The Slope, and 'Needing' new Tools.

Hand tool users online, often talk about the slope.   It is a reference to the constant pressing need for new tools.  It is really a fairly honest thing.

To start out making the simplest projects out of wood, you need to be able to cut wood and stick it together.   A saw, hammer or screwdriver, and some glue will get you started.   If you want to have smooth, splinter free wood most folk go for sandpaper.  They should get a hand  scraper and burnisher the same day they buy the sandpaper, but that requires a bit more knowledge.

As you add embellishments to your work, often a new tool will allow you to do the work better, in other words faster and prettier.

There is a point you reach, where the tools you need are fairly obscure or might not even exist commercially.  This is not that historically rare.  Custom tools at one time were the rule and not the exception.

Right now, for a few projects I am working on, I need a left handed skew plane.  Normally this would not be a big issue since most people do their work in square.  Since I am trying to do some fine work at 60 degree and 30 degree angles, there are times when I actually need, not just want, a left handed skew plane.   Every other angled rabbet needs this tool.  Without it you are forced to plane into the grain.   This is the simple result of expanding your range of work.

I also want to make several sliding dovetails, and some nice grooves in wood for drawers to slide in.  Since I am doing it at odd angles, the standard range of planes will not quite do.  So I am designing a plow plane just for this task.  The prototype has me optomistic.

As far as the tight set of tools that a woodworker might want in his travel tool box, these two might even make the cut.  That makes them pretty important, by my standards.


2 comments to The Slope, and 'Needing' new Tools.

  • Ben

    I often find that so many tools are merely suited to increasing production levels and do little or nothing to empower the worker with results not obtainable by a simpler means. However, there are tools like you mention that do just that. For me, a skew plane is ideal for trimming the cheeks of tenons. This is a basic operation in one of the most essential joints. How else can it be done better? Paring the cheek with the grain will split the wood. Any tool that works perpendicular to the grain such as a shoulder plane, a rabbet plane, a float, or a square bevel chisel will cause the grain to roll out. Only a skew chisel will work nicely, and the skewed plane will give us a little more control.

    For centuries, people worked without the power tools produced by the industrial revolution that enabled much greater levels of production. They also worked without hand tools, the efficient production of which was also enabled in the 19th and 20th centuries. Because they didn’t have Internet-based catalogs of specialty tools and local warehouses full of mass produced tools imported from overseas and priced no higher than a day’s lunch, they had to work to designs that were acheivable with what they did have.

    Today, our expectations of the result of our work can be spoiled by what someone else can achieve with an aresenal of tools and technology that can only be cost effective when applied to mass production. Because of this, the worker with a modest collection of hand tools must have a clear goal and a lucid definition of the boundaries that define his work — otherwise he is lost and he will always be wandering around to discover the next gadget he will consume. His decisions will be based on what he is persuaded of at the moment rather than what he knows to be true.

  • Well put, Ben!

    I really want a large range of hollows and rounds, but I rarely use the single hollow and round set I have now. The sort of woodworking I currently do just doesn’t justify the making or purchase of the full range of hollows and rounds. It would be wasteful and foolish for me to acquire a set of tools that I don’t currently need or plan to need any time soon.


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