I know, I know. The best thing to do when a blog post annoys me is to ignore it – after all, if I engage, I give the author credence and send more people to his or her site. Much better to let it quietly fade away (and be replaced on an almost-daily basis by something new online that annoys me).

But sometimes, well, I just can’t help myself. And the person who’s raised my hackles (today) has more credence than do I; he’s an excellent woodworker who has taught a great many people a great deal about woodworking. And we’ve published his work. But in this case, he’s doing more harm than good. Paul Sellers, I’m writing about you.

In a post yesterday from a woodworking show in Tampa, Fla., Paul mentions his concern that there are few women and children in attendance. Now I agree that this is indeed a problem. All of us who work in woodworking publishing would like to see the craft expand to include more makers of both genders, and we need to find ways to cultivate a younger audience (in addition to altruistic reasons, it’s simply good for subscriptions and long-term employment). And yes, I would personally like to see more women enjoying the craft – but this is not a feminist rant.

No, what I take issue with is Paul’s assertion that women and children are not taking up the craft because of machinery, and, far more vexing, his statement that, “You cannot use a machine to work wood and call it woodcraft.”

Codswallop. On both fronts.

Hand-tool woodworking can be hard work. And in many cases, it takes more skill and practice (and more tools) to perform some operations by hand than it does to perform the same operations by machine. So what I hear you saying, Paul, is that one needs a much more advanced level of skill and far more practice to actually engage in what you would deign to consider “woodcraft.” The rest of us, well, we’re just pikers?

Surfacing lumber by machine, for example, is far quicker and less physically demanding than doing the same with handplanes. If you feed the lumber over the jointer then through the planer properly, you get good, predictable results every time (unless the knives need changing), and you can dial in the exact thickness you want. And most people need less than an hour of tutelage (including learning how to read grain direction), to use these machines. That’s a good thing – months of practice would, I think, be offputting for most men, women and children.

To surface lumber by hand, you need a series of handplanes (or blades for one plane) – and which planes, and how they should be sharpened, is a can of worms. Then, you have to know how to sharpen, know how to set up the plane and know how to use it. Plus you’d best eat your Wheaties before starting. And good luck getting a perfect 15/16ths board by handplaning, every time. (I know you don’t need to – that’s not the point.) It takes a much larger investment of time and practice (not to mention upper body strength and lung capacity) to wield handplanes well. You pick up handplanes because you want to, not because you have to.

There are many more examples to which I could point – but that would distract from my assertion that woodworking teachers and writers (and editors) perform a massive disservice to the craft by perpetuating a hard line between hand-tool woodworking and power-tool woodworking. And I find it breathtakingly arrogant (and irresponsibly divisive) to state that only by using hand tools can we call it woodcraft.

Machines have eradicated many of the barriers for all people to enjoy woodworking – particularly for those new to the craft (whom, as you imply, Paul, we need to cultivate). In some cases, machines lower the skill level and physical strength required to build something. In addition, machines used to fabricate tools (both hand and power) make those tools affordable to the home woodworker.

OK – one short paragraph of somewhat-feminist rant (instead of the pages and pages I could write); skip this next one if you like:

Did we see more women (or children) in the craft before the Industrial Revolution? Per one of Paul’s assertions, it’s the machinery that keeps them away. In fact, no; industrialization brought women (and children) into factory woodworking (albeit in horrible working conditions). Woodworking wasn’t a wide-spread hobby in the United States until after World War II. Traditionally, woodworking was a job – not something many people did for fun. Machinery has nothing to do with why more women aren’t involved with the craft. Patriarchal norms are why more women aren’t involved in the craft.

Sorry – had to get that out of my craw. Back to my universal rant.

Hand tools are great; I prefer using them for many operations. They’re quieter, and make less of a mess (or at least larger bits of mess that are easier to clean up) than do power tools. But if I were trying to make a living as a woodworker, you can bet your sweet Time-Saver that I’d learn how to use a router jig for dovetails (then decide when it’s appropriate to use it). And if you’re a hobbyist woodworker who uses a router jig for dovetails? Great. I’m glad you’re in the shop. You spend your time there however you prefer.

