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Thread: Hand tool speed i

  1. #1
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    Hand tool speed i

    I saw another post about power tool v hand tool speed recently. It made me think about it for a while. I have had the pleasure of seeing some very good hand tool workers work. When working in a well equipped shop and working with hand tool methods they can be very fast. I was sometimes amazed at how quickly tasks are completed. Volume production is definitely the realm of machine. One off pieces not so much.
    There is a definite separation of methods and also the appearance of finished work. This is evident in the unseen parts of a piece of work. I have seen someone rive legs for a table out of an 8/4 block use a hatchet to rough a taper and plane them in just minutes. It takes skills that I don't have but wish I did.
    i know machines are fast and less strenuous. I just posting this to open a discussion about the most productive skills for hand tool work. I have used both hand and power and not firmly in one camp or the other.
    Jim

  2. #2
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    For me, it isn't about the speed so much as it is about the noise, dust and expense of power tools.

    Though there is a bandsaw, lathe, drill press and a few smaller power tools in my shop, most of my shop time is spent with hand tools. If my intent was to produce large amounts of consumer products, then power tools might be more sensible.

    jtk
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

  3. #3
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    I'm with Jim. I dislike the noise and dust of powertools. Not to mention it is a hell of a lot easier to accidentally cut a finger off with a power saw than a hand saw. Woodworking for me is not about producing volume. I enjoy the process as much as the finished product, and as cliche as it is I get more of a zen sensation with hand tools and I appreciate the skill required.

    That all said, there are some times when hand tools can be tedious, like removing a lot of wood by hand planing or making long rip cuts with a hand saw. So I bought a lunchbox planer. It's loud and heavy and creates a lot of dust but it prevents me from having to spend a tremendous amount of time planing by hand to thickness, which I don't particularly enjoy. In the end everyone must find their own balance, I think. The only power tools I have right now are a planer, a circular saw for long rips, and a drill press that gets used for metal work, sharpening, etc. as much as for drilling holes in wood. The only thing I really wish I had right now is a big bandsaw for ripping and resawing.

  4. #4
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    I do all my prep by hand. With that said my work begins at the lumber yard. I try to pick lumber that will be easy to work I work with any type of wood. I just try to pick pieces that will work easily. If I want something with figure than I start thinking veneer and pick easy to work stuff for secondary stuff. I usually buy rough and try to buy something close in thickness for its use. I do have a bandsaw to resaw with but only 6" wide. In the past I have had a full shop of power tools. Now I only do one off pieces and find all the power tools take up a lot of space and maintenance. I have a small job site table saw and use it infrequently. For my builds it takes too long to get out set up hook to the vac do a couple of cuts and put it away. I'm interested to know what others do.
    Jim

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    For one...I have no need to be in a hurry.....I don't waste time, but I am not in a rush. No timeclock to worry about anymore, besides..rushing around leads to mistakes. I use what gets a task done the easiest...and simplest.

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    Quote Originally Posted by steven c newman View Post
    For one...I have no need to be in a hurry.....I don't waste time, but I am not in a rush. No timeclock to worry about anymore, besides..rushing around leads to mistakes. I use what gets a task done the easiest...and simplest.
    Steven you do a lot of hand plane work. You never seem to mention that the task is so arduous and time consuming. You seem to take it as just part of woodworking. I feel the same, it is simply not that hard to do or shouldn't be. What advice would you give as far as your approach. I know you have had people come to your shop and helped them.
    Jim

  7. #7
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    I size the plane to the task, no need for a 10 pound plane to plane a small part...
    divider planed.jpg
    When a No. 3 sized plane will do. Micron thin shavings may look nice, but waste time. wax to the sole of the plane ( and the tooth line on a handsaw) to make things move easier.
    Mainly, once the plane (or saw) is sharp, waxed and ready for work....just guide it, let the plane do the work.

    It is not just your arms, or just your legs, use the entire body. Work up to the speed you think you need, but there isn't really any rush.

    I work until I get tired, then take a break. I have back issues, and let that tell me when to stop. I go to the shop to relax.....beats just sitting around.

  8. #8
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    What got me into hand tools originally was the discovery that some things are done easier and faster by hand.

    I carved these board game pieces as a gift. But to make it complete I needed to make a board. I wanted to chamfer the edges so I went and bought a router bit, did several test cuts, then did the board, and was unhappy with the result. All in I probably spent 5 hours messing with it between the trip to the store and the work.



    A few weeks later I was putzing in my basement and came across a hand plane I bought years ago for a buck or 2 and sharpened the blade, my first few test passes were a chamfer on a board that was so much better than what the router did on that project. Been going further down this rabbit hole ever since.

  9. #9
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    That is very nice work Brandon. Sometimes, but not always, it is far easier to use hand tools and faster too. On work such as your chamfers it is so much easier to pick up a block plane than to get out a power router, cords, bits make test cuts that it is no contest. I think a lot of times the scope of the work defines the tools required.
    Jim

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by James Pallas View Post
    ...You seem to take it as just part of woodworking...
    Jim
    Pretty much this. It takes the amount of time that it takes, and try to enjoy the journey. Sometimes it reminds me of taking a canoe trip. You usually drive for a while at freeway speeds to get to the launch, then when you finally get in the boat and start paddling it seems like a lot of effort and you are barely moving. After a while your mind and body adjust to the pace and it begins to seem normal, then eventually you start to enjoy it. And you may as well enjoy it, because at that point there's no way to get to the take-out any faster. That is what it seems like to me to hand dimension a pile of boards.

