Nick, good food for thought on your post.
In my opinion (hey... remember is worth what you paid for it!) there
are a lot of folks that are serious about woodworking, but don't have
the time to develop the skills needed to be "a neander" and go without
I can't imagine spending a weekend face planing down a piece of 5
quarter rough sawn 1X8 on both faces to get it to the proper
thickness, then lining it and shooting it with the proper plane. In
building a coffee table or dining room table or any other larger piece
of furniture as a "weekend and a few nights only a week guy", it would
take a couple of months just to prep the wood!
Also, many here are professionals in the trades, or semi
professionals, and that means speed, accuracy and repeatability are
the key components when executing a project. For me, there is no joy
is boring a hole with a bit and brace. There isn't any satisfaction
from using a homemade miter box with a back saw. I don't use a
screwdriver to put on kitchen hardware, but use a small drill.
Also, tools and their designs are made to follow the current trends of
building and the available materials. With our super thin, chippy,
splintery veneered products, our poorly prepared solid wood choices,
and newer growth lumber that might be better suited as pallet wood,
power tools help make up for the deficiencies of the material.
Probably the biggest example of this trend in my mind is the
development of brad/trim guns. As a young hand 40 years ago, I was
taught to use a hammer and nails, and using a nail gun was frowned on
as a distinct lack of skill. You learned to drive nails without
hitting the wood and if the wood was hard and expensive you drilled
pilot holes for the nails.
Now, even the base boards, door trims, crown moldings, chair rail,
etc. are hard, brittle materials that crack easily. Some kind of
South American fast growing finger jointed hardwood is what you get in
paint grade and it splits like the dickens with a regular hammer and
nails as attachment devices. Most stain grade trims I see are no more
than the clear section of yellow pine which is also hard, brittle, and
sometimes painful to use. With a brad/trim gun, once you learn proper
placement you can nail away with little fear of breaking the trims.
For a contractor, using a nail gun anymore is almost self defense
because of the available materials we use.
Then add to the fact we are on about the second generation of
tradesmen on carpentry that simply can't drive a nail...