Does PWM print a lot of articles about hand tools and how to use them? Yes we do – because there’s less written about them in the contemporary record, and thus oftentimes more to teach and learn. Have we ever said hand tools are the only “real” way to work wood? No we have not, and we never will. Because that’s just flat-out wrong. We offer various approaches; you choose what works for you and your woodcraft.

Tools don’t build things; people build things.

And statements such as Paul’s help to build nothing.

— Megan Fitzpatrick

81 thoughts on “Codswallop

  1. gazpal

    I think the points made by Paul regarding the use of machinery and it having a tendency for youngsters to be sidelined and kept from being introduced to woodworking for the sake of their own safety – due in part to both age related aptitude and insurance liabilities – are very real ones and encompass those facts. Not the high handed approach you imply. The drive within education systems, during past years, has shifted from hand crafting and onto basic machining, so yes a lot is at risk of being lost, with many youngsters entering other fields of endeavour – other than woodworking. It will continue unless we find ways of re-introducing hand crafting to school curriculum. The crafts – in general and not only woodworking – are suffering from a severe lack of new blood, with apprenticeships few and far between and much of the reason behind such a lack of input revolves about the lack of interest generated at secondary/high school level.

  2. exyle

    Remember the saying “there’s no such thing as bad publicity”? Before Ms. Fitzpatrick’s blog post I had no idea who Paul Sellers was and next thing I knew there I was on his website. Well played Sellers….well played. I do not believe Mr. Sellers is a fool… but he may think others are.

    Hmm, let’s see…My income is based upon teaching traditional woodworking skills through videos, online subscriptions and hands on courses. What could motivate me to make a seemingly gratuitous blog post decrying the Machiavellian schemes of the “machinery manufacturers” to exclude half the population from their potential sales? Forgive me, but that seems like a poor business model. In an era that sees the fairer se…ahem, women participating at all levels of athletics, industry and society generally as never before it is curious that the “invasive (?!)” and “aggressive” presence of machinery would produce in them such a state of antipathy. In what is probably the relatively modest community of on-line woodworkers this is just the sort of posting that would be likely to generate a tempest in our teapot.

    I write as a professional woodworker of over two decades, someone with experience selling woodworking supplies and a lecturer at our state college. I spent several years facilitating and instructing classes at a national retail woodworking outlet and true, most students who attended were as we expect, men. When we chose to offer classes specifically for women, these usually filled. We used machinery and no one had a nervous breakdown in the process. When we offered parent/child classes those seemed to go well. All this mind you, while a posse of industry reps stood outside our entrance menacingly firing up routers, chop saws and belt sanders in an effort to deter the attendees. As an aside, there were very few African Americans or Latinos at our store generally and few if any at our classes and given our location there was no shortage of these populations. Perhaps the Machinery Manufacturers have devised methods for deterring all genders of these groups?

    Years after I left retail I worked as an adjunct lecturer in the 3D sculpture area of our University system (Art Dept.). The majority of the students were female and not a few under 21 years of age. Inexplicably, with safety training and practice these young women worked no better or worse than any young men I had ever instructed and were largely successful with their projects. It was remarkable that even the battleship grey and swampy green colors of the machinery failed to intimidate them. I found that demonstrating the use of earplugs seemed to lessen the frightful impact of machine noise that might discompose the students. The only notable distractions the crew of manufacturer representatives peering in through the windows tugging the fronds of their curly mustache and crying “curses!” and “drat!” This notion that women and children are being deliberately excluded from woodworking seems….poorly crafted.

