When Neanderthals were just being noticed


I think of Popular Woodworking as the magazine that taught me that using hand tools was both possible and powerful. It wasn't just Chris Schwarz, but a lot of writers there. However, it wasn't always so.

I just found this in the April 2000 issue, which I'd kept for Schwarz's brilliant but controversial "Woodworking on Death Row" article. It doesn't sound like readers were too familiar with the hand tool approach.

Shakers eagerly sought out power tools and technology to help them do their work. But during the heyday of most Shaker communities, hand tools did most of the work.

Today there is a group of woodworkers who still pride themselves in building furniture this way. They call themselves "Neanderthals." And the way they communicate is, ironically, usually through the Internet. We thought it would be interesting to build a project using only hand tools to get a feel for how early Shakers and electronic-age Neanderthals work. Admittedly, we copped out on one aspect of this project: we didn't surface the lumber from rough stock using hand tools. We rationalized this by figuring an apprentice would have done this work.

I think you'll enjoying unplugging your router for a few days to tackle this modest but satisfying project. And if you cannot give up your power tools, you can rest easy knowing that the early Shakers would have paid almost any price for that precision plunge router on your bench. (Jim Stuard, "Shaker Stepstool", Popular Woodworking, April 2000, page 53.)

Times have changed. At this point I was buying my router and tablesaw...

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This page contains a single entry by Simon St.Laurent published on March 5, 2013 5:04 PM.

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