Archive for September, 2008

So What’s Wrong With Luddites, Anyway?

29 September, 2008

Once again the literary blog of Chris Schwartz has stimulated my own (somewhat cranked) chain of consciousness toward the philosophical side of woodworking.  “The Schwartz” recently offered a very positive review of Roy Underhill’s newest book (the link is here), which wasn’t fair because I can’t go out and buy it yet, and pre-ordering it only makes me feel like I’m 8 years old and it’s three weeks before Christmas.  Dang.  I’m pre-ordering it anyway, and I had a good Christmas when I was 8.

 

One of the commentators on the blog mentioned that some view St. Roy in particular, and from that I assume the Galooterati in general, as being Luddite.  I pondered that for a little bit, checked Wikipedia to make sure the commentator was talking about the Luddite movement of England in the throes of the Industrial Revolution, and then concluded that such a thrown stone packed all the wallop of being called a “Neanderthal Woodworker” or a “Galoot.”  Hit me again, please!

 

Now, to be a Luddite in the purest sense of the word, I would need to be militantly against the use of power tools.  Personally, I’m not that way; I really don’t have the time to spend felling a maple tree (the hardest part is FINDING a maple tree in central Texas), hewing it, pit sawing it, stickering the flitches, ripping them with a hand saw, scrub planning them to near thickness, well, you get the idea.  If I had to rely on those methods, it would be a very long time before anything would ever come out of my shop, with the possible exception of me in a pine box.

 

On the other hand, I fully concur with Chris that it is essential that we never, ever lose the techniques that correspond with the old tools that we celebrate.  We venerate St. Roy because he takes such joy in passing along that knowledge (in his own inimitable style.)  In an earlier blog, I expounded on how I feel that passing on the knowledge of those who have gone before us honors them and connects us to them.  If that’s Luddite, bring it!

The Fate of Old Tools

23 September, 2008

One of my favorite blogs to follow (and do my best to be a nuscance on) is Chris Schwartz’s Woodworking Magazine blog.  I was reading today’s post about hand saw rehabillitation,  and that started my creative juices flowing.  You can see Chris’ blog by clicking the link here.  I admire Chris and find much wisdom (and considerable wit) in what he writes.  If you aren’t reading his blog regularly, get off this one and go pick that one up now!

Somewhere in the midst of his shill for a great-sounding hand saw sharpening service, I was confronted by two thoughts.  The first thought is that one can not really call oneself a Galoot unless one knows how to sharpen one’s own saws.  I don’t.  Yet.  So, after I dried myself off from my self-recrimination immersion, I went on to the next big thought of the day, which occurred to me when Chris referenced a shelf of “damned tools.”  Said another way, Chris referred to a particular saw residing on a “Shelf of Hopeless Tools.”  It evoked images of some childhood Christmas claymation reference “The Island of Misfit Toys.”  I immediately had images of choo-choos with square wheels and polka-dotted dollies with alligator tears all singing around a campfire on Christmas eve… you know what I mean.  The concept of Hopless Tools is just to provocative for me.  So I became provoked, and Chris will probably justifiably delete my reply.

What I tried to point out was that the Path of the Galoot includes the pride of bottom-feeding.  Our greatest scores come when we can report back to other Galooterati on a great estate sale score or better yet — a bona fide flea market “Neener!”  As illustration, I pointed out the crispy No.-4 that looked like a University of Texas football jersey when I got it, and after TLC is my daily go-to smoother.

It is my particular thesis that there is no such thing as a hopeless tool.  So your saw blade winds up with a 90 degree bend in it: use it to saw dovetails in three mintues like Frank Klaus, or salvage the usable parts and rehab an ailing saw.  You find a plane that has bounced off concrete one too many times and has a broken mouth?  It can’t sing anymore, but like the young boy who gives up his heart in death in order to let a young girl across the country live, there are parts and pieces to be used in the rehab of a needy plane.

No hope?  Never give up hope in old tools, I say.  Send them to me.

The Master

18 September, 2008
     Recently there has been a video floating around of Frank Klaus cutting dovetails (using bow saws) in three minutes.  If you haven’t seen it yet, here’s the link, but please note: all safety precautions need to be taken.  Please fasten your seatbelt, look around you and find the nearest exit, double check your parachute, and make sure your helmet and protective eyewear are in place.
      A very long time ago, before there was something called the “New Testament,” God used to show up to the Old Testament folk in strange and unexpected manners.  He might show up in a burning bush, or on a mountaintop, or as a soft, gentle breeze, or in a valley of dry, dusty bones.  In whatever manner God chose His current self-revelation, the ancient Hebrews knew they were in for something big, as in Charlton Heston and Cecile B. DeMille; something that they had no control over, something that would change their lives for the better and would last forever, and something that kind of set them apart from the other tribes of the Ancient Near East.  But they also knew it was something they could only watch, because the Being they were watching was actually DOING things (rather than just talking, like a lot of the other gods,) and because they knew what was happening was just so far beyond themselves.  Sometimes you have to watch stuff and spend the rest of your life processing it in order to understand it.  Sometimes you never understand it.
     I had a similar epiphany watching Mr. Klaus cut his dovetails.  Just every now and then you realize you are in the presence of someone who early on discerned what he or she had been born to do, and acted upon it.  I want to be that way when I grow up.
 
 

 

 

 

The Wall, with apologies to Pink Floyd

8 September, 2008

In keeping with this whole “Community of Believers” thing that seems to be happening in my woodworking life right now, I’ve come to note that woodworkers are among the funniest people on the internet.  I’m not talking about some mindless physical three-stooges comedy (a good reason NOT to have a webcam in my shop, btw…) but people who can look at life and truly enjoy it.  And each other.

Have you ever noticed how many woodworking terms have emerged from podcasts, blogs, and listservs?  The OldTools listserv even has a glossary for “jargon” reference.  I mean, of course, the list jargon, not what separates a breast drill from a post drill.  An individual becomes passionate about something, whips out a term and throws it against the wall, and it sticks.

To wit: Somewhere between Marc and Matt, the term “The Schwartz” has found it’s place in woodworking nomenclature.  “Galoot” and “Neanderthal” go way back as badges of honor.  I see now that “Scary Sharp” has become a commonplace method.  It looks like “shwag” is taking off, too (I had to look that one up.  Drug culture?  Really!)

This is a very small cross-sampling observed by an admitted wordsmith.  It might be worth putting together a living, breathing lexicon of some of these newer terms.  Throw some of your favorite terms against my wall!