I bought some kind of special edition magazine about using hand tools in the shop. As usual, I read it cover-to-cover in about an hour, and I’ve a few articles over since then. I also purchased a really cool book called “Choosing & Using Hand Tools”, which just completely rocked my world. I also have been checking out articles on the internet and some newsgroup/mailing list postings, and the more I read, and the more pictures of old tools I see, the more I like the idea of focusing on using hand tools. Not to the complete exclusion of power tools, of course, but I’d like to *not* be dependent on these machines to do my work, for the most part.
There are a couple of reasons for this, some good, some completely stupid. One good reason for using hand tools is that a lot of them are nearly silent, or at least much quieter than their powered counterparts. This is important because most of my work is done after my wife, Natasha, goes to bed. Quiet is a requirement. It’s also nice to have quiet tools anyway so you can listen to the radio while you’re working, and you don’t have to wear hearing protection. The second good reason to use hand tools is to reduce (if not eliminate) airborne dust clouds. Hand tools produce a negligible amount of dust, saving me from having to wear any kind of breathing apparatus, which is key because I wear glasses, and they fog up if I wear a mask, which sucks when you’re working wood and really need to see.
There are a host of other decent reasons that people have cited for using hand tools, but the only other one that matters to me is described a million different ways. I’ll just say that it’s a more organic craft using hand tools. Maybe I feel closer to the wood or something. Maybe it’s a Zen thing with me. I don’t know. But I like using hand tools.
The rest of the reasons are stupid. The first one is that I just think hand tools are really cool-looking. Some of the really old tools look like they were forged by hand. They’re crafted pieces themselves, nevermind what you’ll create with them. The second stupid reason is because it would be really, truly hardcore to point to a piece of furniture and say (even if it’s to myself) that I made it without plugging anything into a wall.