Did you notice these photos in a recent blog post on the washer/dryer table project?
Photos of a Lie-Nielsen smoothing plane and a Kreg pocket screw jig both in the same blog post. These two photos are indicative of a struggle which is going on within me: continue to move forward learning more advanced woodworking skills (ex: the hand plane) or revert to a more simple style of woodworking (ex: pocket screws).
And I am serious. I struggle with this. I have even been thinking of nailed furniture projects. Like nails and glue; the most basic form of joinery that exists (actually, leaving off the glue would be even more basic). Of course, I would design furniture which would be robust even with such rudimentary joinery.
I am really curious if people even care. When I post a photo of a completed project on Facebook, I get a lot of compliments. My high school and college buddies who see the photos assume that I am turning out a quality product, but there is not the first question about how it was joined. In all the thought that bounces around in my head on this subject, keep in mind that quality is still the goal, quality materials, quality finishing techniques. But I have to wonder: can I meet the public’s expectations for quality without hand cut dovetails in the drawers I make.
The Chris Schwarz Effect
Chris Schwarz gets a lot of the blame for the mental anguish I feel. And there are others. Suffice it to say that if you are a woodworker who uses a shooting plane to trim boards, then you are an enabler in my woodworking guilt.
But, back to Chris Schwarz. I recently finished reading his landmark book, The Anarchist’s Tool Chest. It took me about two years to read it. I like Chris Schwarz and I like this book, but it did not cause me to shed tears of joy like some have seemed to do. It has caused an internal struggle about my future as a woodworker.
There is a part of me which wants to do very high quality work, and there is also a need to do more work. Instead of taking the better part of a year to complete a serious project like my window seat bookcase, I’d like to complete it in three months.
In The Anarchist’s Tool Chest, Chris writes about building to a high level. He calls it “bomb proof” woodworking; the kind of woodworking where hand cut dovetails and hand formed mortise and tenon joints lead to extremely durable furniture.
There is a particular bedside table in our home. I made it about 25 years ago and it is rocking along in fine shape. There is not one dovetail in it and the frame and panel construction is accomplished with stub tenons which fit into shallow slots; much like what is typically found in production cabinet doors – not true mortise and tenon joinery.
I also see other woodworkers creating projects quickly using pocket screws and biscuits or dominos. I want to make furniture quickly too, but hand work is not quick; at least not for me. I find it interesting that Fine Woodworking has totally endorsed the use of pocket screws (“fast and super solid” joinery) while I suspect that Chris Schwarz hates them (update: see the comments – Chris does not hate pockets screws). If ever there was a competition for fast and easy joinery, pocket screws would be the champ.
Mental Woodworking Strife
The image above is indicative of the struggle I am experiencing. In the media cabinet woodworking plan I am creating, should I use the more traditional dado joint (shown in the image) or super fast pocket screws? After all, there will be the weight of a TV and A/V equipment to consider.
I suspect that my future will be a mixture of all the above – pocket screws as secondary joinery with an emphasis on power tool joinery; and baby steps towards more hand work. But the need to make more furniture is strong. I’ll bet there are ten woodworking projects floating around in my head. How to deal with all of this is a real challenge.