    If Mr. Sellers has a specific definition of “woodcraft” on his site I did not see it. I’ll submit one: Wood“Craft” is not about the tools that you use; Craft is a holistic understanding of your field of endeavour. It implies a depth of knowledge that visualizes the standing tree and sees its processing through to a piece of useful and durable workmanship…er…workpersonship. You need to understand grain direction to hand plane or machine a board well. Beyond this basic, you also have to know, given the grain and characteristics of the wood how these boards will behave as an assembly over time; choose joinery that will allow the most practical result, ensuring that they will stand up to their intended use. You need this level of understanding to produce good craft with a machine or an axe. “Hand” craft is no assurance of good design or proper utilization of materials any more so than machine craft. If you’re a hobbyist enjoy yourself, if you’re a professional do good work and (if possible) enjoy it.

    Admittedly, hand work does provide a level of immediate feedback from the material that the attentive worker will find useful. In a perfect world I would train a prospective woodworker on the competent use of hand tools before introducing them to machinery; they would have at least a greater understanding of what “sharpness” is. Ideally, these methods should be allowed to complement one another when practical and utilize material and energy in the best possible manner.

  3. tms

    Hey Megan,

    Many of my own views are echoed by the majority here, so I won’t reiterate the popular view. I would like to add a couple of observations and a personal philosophy.

    Years ago, while walking through a woodworking trade show with my wife, we passed the ShopBot booth, and a large CNC machine was working away independently on a demonstration project. My wife watched briefly, then turned to me and said,
    “That’s not woodworking, that’s wood machining.”
    Now, my lovely bride is not a woodworker, and is admittedly not a creative person; her remark was strictly off the cuff. Yet, often the candid truth of a first impression is conveyed by the casual remark. To that particular lay person, CNC is not woodworking.

    I once built a handsome bookshelf from the plans of a well known competing magazine (forgive me). The author of the article gave instructions on how best to cut the mortises for the complex corner joints, both by hand and by machine. He then opined that what he built was for his customers, but how he built was for himself.

    Finally, as a personal practice, like most of us, I use a mixture of machines and hand tools. And, as I’m sure most of us, I enjoy the hand work the most, but use the machines for expediency.
    But some day, if I’m lucky enough to live so long, I will be too old to safely use machines. And given that women generally outlive men, my wife could potentially be left with a shop full of machines and equipment that she has no idea the value of. Therefore, my personal goal is to improve my hand tool skills as I age, gradually giving up my machines, and paring down to the essentials (sound familiar?). Eventually, I hope to die with only one chest of exquisitely chosen hand tools to pass on to some lucky heir, and save my wife the stress and bother of liquidating my shop. Because, if life’s a journey, when you arrive your dead, so it’s best to enjoy the trip. And this is a journey I look forward to.


  4. fltckr

    Oh man! I was OK until I read this post. A while back I decided I needed a bandsaw to help with the long rip cuts, etc., so I built one. I built it with hand tools from a kit. Now I have a machine for working wood that I made with hand tools. So I’m not a wood craftsman when I use the bandsaw but I was when I was building it ? Hmmm, too deep for me. I’m going to continue like I am with my hand tools and my machinery and just enjoy using all of them. I even enjoy making special items for myself and my daughter’s hobbies on my metal lathe. The way I see it, if you are making something using your individual skill, then you are a craftsperson, period. That includes hands and brain and any type of machinery or contivance. Megan, I enjoy your articles and show them to my daughters. I plan to renew my subscription when the time comes.
    Oh, what is a “codwallop”? Does it imply use of a fish as a weapon? We don’t have cod here, but we do have some large, nasty fish, so maybe we could say “garwhomp” out here. Just a thought : )

  5. mikema

    I also agree with what you are saying. After reading his post, and further down reading his comments, was really amazed at what he said. Don’t get me wrong, I watched him at the Columbus show and find him to be a very skilled woodworker. I do disagree with his points on keeping those under 21 away from machines (not in the primary post, but in his comments) and that using a machine negates a piece from being considered woodcrafted or handcrafted. In my opinion, if I am using my to hands to make piece, it qualifies as being handcrafted. Except for the planer, I am using my hands in direct control of the work piece. Why doesn’t that count as handcrafted? Pushing it even further, most of the fine tuning of a work piece is done with hand tools after a power tool operation. Does that make it anymore or less handcrafted?

