They come in all shapes and sizes. Oddly, at least I think it’s odd, it seems many of the woodworkers who work wood using traditional methods and tools seem to be in the U.K. I don’t know why this should be other than they are ahead of the U.S. in a woodworker’s Renaissance. Perhaps the U.K. has degenerated to the point that people are looking back more than they’re looking forward. Or maybe that’s just my philosophical way of dealing with what I consider to be a disparity. I’m not saying there are not fine craftsmen in the U.S. There are. The ones I like best hail from the U.K. I’m not particularly an Anglophile so I don’t think that’s it. If I have a propensity for that sort of thing it would have to be that I am a Nipponophile. Japanese hand tools are fascinating to me and so much more logical than western tools in many ways. Japanese planes and saws cut on the pull stroke rather than the push stroke. It’s easier to pull a straight line through a piece of wood than it is to push a straight line through a piece of wood. It also allows for thinner blades when you’re pulling as opposed to the thicker blade needed for pushing. But wait! There’s more. The pull stroke uses more of the body’s larger muscles.
Alas, I digress. This is about craftsmen, not their tools, although it’s extremely difficult to separate the two. I failed to mention in the last post on the spoon I made where the tools came from. I bought the set of three from Robin Wood, a craftsman in the U.K. It’s not that there are not tools for sale in the U.S. There are. If they’re worth purchasing, there is a long wait list and they can be very expensive. Perhaps because in the U.S. god’s name is Buck. I don’t know. Maybe it’s because citizens of our great nation often have more money then brains. Again, I don’t know. What I do know is why I chose Robin Wood. I read a story about an axe that he’d ordered from a craftsman who had copied Robin’s axe design and made something exceptional, calling it the Robin Wood axe, or something like that. Forgive me for being too lazy to look it up now.
The story goes like this: Robin took delivery of the coveted axe after a year of waiting. He loved it so much that for two weeks he refused to part with it. Took it home with him from his shop every night. After two weeks he left it in the shop. Upon arriving the next morning, to the shop he never locked, he found the axe had been stolen. In these times that’s not news. People want something for nothing and are willing to take it from someone else if the opportunity presents itself. The news is that Robin posted an open letter to the thief explaining how much the axe meant to him and how it couldn’t possibly mean that much to the thief. It doesn’t end there. He offered to forgive the thief and give him free admittance to one of his spoon carving courses if the crook would return it. I doubt he had the chance to give the crook the course, but that’s not the point. The point was/is his willingness to forgive. To cancel the debt and to offer the thief something of value that might turn his life around.
That sealed the deal for me. I like Robin Wood though I’ve never met him. I like him for his gentle spirit and generous nature. So I bought the set of tools from him because of who he is and what he does. The fact that they are good tools and a good value is just a plus for me. I’d have bought them anyway, just to support his humanity.
I’ve mentioned Paul Sellers in the past. Another traditional woodworker from the U.K. who is a fine human being. There are few real craftsmen in the world. It’s nice to find them. It’s serendipitous to find some who are also wonderful, exemplary human beings as well. I support them as best I can because we need more people like that and fewer people who take things that don’t belong to them.