Hand Tools – Purposeful Imperfection

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“Good Materials” (207) introduces the concept of selecting material that are easy to cut on site without expensive machinery.

Power Tools are not always the answer.

When building on a small scale, power tools can be more of a nuisance than a help. By the time you set up a table saw and find the extension cord, you could have cut the wood with a Japanese hand saw. You also have time to ponder what you are doing with a hand saw; you make mistakes real quick with a power saw.

 

There is another equally important facet to this pattern, the purposeful imprecision and character that sets apart hand-made objects from their machine-made counterparts.

When carving and finishing wood, only hand-tools “honor” or bend with the grain of the wood. This natural variation adds an additional level of depth and detail not found in machine-made items. Other hand crafting includes soft rounded corners and chamfered edges, which make for much more “touchable” wood than the sharp corners of machine-cut wood. Also, hand carved finishes create fine detail in otherwise flat and smooth areas.

Therefore:

Before assuming that you need lots of special power tools for your homebuilding project, think about whether it’s practical to use simple hand tools for many jobs.

 

 

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For wood surfaces that people routinely come into physical contact with, always try to shape and finish the wood with hand tools.  Hand carved wood has a unique depth and texture that invites being touched. The purposeful imperfection of hand tools is an important means to achieve timeless architecture.

Hand tools adds a huge amount of fine detail to “Half Inch Trim” (240).

Gary Zuker is a Senior Systems Administrator at the University of Texas, Austin. In 1989 he built a house outside of Austin. Inspired and guided by "A Pattern Language", he developed 12 new patterns during the process of building his house.
Gary Zuker

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