  6. BarbS

    Now, wait. So far, Megan, you’ve said Paul Sellers has done a ‘massive disservice’, you find it ‘breathtakingly arrogant and irresponsibly divisive’, and that ‘statements such as Paul’s help to build nothing.’
    I had to go find the link to his actual words ( and what he actually said was, “”Yesterday I saw two girls and one boy in the whole show and only a handful of women…this is directly attributed to machine manufacturers who do indeed hog the market and have nothing to offer to balance out the problem. Since machines dominate the market of woodworking and in fact invade sanity at every level, we will never see this change….Eventually this situation will be sealed and woodworking could one day become a machine only form of making and no longer a craft…You cannot use a machine to work wood and call it Woodcraft. The machine substitutes for the very thing we call skill and art, but it cannot replace it.”
    There is more, but he seems to be attacking the predominance of machine-advertising to new woodworkers, which he sees as putting women off from starting as beginners. The old ‘hand vs. machine’ argument is absolutely eternal, and I see no reason to get so het up about his comments.
    And Megan, you claim it is not a feminist rant, but really? “Machinery has nothing to do with why more women aren’t involved with the craft. Patriarchal norms are why more women aren’t involved in the craft.” I am 63, and I maintain there are no more Patriarchal Norms; at least not like there used to be. If you feel you have to mention Patriarchal Norms at all, you’ve made it a feminist rant. There is no industry or craft or hobby with as many experienced men willing to mentor, advise, share and gladly encourage women and children into the fold. Patriarchal norms is not the problem. Their own human interest is the problem. Most women are simply not interested in woodworking. We are not the same, and never will be. The solution is merely to expose more women and children to the craft (or ‘art’ as Paul would have it.) I recently encouraged a woman to start with spoon carving. It won’t be long before she is quoting your famous column, “I Can Do That,” which is one of the biggest encouragements to beginners I’ve ever seen.
    My gripe here, is that it’s okay to criticize Paul Sellers’ opinion, but nailing him with the harshest of terms is way over the top. He’s just as entitled to his opinion of the hand tool/machine debate as any of us. It will go on, and on, and those of us Doing the work will just keep doing it, our own way, and hopefully, sharing our methods with anyone who will listen, regardless of gender or age.

      1. Megan FitzpatrickMegan Fitzpatrick Post author

        Barb, I didn’t change anything (and as far as I can tell, no one else has, either). Again, I will state that I have heard nothing but good about Paul as a teacher, and he is a talented and experienced woodworker (and we’ve printed some of his work: “Shooting Boards” in our Dec 06 issue and “The Essential Awl” in the Nov 05 issue). I in no way launched an attack on his credibility, skills or person. I simply strongly disagree with his publicly stated position regarding handtools and woodcraft (for which he also stated he knew was going to cause trouble).

        Also, because other folks have mentioned this, I linked to his post from the get-go in the first line of the third paragraph (but apparently in our new font that’s hard to see), so that our readers could easily find the post to which I was responding.

  7. billmurr

    And I see it as; not needing to be focused on the tools, but of the act of creating.
    When my grandsons want to cut, drill, nail and glue up some scraps in my shop; they are woodworking. They use only handtools (because Granda says they are too little). Soon they will be older, and some of the power tools may get used, after some instruction. They have assembled a few of those kits from the Big Box Home improvement centers, but mostly they want to make something of thier own design.

