Saturday, July 21, 2012


Each and every tool is designed to amplify the seven original creative motions of the human hand (shown at left by Rudolph J. Drillis). Each tool is intended to provide greater control, greater strength, in areas of greater or lesser scale or at greater distance than the bare hands themselves. And so it is natural for mankind to feel inclined toward tool use, and to find pleasure in the ownership of tools and the skill developed in their use. To own a fine tool imparts a sense of greater power and in this there is a direct correlation between tools and guns.

I have this sense that our national obsession with firearms is a response to the loss of power and control over our lives, with guns serving as a sorry substitute for tools suited to real acts of moral courage and craftsmanship. With swords beaten to plowshares our culture would be less inclined toward fantasies of gun violence and safe again for kids to go to the movies without fear.

I am curious when our nation will awaken to understand that owning guns may not be an expression of courage but of cowardice? Of those who feel the need to carry guns, I wonder what in the world they could be frightened of?

As our nation mourns yet another senseless act of gun violence, I suggest a means through which we might become a safer, more humane nation. There is a peacefulness in craftsmanship... There is a sense of self and self control that comes when a man or woman applies skill through the use of tools in the creation of useful beauty from wood. Put real creative (rather than destructive) tools in the hands of kids and teach them to express care through their use.

Make, fix and create...


  1. Randall Farris11:19 AM

    As a woodworker, I appreciate and acknowledge your skill. However, I cannot disagree more with your comments about the tragedy in Colorado. Especially being a former soldier, your comments about owning a firearm showing cowardice is as insulting as it is misguided. Just over a year ago, another cowardly criminal went on a shooting spree and killed over 80 kids. However, this occurred in Norway. Suppossedly one of our more cultured and refined European neighbors; and, one of the most gun-restrictive countries on the planet.
    In my upbringing, a firearm was a tool for completing a task not something to settle a disagreement. I also knew that if I misused any tool, especially a firearm, I would have to answer for my actions and receive the discipline mandated by my parents.

  2. Randall, Thanks for your comments. I know that my statement is a generalization. Certainly not all gun owners are cowards. But what is truly so brave about walking around with guns? We have folks who think they need to carry them at all times, even to church.

    We glamorize guns and gun violence in the movies and in video and computer games, then are appalled when some nuts resort to the use of guns as a means of expressing their phychological faults. That seems a bit crazy in my mind.

    This guy in Colorado had a hundred round clip for an assault rifle, plus 6000 rounds of additional ammo. But American gun owners are so defensive in spirit that they will allow no reasonable dialog to take place on the subject of gun control. They immediately go to lock and load position.

    My first craftsman mentor was a gun smith, and I had the opportunity to see gun nuts up close and personal. Not the kind of experience one would find comforting in a society that thought well of itself. If you've ever held a fine pistol, in one hand and a Lie-Nielsen plane in the other you've find comparable qualities. Each will be admirable craftsmanship, and each will touch some part of the human emotion as surely and as certainly as it fits the hand and imagination.

    My real point was to suggest that we need those emotions to be touched, and that it is better to touch them through the use of creative tools.

    If you are a hunter, or a soldier, or a police officer, a gun might be a tool for the fulfillment of your employment. But most American homes and the children treasured within would be better protected with hand planes.

  3. Randall,
    I also wanted to note that I realize many woodworkers are gun collectors advocates of unrestricted gun access and members of the NRA. I've seen the arguments get hot in the Woodworkers newsgroups, so I expected some of my readers to voice opposition to my position, but it would have been cowardly for me to not express what I see to be the situation in light of circumstances.

    The situation in Norway where they have better control of firearms was tragic and shows that there are twisted souls in every nation but doesn't disprove my notion that better access and training in real creative tools would foster a better, safer cultural environment.

    I was raised to have great respect for guns. My father was manager of a hardware store and a WWII vet. He said that you do not aim at anything you do not intend to kill, but as a hardware store manager, he was frequently aimed at by folks who were not raised with the same values. He told of finding himself in the sights of gun buyers who were looking for something to practice their aim toward, and was thankful that they kept all guns carefully unloaded.

    Wouldn't it be nice if all kids knew as you did growing up that guns were not problem solvers. As long as that is not the case, and as long as we have a citizenry with mental health problems, and as long as we have folks with malicious fantasies involving gun violence, I think some greater level of gun control and strict enforcement of current laws would be called for. And that even gun users would be in the front lines to insist on reform. Also, if children were introduced to their own creative capacities, we would all be better off.

  4. Firearms are tools yes, but they are inherently destructive tools, especially when large clips and semi-automatics or automatics are involved. I grew up around hunters, gun owners yes, but hunters first and their use of firearms reflects that outlook. Certainly they are not cowards, but you can find owners motivated by cowardice, by fear, by hate, by any number of emotions. I am reminded of the Cherokee tale of two wolves. One is evil, the other is good and it all comes down to which one we feed as individuals and as a culture. Make it easy for the one that does good to do good and hard for the one that does evil to do evil. As for a gun being a symbol of bravery, well, it is as much a symbol of that as a handful of dirt is.

    Breivik bought his high capacity rifle clips from the US because he couldn't buy them in Norway. All we have to do is look at the US stance on language for the first international arms treaty and our failure to renew the ban on assault weapons to see how unwilling we are to sacrfice some of our own freedom for the freedom of others. I do not have issues with the owning of guns for hunting, but assault weapons belong in war zones only. Better to regulate and teach kids how to be creative rather than destructive.

    I have mixed feelings on guns and gun violence in movies and games. I've been horrified, sickened, amused, bored, and comfortable with it all depending on how its being used. I don't think there is one good answer to dealing with that kind of violence other than to be vigilant about how it is viewed and what about it is accepted. How do we ensure it never passes beyond the screen? Probably by giving people use of their creative ability and the habit of having conversations with those they disagree with.

  5. Mike,
    I think it is amazing how many young parents take their children to movies that are pretty violent and have this idea that it won't have any effect on them. They may be unwilling to get a baby sitter, or not able to afford one but can't resist being there to see the movies as they just come out even when the violence of them may be overwhelming to an impressionable mind. It would be nice if all parents were like Randall's and able to explain the proper use of tools, and hold their children accountable to proper and safe usage. But I don't really see much of that happening.

  6. Doug, True. I did not think about that, mainly because I was not allowed to see violent movies until I was older and when I finally was allowed to see them there was discussion attached to their viewing.

  7. Mike,
    They interviewed a young couple who had been there with a small child and a baby in arms. What were they doing in a theater with children for a movie that dark and violent? If they couldn't afford a baby sitter, couldn't they have waited for the DVD and watched it in bed when the children were asleep?

    Violent movies have become so commonplace that they are accepted without question, until someone actually does what is too often shown on the screen. This subject should be a matter of conversation at least, but there is so much money in the movie industry, we'll not expect the conversation about young parents taking their kids to age inappropriate movies ever. It seems not be an issue on anyone's radar.