Old Style Tools

My work this evening in the process of carving a spatula/flipper out of a leftover flat piece of split cedar was done using what many might consider traditional, old style tools. I have a fascination with traditional toolsets, but this stems largely from their continuing practical uses in modern day woodworking.

The bench plane pictured here has been sitting on a shelf collecting rust and dust, for the most part. I'm unsure how old it is (pretty old), but it's a perfectly serviceable tool that just needs a little cleanup and oil to bring it back to its former glory. The blade is still relatively sharp since it's probably been tuned up at some point, but it's not as razor sharp as it should be to cut without digging now and then. I fully intend on giving this old tool some care in the days to come so it can have another lease on life.

A couple years ago when I was building my mahogany humidor I was using that bench plane and it was noted to me that we have an electric plane that can be used instead. I think I tried it out for one pass and got sufficiently frightened at the prospect of using a broadsword when all I needed was a dagger. It's too easy to gouge off a lot more wood than you were anticipating with such a tool, whereas the hand plane affords you certain advantages. You have a closer connection to the wood so you can ascertain whether you're planing with, against, or across the grain, you can tell if your blade is sharp or going dull, you can adjust the depth of cut on the fly with the mere twist of a knob or the cant of the blade with the push of a lever, you're less likely to overdo material reduction with one pass of the tool, and so forth. On the level of tactile-mental connection, there's a satisfaction that comes from the swishing sound of the plane and the resulting curled ribbon of wood with the minor exertion of the body motion.

More interestingly, I got out the old brace and bits which I think (don't quote me on this) came from my great grandpa on my mom's side. For all I know, the block plane came from him as well along with some of the old hand saws hanging on the wall. I bored a semi-straight hole into the handle of the flipper with the brace and the quarter inch bit which is the smallest of the bunch. It works well for what it is, though, to be fair to the advancement of tools, I don't quite understand why they still sell new braces. The only rationale that I can think of is either a fascination with the tools and processes of antiquity, or an utter lack of electricity at a work site. I personally just have that fascination with antiquity, and I do get a palpable enjoyment from the process of drilling (or trying my best to drill) a hole while hearing the squeak of the brace and the auger's chiseling bite into the wood grain, but there is nothing leading me to believe that this will ever be a superior method as compared to drill presses or otherwise electrified drills. This is in contrast to some older methods of working wood that I do consider to be superior, though not necessarily more immediately effective. I do, however, still recoginize the fact that the mistakes come slower with a brace than with an electric drill, but that such mistakes can be alleviated in either process via adequate understanding of and practice with the tools.

I of course used my draw knife, a tool which has a long history well into antiquity. I would like to get a spokeshave at some point in the future for finer applications, but that can wait for a while. It's no great necessity in light of my other tools right now. If I progress to larger projects then I can procure one when needed. The spokeshave is one tool that I don't think has retained shelf space in many modern workshops though its uses are innumerable.

Tomorrow I'll have to sand down the flipper nice and smooth, then it'll be done. A more traditional method would, I think, be a scraper; I'll have to look into fashioning one. I believe I saw a video by Paul Sellers about that very topic, so I'll check that out. Also, I can finally show off my restored hatchet in all its glory and minor mistakes since I got it hung today.