    My Young Neighbor and his wife are expecting thier first child, and a frantic rush is underway to do some repairs, renovations and remodeling. I have helped, but have focused on teaching, rather than doing.
    They needed a door casing replaced; I showed him how to cut down 1×6’s on the table saw, and how to smooth the edge with a #3 smoothing plane. I then handed him a router to radius the edge, after showing him how it’s done with one of my radiusing planes and the router. Then how to scribe the edge of the casing that met the corner wall. Then let him plane it down with a Jack Plane.
    She wanted a headboard, they knew what it should look like, and were unhappy with the choices at the furniture stores. They came to me for help in the design and construction. Some Pine and plywood was all that was needed, and they had exactly what they wanted in an afternoon. He did 90% of the work. They are happy with the results.

    I have made some pretty nice stuff. Been at this a long time. But, my grandsons and my neighbor are woodworkers too; they create what suits them, either out of need or desire.
    I’ve watched (and enjoyed mostly) all the TV woodworking shows, some are better than others, but I hesitate to judge, as much as I would refuse to judge thier religion or politics. Some of the things I’ve seen built do not suit me at all. Some of the ways they choose to design and construct are methods I would not do. The same applys to the articles I read.

    I design and build what I want.

    I was reminded of the addage, ” To a hammer, the world looks like a nail”. My interpritation has always been; ask a Carpenter to build you a wall- It’s made of wood. Ask a Bricklayer…
    So we have what some might consider to be the great sages of woodworking, espousing from on high, what “WE”,( I suppose, the unwashed masses ) are. I say we are all woodworkers, woodcrafters, or artisans.

    I agree with the poster that asks us to plant some seeds. I do.
    I just can’t fathom how Mr. Sellers fails to connect the dots between the lack of growth in woodworking, while at the same time calling some of us weeds.

  8. robert

    See what happens when you go off and give a cod a light wallop. Come to think of it that does sound kind of appealing; this might be the wrong blog for that particular sentiment.

  9. Woodworkingformeremortals

    Have to chuckle when people talk about understanding the “true joy of woodworking”. (Sounds like a religious tract!) I talk to people every day who are thrilled and proud to have made something out of wood. How they made it is irrelevant. Enjoying the process is what matters to most of us.

    Can’t say I’ve ever heard of Paul Sellers, but he looks like someone out of my league. Woodworking is too fun too take too seriously!

    Steve Ramsey

  10. gentledragon

    I too usually let things I disagree with on the internet fade, but I am compelled into chiming in. Our craft has been evolving since the time when man realized he could make no changes to wood with his bare hands. (Unless you happen to be trying to craft with only your fingernails and teeth, in which case I applaud you and question your sanity.)
    When native Americans were burning out the middle of logs with hot stones, then cleaning them out with axes made from stone shards lashed to sticks, that was truly “hand made”. So, in my opinion, it comes down to how much of a purist someone cares to be. Anybody can say “My stuff is handmade, because I don’t use any power tools”, but odds are the plane they used was made by somebody who does.
    So, my question as a student of fine woodworking, do I need to poke around the earth with a stick until I find iron ore, become a mason to build a forge, become a blacksmith to form a blade before I can become a woodworker who will be respected by the woodworking community? And, if that is the case, how in the world are we going to convince the teenagers of today, who thrive on the technology of today, to become craftsman if they find out they will be looked down upon by old school elitists who think any chimpanzee can be trained to press the start button on a table saw?
    My main point is, please don’t quench the spark that I’ve seen so many young people when they discover what they can create out of wood using the tools of today. It may be considered cheating to carve with the help of a CNC, but people who know how to program one are likely to make retirement more quickly than those who choose to feel the old ways are the only legitimate way of doing things.
    Sorry about the soapbox rant.

  11. Christopher Hawkins

    Maybe Paul was just trolling to drive traffic to his site, I hope so. His words were arrogant and pompous. I agree with the sentiment that it is your life, so do woodworking in whatever way makes you happy.

