Sometime ago, I read something online, magazine, somewhere.

It was the story of somebody who ran a chair making shop at Williamsburg (or similar venue). The shop owner went to use a hand held frame saw to cut out the shape of the chair bottom. A visitor to the shop suggested that the owner purchase a band saw, that would be easier. The shop owner replied that, as that cut was done so infrequently, and his shop was so small, he was way better off without a motorized band saw taking up space in the shop. The hand saw took virtually no storage space. It was well worth the extra few minutes it took to cut out the chair bottom by hand.

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That story is in the top of my head as I try to consolidate my small workshop. Less is more. Sometimes using the basics can have awesome results in a complex world.

I'm working on a business presentation to a public audience, celebrating the benefits of back to the basics and simplicity. I'd like to reference this story, but I can't for the life of me find the original. Anybody know a source for this? Woodworking magazine article somewhere? Online forum? Anybody remember this?

Many thanks!

  • If you contact the mazines I'm sure they could tell you if it was theirs and if so which issue it was in. (I remember seeing it, but my archives are no better organized than yours are.)Though the story doesn't really need to be more specificbthan whag you've quoted, for most presentations; it's just an analogy, after all.
    – keshlam
    Nov 8, 2015 at 21:47
  • Ooooh, you remember seeing that?.. Is my rendition essentially accurate? Or is my early onset of Alzheimer's messing me up again?
    – zipzit
    Nov 8, 2015 at 22:05
  • Close enough; it's certainly something many have said, though not all. Simple isn't always better, but neither iS complex. I'm a firm believer thst you should be comfortable with multiple tools, if possible, and that the best one at any moment is the one that best fits your way of doing this particular task, with bonus points for being on hand or affordable. Table saw, bandsaw, bow saw, euro or oriental style handsaws, ... all have their strengths and weakneses. Tools for tasks. "Screwdrivers make lousy hammers, but hammers make worse screwdrivers."
    – keshlam
    Nov 8, 2015 at 22:43
  • Possibly related, but you may be interested in lowtechmagazine.com
    – iLikeDirt
    Nov 8, 2015 at 23:17
  • I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because the OP is looking for a reference to an article that may or may not exist, not asking about do-it-yourself home improvement.
    – Tester101
    Nov 9, 2015 at 12:07

1 Answer 1


It's a practical reality, in any case. But if you have a business case out of getting converts, good luck with that. I've mentioned them a few times here and folks get very defensive that the "only" way to do something is with power tools.

If you can track down the old tools mailing list (e-mail) (many web-links seem to have rotted, but it runs off a server at Cornell, last I recall - try here, it moved when I wasn't looking (quite a while, actually) http://swingleydev.com/archive/faq.html) you can find a bunch of folks that have the religion, and most current Windsor chair makers do.

In many cases I can do things faster (total time) with the hand tools if I'm making one of something. Additional benefits are that the entire shop fits in a smaller space than if you need room to push sticks through machines, and some things come out with a better quality of finish due to not having rotating cutter bits. But you have to be able to make your tools sharp...

Listening to music while working and having to work harder to cut body parts off are additional advantages.

I don't really see it as "back to basics and simplicity" but as "choosing the right tool for the job." One aspect that scares many folks away is that you may need to actually practice some before you can (say) make a pretty much 90 degree cut freehand (or whatever particular thing you're doing.) SO if you are only EVER making one of something, they probably are not faster (or you need to stick to a mitre-box, for that example.) There are certain things that cannot really be done the same way with power tools, though many have been adapted to methods that are more power-tool friendly. But some adapt poorly (thus the Windsor chair folks.)

  • @keshlam is exactly correct. I'm working on an analogy. My presentation is to software developers, not woodworkers. Software has become crazy with a whole ton of new customized tools / plugins / github libraries, that really fog the brain. Some tools are awesome, but others not so much. I wanted to use the woodworking analogy and wanted to be sure I had my facts straight.
    – zipzit
    Nov 8, 2015 at 22:45
  • Possibly Mike Dunbar's Windsor Chairmaking book, per this archived message?? swingleydev.com/ot/get/7011/thread/#7011
    – Ecnerwal
    Nov 8, 2015 at 22:52

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