Hand tool wood working is enjoying a resurgence in interest at the moment, to define it from its plugged in younger sibling its often called Unplugged Wood Working. There are various opinions why there is a return to these old fashioned tools and their associated techniques, but I think each wood worker chooses the hand tool route for their own reasons.
The reasons I chose hand tools over power were:
- Cost – High-quality old tools can often be purchased at very low cost.
- Quality tools – the production techniques of older manufacturers created some very high quality tools. something that is difficult for mass production techniques to compete with in terms of both cost and quality.
- Noise – I often work in the evenings and wanted to be considerate to my neighbours. A powered router or table saw can be extremely loud.
- Space – I didn’t have space for many bulky power tools, particularly the efficient dust extractor set ups you should be using in a powered workshop.
Whilst I still use power tools, (I have a pillar drill, bandsaw and various hand held power tools) I often find I can complete a task, say planing an ogee bead, far quicker than I could with a powered router and get better results. This applies to various other tasks, including drilling holes, squaring an edge or cutting a joint. A pleasant side effect of hand tools, is that a well sharpened blade can often create a smoother finish than you could achieve with sand paper and a lot of elbow grease.
Power tools came into their own for dealing with repetitive tasks, which in many cases they excel at, this generally where I still use them, but often I choose to make something entirely by hand, I think the finished products look better and feel better to handle.
I’ll be posting articles on choosing and using hand tools, making hand tools and hand tool techniques here. Most of them are self-taught.