  12. Bill Lattanzio

    I agree absolutely with everything you’ve just said. I’ve been very opinionated in the past on my own blog, I try not to do it on others pages of forums and I hesitate to write this here. But this guy is everything that is completely wrong with what some people are calling the woodworking community, which I use loosely. Firstly, he is a professional woodworker, not a hobbyist. He has absolutely no right to bash the work of amateurs on a professional level. I’ve always said, woodworking takes good planning and prep work, careful layout, and solid joinery; how you obtain those things is a matter of personal preference.
    Guys like Paul Sellers are elitist snobs who cry because companies like Ikea are “killing” woodworking. You know what, I don’t really care all that much for Ikea either, that’s why I try to make my own stuff, not just wimper about it on the internet. In truth I don’t really have a problem that he or others like him share their opinions, but when other amateur woodworkers use those opinions and take it as a chance to bash somebody because “Paul Sellers says that you suck and it’s killing woodworking” then I do have a problem with it. If you want to do that, first try to develop an original thought, then try it face to face next time you are on the woodworking circuit. Other than that keep your mouth shut if you aren’t prepared to back up whatever whacked out statement you might want to make.

  13. philm

    Hi Megan,

    I was inspired to become a woodworker after I started watching the NYW. Bought a bunch of tools to fill my garage. Read woodworking magazines voraciously, looking for the tool recommendations to buy and become as good as I possibly could. I was and still am appreciative of Chris Schwarz.

    Until I came across Paul’s work and blog, I never realized what it was about woodworking that was really appealing to me. I am not into woodworking for making money (my other skills are way more in demand) and I don’t have to screw together a table using Kreg’s jig (which I have done) and call it woodworking and feel proud of it. After having followed Paul’s blog, I now realize that I was just trying to imitate professional woodworkers and quite poorly at that.

    I don’t know if you give Paul any attention other than when he comments on the manufactures or magazines. He really seems to care about woodworking but no so much about his interests. He is not shy about his opinions and even FWW didn’t escape his wrath. Given how much your magazine must fear his unvarnished opinions, your reaction doesn’t surprise me at all. I am a current subscriber of your magazine but it will not get my renewal. Paul has truly taught me (and many others) what the true joy of woodworking is all about.

    Hope this helps your perspective a little bit 🙂

    With regards

    1. Megan FitzpatrickMegan Fitzpatrick Post author

      As I said, I think Paul is an excellent teacher and woodworker, and we’ve published articles from him. I have no doubt that he cares about woodworking and knows a great deal more about it than I could ever hope to (most of my time, I’m sad to say, is spent in front of a computer screen, not in the shop practicing woodworking skills); in fact, I’d love the chance to take a class from him at his new school (if he’d have me). I simply disagree (vehemently) with his assertions in one post.

      1. Christopher Hawkins

        Well stated. Some folks forget you can disagree with another person about a particular point, but still share much common ground. The question is “On balance, is this person/magazine/organization something which overall improves my life?”

        Off topic philosophy below:
        The previous sentence isn’t the whole story. Hopefully, most of us are altruistic. One definition of love is the willing sacrifice for the benefit of another.

      2. Fred West

        Megan, as you know I have changed my woodworking habits from all machine to mostly hand tools. However, I still consider myself a hybrid woodworker as I use machines when they are expedient.

        My point to this is that I have said over & over, as well as to anyone unlucky enough to get within earshot, that what I love about woodworking is that there are so many ways to reach the same results. To me this means that whether you use hand tools exclusively, machines exclusively, a combination or you use your teeth and chew your way there, no one way is the “correct and only” way. To say otherwise is arrogance of the highest order.

        Unfortunately, within each crowd you can see this attitude broken down to a total disdain for the foolish woodworker who used a spokeshave when a drawknife was the “correct” tool. You used a tablesaw when a bandsaw was the “only” tool that made sense. :0( Truly, what drives someone to think that there method, way, etc. is the only correct way or in this case “real” woodcraft?

