|Last Updated: 10/21/2006|
Some of my tools are old but most have little historical value. They get used if they work well, collect dust if they don't. Some have been lost, some have been stolen. Some have been with me for 35 years. Over time, you get to know your companions.
Now, the web (Repository of All Information?) has dozens of places where tools are discussed at length. There are books and magazines and videos and demonstrations of just about anything that has to do with working wood. Every aspect in inexhaustible detail, all the tips and tricks are recorded, examined, reviewed. Scholarly works, anecdotal opinions, illustrations, digests, diagrams. It's all been written, is being written, will be written.
I have very little to add. A recommendation or two. A couple of stories. After 35 years of working wood, and with all this information available, I still make the same mistakes again and again. So I'm not going to pontificate. But one thing has become clear.
If you do a lot of woodworking you'll get good at it. Almost in spite of yourself. You don't have to worry about it.
Here's an example: Once, a long time ago, my wife and I were eating watermelon. She asked me to cut her a piece.
"How big?", I replied.
She laughed. "2⅝ inches."
I grabbed the knife. Looked down, sliced, all in one motion. We measured the piece. 2⅝ inches. On the nose. Exact.
I promise you this had nothing to do with any talent or special aptitude in the realm of hand-eye coordination. I do not have any unusual abilities.
It's just that I was a cabinetmaker then and spent all day long working with measurements like that, had been doing it for years. I'd bet that any cabinetmaker could do it 9 times out of 10, or any machinist, or anyone working with those sorts of dimensions on a daily basis. All they have to do is let themselves do it. Not get in their own way.
It's the same with tools. It's not hard. You just take care of them. Keep them sharp. Learn about them. How they're made. What they're made of. Who makes them.
And just work. They'll do their part. They know how to do what you want. After a while, you just have to point them in the right direction and stand back.
What direction? Doesn't matter. Whatever pleases you.
For me, I hear these little questions. What looks good with this? What goes with that? How can I make this flat or that shine?
And wood and steel and time spent at a bench.
I have a funny feeling that I'm going to go to my grave with all these unanswered little questions.
But that's okay. Maybe the asking's the point.