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Thread: How does your age affect wood working ability

  1. #1
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    How does your age affect wood working ability

    Hi, I have enjoyed reading this forum, lots of good information and experience shared. This is my first post.

    So Ive been wood working with mostly hand tools for a couple of years and Ive done a couple of projects that Iím pretty proud of. I have a band saw and a circular saw that I use some but enjoy the quiet and safety of hand tools. Iíve acquired a small but adequate collection of Stanley planes and a a few new Lie Nelson tools and consider continuing to collect or upgrade tools to include some finer vintage and/or some new premium planes. Iím within 10 years of retirement and before I continue to spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars on new tools, especially planes for dimensioning lumber, I consider whether as I age if I should include a power jointer to help with some of the heavy lifting. I was hoping to get some thoughts on this from some older wood workers that are in their 70ís 80ís or older. Hope this is not too personal.

  2. #2
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    Yeah, there are things in the shop which I used to be able to do, but can no longer do. We do get weaker as we get older. One possible solution is to reduce the size of the projects; make jewelry boxes, not 12 foot dining tables. Another possible solution is power tools.

  3. #3
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    Eyes begin to go bad too. My fix there is a binocular loupe.

  4. #4
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    Hi Josh, and welcome! I find as I’ve gotten older, I’ve enlisted some power to help out. That really just goes for dimensioning. I used to take rough lumber to S4S with hand planes. I now flatten one side with hand planes and run it through a lunch box planer to surface the other side. Edge work is still done with hand planes and really doesn’t take a lot of energy. Other than the eyes, which Jamie mentioned, every other task doesn’t seem too effected by age.

  5. #5
    Eyes and strength change as you age. I'm on the back side of 76, soon to be 77 and over the last 5 or so years building workbenches has become more difficult. Not so much to stop building but the process is slower because I tire quickly and sometimes I have to ask for help moving heavy slabs and timber. All that said I'm still building workbenches and expect to continue as long as I can get my walker (a ways from using one) down the steps. The eyes are another story. Lights, loupes and such can help as can doing different types of projects. Projects where a slight imperfection is OK.

    Stay with the hand tools. BTW. unless you have room and resources to buy a 12" or greater power jointer they are mostly a waste of space and money. My 8" joiner is used mostly to true one edge, almost never a face. A 20" or greater planer can be useful, combined with a big bandsaw (18" or greater) you have all the power tools needed to work after retirement.

    ken

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Josh Robinson View Post
    Hi, I have enjoyed reading this forum, lots of good information and experience shared. This is my first post.

    So Ive been wood working with mostly hand tools for a couple of years and Ive done a couple of projects that Iím pretty proud of. I have a band saw and a circular saw that I use some but enjoy the quiet and safety of hand tools. Iíve acquired a small but adequate collection of Stanley planes and a a few new Lie Nelson tools and consider continuing to collect or upgrade tools to include some finer vintage and/or some new premium planes. Iím within 10 years of retirement and before I continue to spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars on new tools, especially planes for dimensioning lumber, I consider whether as I age if I should include a power jointer to help with some of the heavy lifting. I was hoping to get some thoughts on this from some older wood workers that are in their 70ís 80ís or older. Hope this is not too personal.
    Your memory starts to go so you'd do well to buy multiples of tools that you commonly use, in the hope that you'll eventually find at least one of them.

    I used to use scrub planes a lot more, but then I got weaker and decided to do more electric jointing/planing. Then I realized that the reason I was getting weaker is that I wasn't doing enough hand planing. So I've started to incorporate the scrub planes back into my daily routine, along with swimming (but not at the same time.) I used to "bench press" automotive transmissions, but they've gotten more reliable lately, and there's nothing I can do about that. Lifting weights well into old age is good for you. Pugilistic hand planing, similar, safer than boxing.

  7. #7
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    Biggest for me...COPD and stairs...and...Uncle Arthur (itis) in the hands and back. Makes it hard to grip round handles. Uncle Charles ( Horse) also gets in the act....

    Now wear BiFocals....I'm just 67...."spring chicken"?, with bad knees..

  8. #8
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    I am 83 and walk 3/4 mile most morning. I have not detected loss of strength or endurance. I have been walking since I had a heart attack in 2005.

    https://www.google.com/search?q=fitt...hrome&ie=UTF-8

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Josh Robinson View Post
    Hi, I have enjoyed reading this forum, lots of good information and experience shared. This is my first post.

