“A Router Would Do That Much Faster”

Note: The content of this post has been moved to my new blog.  You can find the new post here:

http://brfinewoodworking.com/how-fast-were-period-woodworkers/

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8 thoughts on ““A Router Would Do That Much Faster”

  1. I enjoyed the article – fascinating. However, without wishing to be a pedant, I’d like to comment on ‘journeyman’. This is from Wikipedia, which seems accurate, in in this case.
    “The word “journeyman” comes from the French word journee, meaning the period of one day; this refers to their right to charge a fee for each day’s work. They would normally be employed by a master craftsman, but would live apart and might have a family of their own. A journeyman could not employ others. In contrast, an apprentice would be bound to a master, usually for a fixed term of seven years, and lived with the master as a member of the household, receiving most or all of their compensation in the form of food and lodging.”

    • You are 100% correct. The English word “journey” comes from the French “journee”. The term refers to the period of a day as you alluded to, whether that be a day of travel, a day of work, etc. So the term “journeyman” basically means one who is paid by the day and/or journey’s to find his day’s pay. You explained it much better than I did.

  2. I’d love to take part in another Speed Challenge. Depending on materials, it seems doable to build a small dresser like that in a week and a half. I wouldn’t want to work in hard maple, but walnut or cherry, with pine or white cedar secondary wood, would go together very quickly.

    Zach

    • Zach,
      I’m with you, I think it is possible for someone who is really fast to do it. But starting from rough sawn lumber, planing everything by hand, gluing and truing up the wide panels, cutting all the case dovetails, dados, sliding dovetails, rabbets, etc., assembling the case, building the base and feet, making and fitting the moldings, making and fitting all the drawer frames, making all the drawers, adding the back boards; that’s a lot of work to finish all by hand in 5 days. Remember you need to leave at least a half week for the finishing ;). I’m not saying it can’t be done. I’m just suggesting that one will have to work plenty fast to do so. I’m not sure I could complete the entire build from rough sawn lumber completely by hand in 40 hours. I’m certainly going to give it a try though ;). More to come on that in the future.

  3. I found your post interesting, because I have known a couple of old craftsman, like a blacksmith for instance, who do things quickly, like shape metal, that almost looked like magic. They had spent most of their live doing it, and often didn;t even need to think much about how they did this. As a similar example, my father, who is a retired telephone man, developed his skills during the era before glass fiber, and computers. He will sit there and talk to you, and strip wire with his pocket knife incredibly fast, and never miss, cut the wire, or himself. It fascinated me to watch him as a kid. So a cabinetmaker who could build a chest of drawers as fast you said they could, makes sense. We have grown up in an age where hand tools have tended to be a secondary skill, if at all. So an old craftsman speed and skill I guess would seem unbeleivable.

    • Mark,
      You hit it dead on. Experience is the best teacher of all. I think I might have alluded to that in my last blog post ;).

  4. Bob,
    I think something that you have mentioned a few times is what has people today viewing handtools as slow and outdated obscure tools for people who long for yesteryear. Specifically, approaching handtools form a machine background. There is a tendency to think every board needs to be exactly 3/4″, that every dovetail has to be a thing of beauty, and every surface needs to be smooth and polished. I get some weird looks when I put a pine frame in something, or use poplar for drawer boxes. You mean its not “solid” cherry. Ugg, glad you stay up beat. You’ve been doing this much longer than me and it wears on me. OK, end of my discombobulated rant.

    • Excellent point. I’ve always said that using hand tools effeciently isn’t just about learning the skills to do the task. You absolutely need to put in the time with the tools in order to build the hand skills. But you also need to train your brain to think about things differently. The hand tool mindset needs to be very different from the machine mindset in order to work effeciently.

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