Meet My Apprentices

Not everything I do is centered around hand tools. There ... I said it. Many people know me for my book The Minimalist Woodworker that I wrote a while back. Some of those people are shocked to find out that I use machines as part of my daily woodworking. I wrote the book because I was tired of hearing people tell me that they couldn't woodwork because they didn't have enough space or money. Other notable excuses for not taking woodworking was not wanting to make excessive dust and noise. I wrote the book because I knew that woodworking can be done with very little and if you didn't have the space, money or other limitations you could still make things from wood.

Two of my capable apprentices

Two of my capable apprentices

I've been in many different sized shops ranging from 40 sq ft under the basement stairs of a townhouse when I was in the military to a couple thousand sq ft when I studied at Rosewood. Regardless of the size of space I have continued making. Currently I have a wonderful basement shop in out new house that I designed from the word 'go'.  It's just under 500 sq ft and I feel that I have finally arrived.

In that shop are machines. Machines that I call my apprentices. They do the things that I'm not interested in doing like breaking out lumber. I haven't named any of them yet but I might yet. Mostly I run machines because I can. I have the room for them and I have the luxury of making noise and some dust in a contained area. This is mostly because my most important client lives upstairs with me and she likes what I make for her.

I'm not a production woodworker so I don't need production machines but I have a few that make my life a bit easier. Here is what is currently in my shop:

Bandsaw - 14" General International with riser kit
Thickness Planer - Dewalt 735
Drill Press - Ridgid floor model
Track saw - Festool TS-55 with vac and MFT-3

You'll note that there is no mention of a table saw, jointer and chop saw. When I studied at Rosewood we were encourage not to use the table saw to rip wood because the safer option was to use the bandsaw. This meant that the table saw only got used for crosscutting and dealing with sheet goods. I've gone many years without a table saw and don't feel that I'm missing out on anything. Now that I'm in a shop that can handle swinging plywood around, I went with the track saw because it makes much more sense bringing the saw to a large sheet rather than muscling that same sheet up onto a saw table. We've all been there ripping big sheets on a table saw and we know some of the weird sounds the saw makes while we do it.  The table saw is also a huge space hog. I also use the track saw to crosscut so no need for a chop saw.

German apprentices!

German apprentices!

I don't use a power jointer because I don't have the thousands of dollars to buy the size I want. The minimum size I would want is 12" because most of the wood that I use is 10" wide easily. How to you joint a face of a 10" board on a 6 or 8" jointer? You don't. You grab your jointer or jack plane and get the one face flat, then joint an edge and carry on. Although recently I have been exploring the world of vintage woodworking machines so I may end up with a jointer one day.

So yes I use machines. I use them were they make sense to me but turn to my hand tools for certain joinery, refining surfaces and generally anywhere that I can do it faster with a hand tool instead of setting up a machine. I also can sleep easier knowing that if I lost my shop for whatever reason, I can turn to my hand skills to keep my love of making in wood alive.

In order to understand, you must do. - V


Vic Tesolin3 Comments