    So Ive been wood working with mostly hand tools for a couple of years and Ive done a couple of projects that I’m pretty proud of. I have a band saw and a circular saw that I use some but enjoy the quiet and safety of hand tools. I’ve acquired a small but adequate collection of Stanley planes and a a few new Lie Nelson tools and consider continuing to collect or upgrade tools to include some finer vintage and/or some new premium planes. I’m within 10 years of retirement and before I continue to spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars on new tools, especially planes for dimensioning lumber, I consider whether as I age if I should include a power jointer to help with some of the heavy lifting. I was hoping to get some thoughts on this from some older wood workers that are in their 70’s 80’s or older. Hope this is not too personal.
    Quote Originally Posted by Doug Dawson View Post
    Your memory starts to go so you'd do well to buy multiples of tools that you commonly use, in the hope that you'll eventually find at least one of them.

    I used to use scrub planes a lot more, but then I got weaker and decided to do more electric jointing/planing. Then I realized that the reason I was getting weaker is that I wasn't doing enough hand planing. So I've started to incorporate the scrub planes back into my daily routine, along with swimming (but not at the same time.) I used to "bench press" automotive transmissions, but they've gotten more reliable lately, and there's nothing I can do about that. Lifting weights well into old age is good for you. Pugilistic hand planing, similar, safer than boxing.
    Quote Originally Posted by lowell holmes View Post
    I am 83 and walk 3/4 mile most morning. I have not detected loss of strength or endurance. I have been walking since i had a heart attack in 1905.

    https://www.google.com/search?q=fitt...hrome&ie=UTF-8
    Howdy Josh and welcome to the Creek.

    Some abilities do diminish with age for just about everyone. It is helpful to learn the various ways of using what one has, be it tool or strength. It also depends on what kinds of projects a person wants to pursue.

    Another thing to consider with getting older is regular exercise is beneficial. Since having bypass surgery my medical advisors would like me to walk more. There can be a lot of walking involved in some hand planing operations. It isn't only about walking as other parts of ones body also receives a workout when planing.

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

  10. #10
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    Most commenting here have a few more miles on their odometer. The road you travel getting there matters, too.

    For me, the problems are related to vision and cognition.

    Bright shop lighting and a checklist help.

  11. #11
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    Thanks for the comments....very helpful.

  12. #12
    Not quite to 70 yet. I am 67. I am lucky to be reasonably fit and active.

    About the eyes, I have always had highly nearsighted eyes. It has never been an advantage before. Now, if I really want to see a line, I can take my glasses off and it is like wearing a jeweler’s loupe. Not everyone is so lucky. Good light really helps everybody. Bright light causes your pupil to close down. As any photographer will know, a smaller aperture increases the depth of field. In bright light, you can see better up close. It is an optical effect.

    At my age, I am measurably slower but I can still do most things I always have. What is different is the level of effort that will cause me to procrastinate. If I have to set up a heavy tool that is in storage or dig to the bottom of a lumber pile to get out the wood I need, I might just go sit my chair and check the baseball scores instead. It helps me to plan out my shop so that lifting and hauling are not necessary. I never want to carry a sheet of 3/4 plywood from the driveway around the house to the basement again. I want to slide it off the truck and onto a cart that I can roll into the shop. I am building a new shop and am trying to anticipate and eliminate things that will be obstacles to getting to the fun part of woodworking. Lifting and hauling are things I want to limit. Running up and down stairs is really no fun. Tools on one level. I want stationary tools or at least on rollers, not a heavy tool on a shelf that has to be hauled out and set up on a bench or sawhorses.

    About the hand tools, I have been mainly a power tool woodworker for most of life. I was always needed to deliver a product with limited time to work on it. I needed the speed of power tools. I am retired now and there is less pressure and more time to do a job. I have done a couple of projects with all hand tools. It is satisfying and quiet and I like it. What I have found is that I can do joinery either way. It is not physically demanding to saw and chisel dovetails or chop mortises and saw tenons. It is slower but that is the process not my age that make it so. Stock prep is a different story. Having a pile of 100 bd ft of rough sawn maple to get to dimension, that is a physically demanding job. As you get older you may want to have a jointer, planer, and band saw. Or you will want to find a club or guild or friend that has the tools you can use to prep stock. Or you may be an ageless wonder that can keep planing up your stock four square until you are 90. That will not be me.

    Good luck. Getting old is not for sissies.

  13. #13
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    I think it must vary a lot. I'm 69, still working full time, when I want to, which includes climbing, and working on roofs. I wish I could hire some younger guys that don't play out before me, doing a day's work. I am preparing different workshops to be more comfortable as I get older, as severe heat, and cold are becoming more of a bother. I've never worn glasses, and don't really need them yet. My newest drivers license is good through 73 without glasses, and I'm sure I can still pass any eye exam, so far.

