What this meant, though, was that developing my hand tool woodworking skills had to take a back seat. I have still done some furniture projects, my son's desk for example, but not as many as I had been. I still spend as much time working with wood but it is best described as carpentry. The thing that I have been struck by is how much better and more enjoyable the work I do is because I use hand tool skills a lot. Time after time I have been able to do things that would have taken longer and been more difficult or even impossible with power tools. I have come to realize that there is a hand tool mindset which has tremendous value. Things like minimizing measuring, using dividers and bevel squares, using a chisel and plane to refine joints ... and all of this has given me a lot of pleasure, pleasure that I can do these things and pleasure seeing this house beginning to come back into its own.
Much of the woodworking that I have been doing is pretty basic and last week was an example. We completed wall repairs and painting in the family room and decided that we wanted the tv up on the wall so as not to distract attention from the fireplace. The problem that created was the big tangle of wires going up the wall and the need for a place to put the cable box and dvd player. No problem. I went out to the shop and, in short order, had the solution, made mostly with hand tools:
It's pretty obvious where the design came from when you look at the fireplace:
I still pick up things even on simple projects like this. This alder is really splotchy but I didn't want to paint it, so I tried ebony stain. Wiping it off gave a really nice effect like a piece of furniture painted black that had been used enough that the paint had worn through almost to bare wood in places.
There is still much to be done but I'm getting to the point in this house restoration that I can return to advancing my hand tool skills and I have been casting around for a project. I wanted to find something really special and, suddenly, six weeks ago, there it was. It is a major challenge in quite a number of respects. The first problem was that some things out of my control had to fall into place in order for it to even be possible to make this project. I have spent many hours during this time doing research (even frequenting rare book rooms), reading, and meeting with people to see if I could make it happen. This week, things came together. I hope I have piqued your interest and, next week, I'll tell you all about it.