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Richard Arnold on 18th Century English Tools

  Some Tools Feel "Just Right" by Richard Arnold  

Time to stand back and light the blue touch paper...

I have just lately been reading a lot on various wood related topics regarding craft, craftsmanship, and the like, and coming at this from hand tool enthusiasts prospective, it raised an issue in my mind that has been bubbling under the surface of my thought process for some time now.

Why is it that some tools that I pick up feel "just right" from the word go, while others just don't seem to have any soul?

As an example, let us look at these two moulding planes. Both are made by highly regarded London makers, both are perfectly fit for the purpose they were designed for.
Both are made from the best materials available, so what makes me want to pick one of them up and use it, while the other one leaves me cold.

Some may argue that it the romanticism of the fact that one was made at the beginning of the 18th century, while the other from the end of the 19th, and that one is "worth considerably more" than the other, but I canít help but think that it goes deeper than that.

One has a personality, a sense that someone who I could relate to crafted the plane in a way that as a fellow craftsman, I can understand. It just "feels" right in the hand.

The other plane would perhaps work just as well, but for some reason it just lacks "soul" and as such just doesn't give me the feedback at the bench that makes my work enjoyable. This is probably why most of the tools I work with every day are vintage. That doesn't mean a tool has to be old to be something I can enjoy using.

One of my favorite planes was made by Bill Carter, a modern infill maker. I hope Bill won't mind me saying this but the plane is from the perspective of a modern world of precision engineering , not "perfect", but thatís what I love about it, that what makes it so tactile, and a pleasure to use.

Bill makes his planes completely by hand, and from the perspective of a woodworker rather than a precision engineer, but more importantly, he makes them because he loves doing it, and for me, that is what craft is all about.

Creating something that is a joy to use, that just feels right, and lifts your heart a little bit every time you use it.

Richard Arnold
September, 2016
Website: http://oldwoodplanes.co.uk/

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