Sunday, March 27, 2011

Hand Tools: Out With the Old, In With the New

I've known for a long time that guitar building will be an activity I'll pursue until failing eyesight, a wayward bus or the grim reaper himself finally put an end to my efforts. Despite that certainty, I've always had great difficulty parting with my hard-earned cash to build a collection of high quality hand tools - second-hand shops and flea markets have been the source of many of them until recently.

I've justified my tight-fisted attitude by reasoning that spending five times as much on a decent hand plane, for example, would be unlikely to result in a corresponding five-fold improvement in the standard of my instruments. While there's still truth in that argument at a superficial level, thinking a little more deeply on the subject leads me to conclude that there are other more subtle benefits to owning quality tools beyond their ability to perform their intended function so much more effectively than the poor substitutes I've made do with in the past. 

In fact, finally clicking the "Buy Now" button on a set of LMI's chisels and a couple of Veritas hand planes - a low-angle jack plane and a #4 smoother - has been beneficial on many levels.  The simple fact that my chisels and planes are now of a much higher quality has instilled a sense of pride in their ownership - a new and pleasurable experience!  That in turn has added to my enjoyment of the job at hand which in itself can only have a positive effect on the standard of my work.  I might also add that acquiring quality tools and experiencing the warm glow their ownership brings has provided the incentive to develop a much more disciplined approach where sharpening is concerned - I've been pretty lazy in the past on that score.

When I'm about to undertake a task demanding the utmost care and attention to detail, I find that clearing my workbench of its usual accumulation of tools and firing up the shop vacuum seems to unclutter my mind as well as my immediate work area; I seem better able to concentrate and my chances of success with whatever task I'm about to begin seem vastly improved as a result.  I'm finding that the joy of using a well-tuned, good quality plane or a sharp, finely made chisel is having a similarly positive effect on my attitude and ability to focus.  Any doubts I might have had brought about by the not-insignificant cost - including the predictably horrendous shipping charges from the U.S. and Canada - are fading rapidly.  Besides (I tell myself!) my amateur status shouldn't stand in the way of my pursuit of professional results.

If there's a downside to all this - other than the hit my wallet has taken of late - it's that I can no longer blame poor quality tools for any work I judge to be less than perfect!