What is a Hand Tool?

The Jointmaker Pro has gotten me thinking.

When I was a child, I noticed no distinction, but then I was a child. A power drill was a hand tool, a drill was a hand tool. Now that drill is a hand drill or egg beater, the power drill is still a power drill or just a drill. Portable may mean rechargeable, drills with cords are less and less common unless they are drill presses.

When I plane, I prefer to have a good worktable, but I have done it without. The worktable I think of as a hand tool, but it is not usually something you can move around in a tool box. A wood lathe is usually powered, but you use fine hand tools to do work with it. So a lathe may not be a hand tool, but the objects made on the lathe usually are hand tooled.

Does ‘hand tool’ now mean people powered now?   Or does it mean people powered by your hand?   Is a treadle lathe a hand tool?   Is it a foot tool?  Is a sawhorse a hand tool?

Many of us hand tool users still have band saws and table saws and planers. Many of us buy dimensional lumber. Few of us constantly hew and rive our own wood. At what point does a project cease to be hand made?  If all the work was done by machine but the craftsmanship was directed by a person, was it hand made?

I am desperately waiting for my Jointmaker Pro. Is it a hand tool?   It uses hand power.  It uses a hand saw blade.   It only weighs 26 pounds, so it is on the heavy side for hand tools, but on the light side for a table saw.

It is in the hand tool range for noise made, airborne dust, and precision.  It is is the hand tool range for speed.  It is in the power tool range for convenience and repetition.

More simply put, this is a Japanese hand saw, set in an advanced Jig.  The closest thing to it, is a back saw in a miter box.  Some of those miter box handsaw combination sets were pretty heavy and fairly advanced in angle and set. Most of us still consider this a hand tool, despite most of it sitting on or being attached to a table.

Here is a hand powered tool that resembles a power tool.  The circle has come back on itself.   It is not quite an industrial tool, yet in prototype shops, it may become one of the most important tools.   If rolling blackouts happen, a production company may be able to stay in business with it.  If they have a floor of these,  good ventilation and skylights, they may not have many issues at all.    Heat generation, dust generation and wasted wood will all be reduced.   This will allow a cabinet maker in an unfinished house without power, to do fine fittings easily.

Some fittings that have converted to steel, may start to be made in wood again.   Precision and convenience may reduce the dependency on machined parts.    We may see a new era in woodworking style, based on this tool.

As people see this tool, the ‘what if?’ factor will inspire them to make more tools based on this inversion of thought.  Japanese saw blade based rip saws may be another revolution. Band saws may become less popular as simple treadle power allows for precise resawing and ripping. A slightly curved blade that swung, lifted a touch for the back swing, and swung again may become a simple alternative for back woods harvest and milling of trees. Less wood wasted, Less wood carried out of the woods, less noise disturbing the wildlife.

I am really looking forward to putting together my JMP!   Even if it isn’t a hand tool.


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