Technology has certainly made its mark on the woodworking world. With routers, table saws, CNC machines and a variety of other powered tools, many woodworkers spend a good deal of their time using some form of machinery or automation. In some shops, you might even find a 3D printer running alongside everything else to create custom fittings or fasteners to go with the final piece.
With all of this equipment and these computer-aided tools, is there really a place for hand tools in the woodshop anymore? Most likely, whoever you ask will answer some variation of “Yes, of course.” When it comes down to it, though, there are a lot of woodworkers who don’t actually use hand tools very often if at all. So let’s take a look at the future of hand tools in the woodshop and see if there’s really a place for them.
While there are a lot of automated and powered tools used in modern wood shops, their uses are still somewhat limited. Power tools, even those with a number of modern features, are typically only good for making large actions. You can cut through wood quickly with a table saw, but you’ll never use it for detail work. Guards and other add-ons can help you create angles and scalloped edges, but they still can’t provide the sort of control and precision you need for truly fine details.
CNC machines and similar tools bridge this gap a little, giving a finer level of control via the computer that’s controlling the machine. There are still limits to what you can do with CNC tools, however. A woodworker who knows how to use the machines well can create some detailing and much more ornate pieces using computer-controlled equipment, but the way that the machines work prevents them from taking the place of hand tools entirely.
When using hand tools in the woodshop, a skilled professional has control of every angle and the amount of pressure or force that each tool exerts. With enough training and practice, you can use hand tools to bring to life just about anything you can imagine making from wood. There’s also no match to the amount of detail work you can apply when working with hand tools.
The workmanship provided by hand tools makes each piece unique, and the skills developed by working with these tools will only improve over time. This adds a little something special to the work done with hand tools that no machine can replace. Power tools and even CNC machines are great for shaping and even providing some detail to the wood, but any woodworker who wants to create truly unique pieces will take this wood and then use hand tools to sculpt it into its final form.
The Future of Hand Tools
Woodworkers who want to create largely interchangeable pieces and who have a mind toward production work will benefit greatly from the push toward power and automation in the woodshop. A skilled CNC worker can produce piece after piece that are all but identical, allowing them to create multiple pieces for sale in a fraction of the time it would take to produce a single piece with hand tools.
The number of woodworkers who are looking to make this sort of assembly-line production is limited, however. For everyone else, there will always be a need for hand tools as they’re the only things that can make their work truly match their vision.
How often do you use hand tools in your woodshop?