Period Woodworkers All - Popular Woodworking Magazine

Period Woodworkers All

 In Arts & Mysteries Blog, Shop Blog, Woodworking Blogs

I think it’s very funny that folks reject the notion of ripping by hand saying it’s impractical and instead offer the only slightly less arcane table saw as the “modern” approach. The table saws folks buy today are essentially newly made reproductions of tools from the 1930’s. As such, they aren’t entirely different from a Wenzloff Kenyon rip saw, or a LN bench plane.

I’ve heard more than a few moans (some of them emanating from my own lips) about the decline of woodshop classes in American High Schools. When those classes were set-up, the tools in them were the state of the art. But things have changed since then and we period woodworkers need to keep up. Future woodworkers may well be better trained in the computer labs which have doubtlessly replaced the old industrial arts classes.

CNC Router with 4’x8′ vacuum table

State of the art woodshops today are employing CNC (computer numerically controlled) pin routers to cut wood (or wood by-products) and utilize vacuum holding fixtures and autoclave like devices for veneer (which is typically the only solid wood they see). They glue wood with glues that harden only in the presence of radio waves. I’ve seen a few woodshops like this in person and they appear more like modern machine shops than wood shops I identify with. Our shops, even those equipped with power tools, seem as quaint as Colonial Williamsburg’s Anthony Hay Cabinetshop by comparison.

So with all due respect, let’s cut the bull about modern woodworking versus period woodworking. We’re all period woodworkers.


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  • justin ashley


    I’m a machinist by trade and can definitely see your point about CNC’s being the future of home woodworking.

    The problem, or rather the hold-up for this technology is that it’s still in it’s infancy, regarding home-users. The learning curve of CNC machinery is simply too great for there to be enough market – for now at least. What we need, or should I say the manufacturers need to develop, is something ground-breaking that allows new users to easily program and operate the equipment, at a price which they can afford. The question like you said is not if, but when. I’m not really sure why I’m typing this, I’m sure you know.

    But, that doesn’t mean it will make woodworking any faster, easier, or more enjoyable for any of us… It will be just as easy for one of those machines to rapid-across and ruin your beautiful raised panel door, as it is to saw past your line…

    Oh and for the record, I catch all kinds of flack from my co-workers for sawing and planing by hand 🙂


  • Rick

    Thanks for the post and I especially agree with the last sentence. I have been working wood for over 20 years now, and whn I started, it was strictly power tools, because that’s what I saw Norm use, what I saw used in most magazine articles, and to be honost, I didn’t have a clue on how to sharpen a chisels, blade, or anything else consdiered to be a "hand tool" When I bought my Tomeck, it opened up a whole new word for me, and since then , I have taught myself to sharpen on water stones as well. I enjoy a healthy mix of hnd and power for almst everything I build, and I don’t get hung up on what was done on the 18th century.

  • Jonas H. Jensen

    I agree to that we are all to some extent period woodworkers, and it doesn’t bother me.

    I like working wood with different machines and hand tools, some old and some new.

    And I like to read your blog, because you really got some really interesting points.

    have a nice weekend

  • Shannon

    OK so the next time I have a glue up that goes awry, I’m going to blame it on the radio playing in the background…"those dang radio waves keeping curing my glue!"

    Nice post Adam, and you can send that leftover apple pie my way.

  • Adam Cherubini

    Hi Dave. Thanks! Laughing then thinking a bit is precisely what I was after! As you know, I’m happy enough just doing what I do. I know I suck as a salesman or evangelist. If I can’t convince my kids to try apple pie (can you believe they won’t eat apple pie?) I don’t really think I can convince anyone to give up their table saws.

    But hopefully this string of posts has been thought provoking (and slightly fun). So if it worked that way for you, I’m thrilled.

    For the rest of us, I think we should brace ourselves for affordable CNC woodworking equipment in the very near future. There are several of these devices on the market today (Carvewright?). FYI, they are essentially printers. We all know how cheap printers are, so I expect we’ll see prices plummet for this technology. You can actually make your own using old printer parts. I hope someone from the magazine is reading along because we need to stay on top of this. It’s coming our way like it or not. And when it does, we really WILL all be period woodworkers.


