Friday, July 17, 2020

simple advice on tools

When my daughter was attending Columbia I had a friend Gus at the Teacher's College Library who would pass along discarded copies of old books on the manual arts in the hopes they would find use.

The text excerpt below in quotes is from The Amateur House Carpenter, by Ellis Davidson published in 1875. My own copy was given to me from Teacher's College Library in New York and had been acquired by them in 1887. It was the 428th volume acquired by the fledgling university and before their move to their current site adjacent to Columbia University on the Upper West Side.

The illustration of a hammer striking a nail is one of the original illustrations from the book, drawn by the author on wood.
"There are chisels which, after bending in a curve, proceed in a straight line, by which the ground under carved work may be cut. There are in fact, numerous varieties of carving tools, not a twentieth of which will be required by those for whom these pages are written and for whom a coupe of chisels,  couple of gouges, and a couple of print-cutter's tools (small chisels), and a single bent toll, will suffice for present purposes.

"It is by far the better plan to supply the necessity for additional tools as it arises, than to buy a "good set," containing so many of of such various forms, that the amateur is puzzled which to use first; and in attempting to manage a complex tool, intended only for expert workmen and for some very peculiar purpose, the work which could have been fairly done with simple tools is often injured or spoilt altogether."
The simple point is one that I try to make to my students. It is easy to become overwhelmed by the variety of tools available to the modern woodworker. There are so many tools and jigs that are intended to make fine woodworking easy enough that even an ignoramus can do it. Far better than to be overwhelmed is to take a softer approach, acquiring tools as they are needed. That way you know what to do with them, and before that time is reached you will hopefully have exhausted the potential of the tools you already have.

There's a zen saying about this. "Poverty is your greatest treasure, never trade it for an easy life." So how can poverty be a treasure? It demands growth. It requires that you refine your approach, not only to the tools and materials, but to those neighbors who surround you. It demands modesty, and compels empathy. It's just as simple as that.

Make, fix and create.... Assist others in learning likewise.

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