I received a letter from Jani this week and wanted to share it with you. Jani recently finished making a sawyer’s bench following plans from my book, The Unplugged Woodshop.
You can read his wonderful letter below. Thanks again for sharing this with us Jani- your saw bench really turned out great!
All the best~
I picked up Tom’s books, a while ago when I was getting more and more interested in the traditional way of woodworking. I’ve always been quite good at working with metal, but working with metal just doesn’t give me that satisfying feeling that working with wood does. So in the recent years I’ve been slowly gravitating more towards wood. While browsing through Tom’s books I was looking at the beautiful cabinets and the more complicated projects Tom presents. I thought I had the skills and tools to make them; I have a jointer/planer, router, miter saw, table saw, sanding machines, the whole nine yards. But then I thought about making them the Unplugged style. Do I have the skills to make them without using any power tools? The more I thought about it, the more liked the idea of making them the traditional way. But at the same time it occurred to me that I didn’t have the skills to make the Gentleman’s Vallet or The Good Doctor’s Medicine Chest using only hand tools. So I picked the Sawing Bench as my very first unplugged project. And I’m extremely glad that I did. It took me four evenings to make the bench but what a learning experience those four evening were! I learned – or had to learn, rather – to really sharpen a hand plane blade and learned what a really sharp hand plane blade can do. It’s pure magic! I learned how to dimension rough lumber and I also learned to handle the workpieces the way they need to be handled after you’ve carefully measured and planed the piece to its final dimensions. Somehow, working with power tools doesn’t make you appreciate the wood as much as working with hand tools does. After a piece of wood comes out of the jointer, you can just toss it to a pile of other pieces of wood and call it done. But when I spent an hour hand planing a piece of lumber to its final dimensions, I treated it like a precious snow flake so there would be no scratches or dents in the beautiful surface I just created. Working with hand tools made me respect and appreciate the wood much more. A beautiful, smooth piece of wood I made, not something that just came out of a machine. I learned to read the wood, the grain; how the grain reacts when I plane it, learned to react and adapt when the grain unexpectedly ripped under my freshly sharpened hand plane. I learned to chamfer the edges with a plane and a chisel instead of doing it with a router. But the absolutely biggest thing I learned from this project was patience. Learned to step back, look at the pieces and try to see a few steps ahead. Even when I placed my saw against the knife wall, I stopped before making the first stroke and thought ”is this really where it needs to be cut? Am I 100% sure I need to saw this now? Do I need to do something before I make this cut?” Normally I would have tried to finish this project in a few days but I decided that it will take as long as it needs to. Be it a week or two, I would not rush it. I’ve made it this far without a saw bench, I can do a few more days without one. Now that the saw bench is finished, I couldn’t be more happy about it. Sure, it has flaws that I probably could have avoided using power tools, but looking at the bench and knowing that I made it with my own hands is an incredibly satisfying feeling. And the things I learned from such a simple project will stay with me forever. I feel much more confident starting the next project. The pictures, instructions, tips and step-by-step guides in Tom’s books are extremely valuable. Following and understanding them will give you many Heureka! moments. I certainly had my share of ”of course!” and ”why haven’t I done it this way before?” moments. I’m quite sure I will finish every project in Tom’s books in their chronological order just because of the progressive learning curve they present. Thank you for making the books, Tom. You are a great inspiration and a true artist. – Jani