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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

By Hand

Years ago, I saw an interview with Vanna White, of Wheel of Fortune fame on a late night talk show.  She was asked what her favorite missed phrase was.  She replied that the correct phrase was 'Gone With The Wind' but that the solver guessed that it was "Done With One Hand".

Even if that wasn't right, I'm finding that doing things by hand has its own reward.  I've been replacing electric powered small appliances with hand powered ones, one by one.  The old fashioned egg beater I have does a good job, and costs me nothing but calories to use.  The cast iron waffle iron I purchased from Lehman's is finally seasoned to the point where waffles don't stick to it anymore, but it would have been a lot better product had the handles been longer.  It's still a pill to use, so consequently Steve doesn't get so many waffles anymore.  Good thing he likes Dutch Babies.  But it does the job when we need waffles, and I could probably use it over a camp fire (not that that's going to happen).

I've pretty much stopped using my electrical saws altogether.  It turns out that I have much better control over my cuts with a hand saw than with a circular saw or jig saw.  At one time, this wasn't the case, but after having injured thumbs at different times on both hands that required time off in splints, my thumb muscles have atrophied so badly that I don't have anywhere near the hand strength that I used to have.  So the mitered cuts I'm making for the back of the dining nook are all getting done by hand.  I think I finally have the hang of getting it done quickly and accurately, but my modern saws are not as comfortable as they ought to be.  I have to take a lot of breaks.

So it was with some real delight that I ran across this website. I have to caution you that I'm a bit of a tool geek anyway; my very first job was in a swell hardware store, and I've never lost my love for all things hardware.  But the stuff that this guy is making is just plain beautiful. I especially like the convertible saw of his own design. Even if you don't have an affinity for tools like I do, take a look because the tools he makes are really gorgeous, if you can believe that.  His work has inspired me to make new handles for the saws that I own, which should be easy to replace, considering that they are all screwed on.  I don't expect to make them out of the fancy wood that he uses; I'll probably use either oak from HD, or go see what Rockler has.

It's also inspired me to start collecting this stuff where and when I can, because I might be very glad of being able to use tools in the future that don't require electricity.  They use up a lot less real estate in the garage as well.  I've borrowed several books from the library, including Restoring, Tuning, and Using Classic Woodworking Tools, by Michael Dunbar, and Mastering Hand Tool Techniques, by Alan and Gill Bridgewater. I think I'm going to go look on eBay and see what kind of goodies I can find out there in the way of hand tools.



I'm not quite ready to give up my electrical saws yet, because I still have to saw through some plywood, but if I can get through it with a hand saw, I may be selling my electrical saws.  I will probably not be giving up my impact driver, which I love.

But I can't say that I wouldn't mind owning some gorgeous antiques that work a charm.

17 comments:

Cat said...

While I do not want to give up the power tools, I know that I can do a job with my hand tools with just a bit of effort, and in my case, most times, much more safely. Noise is a factor, for me, as well. Let's face it, if I am out of a early morning, my scythe makes a woosh, woosh, woosh sound. That will not bother anyone. A weedwhacker, on the other hand...

So, yes, there is most definitly a place for hand tools!

Cat

Rae said...

Old hand tools are great. There's something wonderful about a well worn saw or chisel handle, polished smooth from years of use. Keep an eye out at local estate and yard sales. Really good stuff out there.

Paula said...

Ah! A scythe! Very cool.

Not sure I could interest Steve in doing what grass we have left with one, but I guess the whoosh sound would be very meditative.

I'm hoping to need one some day for cutting grain....but first I have to grow the grain. No, first I have to clear some space and build the soil, and then I can grow the grain.

And then maybe get a scythe...

Paula said...

Good idea, Rae. (when are we going?)

Rae said...

We may just have to take a Saturday morning off, grab coffee, and hit some sales. :) As the weather improves, there will be more and more out there. I'll keep an eye out for sales ads that mention tools.

Diane said...

You might like the Woodwright's Shop with Roy Underhill. I haven't seen his show in years (actually, about 30 when he started) but he has some books out too. I do remember being amazed by his treadle lathe which seemed elegantly simple. Also, Peter Follansbee blogs about his joinery and carving, I think at Plimouth Plantation. Colonial reenactors around New England have a lot of craft skills that "preparers" would find useful.

