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Why do I use hand tools?
I class myself as a hand tool worker. What does this mean? It means that I use minimum amounts of machinery in my coppice work and in making my products. There are a few exceptions – I do own an electric chainsaw which I use to crosscut my firewood and cut my greenwood to length before splitting. I also have an electric drill driver which is use sparingly in some projects. Apart from these tools my work happens using tools that rely on my power and skill to work effectively.
Why is this important to me? Well fundamentally, and most importantly I really enjoy using hand tools. I love the challenge they present and the results they achieve. I think something worked entirely using hand tools has a different aesthetic to something made predominately with a machine. Take turned bowls as an example. A bowl turned on an electric lathe often has an extremely polished finish. To my eye sometimes to the extent that it becomes hard to discern that it is made from wood. A pole lathe turned bowl though retains some of the character of the tree, the flow and naturalness of it. There are two important nuances here:
1/ Being hand made using traditional tools doesn’t give license for it to be badly made or poorly finished. It still must be of great quality.
2/ Not all machine made items look like they have had the wood and naturalness blasted out of them. Take the work of Yoav Elkayam for example. He trained on a treadle bowl lathe and then transferred those skills and tools to an electric lathe. The results are stunning and he is more productive at a lower cost to his body.
So I think from both the maker and the customers point of view it comes down to preference. For me I prefer hand tools, and I assume the people that buy from me prefer the aesthetic these hand tool production creates. The great thing about us humans is that we all look on the world differently and all see beauty in different objects. So power tools or hand tools – each to there own. For me, for now, hand tools are the way, but I’m always open to reaccess my views and position.