Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Man vs. Machine

Hi there PORC fans.

I've got a blog post in the works, but decided I wanted some imput from my readers before I do my final writing.  This is one of those interactive posts that hopefully with inspire a comment or 20.

I am interested to hear the thoughts people have about using hand tools and power tools in the woodworking community.  I have found that many woodworkers pride themselves on either A. Owning every power tool known to man. OR B. Works exclusivly with handtools and drinks fine wines and stinky cheeses.  Both camps have strong opinions, and seldom do they agree on much.

Lets look at every aspect of woodworking, from beginning to end.  Are computers the place to sketch and present designs, or is a true "artist" only using a #2 pencil and sketchpad?  How about prepping stock?  Is it OK to feed a board through a table saw, joiner and planer, or should we be honing our bow saw skills and scrub planes to mill lumber.  How about cutting joinery?  Sanding vs Smoothing for a finished surface? Finishing... hand rubbed or sprayed?  Delivery... On the back of your own personal Sherpa, or in the back of a U-haul?  AND...... I'm interested in the opinions of the client as well.  Do you care if a woodworker uses hand or power tools?  Is the final cost more important than HOW it was made?

....I have smart readers, you get the idea.

All opinions are welcome and none will be censored.  I will keep my remarks in the comment section brief but will write my full review of thoughts next week.

NOW is the time to chime in. Hop to it. Tell us what you think!

As always... Thanks for reading.


  1. Ohm, I like power tools and fine wine with stinky cheese, so I've a foot in both camps. AS long as the end product is functional and aesthetic and no small animals died I'm ok with what the artist wants to use!

  2. I am a 99% power tool woodworker. I feel hand tools impart a look to the finished product that power tools can't duplicate and that is why I want to develop my power tool skills.

    But, I will not part with my table saw, band saw, planer, etc. I have seen a number of beautiful projects completed with a nice combination of both hand and power tools and that is what I am striving for.

    BTW, I like using SketchUp, but I still get the basic proportions of a project finalized with a pencil and paper.

  3. Like CheBurger, I'm cool with power tools /and/ fine wines and cheeses. I'm not a woodworker myself, but my dad was, my father-in-law is, and I own good (built here) furniture. I can appreciate the aesthetic and nostalgia of the Woodwright's Shop all day long, but technology has gotten us this far; these days, routing and joinery are no less beautiful and have no less integrity if done with care and skill on the latest DeWalt equipment than if done with (great) grampa's chisels over a period of weeks.

    For me, there's actually more nostalgia in the smell of hickory right off the table saw ... reminds me of our old garage.

    As a consumer, I'm more apt to spend the bucks on well-made craft furniture made here in the States (preferably NC, but no disrespect to OR craftsmen) ... regardless of whether the leg is turned on a foot-powered lathe or one that's plugged in.

  4. Its too bad these two camps don't meet in the middle more often. A blend of both is best, in my opinion. Just follow this rule: "Use the best tool for the job." Take sanding for example, you can use a sander for 99% of it, but there's nothing like the final finish achieved after you lightly glide that super fine paper over the top by hand. Or maybe you used your power tools to build a gorgeous table top, but chamfer the final edges with your hand plane. See what I'm sayin?

  5. 4 great comments above.

    @Che- a different idea about animals. If we look at sustainable harvesting we add another layer to the use of technology. Great point.

    @Jeff. Just curious if you want to share what you are working on that imparts that look you talk about.

    @Brian. Another element to consider. "Memories" The smell of your old garage. Perhaps that's another reason someone might lean one way or another.

    @Anon...I totally get what your sayin'. "Use the best tool for the job." I couldn't agree more.

  6. I would think many would agree that it depends on the maker's goals, product, and personal preference.
    As much as I sometimes yearn for aspects from days of yor, it is simply impractical for most "professionals" to work without power. It's certainly difficult enough to make a living working wood period.

    I rely on and take joy in hand skills to accomplish the kind of work I want to build which generally cannot be completed by machines (particularly my machines ha). However, I use what machinery I have, where I can. For me it's a balance; I suppose everyone has their own balancing point. I cut a mortise by way of slot boring machine, but fine tune the fit of the tenon by hand. Cut leg shapes on a band saw and finesse them by spokeshave.

    In terms of business, it's not the best move to make something that can be completed by machine, by hand.
    Even so, there can be "major" differences in the details between them. I try to present these and other details within a piece for them to encourage or continue a story.
    There is a difference between hand cut and machined dovetails. However, each side can be executed poorly, or well. Again it comes to one's goals.

    Ha I simply don't work well with computer aided design, so it's paper and mock-ups for me.
    What would you consider fine beer and whiskey Jason? ;)

  7. I would think in a commercial setting, I would adopt any tool that helped me get the job done quickly and with consistent results. Time is money! But if I were creating something for the love of the art/craft, I would want my hands and mind as close to the medium as possible. So I think there's a place for both.

  8. @Nicholas, you couldn't have spoken more clearly! LOVE it.

    @Matt- the fine line of art/craft is indeed the real question at heart.