    Choosing parents must help too. My Mom is 103, still has all her teeth, never had a cavity, and was never sick a day in her life, until about a month ago, when she had a small stroke. My Dad left at 88, from Mesothelioma, after being in daily contact with asbestos for several years during WWII as a welder in the shipyard. He was pretty healthy too, until his last two weeks. His hands shook, but worked it out burning welding rods. I'm still using a trailer he built when he was 84.

  14. #14
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    Keep the posts coming Josh - great question. As has been noted a lot, the eyes get to be a problem. I have 2 pair of glasses: 1 for general use, and one focused at about 16", which I use for the computer and cutting dovetail (my moxon brings the work right into that range.) I worked as a carpenter for 20 years before getting into estimating, and the outfit I worked for all those years was notorious for burning guys out (wReck and Destroy was their nickname) so I developed an extreme, shark like, work ethic - keep moving or your drown. I got serious about this hobby a couple of years ago (at the age of 70) and bought a Grizzly TS and a Laguna band saw. I had most other power tools so I started as a power tool shop. But in the last 6 months have bought planes and hand saws and they are seeing more and more use. And using the hand tools is great exercise. I'm in good health - if you don't count the broken shoulders that still make raising my arms over my head an ordeal, and hand arthritis - so I push as hard as I can all the time. I figure I'm gonna slow down soon enough without pumping the brakes.

    And I second the idea of walking - the 92 year old guy across the street from me walks a mile every day and is still an ornery old cuss.

    And memory fades so I put in a white board to keep track of numbers and rough sketches, and I now keep a WW journal. As for the arthritis in my hands, I gave up water stone and bought a Worksharp.

    Start working the way you enjoy and keep it up, and when you hit 80 it'll feel like you've doing it your whole life. It'll feel natural.
    If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything.

  15. #15
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    I'm more concerned about powertools with bad eyesight than hand tools.

    I know someonee who lost three fingers when using a sawbench just a few days before retiring, due to bad eyesight. A cousin lost his arm below the elbow when misjudging the uneven floor when stepping sideways when using a skilsaw. I used to be a radiographer at one stage and had someone who had a kickback from a chainsaw coming straight into his face. My father cheated death when a bench planer lost a blade when he switched it on and he had not tightened the blades properly. A piece shaved a piece out of his hair but missed skin and went through an inner door.

    So rather than more powertools I've gone to less powertools.

    I've gone to using 1-3/4" planes, a #3 and a #5-1/4, helped a lot with arthritis in the hands / wrists / shoulders. The #5-1/4 is an overlooked plane but often are Board of Education versions and have been misused by youngster with too much testerone. I bought an early four square, a cheaper version of the type 12 Stanley without the rosewood handle and without a frog adjustment screw.

    I've also obtained some long steel rulers and use some feeler gauges to check flatness as eyes are not too good. (retina lifting in predominant eye just in the center of vision, other some cataract worsening). For measuring the angle of sharpening my chisels and blades on waterstones I use an digital angle finder so can read a number instead.

    It helped to get an edge plane to get square edges. A decent jigsaw (Metabo STE 140 jigsaw, cutting depth 140mm) is not as noisy (and dangerous) as the big stuff and easier on the wrist. Get some cleancut blades, safer than a bandsaw.

    Done away with my router table and am very aware of how I start the router (in case I've not tightened the bit properly) and how I use it. Am giving thoughts if, and how, I best can replace it.

    Am building a table top work platform at the moment, my "Swiss cheese butcher block" which will be a two man lift (about 29 ~ 30 Kgs) that will be used for planing and as a clamping setup rather than having a vise etc. I've cut up a laminated 2200mmx600mmx26mm beech benchtop and the table benchtop is going to be approx 900mmx470mm with the top being 52mm and the side 105mm. Clamping to be done with Veritas surface clamps and some wooden dowels, all 20mm holes (can use some Festool or Bessey stuff, not locked in with Veritas).

    Plenty of optical assistance can be found: I'm already thinking of using an overhead (and a second portable) digital camera and a big screen above the work bench.

    No need to give up woodworking, I knew someone who was still building dinghies when he was 97....

    Edit: Instead of an edge plane I should have bought the skewed rabbet block plane and made a longer fence to sit square against the side of the board. Am right handed but bought the left handed version because the arthritis in the right hand is worse making the right hand the weaker one.
    Last edited by Marinus Loewensteijn; 09-22-2019 at 11:05 PM. Reason: additional info

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