I have been spending a lot of time thinking about the woodworking concept of the third hand. I know, it sounds creepy. Sounds like some sort of mystical malarkey. Sounds like a mutant carpenter. I wish I had a literal third hand that served as a clamp, and a bench stop. Actually, I do have that. It is a bench vise, bench dogs, bench hooks, and a tail vise. Two of those things I made from scratch and two of those things I bought for a total of 60 dollars, but I will let you decide which. In four hundred years (including the bench) if they are properly taken care of they will still be usable as I pass them down or around to future carpenters. These are all components of my work bench that help me hold things so that I can have two hands free to steady the plane. Another third hand I have is also a thing I made from scratch: the shaving horse-one of my favorite possessions and cost 15 dollars, materials for free. At this point if you are counting, I now have seven hands, but whatever, who is counting? There are actually hundreds of ways to hold things, using all manner of clamps and such. In the Eastern hemisphere, for instance they sit down to work a lot and hold stuff with their bare feet. Their feet become a third hand, but don’t even go there, it is mind blowing.
Right now I am in the process of turning my little cutting benches into a sit down work station to go along with my shaving horse (top left, left side of picture; I will do a feature post on this piece of equipment later). In the picture on the bottom right is an amazing clamp called a Bessey clamp or a handscrew clamp, and I have seven of them in two different sizes. There are many ways to use this clamp to hold work pieces. Yesterday I was experimenting with clamping it to the cutting horse to use it for edge planing and ripping with a hand saw. The results were encouraging.
Last Saturday I loaded up my truck with my tools and lumber so that I can stay closer to home as we await the coming of our little babe. One of my goals over the past two years has been the development of a completely mobile workshop that is easily transportable. For me that means no miter box and miter box stand. I should amend something from my last post. I said I don’t like power tools. That is incorrect. I do like some of them. I love and miss my table saw quite often and I may own one again someday, though my band saw can do most of what a table saw can, only slower. I still have my Makita circular saw. I could not bring myself to get rid of it. It has been with me now for 13 years my workhorse, and because who wants to rip through 3 inch by 8 inch by 8 foot 150 year old red and white oak seasoned barn floor joists by hand? I do. But I don’t too.
I like old power tools quite a bit like the panel saw at my old job that took up approximately an acre of room (I am exaggerating here but it was quite large and weighed about two tons and was made of solid steel and cast steel) but would cut a perfectly straight edge on an 8 foot piece of plywood. It was faster and more accurate than the more modern CNC Router for that task. Ah yes the CNC machine. This is where I stop in my tolerance of advancing technology. I think these diabolical machines take quite a bit of technical know how to run properly and use them to their full capacity which is quite large. But the operator (me) stands there and watches that robotic arm do the work. It is not like something out of a sci-fi nightmare: it is that. But I don’t hate them, I avoid them.
As I loaded up my tools I suddenly saw with my third eye that I had accomplished my goal of a mobile work shop, without even really trying. Before I injured my leg I had a dream to build a trailer shop that I could pull around with me. I am not going to do that; at least not right now. In those pictures above you can see most of my tools. With those tools I can build pretty near anything given time. This to me is freeing. There is room for a few more tools that will enhance my ability, and those tools will still be around 80, 100, 200 hundred years from now but so will my Makita circular saw. I guess that is one of my top values: stuff that lasts. Not stuff you use for a day or a week or a year and then it is obsolete without you having any control over it or say in the matter. I like old things and I think a lot about times past and what it would be like to live and work in those time. But I am not living in those times; I am living in these times and they are crazy. I love these times. I think these days we are learning to operate with more understanding than at any other previous, though there is a long way to go.
Every religion in the world has a concept of the third eye, some sense that is not always (only part of the time) very tangible that helps us to see things in ways we would not otherwise be able to see. Things that cannot be seen with our physical eyes. Perception. Weird. Strange. Beautiful. Intoxication. Love, peace, joy, hope, tranquility, feeling. These are the reasons why the establishment cannot be allowed to rule over all. Those are the reasons I want to not follow the established order. That is why we are going to attempt to have our baby at home paying homage to the natural process that occurs when a woman bears a child. What wonderful things will happen if we can find a way to all love each other. Peace out, my brothers and sisters.
Old World Carpentry
Old World School of Making