Tools equal potential and new artists
In my column a few weeks ago (“An Accountant Buys a Tool”) a sentence in the last paragraph was “Tools have a lot of potential.” I’ve been thinking about that sentence.
Sometimes I make a tool purchase because I need it to accomplish a job I’ll be doing in the near future. But sometimes I buy a tool just because I “might” need it in the future and I think it would be good to have just in case I need it. Maybe not until next week. Maybe not until next month. There have probably been times when I’ve bought a tool just to have it sit around the shop for six months or more before I’ve had a chance to use it.
Tools equal potential. Having a specific tool gives you the comfort in knowing that if a situation arises when you need it, you’ll have it at your disposal to complete the task at hand. It’s a good feeling. A comforting feeling. It’s not unlike having a well-stocked fridge or pantry. We all know food is crucial to human existence, so having some around is a good thing. Having lots of it is even better. It’s reassuring knowing your food situation is taken care of for the near future. It’s no different for workshop tools. Dare I say tools are as important as food? I might not go that far.
Lots of Tools
I don’t need more tools. From planes and saws to layout tools and chisels, I don’t suffer from lack of tools. I have only two Veritas spokeshaves; their round and concave versions. One of these days I’ll get their flat spokeshave. I guess I do need more tools.
This is about one-third of my screw collection. Diameter, length, material and head type all vary according to the need at hand.
Track Saw Time
This is me working on a half round, vacuum-pressed workpiece a few years ago. I’m sure I could have accomplished the operation with another tool, but the track saw was the most accurate and efficient.
Even hardware is addictive
The other day I experienced this feeling of wanting something even though I didn’t need it while planning a trip to the hardware store. All I needed were some #4 x 5/8″ flat head screws. Even though I needed them to complete a job over the next few days, I thought a trip to buy a couple bucks worth of tiny screws would make more sense if I had more things to buy. Why not check my inventory and see what else I could stock up on? Seems logical, at first, but I have a pretty good selection of screws, nails and miscellaneous hardware already. I also drive by the hardware store daily. I found myself making a list of screws and hardware I’d likely not use for years. I mean, how often does a woodworker need 6″ lag bolts? I don’t think I’ve ever used one, but because I happened to use a 3″ lag bolt on a unique project the other week, I thought I better stock up on every length under the sun. That was the first time I’d used a lag bolt in a year or more. But if the situation arose, I wanted to be prepared. I ended up crossing off a bunch of items on my list, but a big part of me wishes I had a small collection of 6″ lag bolts to comfort me.
So many tasks can be accomplished with multiple tools. You don’t necessarily need a track saw to cut a sheet of plywood. A table saw could work. A router, pattern bit and long straightedge will also do the trick. But I remember back to when I didn’t have a track saw. I wanted one quite a bit, even though I could accomplish most tasks that a track saw could complete with other tools. Thankfully, now I have one that I can reach for when the need arises. I really enjoy using it and it’s usually a lot faster than using a router and straightedge. It can also be a lot handier than using a table saw in many situations.
A track saw might not truly be needed in my shop, but it sure does make working wood more enjoyable and efficient. I’m not saying everyone should go out and buy a track saw (though you all should). I’m saying it’s nice to have a track saw for when that tool makes the most sense for the job. It just adds potential to my furniture-making approach, and that puts a smile on my face.
Ask an Artist
Earlier this year I started a pyramid scheme, of sorts. The plan was to ask one woodworking artist three questions: What’s their favourite piece they’ve made?; What’s their favourite piece another Canadian made? and What’s their favourite piece an international maker has made? Then I’d ask the two artists they mentioned the same three questions. The hope was this would go on and on and we would be exposed to a wide range of makers. I had the chance to connect with some furniture-making heavyweights around Canada and the world and we got to see some cool work by some great artists, but I’ve hit a bit of a roadblock. The artists I contact don’t always reply or send me answers to the three questions.
I’d like to continue this approach, but with a small tweak. I’ll now start asking makers for two or three of their favourite Canadian-made pieces of furniture. This will give me a wider pool to work with and hopefully be able to continue it more easily.
The question now goes out to all of you. What Canadian maker should I contact to get this ball rolling again? I’m looking for someone who’s not only a skilled maker, but someone with a lot of connections and strong opinions on furniture making. Maybe someone who has been around for a while, too. Post your answer below or send me an email. I might even approach all the folks that get mentioned.
I started off the occasional “Ask an Artist” feature in my column by asking Yorgo Liapis what was his favourite piece that he ever made. His response was his “Jaguar Credenza.” While designing this piece and working out the difficulties of making a jaguar skin out of wood veneer, Liapis came to realize in that moment that he was an artist and would be for the rest of his life. This piece led to a series of sculptures for him. I’m now looking for other artists to kick off another round of these columns.