Wednesday, January 14, 2009

What are "handles" really for?

You would think that handles are where you put your hands, but experience with chisels may indicate a different function. By placing your hand low on the blade you gain better control of the exact position of the tip, your chisel holding hand has the advantage of resting on the working surface, and the handle of the chisel itself functions as a pendulum indicating whether or not the chisel is being held exactly vertical. It is like holding a long pole in your hand. With practice, you can feel with your eyes closed when it is straight up and down. The images at left tell the story.

Please don't take my word. Grab a chisel and try this for yourself. One of the very important lessons learned through the acquisition of skilled hands is that you begin looking at your own experience as your source of authority rather than adhering to fanciful beliefs contrived second or third hand by others.

One of the things Otto Salomon did in his development of Educational Sloyd was to carefully and objectively observe students and trained craftsmen at work. Usually we work with our hands without paying very much attention to them, but there is a great deal we can learn about the world and ourselves by paying greater attention to our hands.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous11:01 AM

    You got it absolutely right. I love making dovetail joints, and holding the chisel low on the blade is the only way to start a cut just right.