“…(I)t was a fact that more tools were spoiled through a simple want of care than were worn out by constant use.”
When I teach classes, I have to restrain myself from saying something incendiary to many students who are frustrated with their tools, even precision planes that cost hundreds of dollars. Here’s what I want to say:
“Of course the tool is fighting you. You haven’t shown it any love.”
Even the best and the most pedestrian tools must be cared for in equal measure. Sharpen them before they get dull. Wipe them down with oil after every use. Ease their hard edges and wax their handles.
These things are discussed in this excellent article dug up by carpenter Jeff Burks, who deserves his own blog (hint). This article was originally published in Scientific American. The following scan is from an 1873 edition of The Manufacturer and Builder. Including this nugget:
“Now, one word about lending tools, and that is – don’t! We know of nothing more aggravating than to work nearly a whole rainy Saturday putting tools to order and then be required to lend one to some shiftless mortal whom we are sure will turn the edge, knock the handle off, and probably throw it down wherever he happens to use it.”
Download the entire article here. It’s a good, quick read. Also, a reader has typed in the text into a .doc file that you can download if you prefer that format.
The most pointed: “The problem with (Peter) Follansbee’s 17th century methods are that they are completely impractical for the average woodworker.”
Strong words. And as someone who has read this book about a dozen times, I disagree and stamp my little foot as hard as I can. This book introduces you to an entirely different mindset and method of work that machine-trained woodworkers will feel uncomfortable with.
Even if you never work green wood – and I highly recommend that you try it some day – there are lessons throughout this book for anyone who cares about handwork.
But I’m not going to fill your ears any more with my blather. There is an interesting debate on the book going on at Rob Campbell’s blog. You can read his detailed review of the book here.
“…(F)or if the professional works to live, does not the amateur in an equal degree live to work?”
— Work Magazine, Issue 1, Vol. 1.
For several years, Joel Moskowitz at Tools for Working Wood has extolled the virtues of Work magazine, a publication that began in 1889. The magazine was, in Joel’s words, the “greatest of all the DIY publications.”
And starting Friday, Joel will try to prove his assertion by republishing the magazine in digital format starting with issue 1. And it will be free for anyone with a connection to the Internet.
Joel let me read the first couple issues this week, and I think they are definitely worth your time to download, print out and read. Both of the 16-page issues had articles that were interesting and enjoyable reading for a woodworker. And they had some stuff that I just skimmed over – ah such is the problem of producing a general-interest publication.
Here are some highlights of the first couple issues that you can look forward to:
In Issue 1, the best article, hands-down, is “A Chat About Furniture” by David Adamson. This piece, which is about the construction of two tables, is how every project article should be written.
Instead of simply telling you “put tab A in slot B,” the author engages you in a lengthy design discussion about these tables. He knows that you will want to modify the plan for your own use, and so he takes great pains to explain the design language of the elements. In other words, after you read the article, you’ll know how to draw and make a table in this mode without making a serious blunder.
The joinery is discussed, but not in a “how you cut the tenons” manner. It’s more about choosing the correct joinery and scaling it correctly for this object.
I also enjoyed the author’s sharp tongue/pen. Here’s a sample:
“In all its horrible eccentricity of non-descript Gothic, worse Chinese, and inane rococo, combined though they be with the most exquisite workmanship and occasionally a quaint gracefulness, Chippendale’s style is not in favour with those whose training enables them to discriminate between the true and false in design.”
Issue 1 also has some articles that are amusing if not useful. They have many pages on how to turn your lathe into a table saw. It is in every way, exactly what Shopsmith does with its machine.
Issue 2 has some good stuff as well. At the top of the list is an article on “Artistic Furniture,” which also could be titled “A Primer on Dumpster Diving.”
It’s about the author busting up some packing crates to salvage the wood and make an overmantle using nails and screws. Most of the article is, again, an interesting discussion of the design and a defense of the simple joinery methods. It’s the kind of article that will inspire the beginner and make them hungry to build something.
The issue also has an article by David Denning (another familiar name) on making a wooden copying press – a project that most moderns would use for pressing flowers. It’s a fun project that I’d like to make myself someday.
Each issue also has tool reviews and letters that are fun to read. Plus the advertisements are a hoot. I read every one of them. I don’t want to spoil the fun, but my favorite advert was for “Pond’s Extract,” which cures gout, hemorrhoids, wounds, burns etc. The copy exclaims in huge letters that it is used by “HER MAJESTY THE QUEEN” and below that in tiny type “of Romania.”
Good stuff. To read more about Work magazine, read this blog entry from Joel. And to download the first issue on Friday, go to this page – a special blog devoted to Work.