        As far as women & children go with machinery, I posit that without machinery there is a very real chance that we would have even fewer women & children in woodworking. Machinery allows men, women and children to step into ww faster & easier than most hand tools will. Ah ha, then there is less woodcraft to machinery. NO, not at all, but they do allow new ww’s to see potential faster. The tools themselves are nothing but methods to turn lumber into something. Woodworking is not and never will be encapsulated by the tools you use. Instead it is part design, part inspiration, part love of the craft, part comradery & part tools.

        Are women and children too stupid to learn, too cowardly to try something new or dangerous, too disdainful of others or perhaps incapable of loving a craft? Only men have these traits? I believe that we have fewer women and children because too many of us(men) either do believe that W&C have no interest, are scared, are stupid or we do not want them in our sacred turf. Frankly, that is pathetic. If we, as woodworkers, want our craft to survive, want our manufacturer’s to keep producing great machines and want our incredible hand tool makers to stay in business we need to be inclusive. We need to not just welcome women and children but to actively solicit them as well as other men.


    2. bstjohn

      Seriously, philm? You would cancel your subscription to a magazine because the editor disagreed with someone’s opinion? I think you’re the one that needs some perspective. I could write a lot more, but…whatever. Grow up, dude.

      1. bob_easton

        The “Grow up” command should be directed to prime participants in this “holy war.” The battle has been fought over and over for generations and no side ever wins.

        I am a subscriber of both PW and of Paul Seller’s Masterclasses. I’ve learned much from both, and I come to them because I enjoy woodworking … NOT to be exposed to irrational opinions and childish controversy.

        Mr. Sellers’ blog often has useful ideas, but with increasing frequency lately has included numerous “rants” against many forms of modernity, big tool manufacturers, power tools, etc. Those have become annoying.

        Likewise, PW has always provided many useful ideas for me, and until now has refrained from taking the bait in holy war kinds of discussions.

        It is below the dignity of both parties, and YES, for those who come to these places to enjoy woodworking, and not the controversy, both risk losing subscribers.

        It’s not good business!

        Both should be sent to their rooms.

        1. Arminius

          That’s a great comment. Sellers is extremely skilled, but in the end, he just is not who he thinks he is. His posture as the last of a tradition ignores the fact his entire apprenticeship has been in a period where that tradition has all but failed. Just look at his comments on workholding – they become nonsensical once you consider the clamps he swears by are an entirely modern product, completely absent from the historical practice he would draw authenticity from. The idea that the way he approaches the problem set much predates his own lifetime is simply laughable. Similarly, he clams a position at the end of ‘European’ tradition, yet blithely dismisses virtually anything that is not part of traditional English practice.

          Everything he does is actually a compromise – and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that – until he adopts that uncompromising posture. I suspect that tone as much as anything is what has created this ruckus. He is no hand tool purist, just look at what he has to say about milling lumber.

          As a woodworker, he has lots of value to offer on technique and even mentallty. It is unfortunate he seems to feell his true calling is as some kind of philosopher.

  14. Back to the Wood

    When I started all I had were hand tools. Now I use mostly power tools. I like to play with machines as well as create wooden items. I may go back to using more hand tools, but for now, I’m having too much fun.

    By my own definition, I’m not skilled enough to call myself a craftsman and I don’t know if I ever will but I work with wood so I’m a woodworker. BTW, I don’t call my creations hand made, I call them custom made. Just semantics.

  15. Eric R

    Megan, I kind of got the feeling, after reading most of your articles and posts from the past that you were much more pro-hand work then machine work minded.
    Especially when you worked under and along side Chris Schwarz.
    Have you changed your method or philosophy on woodworking?

    1. Megan FitzpatrickMegan Fitzpatrick Post author

      Not at all. I have a PERSONAL preference for hand tools in most cases. I also prefer that people not tell me I HAVE to use hand tools in order to be considered a craftsperson. What I like to do doesn’t mean it’s the only way to do it. I am pro hand work. I am pro power work. I am pro both, on the same project. I am pro woodworking.

