Tools for Working Wood

 Joel's Blog at Tools for Working Wood

Tools As Art - 3 (and some miscellaneous musings)  

06/20/2012

I have previously posted photographs in lieu of a full blog entry and this particular entry in the series is part of my attempt at capturing and sharing some of the dynamism you get when working a milling machine. Cutting tools rip into steel in a violent controlled dance.
In other news it's been an interesting week. Last Monday, two floors below me, a painter cleaning a closet, prior to painting it, decided that the tangle of thin wires going from floor to ceiling had no purpose and would mess up the paint job, so he removed them. We have been without phone or internet access at home for over a week now as Verizon sends repair technician after repair technician to various apartments, only to have them shake their heads sadly and say you need a construction crew to replace the wires. Which will happen, hopefully in my lifetime, but fortunately not on my dime. Until then my cell phone, with its current unlimited data plan, is my new BFF.
But this isn't about phones. The reason Verizon has so little interest in getting me back up and running is that they have totally lost interest in copper phone wires. Fiber optics is in and the critical mass that got copper wires fixed in the old days is no more.
This week I was reading a woodworking magazine from the 1880's ( a competitor to Work) and I was much relieved when I came across an article on how to build a harmonium. I was relieved because the magazine had been going on at great, great length about organ building for amateurs, which is the woodworking article equivalent of an article called "Do It Yourself Brain Surgery" in a Men's fitness magazine. Interesting, but way, way out of my league. So I welcomed the harmonium article which started out by saying that organ building was really hard, but a harmonium was a far simpler project. Harmoniums use reeds instead of pipes which makes the task easier especially if the first thing you need to do is "get a good quality set of harmonium reeds from you local harmonium dealer". I did find a place in India but I would not exactly call them local.
My point is the same as what is happening to the phone system. Critical mass is shifting. As a kid a hardware store was expected to carry - hardware. Now my local choices are much reduced and my first look is almost always the Internet. On a global scale I think my options for tools and equipment are better than ever, but when I shop for tools, materials, even furniture, I am constantly reminded how small a niche woodworking is. The disconnect between the general public and the ability and desire to make things is becoming wider and wider each year and consequently there are fewer and fewer venues for making things, and that in turn makes it harder to increase the number of people involved in making things. I won't even begin to tell you about the difficulty I had explaining to a relative that "walnut" was a wood not a color and my dining room table wasn't "finished in walnut" but I had made it out American Black Walnut, a native American wood, that is walnut colored when it grows and it wasn't dyed that color. I am not sure if I made an impression or just came off like a nut.

Tags:Misc.
Comments: 6
06/20/2012John 
Good thoughts, Joel, I have often wondered what the majority of urban dwellers consider a "hobby" these days when none of the shelter magazines show anything other than the odd bit of sports paraphernalia. Dining out? Internet surfing? But to what gain? Acquiring "stuff" seems to be the objective taught by the photos, and the teaching seems to stress the need to be constantly replacing their old stuff with new stuff. It's all about decorating and less about creating anything other than a look. No wonder your relatives think Walnut is a color and not a wood species.

Perhaps I'm just naive or out of touch with reality but the ability to make or fix something yourself seems as alien to most people as the DIY brain surgery article you mentioned; just plain odd. Sad, no?
06/20/2012Ron Kanter 
Joel,
Your effort to raise your relative's awareness of the natural world is praiseworthy even if it is unlikely to penetrate the plastic veneer created by our consumer culture.

If you "came off like a nut" at least you have the satisfaction of knowing you came off as a true American Walnut.
Ron
06/20/2012Dan 
As a retired junior high science teacher, I can tell you that whenever I brought in something I made from wood, my students were really interested. Today's kids are starving for hands-on projects and love to build things out of wood. But, few actually make anything because all their time is taken with sports, web surfing, social media, etc. Woodworking is still a highly desirable hobby to most kids, but time and opportunity conspire against it. There are however a legion of grandparents out there....
06/20/2012Rick Barnes 
I volunteer at a museum where we demonstrate the use of woodworking hand tools. We let the kids, cut, bore and plane some boards. They love it. I wish I could reach out to more kids this way. I see skills that a large number of people used to know, turning into a mysterious art.
06/20/2012JG 
Great article. As a New Yorker you are surely aware of the ever growing American obsession with security, and that ever growing list of objects and activities which are classed as 'suspicious', 'dangerous', 'on the watch list'. As more an more people become more and more disconnected with 'making stuff', the 'makers of stuff' are going to be classified as 'suspicious and scary' with greater frequency.

The outreach of makers to non makers is critical....
08/11/2012andrew zjawin 
Joel,

Ok, so I am a deep rooted hand tool woodworker sawing tenons with a 20" rip and sticking 40 feet of panel moulding. I started in a cabinet shop with machines guided by one of the best, did some design work and put together a cabinets, huge doors, etc. Really, thats when I got hooked and im not bragging. But my home shop is confined to a 16 x 12 basement shared with a laundry room. So all i have is my bench, the tools below it, ones stuffed in a tool box and hanging on the wall. A table saw would take up half my shop and god forbid a planer...

Anyway, me, like the ones before us, am not so ... lets say ready to give up knowledge of the trade I've learned through time.

But, I'd like to introduce you to the Architect, Builder and Woodworker magazine circa 1880's publication packed with information on everything from framing a victorian, foundation, plaster, tools chests, veneer, sticking mouldings, furniture design, using tools, the "newest" best tool reviews etc...

but issues from 1880 to 1887 are on google books for free.

<iframe frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="border:0px" src="http://books.google.com/books?id=jMblAAAAMAAJ&ots=z6NS8wwF9S&dq=architect%20builder&pg=PR1&output=embed" width=500 height=500></iframe>

The information in these magazines are a record of the craftsmen before us and how they thought and worked. Please take the time to read. Reading the correspondence is entertaining.
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