View Full Version : Argh! I hate power tools!

Marc Hills
07-31-2003, 9:25 AM
Not really. I just get frustrated with them. If the building is the journey and the finished project is the destination, hand tools allow me to savor the trip, while power and hand tools alike reward me at journey’s end.

But the real kicker is that power tools, in an instant, allow me to make mistakes that are abrupt, catastrophic and irreversible.

Case in point. I’ve been rushing to finish a rocking doll cradle for my daughter’s fourth birthday (August 2, tick, tock). It’s all my design and I’ve been having a blast making it. All hand cut dovetails and M&T joinery. I’ve been doing most of the shaping with planes and spoke shaves, but last night I decided to use my router (for speed and consistency) to round over some of the parts. I was rounding over the first of two “runners” that the cradle rocks on when the roundover bit’s guide bearing encountered one of the mortises I had chiseled. Said guide bearing followed the cavity created by the mortise and the roundover bit, spinning at 22,000 rpm, dutifully followed. In less than a half a second I had routed a huge divot in an otherwise beautiful piece. My neighbor thought I had sawed off a finger when she came rushing up to my driveway. Only then did I realize the string of expletives I had let loose into the evening air.

I’m not saying the project was perfect up to that point. Far from it. But going the neander route has meant that mistakes creep up gradually, with lots of warning. When I realized I’d taken off too much with a spoke shave, it was really only a little too much and there was ample opportunity to gradually correct, or at least minimize the problem.

With my router, power saws and sanders, I need to be mindful of the potential for any sort of mistake.

The further I go down the slippery slope, the more that I realize that using tailed tools isn’t just less satisfying; it requires a completely different mindset.

Doug Evans
07-31-2003, 11:45 AM
Ya know...

Ben and I were sitting out in his back porch overlooking the river... scheming and ciphering as it were... when a bottle of scotch made its way onto the scene...

Shortly thereafter, we revisited the reasons why this is the true path...
and Ben brought up the good point that in using a machine you are always keeping yourself clear of the workpiece - the workpiece itself can become a dangerous projectile and you become wary of it. In short, we learn to fear the very object we are creating. Not so with hand tools... perhaps it was the Scotch that brought us to such reason!



Marc Hills
07-31-2003, 11:54 AM
Isn't Ben the one who nearly sliced off a finger this spring?

Please tell me the Scotch didn't play a role in that too!

Doug Evans
07-31-2003, 12:28 PM
a chisel... that lulled him into taking leave of his senses. Dead sober he were!

And if the truth be known... we only get a chance to sit down and tip one every two weeks... we are so busy.



Dave Anderson NH
07-31-2003, 12:59 PM
When I think about it, it really is true. A lapse in attention, or worse, a lightening of feed and holding pressure can turn a tablesaw, jointer, shaper, router table, and even a stationary belt sander into a projectile launcher. A drill press is slightly different, it becomes a flail. Every choice has a consequence, and the choice of using power to speed operations also allows the same speed to ruin a workpiece at a faster rate. Perhaps we need to post signs: Danger-Speed Kills (projects)

Paul Geer
07-31-2003, 4:07 PM
I feel for you Marc, been there, done it, got the... Well anyway, I can do some real damage with hand tools as well, I just cut all my tenons and testing them for fit, but one is really tight in it's mortise. Hmmm??... so here I am cleaning out that mortise with a chisel, ahh... look'n good. Just one more slice should do it, yep, it did...now the mortise is too big for my tenon....Grrrrrrr

Marc Hills
07-31-2003, 4:15 PM


"In short, we learn to fear the very object we are creating."

Very interesting thought. Sort of a post-Marxist take on the consequences of mechanization. We're not just leaving a piece of ourselves (figuratively, of course) that we invest in each creation that goes down the assembly line, we fear the very object itself, and thus we come to fear that part of ourselves.

Could it be that using power tools promotes a sort of self-loathing? And that the opposite is true for hand tools? Is this the existential underpinnings of that rush we feel planing wood? How profound! Imagine the insights (and other useless mutterings) we could reach over a few pints, a good single malt (Doug & Ben) or a bottle of chardonnay (Dave)!


Doug Evans
07-31-2003, 6:02 PM
if only he could carry it off with his "look". Then again... best to have the element of surprise I suppose...

Interestingly, Ben was formally trained in Psychology way back and must read about five books a week based upon all the stuff he passes along to me. Perhaps he considers me to be his unofficial case (lots of territory to cover there).

If you want to share wisdom over some de-wisdomizing venom, why not hop in the car with Roger and Dave and come on up in October.



Paul Barnard
07-31-2003, 7:12 PM
... so here I am cleaning out that mortise with a chisel, ahh... look'n good. Just one more slice should do it, yep, it did...now the mortise is too big for my tenon....Grrrrrrr
With a power tool that's pretty much game over. With hand tools it the start of a new experience. Grab that low angle plane and take a thick shaving. Glue it to the tennon and presto! it fits again. Can't imagine a jig for a power tool to do that.
Not that I've ever had to do that myself of course :rolleyes:

Paul Geer
08-04-2003, 8:20 AM
Paul for the tip! Yep, things can go kinda quick with power tools, and at the end of the day, it's the hand tools that saves the day.