Power Tools vs. Hand Tools, and When Can You Modify the Design?

I am continuing to work my way forwards through back issues of the since discontinued magazine Woodwork.

If you are proficient with the tools at your disposal, the decision to use either hand tools or power tools can be based on pleasure or efficiency. I use a combination of hand and power tools, and my choice is usually based on which will produce a satisfactory result quicker with less effort.

The machinery is important for sizing and rough shaping, but much of the work in the shop is done with hand planes, chisels and carving gouges. It is not a production shop; handwork is often faster than setting up jigs and machinery for an operation that will only be done once or twice.

Kristian Eshelman in Master Craftsman Robert Whitley, in Woodwork issue #41, page 34, paragraph 4

In another article, the author writes about building a piece inspired by one that he saw, but made changes to suit his needs, aesthetics, and the materials he had available.

In you can appreciate what it is about the original that is so proportionally appealing, by all means change things according to your circumstances and rely on your own eye to preserve the spirit of the original.

Graham Blackburn in A Pepysian Bookcase: A handmade case-on-stand in Woodwork issue #42, page 46, paragraph 3

Read more on my page, Quotes from Woodwork.


More Wall Shelf Sketches

I’ve continued to sketch, trying to figure out what design to use for the Wall Shelf Build-Off this weekend. I could well find myself in the shop Saturday without a design and just making it up on the fly – that idea is not foreign to me.

Have a look at my sketches – perhaps they’ll be the spark you need for your design.

If you need some more inspiration, check out my ever-growing Pinterest board of #WSBO inspiration.

There’s still time to register! #WSBO is January 28-29.


Sketching to Develop Wall Shelf Ideas

With two weeks before the Wall Shelf Build-Off, I spent some time this afternoon working on design ideas. I filled three pages of sketches with a variety of designs.

When sketching, I like to use pen and don’t spend more than half a minute on each.

I use the sketches to help me figure out what I like and what I don’t like. Sometimes I will sketch different variations of details, like square and rounded corners, right over each other.

If a detail is difficult to draw, or is an important part of the design, I may add an arrow and label. I may draw in the grain if it is part of the design, but I usually focus on basic concepts and form.

Feel free to use these ideas for your Wall Shelf Build-Off design.

I’m always interested in your feedback, but particularly interested in your thoughts on these sketches. Do any of the ideas stand out to you?

If you need some more inspiration, check out my ever-growing Pinterest board of #WSBO inspiration.

And there’s still time to register! #WSBO is January 28-29.


The Designer at Work

I sit upright, eyes open, mouth a straight line.
For just a moment, I close my eyes while I retrieve a file from my memory.
My eyes open again and I look up ever so slightly
as I review the contents of the file.

Some say they can hear, or even see
the wheels inside my head turning.
But I don’t.
Any audible voices or noises are reduced to a murmur.

I wave my hands through the air
as if disassembling it with telekinetic powers.
My mind examines each part
and effortlessly adds tenons and subtracts mortises.

One by one,
I will the parts to reassemble themselves.
It’s complete, and I study its form.
I push and pull parts into proportions that please me.

Piece by piece, I disassemble, then reassemble it,
studying the relationship between each part,
searching for potential problems
and trying to understand how best to build it.

Apart, together. Apart, together. Apart, together.
I repeat this process tens, hundreds, maybe even thousands of times
over the course of days, weeks, months, years, maybe even decades
until I am ready to start building it.

Designing from Scratch

When I set out to design something, I sometimes find it helpful to make a list of requirements.

If designing a chair, my list might look like this:

  1. the seat must be at an appropriate height and shaped or upholstered for comfort;
  2. the chair must bear the weight of the user;
  3. it should have a back rest;
  4. it should be stable in use;
  5. wood is the primary material used; and
  6. I want to use traditional joinery; etc.

For Insanity 2, I made a different-looking list of requirements to help me think outside of the box:

  1. the design should be adventurous enough to make me question my sanity for attempting to build it at every step along the way;
  2. the design should be easily distinguishable from other designs;
  3. wood does not have to be the primary material;
  4. the figured ash does not need to be the focal point, nor does it need to be used in the final product;
  5. the framed ash panels do not have to be doors;
  6. if making a cabinet, the apparent doors do not have to be working;
  7. I don’t have to use a clear finish;
  8. a cabinet does not need to have completely enclosed space;
  9. it doesn’t need to have curves;
  10. I don’t need to finish it this month, or this year;
  11. it doesn’t need to be functional;
  12. it can be wall-mounted or free-standing;
  13. I want to be able to make the entire piece myself (no outsourcing); and
  14. the overall construction should be sound.