I have been reading and listing to a couple of blogs and podcasts that discuss “the hand tool craze.” And obviously, I belong to that group of hand tool crazies, but when asked what kind of woodworker I am, I tell them that I am a Modern Traditionalist (MT).
I totally agree that hand tool use on the rise. Why, I can’t give you a total answer, but I do believe the driving force has been the influence of Christopher Schwarz, the soon to be ex-editor of Popular Woodworking. He showed up at the right time, in this economy, when people are doing more at home and shopping less. (Although, I personally have busted my FbY bank account going crazy buying more hand tools.) Christopher introduced many of use to Robert Wearing, and many other great woodworkers who really understand how to work with wood. And his articles have shown us there is much more to woodworking than a great big table saw.
If I could go back in time, and give Andre Roubo a thickness planer (solar-powered I guess) I bet I would be his best friend, until he remembered it rains a lot in Paris. So if given the latest , greatest tools, I’d be happy too. BUT, I have found, that to be the best type of woodworker I can be, for my one man shop, I hereby declare that I am an MT!
So what is an MT? I use the best tool I need, whether it be, my beloved #4 Lie-Nielsen smoothing plane, or my porter-cable biscuit jointer. What does this have to do with the price of gas in Newport? I’ll give you an example. I hope I will never have to buy, 60, 80, 100, or 120 grit sandpaper ever again. With my smoothing plane, or scraper, I can get to a surface ready for 220 or 320 with my plane just as fast as I can sand through all the grits, thus saving me money on sandpaper and electricity, and the harmful effects of breathing in dust. And I burn calories too! The catch is, you have to know how to keep sharp blade and how to properly use the tool. On the other side of the coin, would I ever re-saw with a handsaw? Are you nuts! Of course not! I know how to do it, but in my shop, time is money. You’d have to pay me quite a lot for me to give up my band saw or table saw.
Hand tools have opened up a whole new aspect of woodworking to me. For example; I have a much better understanding of how to work the wood. I have a much better understanding of wood in general. I can achieve higher levels of accuracy in my work, and I have to admit, there is just something special about knowing that you made something “Old School!
I am the Modern Traditionalist Woodworker, I use whatever tool is best for the job, whether it be antique or electric powered. One day, when the electricity goes out all over the world and we are invaded by zombie vampires created by a virus from another world, I will be safe in knowing that I can make furniture in my bunker in Idaho. (Just so you know, my wife has stopped checking out post apocalyptic audio books for me to listen too throughout the day)
So are you a Modern Traditionalist Woodworker too?