Book Review: The New Traditional Woodworker
Book Review: The New Traditional Woodworker – From Tool Set to Skill Set to Mind Set
by Jim Tolpin
Is the hand tool focused shop just a fad? If we look ten years to the future, will we see SawStop table saws in the garage of every person who calls themselves a hobbyist woodworker? Will a deluge of antique and modern hand tools sit unsold on eBay and Craig’s List? Will corporations once again find themselves employing the hundreds of craftsmen who have left their cubical-shaped work week to try and hack it out in the trenches of the fickle hand tool world?
Or… is there something more to it? Is this really a crescendo of practically-minded people who look forward to the serenity of a quiet shop, who yearn to rub the aching muscles that result from an hour of dimensioning lumber, and who want to breathe in the scent of freshly planed wood instead of fine particles of sawdust?
I vote the latter, if for no reason other than the simple fact I cannot imagine the former! I feel the momentum of something bigger building up, and I look forward to the resulting revolution – people casting aside the daemons of technology that suck their souls out through smartphone-strained eyes. For us woodworker types, there is an obvious place to start that change in our own lives.
You might be wondering where Jim Tolpin’s book comes into play in this thought process. I’ll tell you. It is a blueprint, a path, a way for you to create a shop you can go work in at two o’clock in the morning without fear of waking your spouse or children. It isn’t a “follow these exact steps and you will find Woodworking Nirvana” kind of book. It is a guide for anyone who wants to turn their woodworking hobby into both more and less at the same time. More pleasure. Less danger. More quality time with your iPod trickling your favorite Grateful Dead concert into your ears. Less ear pain from expensive, skull-crushing hearing protection. More of an understanding of the wood with which you work. Less time worrying about measuring exact dimensions.
After a thoughtful and mood-setting foreword, Mr. Tolpin walks his readers through the differences between a hand tool shop and a power tool shop (and the benefits of the former, if woodworking is your hobby and not your job). He covers size, layout, workbenches, saw benches, and a (relatively) brief, but comprehensive, overview of hand tools.
The second section of the book is devoted to shop projects. But it isn’t your typical candlebox/cutting board/cabinet list of projects. Instead, it is a series of projects that supplements your cordless environment with accessories essential to making a hand tool shop work. As you tackle each of these projects – beginning with a straightedge, a try square, winding sticks, and a planing stop – you will develop your hand tool skills and, more importantly, your confidence. By the time you’ve finished with these important shop jigs (i.e. the implements of a hand tool cheater!), that candlebox will be a breeze.
Whether you are just starting out, interested in incorporating more hand tools into your power tool shop, or want to get rid of most of your power tools completely, I think this is a great place to start.