So, there has been quite a bit of discussion on some recent blog posts. While the discussion has ranged quite a bit, I think it did bring up some thoughtful points. The main point brought up, is what does it take to have a completed woodworking project to be considered woodcrafted and/or handcrafted? Disclaimer, my intention for this post is to further provoke thought and discussion. While it maybe contrary to another’s blog post, it is not meant to be an attack on that individual, but rather to open dialog.
So, is it the tools we use? I don’t think there would be many that would deny that unplugged hand tools brings us closer to the wood and the project. I think my past post “A day of zen in the shop” demonstrates that I agree with that. So, does using power tools on a project some how cheapen it, make it less then woodcrafted or not be considered handcrafted? In this modern age where we have machines are computer controlled and batch out hundreds of parts in a blink of an eye, it is easy to jump in and say NO WAY! However, lets take a step back here. The machines that most hobbyist woodworkers use are merely modern versions of what was used over 100 years ago, before most shops had to the ability to plug in a lamp, much more a machine. The craftsman of that era used belt driven machines powered by steam, water wheel, or sometimes by leg power. True, most of these craftsman went on to fine tune there work with hand tools. Also, if I may point out, these same craftsman considered a dovetail ugly and did whatever they could to cover them up. To them it was simply a strong joint to use when making a box. Many of those products that were made in those shops still exist today and considered by many to be both woodcrafted and handcrafted.
I think I have made my point that I don’t necessarily think it is the tools we use that make a project considered woodcrafted and handcrafted. There are many examples of far greater woodworkers then myself who use machines to make beautiful and functional pieces of what many would consider art. I like to think of any tool, power tool, machine, or hand tool as an extension of my two hands. When I push a piece of wood through the table saw, or pass it over the router table, I am still working the wood with my two hands. And just like each hand tool operation, each power tool is rarely the last step for the work piece. There is almost always more I want to do with that piece to make the workpiece ready for the next step. I do not disagree one bit the using hand tools go a long way in making a project into something more then just a project, but I don’t feel it is necessarily a prerequisite, and doesn’t necessarily mean it will be considered What I strongly believe is that it is in the woodworker that makes the piece a woodcrafted and/or handcrafted. If a skilled woodworker has the passion for the craft I believe that will be telescoped into the project no matter what tools were used.
To be honest, I don’t know if any of my projects have yet reach that status of woodcrafted or handcrafted. I don’t know if they ever will. However, I am going to continue using both my machines and my hand tools to keep on trying, and will have fun doing it too!