Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Years ago, I was profoundly affected by the Whole Earth Catalog which was a bible of sorts for a new age. The new age never quite arrived, as those who read the thing and were inspired by the thing succumbed in time to the same mindless consumerism that was driving the rest of the country. The Whole Earth Catalog idea was to put tools and information in people's hands to incite a renewal of productivity and creativity along lines of environmental sustainability and responsibility. Looking for a good shovel? The Whole Earth Catalog would tell you where to find the best.

Today, and in fact, nearly every day, the woodworking tool catalogs fill my mailbox. I find a few good things in them, and sometimes buy a thing or two. If I were to buy much more, I don't know where I would put things. There are new gadgets for every purpose in the woodshop. You would think in reviewing the catalogs, that woodworking was more about having the right stuff than about making the right things. We are a toy consuming conglomerate. Toys are engineered for children to take the guess work and creativity away. All the manipulations are precreated by the designers, leaving little to the children's imaginations to discover on their own. Woodworking tools are just the same, just noisier and more expensive. To meet the woodworker's hopes for effortless success, the tools are designed to take away risk of mis-cuts, mis-measurements, and various other kinds of "mistakes", leaving the process uncreative, less challenging and unfulfilling.

I have heard tool companies and tool sellers and even publishers complain about the industry being flat. I can remember a time when woodworking was about much more than shopping for new tools designed to take the place of skill and attention. If you don't mind, I'll tell you about it. It involves a rather pretentious concept, that at its core isn't pretentious at all. I call it the Wisdom of the Hands. It is kind of a corny notion. Like those of being skilled at something and caring about results.

No comments:

Post a Comment