Thursday, February 22, 2007
A Good Craftsman Blames His Tools
Of course the adage states that it is a poor craftsman that blames his tools. The more that I work with handtools and teach the more that I think this is false. So many of the problems and also of the improvements that I find are due to a better tuning of the tools that I am using. As I ask more of them, finer surfaces and faster results, they seem to require more attention. Using a tool that isn't sharp is like driving a perfect car that happens to have flat tires. All of the other components being correct don't help if where the rubber meets pavement is flat. Often with students, I'll introduce them to a tool that isn't perfectly tuned to acquaint them with it and then we tune it together. The difference between the before and after says it all.
Some tools, such as the oft dreaded skew chisel, don't do the intended job at all unless tuned properly. The key to the skew is that the angle at which the two sides of the bevel meet cannot have any rounding at all. It must be flat, or hollow ground right up to the edge. Now I know that a slightly rounded edge (not to be confused with a curve along the edge) will cut, but it won't cut as cleanly and is much more difficult to control. This tiny difference counts dramatically in the performance of the tool, especially if your goal is to eliminate sanding. So my adage is that a good craftsman blames his tool, and then goes and tunes it.