    Of course the more you do it the more efficient you get, which make it more enjoyable. To extend the canoe analogy, compare the paddle stroke of an experienced river guide with a frantic newbie. The former is getting more work done with less effort. That is helpful to maintain the patient mindset you need.

    And once you are done you realize it didn't really take that long. Perhaps it took several multiples longer than if you had a good jointer and planer...but what I've found is that when I tally up the time spent dimensioning stock for a project it might amount to two or three weeknights or a saturday afternoon for a project that took a month of nights and weekends. I probably spend more time dry fitting and just scratching my head figuring something out than hand planing.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by James Pallas View Post
    I do all my prep by hand. With that said my work begins at the lumber yard. I try to pick lumber that will be easy to work I work with any type of wood.
    Jim
    This is an important point that I am slowly learning. Picking the right or wrong piece of wood makes a huge difference in the amount of work necessary to dimension. I find myself becoming pickier as I gain experience, and I am sure that with experience I will be able to pick appropriate pieces easily. So that could cut your dimensioning labor in half sometimes. Combine that with the increase in hand tool skill you pick up over time and I bet an experienced craftsman with a well-picked board can dimension lumber in less than half the time it takes a beginner.

    A few weeks ago I started planing one face and one edge on the slabs that will become my workbench. I have the basics covered when it comes to hand planes but I'd still call myself a beginner, and I've never worked with anything as big as these slabs (the smallest was 2x8x76") so the first edge I jointed took me about two hours. I doubt any of the older, more experienced folks here take even half that long to joint an edge most of the time.

  12. #12
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    Matthew, I started this thread with two things in mind, to try to help someone and to try to get some pointers for myself. I'm not sure whether you meant 2 hours for an edge or 2 hours for the first face. If I was faced with either of those situations I would most likely have picked another piece of lumber. Of course if it was a finely figured board than maybe I would have worked on it. Here is how I start at the yard. I take the board out of the stack and look at the end grain for too close to the pith etc., than site down the edge for wind, bow, twist, crook propeller wood etc. if it passes those tests I then try to evaluate the face, knots, checks, scaling etc. only than do I decide whether I like it for looks, sap wood and such. No guarantees it will be okay but a good guess it will work for me. I hope others have lots of thoughts to add to this.
    Jim

  13. #13
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    Picking good lumber is definitely important, but just as important is learning to use the planes correctly. The first time I tried to flatten rough lumber by hand it took forever because I had all of my planes set up to take very fine shavings. 8000 strokes later I realized that if you want to actually get something done you need to have a plane set up to take thick shavings, one to take thinner, but still substantial shavings, and one to take very fine shavings after the other two have done 90% of the work. I knew I needed a jack, jointer, smoother, I just did not understand that they needed to be set up differently to work correctly.

    Edge jointing is no different than anything else in that regard. If the edge is really out of whack, your first tool should be a chalk line, followed by a rip saw. Then a couple of passes with the jack to remove the saw marks, and your jointer should be just a pass or two. If you just have a point or two that is high, mark them, take them down with the jack, and then reach for the jointer.

  14. #14
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    Picking good lumber is definitely important, but just as important is learning to use the planes correctly.
    This is especially true when you want to make top notch molding. If it isn't going to be painted it is nice to have the grain of the molding be continuous:

    Molding Deatail.jpg

    On the underside it is obvious where the section was cut out for the miter. On the face surface the grain blends together fairly well. The straighter the grain the better the grain appears to be continuous.

    A few things come to mind that can be done with hand tools which would cost a lot in tooling to do with power tools.

    Here is one example:

    Pan Rack Back Board.jpg

    One needs more than a router to put reeding on a piece that far from the edge.

    Not sure if there are many power tool operations that weren't already done before the age of industrialization.

    jtk
    Last edited by Jim Koepke; 04-26-2018 at 6:47 PM. Reason: added quote and response
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

  15. #15
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    Jim, thanks for posting. I think your idea about the relative speed, quality of result, and time/effort associated with hand tools versus power tools is really interesting. IMHO, the feedback/comments of already been insightful and I'm sure many of our fellow Neanders have a perspective on this topic I look forward to hearing.


    As someone who has been a 95% hand tool woodworker for 20 years (my only significant stationary power tools a bandsaw), I'm particularly interested in the implications of your thread as relates to potentially perceived "need for power tool" barriers that prevent people from pursuing an interest in woodworking.


    No one wants to hear me ramble on about myself but for purposes of this thread, I started 30 years ago as a power tool woodworker. One of my biggest challenges as a broke college student was the idea I needed a shop full of expensive power tools really even to get started with woodworking at any level, which at the time seem like an absolute barrier.


    I'm fearful this inaccurate perception prevents young people from pursuing woodworking – which if true would be a terrible shame. I hope I'm wrong, but I'm guessing the demographics of my fellow Neanders here on SMC skewed heavily towards older men (which includes me). I wonder if the perceived need for a "shop full of power tools" is an important reason why people, especially younger people, shy away from woodworking?


    When people learn of my interest in woodworking (usually because I boorishly subject them to pictures of my projects), I frequently hear "I would love to do that, but I don't have room/can't afford the necessary power tools". However, once they spent some time in my shop they quickly realize how fast/accurate/practical woodworking with hand tools is and this barrier disappears.


    Maybe I'm way off base here. I'm really interested in hearing thoughts and comments from my fellow Creekers about the idea that a perceived need for a shop full of power tools is a barrier to people pursuing the craft.


    Best, Mike

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