I have a few apprentices
Vic Tesolin considers the machinery of his shop his "apprentices." He leans on them to make his life easier.
Not everything I do is centered around hand tools. There … I said it. Many people know me for my book that I wrote a while back called The Minimalist Woodworker. Some of those people are shocked to find out that I use machines as part of my daily woodworking. I wrote the book because I was bothered by people telling me that they couldn’t do woodworking because they didn’t have enough space or money. Other notable excuses for not woodworking were all the excessive dust and noise. I wrote the book because I know that woodworking can be done “minimally.” Even if you don’t have the space or funds, even if you face other limitations, you can still make things from wood.
I’ve worked in shops of many different sizes, ranging from 40 sq. ft. under the basement stairs of a townhouse when I was in the military, to a couple thousand sq. ft. when I studied at Rosewood. Regardless of the space, I have continued making. Currently I have a wonderful basement shop that is around 300 sq. ft.
In that shop are machines. Machines that I call my apprentices. They do the things that I’m not interested in doing by hand, like breaking out lumber. I haven’t named any of my machines yet, but I might. I mostly run machines because I can. I have the room for them, and I have the luxury of making some noise and dust in a contained area. I’m not a production woodworker so I don’t need production machines, but I have a few that make my life a bit easier. I have many of the usual machines that most woodworkers use, but I don’t use a tablesaw or chopsaw.
When I studied at Rosewood Studio, we were encouraged not to use the tablesaw to rip wood because the safer option was the bandsaw. This meant that the tablesaw only got used for crosscutting and dealing with sheet goods. I’ve gone many years without a tablesaw and don’t feel that I’m missing out on anything. Now that I’m in a shop that can handle swinging plywood around, I went with a track saw. I did this because it makes much more sense bringing the saw to a large sheet rather than muscling that same sheet up onto a saw table. We’ve all been there ripping big sheets on a tablesaw and we know some of the weird sounds the saw makes while we do it. The tablesaw is also a huge space hog. Another cool feature about the track saw is that I can use it to crosscut, so no need for a chopsaw.
So yes, I use machines. I use them when I can and where they make sense to me. No matter how many machines I have, I always turn to my hand tools for certain joinery, refining surfaces, and generally anywhere that I can complete a task faster by hand tool than setting up a machine. I also turn to hand tools because I enjoy them. At the end of the day I can sleep easier knowing that if I lost my shop for whatever reason, I could turn to my hand skills to keep my love of making in wood alive.
In order to understand, you must do.
APRIL 5, 2012
JANUARY 1, 2007