Normites vs Luddites

I thought this topic might spur some interesting opinions. Over many years, as a woodworker, I have seen many useful and not so useful improvements added to the tools we use. An incomplete list of these (not exhaustive by any means) could include:
1) plastic housings (improved grounding protection) 2) battery operated tools 3) soft start & variable speed control tools 4) keyless chucks 5) laser projected lines on miter saws 6) various pneumatic nailers & staplers 7) various jointing devices (Festool -loose tenon, Kreg-pocket hole jig, Lamello-bisquit etc)
This list could probably go on for a few pages.
These improvements come out from the tool manufacturers and you wonder which one is worth investing in, versus a perfectly good one you currently own.
There is also a number of hand tools which seem to be handed down from father to son, or a mentor to student which will never be obsoleted. Examples might be, a Stanley 130 (push-pull screw driver) and any number of fine planes and chisels. Anyway, I post this topic to see what you fellow WW's feel. Joe G
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I haven't been a woodworker very long, but I've been pondering some of the same things - I'll paste a portion of something I posted a few months ago, that was buried in an unrelated thread.
I picked up an old "yankee screwdriver" from eBay recently. With some cleaning, refinishing of the handle, and a few driver bits from Lee Valley, it works like a charm. Also, a few years ago I inherited an ancient Atlas drill press that was originally purchased by my great- grandfather, and has since been moved from Arkansas to Michigan to New York. It's built like a tank, and with the addition of a Powertwist link belt, it runs great. Got me thinking - here are a few tools that are probably 50 or 80 (or more) years old, and I'm happy to get my hands on them, and they both have many years of use left in them. Alternatively, who's going to want my new Panasonic cordless drill/ driver in even 10 years, much less 50 or 80? I guess the copper in the motor and the Ni or Ca in the batteries might be so scarce as to be valuable in 50 years, but it's essentially a disposable tool. Granted, it should last longer than the Craftsman it's replacing, and the quality of the drill should be good enough that it will be worth replacing the batteries when they die (even if that's not cost- effective compared to a whole new drill). Well, that seems to be the direction our culture is taking - why fix it when you can get a new one cheaper than the cost of repairs? Go ahead, fill up the landfills with cheap plastic imported from far away - if I don't see it any more, it's gone. My challenge to myself (and whoever else wants to listen): make do with what I have, buy things that will last, buy used if possible, and overall, be responsible with the resources I have. (Stepping off the soap box...) Andy
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Andy, I remember reading your post. Its reinforces my thoughts. Joe G
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If you like the Yankee screwdriver, try the Yankee push drill. They come with a number of two-fluted drill bits stored in the handle, and are handy as hell, the original cordless drill. I've got several, just keep picking them up at yard sales. The earlier ones are all metal, the later ones have a bakelite handle with a screw-off cap. When you see one, buy it, you won't regret it. Buy the second one you see, since the bits tend to get lost and it took me two of them to get a full set of bits.
Mutt

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Strange you should choose those.
I just bought my kid the Japanese version of the Yankee from Lee valley. I've got Dad's, now with square drive bits! He's using his grandpa's chisels, at least one of his planes, and will get some more when I go, as will son #2 who has the automotive tools his grandpa used. If I buy a new tool, just as when I buy a new car, I evaluate the options based on experience and make my decision on what I'll lay extra money out to purchase.
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You forgot to mention that the old time luddites also invented the sawmill driven by the water wheel. Shakers did that or something? It beat the heck out of the pit saw for cutting wood to dimension. Today's power tool buyer is similar to the old time hand tool worker. Trying to find a better, easier, faster, way to produce the product. Eliminate the grunt work. In Scott Landis' Workshop book he has a picture of an early 1900s Park combination machine. It had a jointer and planer and table saw and other stuff. 100 plus years ago the woodworker, pro or hobby, was using power tools to eliminate the hard parts. Invest more time into the skilled parts. Probably today the power tool buyer wants a power tool to do everything, 100%. Whereas centuries ago the hand tool user was satisfied if the power tools could do the hard time consuming stuff, 50%, and they could use hand tools to do the detail work, 50%. They did not have much choice so they had to be satisfied.
I attended a class given by Phil Lowe. New England carver, restorer, period piece maker. He used both hand and power tools with no thoughts to which was better. Mostly it was just which was quicker. He could get the same excellent results from either. But he explained he could cut a board with the band saw right there and straighten it with a hand plane faster than he could walk to the other end of the shop where the table saw was and rip it with the table saw. Getting the job done correctly was important. Not how. For larger tasks it made sense to set up the machines and have them do the grunt work. For one piece, it was easier to do it with hand tools.
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I took a few minutes to see if a quick web search would tell me when the water-powered sawmill was invented. I remember James Burke talking about them in his "Connections" show as being used during medieval times, but I wanted to make sure. So far the best I've been able to do is an entry on Wikipedia that dates them to France around 1300 or so. See <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Watermill#Medieval_Europa>. The Wikipedia entry on sawmills mentions them existing by 1250, but doesn't explicitly say how they were powered.

Oh, yeah. People hundreds of years ago didn't like hard physical labor any more than we do now, so they used whatever means they could to avoid it, whether that was animal power, water wheels, windmills, steam power, or (heh) making the apprentices do it. ("You see, son, you gotta work like a dog now, but when you're my age you can make *your* apprentice do this stuff.")

Makes perfect sense.
Now if woodworking is a hobby, as it is for many of us, you have the luxury of using whatever tool you enjoy more instead of the most productive. For some people that's a hand tool that might take more time than a powered tool. Another consideration is that the hand tool is probably less expensive, too. (Maybe not Lie- Nielsen planes :-)
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A Shaker woman is given credit for inventing some "power" tool. I know I've heard and seen it many places. Can't recall which tool it was.

Or a Karl Hotley handplane. The hand tool person can get just as carried away with tools as the power tool person. Do you really need the whole series of planes? 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 4.5 - 5 - 5.25 - 5.5 - 6 - 7 - 8. Maybe for the vigilant, scrupulous hand tool user, hand tools are cheaper. But the vigilant, scrupulous power tool user can also make do with very little spent on power tools.
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Table saw.
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I have been manufacturing sawdust for most of 30 years. There are days when I wonder when I'll get better.
Of the things you listed three improvements stand out in my mind:
- Battery operated tools. I think the battery operated drill motor has done more for me in terms of job simplification. In the shop it helps a lot. But in the yard, or a remote site it is great. I am yet to fall in love with the other battery (skilsaws, etct) but my day might come.
- Jointing devices - Other than a standard jointer, I think the biscuit jointer is a pretty neat tool. I don't own a Kreg system yet but our son-in-law does and it looks pretty intriguing.
- Pneumatic Nailers. I put them near the category of battery tools. They are becoming more available, on the consumer market, and I don't know what I would do without mine.
Laser line projection - Don't trust them. When I want accuracy, I align my scribed mark with the blade/bit and push the switch.
RonB

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