Thursday, December 20, 2012


I have just finished this little oak stand  for my wife to her specifications:

Other than the rough milling, it was made entirely with hand tools and I think it came out quite nice.  I cut the mortises and the tenons, created large stopped chamfers on the corners of the legs to make them hexagonal and shaped the edges of the top less than 20 feet from powered alternatives that would have allowed me to complete the table much much faster.  I have a Lee Valley router table which would have made quick work of the chamfers and roundovers.  I also have a three-axis horizontal router table that is an absolute whiz at mortises and tenons.  To the best of my recollection, I haven't used either of them this year.

My wife is very happy with the stand but would have been happy with it whether made plugged or unplugged.  As a no-nonsense, results-oriented guy, I do sometimes question what I am doing.

My decision to use hand tools was obviously not about results as traditionally defined.  I think most of us are looking for a different result.  The result is building skills that we value and the experience of working with hand tools.  Over time, the skill will allow us to build things faster and better.  And, many of us will have a lot more fun doing it.

Will I ever go back?  Who knows whether this will change, but right now this is my philosophy:  if I know I am capable of doing something with hand tools but it is very tedious and time consuming and I already own the power tool to do it with, I think I will sometimes use it.  The thing I am trying to be strict with myself about is the "I know I am capable of doing it with hand tools part" because otherwise it is a different result I am after.  However, there is still a little voice whispering, "You know if you did it by hand you would get faster."  True.

There is something more.  While it is true that I could have made this stand faster with power tools, it is also true that there are many things you can do with hand tools that you can't do with power tools.  Being skillful with hand tools opens up a world of possibilities.

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