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Don Williams is like a shark in a clown suit. He’ll bite you in half while you are laughing.

During his presentation at Woodworking in America last weekend, I am quite sure that he destroyed the assumptions about pre-industrial woodworking of many of us in the room. And he did it with jokes, amazing slides and a smooth delivery.

His talk was far-ranging, and in the end it was like a Freakanomics lecture. He convinced me that 19th-century public health efforts are what ultimately led to the near-complete domination of machines in woodworking. But for me to explain that point would take more words than a blog entry should deliver. So let me just give you a taste.

One of the assumptions of many moderns is that powered woodworking machinery was an invention of the Industrial Revolution in the late 19th century. That before that point, there were no machines and that woodworkers would go off to their shops and “commune with the wood” while they slowly crafted their masterpieces with hand tools, Williams said.



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