Thermomixed Up, Part 4
In 1982 my family moved from La Jolla, California to Ashland, Oregon.
This was only a year or two after a terrible crime, and the kids in school were still talking about it, like a ghost story. What happened was quite awful:
A man abducted, sexually tortured, and then murdered two girls; late grade school/early junior high school if memory serves.
He was caught, convicted, and and jailed.
The case so enflamed Oregon’s electorate that they re-enstated the death penalty. (Of course this could not be applied retro-actively.)
Upon moving to Ashland, my family became quite involved in the local soccer scene. I played on Ashland high school’s first team. While in college my girlfriend and I coached school kids. Each of my sisters were all-state players.
Then I discovered photography and moved away; first to New York for art school, then to the University of Oregon in Eugene to do a BFA.
In 1992 I moved back to Ashland to open my first photography studio, which like our current boat shop, was in a repurposed farm building.
I also bought some hand tools, including my first Shark-brand pull-saw and a set of chisels. There were a lot of odd and ends around the property; planks, beams, copper pipe, and sort of like I do with blogging now, I burned off a lot of surplus energy making things (aka procrastinating).
At the time I was quite terrified of power-tools, quite sure if I tried to use one I’d lose a finger or an eye or both; so I was using my hand tools for everything (for example, to make a stool, I cut a 15″ oak log in two using the pullsaw.)
My father suggested I talk to a fellow our family knew through soccer. His name was Steve, and he was, as needed, a coach, a ref, a league organizer, and of course a strong player on the men’s league team.
He was also a cabinet maker of some renown; a little workshop in the mountains of Oregon and clients in San Francisco, Portland and places even further away.
What Steve explained to me was that most modern handsaws and chisels aren’t very good. Modern tool steel is formulated with the idea that the cutting edge will be driven by machine power, not man power, and it simply can’t be sharpened to the ultra-fine edge that hand tools need.
He let me cut some wood with a few of his chisels and the experience was revelatory (some were vintage; some modern, but manufactured by small shops devoted to hand tools.) The tools cut with such ease, and required so little effort, that suddenly I was capable of a degree of precision I never would have dreamed I was capable of.
The new tools were far tool costly to contemplate owning, but Steve suggested that I prowl flee markets and garage sales and look for old chisels and saws, “It’s the old steel you want, steel that can take an edge!” he encouraged.
A few days later I was talking to my sister on the phone.
“You know it was Steve’s daughter and niece who were murdered, right?”
I had no idea.
All those soccer games and league meetings and I never had any idea. You’d think something like that would show, but it didn’t. At least not in a way I could see it.
I never talked to Steve after that day in his shop, and a couple of months later I moved to New York.
I never took Steve’s advice either. But I sometimes think of him when I’ve got my chisels out and I’m cleaning out a mortise I’ve cut with a Skilsaw.
Dave was somewhat skeptical, but after about 5 seconds he exclaimed, “You’d have to be a barbarian not to use these!”
Joe was similarly impressed. I reckon employing scrapers in place of what I usually use (a random orbital power sander) will save us somewhere between 100 and 400 hours, not so mention countless sanding discs and clouds of allergenic dust.
Why the scrapers are so effect, yet so unknown is an interesting study in how information is shared, and how norms effect behavior, which I hope to wrap my head around in an upcoming post.