Yea, I’m old! I get a lot of teasing from the kids. They make fun of me for going old school on them. I’m not a purist when it comes to using hand tools, especially if a power tool is handy and it does an equal or even a better job of what I ask of it. I like to think, I always choose the most efficient way to complete a task, but then again, I get teased a lot! Sometimes, it’s about proximity or how far this old guy has to walk to reach the preferred implement and sometimes it’s just where your mind is at. Take for instance the picture below. Doesn’t it look so romantic, so inviting? Doesn’t it make you think I want to grab that plane and hear that crisp sound of the plane iron slicing through the wood, the feel of those sliver thin curls of wood piling up on your hands as you glide it along that one small section of what once was a living tree? Yea, it looks rather quaint with that hand plane, the wood bench top, the 50 pieces of trim stacked so neatly. I had just hand planned them to remove the saw marks left from the table saw.
What you don’t see in the picture is the jointer next to the table saw that I had just used to make this trim. I had to literally walk around the jointer to get to my bench and the hand plane. I could have easily pushed the wood trough that jointer eliminating any of the saw marks left by the table saw. Yea, it would have been effortless, no strain on your arms or shoulders. Yea, my kids are right, I’m so old school!
Well… I’m not really sure. I guess maybe it was where my mind was at, yea, I’ll go with that! Actually, I think the fact that I didn’t buy that plane off a shelf in some big box hardware store or dial up amazon and have it on my doorstep the next day might have had something to do with it. That plane, belonged to my father. I wish I had a cool story where I could say that after I achieved a level of proficiency with my craft, passed a certain milestone that my dad came up to me and put his hand on my shoulder and said “here son this is yours now, you’ve earned it, now go and make shavings from trees” No, it wasn’t quite like what you’d see in a Hollywood version where we’d be standing in a wood shop, the light coming low through the window, casting halos around my fathers head, the many hand tools cluttering the walls. There’d be lots of shavings on that beautiful wood shop floor that has that perfect patina, you know that flooring, it’s in every kitchen in every magazine today. It didn’t quite go down like that…does it ever? It was more like my older brother, the real carpenter, put a few of my fathers things in a cardboard box after he had passed away and said “here, take whatever you want”. Well that hand plane caught my eye. I thought I would hang it on the wall of my bachelor pad.
I can remember my dad using it to make a Christmas present for my nephews when I was a young teen, maybe, just maybe that was the last time he used it? So you see, as a guy who makes wood shavings from trees you get to think a lot as you make those shavings. I think about not only that thing that is left after the shavings are taken away, but also about the person who will be using this so called creation of yours. My mind is often filled with thoughts of will they appreciate this little touch here or will they even notice the subtle difference as I make a change. I often think a lot about the client as well while working on their project. Their personality, their humor…if they have any:) I think of the smile that I hope to see when they see the finished piece. I’ve come to rely on the facial expression rather than their words when they express their gratitude, the former is so much more revealing of how they really feel about something they are seeing for the first time.
So what’s this got to do with using my fathers hand plane rather than the jointer? Taking the less efficient path to removing those saw marks. Well there’s just something about using somebody else’s tool. Somebody you respect, somebody you admire. Somebody you know who has used that same tool to create something before you. You see those shavings on the floor? They are not just pieces from what once was a living tree but those represent thoughts. Thoughts I had of my father as I pushed that iron through the wood. It brought back memories. Memories of a time when I could hear his voice, see his smirk when I did something stupid as a kid, thoughts of how he did things compared to how I do things. It’s not often anymore that I go down this road with him as a lot of time has passed but just sometimes you just have to. So yea, I took the less efficient way to remove those saw marks…but it was well worth it!