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Doing without

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Power woodworking vs. hand tools, while a hot debate for some, is just a matter of practicality for me.

If I had to classify myself as one or the other, I’m definitely a power tool guy. I own and use hand tools but rely mostly on power. And if I had to do without one or the other, while I’d hate to be forced to make that choice I’d choose doing without hand tools.

But I wouldn’t much like it. I use hand tools to supplement power, but sometimes “supplementing” means that certain hand tools have specific – but absolutely exclusive – jobs in my woodshop. For example, while I typically use a router in place of chisels for most joinery, I never cut hinge mortises with one. I always rely on a chisel and always do those by hand.

So, like being forced to learn to cut dovetails by hand if I gave up the powered router, I’d be forced to do the opposite – learn how to cut hinge mortises with a router – if I gave up chisels. But here’s the thing: No one is ever going to force any woodworker to do without one or the other.

For that reason, I’ve always thought the “power vs. hand tools” debate was pointless at best (and silly, at worst). For me and for the way I work they’ve always been a team, with each having assigned tasks that play to their strengths, and mine. And, like any other team, the results are never as good if you’re forced to do without an important member of the team.

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