Paula said...

Actually, Diane, I do like The Woodright's Shop, and I borrowed the two of Roy Underhill's books that our library had: The Woodwright's Eclectic Workshop, and The Woodwright's Apprentice. They are both great books, and Underhill is funny; they're been a couple of time that I've laughed out loud, and then had to read a passage to Steve. But looking over his photos and instructions, I've had more than a couple of ah ha moments. I'll probably look for his books at Powell's the next time I'm there.

Paula said...

Sounds great Rae- and this time, I'm buying!

notherethenwhere said...

I've had my eye on a few tools at the local antique store (still functional tools, I should mention) mostly because I don't like relying on electricity, but also because I've just found it easier working more slowly by hand. That said, the fact that they fit better in my limited apartment space is also a bonus.

Paula said...

Notherethenwhere- one of the authors cautions about buying antique tools just because you may spend more than they are worth from the perspective of being able to use them. Antique tools are highly collectible, and their price correlates more with their rarity than their remaining utility. He gave an example of an early Stanley block plane that is more expensive than the later version of the same plane, which was improved; for woodworking purposes, the later plane is more useful.

I started Mastering Hand Tool Techniques last night and have already learned a ton. I've especially learned that I sure have been doing things the hard way!!!

Jenny Debeaux said...

I can't use a conventional saw for love nor money but I can use a Japanese pull saw and saw straight and clean. Have you tried these? I saw them first at a big craft fair over here and bought one as soon as I could: they're just great!!

Paula said...

I haven't tried one Jenny, but I've heard of them. I'd have to go looking for one because I haven't seen one offered anywhere. I'll keep an eye open for one.

Jasmine said...

I was a 20 year old theatre and English major who decide to build a cabin in Alaska. There wasnt electricity at the lot yet, and my father ( who was helping and advising me) in his infinite wisdom, decided that the best option was battery powered tools, and scorned the idea of buying even a handsaw... He had plenty of tools at home on the east coast, and we were trying tomb money conscious.... Well, turns out the battery powered circular would barely power through to rip a single sheet of plywood per battery... By the end of the summer, after buying myself a handsaw finally, I swore up and down that the NEXT house I built would be only with hand tools. Then I discoveredthe joy of properly powered, like from an electric socket, power tools and changed my mind. Now, at 25 I'm buying an off grid solar house in a land where you get 4 hours of sunlight (including dusk and dawn) in the depth of winter, and though the house is already built; I'm reconsidering that hand tools may be a partner I want to commit to! Conserving generator use and all when building shelves and benches and coops and barns and additions and beds!
Those books you mention sure sound interesting!

Ps: hi! I found you through caf...

Bunchberryfarm.blogspot.com

Jasmine said...

Also, I bought an impact driver for my sister, the technical theatre junkie who freelances for a couple of tech theatre companies while pursuing a degree in theatrical design and build sets and hangs lights in her spare time.... Apparently they are amazing!
:-)

Paula said...

Jasmine- wow! you're doing a lot for a person so young- I'm impressed! I think for an off-grid house, the hand tools would be a good idea for the smaller jobs. I'm especially liking the Mastering book- lots of really useful information on how to use stuff that winds up making hand tool use a lot easier. Actually making stuff in general a lot easier.

I should probably do a review on my impact driver, which I really like because it fits my hand and is not so heavy I can't lift it. It's not as big and powerful as some of the other impact drivers, so I tend to be careful with it, but it does what I need it to do. It's definitely the one power tool I would not want to give up.

Tamar@StarvingofftheLand said...

I see the appeal of hand tools. I get the joy of the look and the feel and the quiet. But I only see it in an abstract way. I'm afraid that, with every new job I do, the happier I am to have power tools.

We just ran electrical cable to the garage, and it has to be buried 18 inches deep. We'd planned to do it with the grub hoe and elbow grease, but when you start digging and see how deep 18 inches really is, your heart sinks. We rented a Ditch Witch.

And cutting frozen bait without a sawzall is an equally grim prospect.

For the finish carpentry you do, though, it's easier to see.

Paula said...

Cutting frozen bait with a sawzall! Genius!

I only champion hand tools for me because they work better for me. I waste less wood with them.