Thursday, December 22, 2011

Man vs. Machine-The Results are In.

Hi there PORC fans.

Thank you for the comments, emails, and Facebook replies on my last post. I love knowing that people want to contribute to this blog. It also helps point me in a direction to keep you interested. As I suspected, my readers are smart and articulate in their desires. Many people brought up things I'd not thought of.

I wanted to summarize what was said, and offer my own thoughts. The short of it is this: The use of power tools and hand tools in parallel is both acceptable and standard. What is most interesting to me, is why someone felt the way they do. 

Brian mentioned something I never thought of. Memories. "The smell of hickory right off the saw." We can't forget that our past shapes who we are today. I think it's possible that a craftsman may choose their technique based on nostalgia and past memories. If your dad chopped off his finger on a table saw when you were 7, one might lean towards using hand tools more than power. That decision has nothing to do with ability or artistic flare. It's simply a choice based on memories and experiences.

Regular contributor, Jeff touched on something that is important to think about as well. "Impart a certain look on a finished product." A hand plane imparts a certain feel to the wood in contrast to using a sander to smooth the surface. A hand saw imparts a look that is different then one made on a machine. The use of a paint brush to finish imparts a certain look as opposed to a sprayed finish.  A recent project was all hand painted. The homeowner wanted to see brush marks. I also have done projects where the client wanted a finish that resembled an automotive look. Brushing was not an option. Clearly, personal taste and artistic callings outweigh technique.

And lastly, the overall tone from the comments were, "Use the best tool for the job." I hesitate to summarize such a perfectly written comment made by long time supporter and woodworking stud Nicholas Nelson. However, I will as he hit it on the head. (Sorry Nick)

A craftsman should establish a goal, both technically and professionally. Once that goal has been determined, use the proper tooling to reach that goal. The end result will make a bigger impact, and will be you, and isn't that what we want? We want a piece of art made to represent the person who made it. Too often people lack the confidence and experience of doing it their own way, so they copy someone else. Sure, we need to learn from others, but eventually we need to build it to meet our own individual goals.

Custom art of any medium demands that we define our goals and work towards them.  Use whatever tool you need to in order to reach them. These goals and asperations will be different for everyone.  THIS is the reason "custom" is custom. No two people or items will be the same.

I've decided to remove myself from the hand/power tool battle that lingers in the woodworking air.  I think there is a place for both, and who am I to judge the goals and desires of others. All I can control is what comes out of my shop.

As always, thank you so much for reading and contributing. Have a wonderful holiday!  See ya on the other side.  Cheers!


  1. Excellent results sir. Thanks for introducing the question and bringing some dialog to a fairly isolated trade!
    Also thanks for the compliments though you surely do a better job at being succinct ;).

  2. Sure, we need to learn from others, but eventually we need to build it to meet our own individual goals.

    So true. My problem with actually stepping into the world of hand tools is a lack of time to learn how to use them. I have taken a couple of classes, but things are so busy right now, I tend to do what I know and that means power tools.

    I guess I need to slow down so I can move towards my own goal.

    Good post.