Monday, February 2, 2015

hand tools

Hand Tools: Their Ways and Workings is a beautiful soft cover book written and illustrated by Aldren A. Watson in 1982. This is now my go-to guide for hand tools. Watson is clearly a lifelong user and fan of hand tools and in this book he has poured out all of what he knows, illustrated clearly and concisely with beautiful hand-drawn illustrations of the tools, their parts, their use, and even care and sharpening. The appendixes even include measured drawings and instructions for building your own jigs, wooden hand tools, a work bench (including a version that folds up in a closet for the apartment dwellers) and patterns for replacement handles.

The book is organized by tool types. Each tool is described in detail, with cut away drawings of the innards, and its workings so the tool owner fully understands the tool and how it functions. Watson explains, and often illustrates the variations found in the tool, what the different options and adjustments are good for and then goes on to describe how the tool is used. These descriptions are full of examples, and advice ton the best ways to work, often with illustrated techniques, tips, and time savers along the way. For example, in the discussion about a spirit level there is a great tip for leveling a wooden table that doesn't include cutting the legs or using a matchbook. Fantastic!

If you are just starting out with woodworking tools, or if you've been using them for years, like I have, this book has something (many things!) for you. If you've been outfitting your shop with the latest power tools you see on The New Yankee Workshop and shows like it, you may want to take look at this book and see what hand tools can do, often times with less effort, less set-up time, less sawdust, and better results.

Aldren Watson was a professional illustrator, woodworker, print maker and book binder. He died just a little while ago, in 2013 at 95.

Read this book. And then set it in your workshop for reference.


I don't think I've read a Michael Crichton novel since Andromeda Strain, and I'm pretty sure that was in high school. Crichton has been really popular in his long career and lots of his books have been made into movies, including, Andromeda Strain, Westworld, Terminal Man, Timeline, and Jurassic Park.

Airframe was originally published in 1995, but still holds up pretty well. There are some things that twang or the nineties, but those are pretty easy to overlook. Airframe moves fast and is easy to read. I found myself very quickly understanding the man characters and the personalities that drove the story, but the intrigue and mystery was pretty well laid out too. One of the things I especially liked is when the protagonist got to a point where she thought she understood what was really going on, I did too. I felt like both she and I were pretty sure, but what was fun was, if she was right, what was she going to do with the information? Even though I feel like I figured it out, I was still surprised by the ending. Nicely done.

I think I'll have to look up some more of Crichton at the library, or keep an eye out at the book sales. We have a copy of Prey around the house somewhere, but my wife said she didn't like it. I'll have to ask her again. Airframe was a fun one.  I sat down to read the last 100 pages this weekend, which I don't often do. I especially enjoyed the detail of what goes into building and maintaining a commercial plane.