Thursday, March 14, 2013

Vintage Tools vs. New Tools

This question came up on one of the woodworking forums I frequent. Here is my response.

There are vintage tools of superb quality that surpass most of what is available today. There are new tools made today that far exceed the quality of virtually every other tool ever made. The question, to me anyway, is how much of this "quality" is actually needed to make furniture. Up to a certain quality point, the tool itself can hinder the execution of the work (this point is "lower" for a skilled tradesman who can make the most out of junk if forced to do so). 

Beyond this point, the quality of the tool adds very little to the actual execution of the work (perhaps speed and efficiency but, again, a skilled tradesman will be able to work quickly with just about anything of passable quality). After this, using the higher quality tool is purely for the enjoyment of the user. Not something typically associated with a professional, who must make each dollar spent on tooling count to the utmost. 

Take my planes, for example. I have a "complete" set of infills (I lack an infill miter and good rebate plane, but I'm in the market...), literally hundreds of vintage wooden planes, and a couple of LN planes. I could easily (and often do) work with nothing but the vintage wooden planes, even if they aren't of the same "high quality" that the other planes are. They work well enough to execute my designs. Anything beyond that is purely for my own gratification and doesn't actually effect my ability to do my work.