  • Dave Anderson NH

    Hi Adam,

    I first was laughing and then later upon rumination looked at both sides. CNC machine tools, whether they be for woodworking or metal, are here to stay and are appropriate for any situation where efficient quantity (emphasize quantity)production is the order of the day. For most of us they are not very useful for one off type production since the setup and programming time negates the time savings of the actual part making. Sure sounds like the power vs hand tools argument doesn’t it? This of course doesn’t even consider the "small" matter of capital investment. To address Bruce’s comment about CNC carving, it’s already here. CNC routers have long been capable of producing 2 dimensional and simple 3D work. There is a guy in Derry NH who has developed a CNC fully 3D system which he shows at industrial trade shows which with the proper programming is fully capable of carving a bust of a human with very fine detail. If the market was there, it is conceivable that a few years hence you could buy or order a Thos. Affeck cartouche to go on your high chest or even a set of cabriole legs that actually look like cabriole legs complete with knee carvings. As for making money in woodworking, your can make a small fortune…..if you start with a large one.

    Best regards,


  • Adam Cherubini

    Here’s that thread:

    Note that the OP appears to be throwing stones at me or someone very like me. Just another day on ww forums.

    And my post:

    Woodbuster said:

    "My new way of working is to use the best tool for the job."

    I think guys assume they actually have choices when in fact they quite often don’t. We use the tools we use because those are the tools we are familiar with, have skills with, and are available to us.

    My job is to make the choice of a hand tool as easy as possible. Once you get that hand tool, I seek to make you as effective and efficient with that tool as possible. Why? Because I want to see all power tools and those who use them erradicated from the earth like the electron sucking vermin that they truly are? Wait a minute…. Let me think about that one for a minute. Okay. Right. No. NO!

    I want woodworkers to have a real choice, a choice between 2 really effective, safe, fun to use tools.

    Hand tools aren’t for every job or every woodworker. I know that. But I use hand tools for every job so I can learn where their limits are, and what can be done to expand them.

    Lastly, I think woodworkers are fairly myopic when it comes to discussions of business, and efficiency. Using an archaic tool like a table saw isn’t a move toward efficiency and profitability.

    Table saws are not wholly unlike Mike Wenzloff’s Kenyon rip. They are newly made reproduction tools. To be efficient and compete you need a CNC pin router with at least a 4’x8′ vacuum bed.

    People who are efficient and make money in woodworking are mass producing items using CNC technology and wood pulp materials. All the rest of us are just period woodworkers working with reproduction tools from different periods.


  • Matt Cianci

    Very well stated…Bravo! I enjoyed following your line of thinking here from the post in WoodNet….which I immensely enjoyed as well.

  • Adam Cherubini


    Yeah, not only are you a period woodworker, chances are, you dress in period clothes as well! The young folks I know wear their ball caps sideways and their pants hanging off their backsides. Tattoos aren’t for "rough characters" and service men anymore.

    Seriously, there are guys making NC routers out of old Epson printers. CNC may well be the next big thing in hobby woodworking. PW should probably be on it. Bob Lang is doing a good job keeping up with CAD.

  • Adam Cherubini

    If efficiency, and productivity are the chief goals, yes we are all behind the times. Bridgeport 3-axis machines are antiques. Do they work? You bet. And like ww hand tools they require skill to function well. They are the hand saws of modern machine shops. Every shop has one. It’s probably a bit clapped out. And only a few guys in the shop know how to use it properly,

    So while I think it’s true that none of us have truly efficient tools, I’m not convinced that’s so bad or that the alternative is so great.


  • Bruce Jackson

    I can’t help but to laugh. So, my period of woodworking is the middle of the last century, since that’s the decade or so of most of my tools, particularly the tailed ones (router, drill, drill press, band saw, etc.). How droll!

    Now if I can find a way to get my little laptop with Sketchup to work with a CNC carver and router …


  • JP4

    Your comment is like saying you’re not a modern machinisit unless you own a 5 axis CNC mill.

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