How often are you in situation when your wife ask you to fix something, and all power-tools using batteries are dead? Using cord tools is a pain as you normally require an extension. All of this for just mounting handle to the drawer. How often you are in such situations? Well I’m quite often, and I have found that hand-tools are far more convenient in such situations.
They don’t need power, so they are ready to use all the time and any time (perhaps from time to time they do need bit of sharpening)
To explain in advance, I will be using power-tools when work will involve repetitions or it will be commission work. For simple garden work, I will use power tools in worst case. However, for daily shop projects I will try to use only hand-tools as this blog will be all about them.
They are much more quiet. If you are hobbyist like me, you normally work during the evenings. In case you like me, leaving in neighborhood with loads of houses around, you can use loud tools only until 10PM. If you have 2 year old son, you don’t want to use power tools between 8PM and 8AM – when he has naps. And if you are working like me from 9-5, there is no much time left for noisy tools.
All these requirements and limitations have lead me to use quiet hand tools. I’m in the shop even until midnight and till now haven’t got any complaints from outside word.
Although you might require more tools than just few (or dozen) power tools to complete a project, but hand tools are far more compact. Pretty much you can pack all tools, required for cabinet making, into a chest and go to your garden and complete the project. Taking all power tools with cords, accessories, spare batteries – they take loads of space. Simple electric chop saw is massive.
Let’s be clear. If you want to use power tools, and you care about your health, you should get dust collector. Which is (again) large and noise. Simply you don’t want to breath all the dust. And the worst dust, is the one you cannot see. And guess what. Power tools produce it a lot.
I’m not against using power tools seldom. I do use circular saw to cut plywood and power drill to drill into walls. But that’s really it.
Of course you can hurt yourself with any tool. As well as you might not get hurt by any power tool, ever. But my general opinion and experience is that hand tools are far safer. For example circular saw. Whenever I’m using it I have this strange feeling about blade rotating few thousand times per minute. Although blade is secured, plywood clamped, it is still dangerous activity.
Additionally having son, which often visit my shop, I’m more comfortable with hand-tools- even with Japanese saws which are extremely sharp.
Tools which are more human
Yes, power tools were invented by humans and to increase productivity. They were invented probably not earlier than 200 year ago (including all non-electric power tools). But hand tools are the ones that have been used by humans for thousands of years. When I’m using my wooden planes or Japanese saws, I know that pretty much the same tools were used thousand year ago. Which gives lot to think about.
Hand-tools – not that perfect in the end
Work with them is generally slower. Sawing through oak board can take few minutes. Using hand router, hand drill or any equivalent of electric tool is simply slower.
You need to learn more about them. You need to learn how to sharpen, setup and take care. If you buy a electric router from the shop you can simply use it. If you have bought a chisel, normally you need to sharpen it first. For that you need sand paper or water/oil stone (normally not just one). You need to know how to sharpen, and normally, good sharpening of a chisel might take an hour or more (at least for the first time for amateur).
Ripping oak with Japanese saw – better than going to the gym!