, but hating everybody who doesn’t like them is. And woodworking with only hand tools is not narrow minded, but feeling that it is the only way to do it really is. So dude, I didn’t call you narrow minded, but maybe you are. I’m not a psychologist. And by the way, if I read another pseudo intellectual kiss-ass comment on a woodworking blog I’m going to lose it.

Have a good one.



  1. Last week was a big change for me.

    I moved my workbench and toolchest into the living room……


    I’m still trying to figure it out. But I guess the main reason is that I hate my kids throwing rocks at the garage door to get my attention, or my wife yelling at me from the kitchen window.

    What this means is that I will have to use hand tools only in the house. It means I have to sweep up all the time. It means that sand paper is banished, all finishes are banished.

    It also means that my t.s, b.s, and thickness planer are in still garage, and I’ll continue using them in the garage until my heart stops beating.

    How long can I last in the house before I drive my family nuts, or my family drives me nuts? How long will this experiment last?

    I don’t know either….

    • billlattpa says:

      Spread the dust everywhere you can, and shavings are a nice touch. Shavings also help with your house retain heat in the winter and keep the heat out in the summer. Either way, I predict that you will drive your family nuts before they drive you nuts. Whatever you do, keep an open mind. good luck.

  2. I must say Bill yours has very quickly become THE woodworking blog I look forward to reading. Please keep keep it comming!

  3. dzj9 says:

    It always makes me smile when I read of the mystique and some esoteric skill needed to use hand tools.
    If you’re not motorically impaired in any way, how hard is it to pare to a line or chop a mortise?
    And with all the fine tools around these days…

    • billlattpa says:

      I believe that the only difference between using hand tools and power tools is knowing how to sharpen. I hate the words “gateway skill” but obviously having good, sharp tools is a big help if you like using hand tools.
      But you’re right, there is no magic involved, it just takes some decent tools and a little time, and a seemingly superior attitude.

  4. I started my “woodworking” career in High School doing Construction and Remodeling as a summer job. The only “Hand tool” we used was a hammer and that was used as little as possible. As woodworking grew from a summer job, to an interest, to a hobby, to a way to earn extra money, I’m learning to appreciate hand tools more.

    I don’t have many, there are just some things that are easier and faster with hand tools. Looking back now I would have loved to have a good collection of hand tools while I was in College. I could have built things in my apartments to make extra money, they take up much less space, and there wouldn’t have been all the noise.

    I’m mainly a power-tool guy, but I can appreciate the usefulness of the hand-tools and am building my collection.

    I will say that some of these “hand-tool only” guys are true artists. But I’m with you that some can be snobby about it.

    Good post

    • billlattpa says:

      I’m personally a hand tool user. I have a table saw and a surface planer, but I don’t have enough room for a band saw. I do use a router and a router table at times. But I prefer to cut joints by hand, only because I believe it’s easier to mess up a joint with a power tool than with a hand tool. I also like hand tools because they take up less space.
      Like the cliché, I believe that woodworkers should use the best tools for the job, and of course which ever tool makes them have fun while doing it. As you said, there are some handtool woodworkers out there that are just great, and there are some who are just total snobs about it.

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March 2014
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