Posts Tagged ‘Old tools’

Religion, Politics, and Woodworking

23 January, 2009

Now that Obama has been inaugurated, I figure it’s safe to say that we might have a new president.  I’ve perceived that he’s rather controversial despite the fact that I’ve tried really hard to ignore current events these last few months.  I think I’m to where I care a lot more about a thin, wispy shaving coming off of a well-tuned vintage Stanley plane than what people are predicting about the future of our country.  My country, dagnabit, sweet land of liberty!  So far, I still have the liberty to behave that way, too, and to use my energy blogging, podcasting, writing, woodworking, EMT’ing and firefighting, all while being a father to my children.  So that’s the politics end of things.  And then there is the religious…

In a former, not-too-distant past I was, shall we say, a religious leader.  I stopped doing that as a vocation for a variety of reasons, but one thing still sticks: I never quite got over how many people’s behavior would change toward me when they found out what I was.  I’m a shy person, and when someone would suddenly start treating me like I was waiting and watching, hoping they would make a boo-boo so that I could pounce on them, rebuke them and correct them, I get even more shy.  So my relief valve always came in the form of thin, wispy shavings.  That was the religious part.

So, in the midst of a virtual rolling sea of pundits with opinions as firm as said rolling sea, there lies around my ankles batches of shavings, and life is good.  Knowing that the woodworking community is remarkably free of chest-pounding and sabre-rattling (with the notable exception of those of us that are Galoots enjoying the ironic humor in identifying ourselves as part of a subversive woodworking movement.)  Knowing that when it comes down to it, when I meet a fellow woodworker online or in person, the odds are that they are going to have certain characteristics in common with me: an appreciation for a quick wit, an insatiable curiosity about our common activity, probably an interest in history, the desire to exchange concepts, techniques, and lore with others of like mind, and usually the desire to remain focused on this beautiful medium we are blessed to work in, leaving politics and religion out of it.

So, I predict that 2009 is going to be the best woodworking year we have ever experienced together!

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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 Woodworker

13 June, 2008

In one of Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation Trilogy” novels, Asimov describes the society as advanced to the point where a person being in the same room, risking physical contact with another person, has become an unacceptable societal standard.  A man could even get arrestedfor talking to another man in the communal rest room.  As Asimov’s visionary society and wit seem to come to fruition it amazes me, and piques me as we integrate into our Web 2.0 society.

I’m starting a woodworking business.  I’ve listened to Dan Miller, author of No More Mondays (www.48days.com), and Rabbi Daniel Lapin, author of Thou Shall Prosper (www.youneedarabbi.com) and I’ve decided that I no longer want to have a person as a client that calls him- or herself my “boss” while they decide what my value is.  Instead, I need to honor my creator by employing myself in doing what I love.  There a lot of things I love to do, woodworking near the top of the heap and the logical stepping stone to the boat building I want to do, and it could potentially be lucrative enough to pay the cost of living in Central Texas (which I think may limit the potential market for boat building to some degree, especially in this drought year.)  So I’m launching my business.

Not being a saavy business man, but rather one of those idealistic individuals who would happily do anything for anyone, I’m having to learn about the business end of things.  There is a plethora of wonderful information about starting and running a business on the web, and I’m quickly absorbing the wisdom of people young enough to be my offspring, but if I make enough money I’ll get over that last part.  But here’s what I’ve learned: in order to be competitive in any sort of business, you need to be involved in a social web presence: hence the Web 2.0.  So I’ve joined forums, blog, am working on a web page (not as easy as I thought,) and am beginning to do some weird things with weird names: names like “Twitter” and “Deli.cio.us” and of course something else called “podcasting.”  Don’t ask me what that last word would have meant to me as a young boy!  The irony for me, of course, is that while I am launching a business in 2008, my favorite means of woodworking is as a Galoot, using the quite, gentle, unplugged hand tools of the 1800’s.

In this world of locked front doors, not talking to strangers, texting-while-IM’ing-while-talking-on-the-landline, The Wood Shepherd is birthed.  Let me raise my virtual hand (no one can see me do this anyway, so there is no embarrassment factor) in joining the social networking happening on the web.  How else can a Galoot from Central Texas make friends with folks in say, Brisbane, Australia, or Genoa, Italy, and stay out of jail?