Wood Machinists

This is another one of those weekends where I fear I won’t make any headway on the clock project.  I do have to gather some materials for my potential clock face painter, just to make sure I don’t stray to far.  And some more negotiations with Maryanne about the appearance she’s almost on board.  But something else got stuck in my head.

This morning I went to the Cincinnati Woodworking Club meeting.  Great people – very giving and they like to have a good time I think.  Sometimes the demonstrations are good but sometimes it’s not very interesting to me.  There are as many kinds of woodworkers out there as there are trees – everyone has a different approach or interest.  The second part of our meeting was about what I can only call a wood-machining device.  It takes a router and uses all sorts of jigs and holding devices to make cuts.  I have to say that for me the demonstrator’s statement that said it all, when showing his nice looking dovetails was, “If you are going for the look of hand-cut dovetails this is the machine…”

I’m sorry, but isn’t the way to make hand-cut dovetail to get a saw and a chisel and cut them by hand?  It’s just not that hard.  Instead of spending $1,000 (plus the cost of a quality router) including lasers and digital gauges that read to the nearest 0.001″ or better, why not invest a few dollars in a decent saw and a chisel and figure it out?  At WIA this last fall, Mark Siemsen was demonstrating in the SAPFM booth making perfectly acceptable through dovetails with a hack saw and a screwdriver sharpened into a chisel.  I tried it – not quite as pleasing as using quality tools – but it got the job done.

Some woodworkers are machinists by nature and get all worked up over making shavings down to less than a thousandth of an inch thick, or using calipers to measure their tenons.  I guess that’s what they enjoy.  I just don’t think the 18th & 19th Century masters did this.  They sure didn’t need wood machining equipment.  Work the wood.  I love technology but this is too much.

I’m not giving up my table saw or band saw yet, but I’m reasonably sure I would never buy a device like this.  You won’t see me with a CNC-carving machine any time soon either.  I’m a terrible carver but I just don’t think I would get any satisfaction out of shoving a piece of wood into a machine and pressing “start” in a computer program.  And I really don’t think I could say I made it “myself” with a straight face.

I’m not a purist – I still use tools that have cords on them.  I’m trying for more handwork than power tools, so call me a blended woodworker.   I just don’t see the craftsmanship in using tools like this.  No doubt some 19th Century woodworker wrote blog posts just like this when they first saw electrically powered saws and drills.

Just don’t call me a wood machinist.

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One Response to Wood Machinists

  1. maryanne Zeleznik says:

    I admire your willingness to do it all by hand….and yes, you will have more pride in the work..You also are too modest, the work you do is very good.

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