Saturday, November 5, 2011

A complaint

Earlier this week, I got my hands on a small run of early issues of Fine Woodworking, circa 1982. They're incredible, and it really makes me wonder what the hell has happened since.

There are a few sections that really stand out, just as a curiosity. Sections on sourcing parts and products, and so on. And sections where woodworkers were looking for solutions on one issue or another. These are sections that today would be served by online communities, so it makes sense that they're not there anymore. Another section is on book reviews. I think this is something that publishers should revisit. I think that if the monthly glossy pages would set aside a regular space to review books... old books, new books, whatever... that it would be a good thing. PWW recently did an issue on their 4 foot shelf of books, and I think this is progress, but I think that a regular part of the magazine, that says "Hey, we've been reading this, and you should go check it out," would be a good thing.

But the point of this entry is that I have a major complaint. These old issues were amazing, and the techniques and readers' tips and the articles were so much more in depth than almost anything that I see in print today. One article profiled a Vietnamese artisan who emigrated with nothing, and built his own tools while working for someone else, and opened up his own shop. Another profiled a man in Taiwan who was in his 70's, building amazing furniture in a factory setting by hand, and the wisdom that pounds out of the pages is amazing. There was a long article on the topic of Lap-strake boat building one month, and a follow up article the next month detailing a build by an amateur friend of the author, showing how it's done. A reader's tip explained how he made a tool for cutting out axles for wooden toys, by drilling out a piece of drill rod, cutting a plug cutter into one end, and a hole saw out of the other, and how he uses it.

I have some other articles from FWW from a few years later, detailing how to make a wooden clock: How it works, why it works, how to shape the gears, modified tools for making various components, etc. 

Part of my issue is that it really feels like the woodworking community has transitioned in 30 years from knowledgeable people who had a can-do attitude, and a functional craftsman's hands-on knowledge base that today's weekend amateurs just don't have. But I also feel like there must have been a huge weeding-out somewhere along the way, where the thinking, tinkering artisans that were clearly in evidence 30 years ago were lost. Maybe I've been reading all of the wrong message boards, and paying attention to the wrong magazines, I don't know.

I'm a little worried about this thought, that somehow the real thinking tinkers have gone the way of John Galt, and that we're on a serious downslide, as a community, or as a country.

Am I alone?

Checking in

I've been pretty busy, with a lot of little things.  I re-rowked and refinished a rocking chair for a friend. There's a case for a tall clock that I built. The case came in a kit that was woefully designed, and left little hope for success in the hands of most amateurs. So, I gave it a good going over, and some modification, and it's going to be delivered on Sunday. In exchange, I'm getting 10 more clock movements for clocks like the shelf clock that I just wrapped up. And an 8 foot wide baby gate is getting wrapped up soon for another friend whose baby just started crawling. In the near future, I'll be working on a couple of screen doors, building a small slab table to wrap up another job, and I'm going to start making 10 small shelf clocks, like the one I just wrapped up, to be put up for sale. A lot of little stuff. But I really don't mind. I'm busy. That's good enough for me for now.