Old School to New School and the Perplexity of Power Tool Worship

Not that there is anything wrong with them, but I simply do not like power tools very much.  This is the 2015 version of me speaking.  Last year I was in Alpha Building Center (a local lumberyard/hardwarestore) and I saw a miter box unlike any other miter box I had ever used.  I will not tell you the brand.  It was German made.  As I stood there admiring the components of this beast, my boss walked up and I said “now that is a damn good miter box.”  He ended up buying one a month later (the yellow one he used previously was not a miter box for trim work but more for heavy duty carpentry) and I still say it is a damn good miter box.

I have not attained the level of skill with hand tools that I want to have.  I have not completely left power tools behind me.  The reason for this is that I have not completely let go of the convenience aspect that power tools offer.  There are certain power tools that I probably will never use again or at least not very much at all:  the router for instance.  I am on my way though.  Learning is slow because I have not found myself a flesh and blood teacher.  I watch Youtube videos as I have written about previously and read books.  The books I read have a lot to say about the encroachment of power tools into the carpentry trades.  Mostly they are not in favor.  Others (not the ones I read really) are completely in favor of it and scorn the use of handtools as being unamerican.  What am I some kind of sissy or communist?  If you don’t handle a big machine you are not a real man, man.  $^&*((%$### that mentality.  Give me hand planes, chisels, draw knives, the shaving horse.  I want high carbon steel, dude.  I want to feel the chisel cutting through the wood, to see the plane shaving come quietly off the surface of a piece of pine.  I love pine.  It is one of the most versatile woods and completely underrated.  I dig the work, the process and the tools in my hand that shape things before my very eyes.  No, I don’t like power tools anymore.  Less and less.  I dig going to places to find tools some of which were made over a century ago and still do the job they were intended for.  I dig the new hand tool makers who are holding it down, dude.  There are so many good hand tools makers out there right now in Europe, the United States, Korea, Japan, and China.  There is something about hand tools.  Does it take more time?  Maybe in some cases though not all.  There are people out there who have attained an amazing amount of speed using only hand tools.  I am not one of them though I hope to some day be.

I ask myself all the time what it is I hope to accomplish by this.  I second guess myself daily as I struggle to learn but I have determined not to give up the struggle.  Even if this will never net me a lot of money, and even if I have to do something else for a day job, I do not have any desire to revert to the new school and enslave myself again to technology when it comes to woodworking, by buying more power tools.  I can fit everything I need to build anything into a box that is 32″ long x 17″ deep x 18″ tall.  Maybe this will lead me away from computers as well some day and into a print newsletter rather than a blog.  I think I would like that.  Others can have their CNC routers, I do not want one.  Churning out parts night and day while that robot arm does the work for you.  I want ideas and I want freedom.  Freedom from the oppressors who say “it must be done this way.”  I want to build things and to have time and space to do it:  things that will last.

I am no longer a carpenter in the strictest sense of the word.  Now there are other things involved.  I am an anthropologist, archeologist, designer, carpenter, soon to be father, recovering the old ways of all sorts while gathering and soaking up all the skills I can get my hands on and pack into the next however many years I have left.  And I live with an awareness that I am not alone in this, that there are other crazies out there, who want to build stuff by hand and be close to the work.  It is spiritual and an addiction.  It is philosophically becoming ingrained into the various processes of my being.  Someday.  Here’s to the peacemakers.


Jeremy Stoltzfus

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