Woodworking matters. Its more than a pastime or hobby -- being a woodworker means you know the satisfaction and pride that comes from using your hands and mind to build beautiful functional objects, and that youre as interested in the process as the outcome. Amidst all the speed and chaos of the modern world, woodworking gives us a place where we can slow down, pay attention, and take the time to do things right. Woodworking matters because it can make your life richer and more meaningful.
In woodworking, tools matter. It took a while for me to realize this because I had the not-uncommon notion that if you had the right attitude you could build a chest of drawers with rusty tools from the neighbors shed. After some experience with decent tools, I realized that a properly sharpened and tuned plane is just as important as attitude. Good tools wont make you a great craftsman, but they will make it much easier to develop the skills needed to become one.
Your shop, the place where you keep and use your tools, is itself a kind of tool. A poorly laid out or organized shop can hinder your workmanship just as surely as inferior tools. But your shop is more than a tool -- its also a creative studio where ideas become objects. For most of us, our shop is also a retreat where we can relax and recharge.
How this book is organized
This book recognizes that your skills as a woodworker, your collection of tools, and the layout and organization of your shop develop together. Its based on the notion that woodworkers go through four stages of development and each stage has its own requirements for tools and space.
The book is divided into four sections -- one for each stage. Each section opens with an introduction explaining why it contains those particular tools. Then it focuses on each tool in turn. Photographs across the bottom of the page show what the tool can do, and a photo-illustration of the tool points out important features. The text explains features or aspects of using the tool and tells you what to buy. The section closes with a discussion of some of the aspects of setting up and organizing a shop to use the tools properly.
One short book cant tell you everything you need to know to master each tool. But it can tell you what you need to know to purchase a quality tool with the right features. It cant show the latest tricked-out models of tools, but by sticking to simple classic tools, it can give you enough information to evaluate new features on your own.
The four stages of woodworking discussed here are not strict guidelines, and cant take into account all the tools used in woodworking sub-specialties (instrument making, boatbuilding, cabinetmaking, and the like). I dont expect you to buy the tools exactly in the order given, but the order has a logic. If you buy the tools and learn to use them in more or less the order given, youll avoid the common mistake of buying too much too soon. Using the wrong tool or using the right tool improperly can be unpleasant enough to turn you away from woodworking. My goal is to get you started in woodworking with a string of successes that keep you going. By following the books progression, youll create a solid foundation of woodworking skills you can build on with confidence.