Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The joy of quiet tools

My first draw knife 3" cutting edge 1095HC, great for carving and shaping.

A young man received a cordless screwdriver for his birthday and was so excited he had to call his dad and brag.
“Dad my wife bought me a cordless screwdriver for my birthday. Isn’t that great!”
“That’s great, but all my screwdrivers are cordless son.”

I’ve been a begrudging convert to the wonderful world of hand tools, those magnificent items that don’t run out of power unless you get tired of working. Like most people hand tools frustrated me to no end. This is a result of two common reasons: 1. I had poor quality tools 2. I lacked the knowledge of how to maintain and use those tools.

Power tools are easy, you can use a mitre saw or drill press without knowledge of electronic engineering or how wood grain affectsthe cut. The difference between an orbital sander and a handplane is that one requires practice and knowledge to use effectively. Practice at using a tool? That is an absurd notion. Quality hand tools can cost triple their powered counterparts, so why bother? Ahhh, the experience! The satisfaction of knowing your tools, their strengths and weaknesses and how to get the most out each one. I noticed with power tools, the danger is immense: eye, ear, respiratory protection is constantly required. Smooth a board with a belt sander and you’ll be cleaning the shop for week, use a plane and you can listen to Howlin’ Wolf at low volume and clean up is a few minutes of sweeping. The gentle swoosh of sharp plane iron is a welcome change from the terrible whine of belt driven machines.

To create something, is to understand it.

My first hand tools were made on a whim. I thought draw knives were just neat looking, so I made one. It has taken me hours of practicing to read wood grain and control my depth of cuts, but now it is much faster at finesse shaping than a sander or saw.

Kiridashi in 1095HC 60rc paracord wrap

Next was my first Kiridashi, a very simple Japanese utility knife. I had a few inches of left over steel from a project and so it came to be. It sat on my bench unused for some time, until I had to cut leather for a sheath, my fancy utility knife was botching the job so out came the tiny simply knife. BAM! It cut far better than a razor, making my life safer and easier.  

My next journey is to make my own chisels as they are the heart of any shop. I still love my bandsaw, but realize that sometimes things are much easier if it stays quiet.

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