The news of a blog from Colonial Williamsburg’s Hay Cabinetshop has already been received with a smirk about “irony”. I knew it was only a matter of time. When will these sorts of jokes (they’re not really jokes) end? I’m not personally offended, but the sentiment is in many ways belittling.
I had a reporter from a local newspaper once ask me if I’d like to live in the 18th c, as if reproducing 18th c woodworking was my gateway to a fantasy about living in the past or some such rubbish. One person asked me if I drove a car or went to a modern dentist. Another, wanted to know why I felt it was appropriate to use a computer if “everything was better in the 18th century” (inferred: if you love it so much, why don’t you just go there).
All suggest that reproducing furniture with hand tools is some sort of alternative lifestyle; a irrational repudiation of modern technology and that this alone (and not the possibility that hand tools may simply be better for some jobs or some people than machines) can be the only justification for using hand tools. Maybe we should be flattered that we shake the conventional wisdom so.
Believe it or not, my interest in this blog is not to complain but rather warn: If you are interested in working with hand tools or sharing your passion with others, you may encounter this shockingly common sentiment. Count yourself one of us and in good company!