  16. schenher

    Things to think about.

    Peter Ross is a Blacksmith & Whitesmith.. A person who uses machines to form metal is a Machinist.

    SO , why is a person who uses machines for 100% of their wood work called a woodworker and not a machinist?

    This pointless argument has been had for decades. Everyone has their own thoughts and at the end of the day they need to settle it within themselves. What makes them feel comfortable.

    Me for instance. If I make something using my power tools, I don’t call it hand made. I can’t . My conscience will not let me, I consider it machined furniture. If I mill, cut, and form the raw wood into something. Then to me that is hand made and I call that hand made. I don’t consider one type of woodworking better than the other. Which I think is what gets people the most heated up when it comes to this argument. They are just different and we all need to come to grips with that in our own way. No way is better or worse, neither is better or worse for the industry or the hobby. They are just different approaches.

    I am a glutton for pain and hard work. That is just the way I am. SO, I use hand tools. I mill all my lumber from the saw mill by hand. And, currently I don’t even have a band saw, so I literally cut , chop or plane everything to size. For some that sounds like pure hell, to me it is hard work, but I enjoy every bit of it.

    1. Megan FitzpatrickMegan Fitzpatrick Post author

      Peter Ross uses powered equipment for the heavy pounding (just to pour a little oil on the fire…)

      Your way sounds like an excellent workout (and for me, that’s one of many reasons in favor of ht woodworking as an avocation).

      Still, if one starts with chunks of rough wood, and through his or her measuring, marking cutting, joining, finishing, turns it into a finished something, to me, that’s woodworking. And woodcraft.

      Perhaps we’re arguing semantics.

    2. Mark Hochstein

      If someone makes you a custom suit using a sewing machine is that handmade? Do they have to stich it all by hand? If a baker uses an electric beater to mix ingredients and bakes them in an electric oven are their baked goods no longer handmade? If an artist uses an airbrush to paint with, is their art no longer handmade?
      If you look up handmade in the dictionary the definition is les than clarifying “made by hand or by a hand process”, but the antonyms help – they are “automatic, machined, mass-produced”.
      I happened to be out with a group of ten co-workers (none of whom are woodworkers) when I read this post and I posed all the above scenarios to them, including your definition. They unanimously agreed that all would be handmade items. When I asked about a CNC’d cabriole leg done is a home woodworker’s shop they also unanimously agreed that it was not handmade.
      The clarifying point in all of our minds seemed to be that if your hands are actually guiding the work (i.e. it’s not an automated process), then it would qualify as handmade.
      I find it interesting that the two scenarios you laid out leave no room for both operations in the same piece of furniture. I think your being a little hard on yourself and the rest of the community of crafts-people with such a narrow definition.

      1. schenher

        You imply that I mean that something that is made with the aid of a machine is somehow of less quality. I never said that. This is why I find this topic and the arguments that come with it more harmful and less productive for everyone than any other topic in our craft.

        I have said over and over in the past that I could care less what or how people make things. My personal feeling about my work are just that , my personal feelings about my work.

  17. billsias

    That’s even more annoying if you are aware that Mr Sellers uses machines to mill his lumber.


  18. mysticcarver

    I agree Megan. I love hand tools. I am a woodcarver as well,and use a lot of hand tools for that purpose. I also build things as well,and since I have a VERY limited time to spend in my shop I don’t always have the time or inclination to use all hand tools. If I were to use only the hand tool route I would get very little done. I find it more important to complete projects that satisfy me than to spend 3 months on the same project.
    Well said and I approve this message 🙂

  19. gamcnabb

    Well said Megan. I totall agree on all the points you made.
    I think we are as a group are failing our young people. They need to know that quality wood products don’t come in a box and the only tools you need to assemble them are a screw driver and an allen wrech.

    If every reader out there would make an effort to teach just 2 kids to love woodworking, that will make a huge difference. Plant some seeds and watch what grows.

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