… then they would have had joints that failed suddenly instead of slowly and gradually – like a mortise-and-tenon does. I know this after dropping an anvil on a lot of joints.
If they’d had a router, they would have used it – unless they didn’t want to sand out all the machine marks on the mouldings.
If they’d had a dovetail jig, they would have used it – unless they didn’t want the jig to dictate the height of their drawers.
If they’d had a random-orbit sander, they would have used it – unless they were skilled with a handplane, which would make them faster than the sander. And they might not wanted to spend the money on sandpaper, which has always been expensive.
If they’d had PVA, they would have used it – unless they wanted their joints to be reversible and unless they wanted to dial in the gram strength and open time of their adhesive.
If they’d had dowels, they would have used them – unless they preferred a joint that wasn’t mostly end grain.
If they’d had a table saw, they would have used it – unless they wanted zero grain runout on their stock (which is what you get when you rive your wood) so it was as strong as possible.
If they’d had a drill press they would have used it – unless they wanted to drill a hole at any other angle than 90°.
If they’d had a chop saw they would have used it – unless they wanted to saw something angled or compound.
OK, I’m sure you’re sick of this line of thought. I am. Truth is, I dislike talking about this sort of stuff. Work wood the way you want to. But when you get assaulted by people who say that power tools would rule if they were sent back in time through some wormhole, I have to laugh.
I have access to a CNC machine. I would never use it for building furniture.
I have access to fancy word processors that will correct my grammar, spelling and punctuation, but I never use them. They slow me down, try to correct things I don’t want to correct and generally get in the way of good writing.
I could buy a car with an automatic transmission, but it would interfere with the amount of control I want when I drive.
I prefer vinyl over digital music. Et cetera.
We all make choices about the technology we employ in every task we do. So why would we assume that the people of the past would like to do things the way we do? I sure as heck don’t want to “print” a piece of furniture using a 3D printer. Trust me, that’s coming.
When that day arrives, then maybe all woodworkers will stand united. Until then, let’s allow the woodworkers of the past rest in peace.
— Christopher Schwarz
P.S. Be sure to read Peter Follansbee’s take on this topic on his blog.