Monday, November 1, 2010

Low Tech?

There has been a trend in woodworking of going back to hand powered equipment and hand tools. Me personally I am all for hand tools (tools that are not powered by electricity) like hand planes, chisels, and hand saws.  (The idea of having to call something a hand saw vs just a saw always brings me back to Alexander Calder's Mobiles and Stables.) But some people go a bit crazy into this way of working including using hand powered table saws as seen at right. With the hand powered mini-lathe in the back of the photo.

I have no doubt that the popularity for woodworking and the drive for green technology has pushed this "no tech" back into the forefront of woodworking and technology. For me it is much like of difference of looking at a CD or an ipod and understanding the theory but not exactly how it is made and how it works vs looking at a vinyl record and knowing how it works but still being amazed. For me it is always the simple that comes to back to be the pinnacle of a design or an experience, not the extravagant. So many people think that tools do the work and that the best results come from the "best" tool. Which to them can be translated as the most current tool.  Most often the best tool for the job is one that hasn't been used for quite sometime and you need to interview a grandparent to know how to use.

There is a place not far from Georgetown in Berea called "Monty Saulmon Early Technology Laboratory" that is an excellent experience dealing with hand operated tools.  Monty Saulmon, a 1964 Berea alumnus and a former industrial arts teacher in the Washington D.C.-Maryland area donated a collection of approximately 1000 tools to the college with the understanding that the tools, some of which are more than 200 years old, were to be used by students, not just displayed. The Monty Saulmon Early Technology Lab is not only filled with authentic – and operational – hand-powered tools and machinery, but the classroom itself has been transformed to resemble a 19th century woodworking shop. So make sure if this kind of thing gets your interest don't pass this one up.

The following link is to the PBS segment on this wood shop and the college at Berea. (HERE) Skip ahead to 21:50 or so to see the workshop. Another interesting resource for this current of our culture and not just woodworking visit No tech magazine HERE

A foot powered lathe. The wall of tools in the background makes me stop breathing.
I love how this was supposed to be common knowledge at one point in life.

Furniture made to period specs including traditional tools to make it.

This hand plane has a set of 1/2 gears on the side that can flex the sole (bottom) of the hand planes cutting edge to cut on curves.  So you can true up your wagon wheel or barrel.

collection of hand bar clamps.


Boris Zakic said...

nice post, it reminded me of those painters mixing paints themselves or grinding their pigments from scratch.

GC::VA said...

My only painting class I took was a methods class and we had to make our own paint for each project, i loved that part. But I guess I am kind of a process junky.

-Daniel Graham (not to be confused with the multitudes of other Daniels)