On Monday, as we set out on the second leg of our trip home from Woodworking in America I stopped by one of my favorite coffee shops in Salem, VA to pick up a bag of beans. This coffee shop has some very fine single origin roasts (I’m partial to the Ethiopian Yirgacheffe) but I always ask for the Mill Mountain Blend when I’m buying some for the road. I do this because I want to see what the “house blend” has to offer and to experience its particular flavor.
I’ve begun to hear the terms “blended” and “hybrid” generously sprinkled over the woodworking as a way of categorizing and explaining the work that goes on in shops where power tools and hand tools are integrated in some way. I have heard these words used defiantly, apologetically and sometimes accusatorily . I empathize with the first, sympathize with the second and have no patience for the last.
I must confess that I’ve never been one for categorical thinking. It rubs me the wrong way to think that if we can name something we can understand it (or, more often than not, disregard it entirely) and I would rather hear the story behind something than learn its definition. This goes doubly for people, and most woodworkers that I know are people.
At this moment I find it advantageous and fulfilling to work mostly with hand tools, but I can say this – after spending a the weekend submerged in woodworking culture I’m thankful for the diversity I found in that convention center in Covington, KY. I’m glad there were booths showing off band saws across the way from hollows and rounds. I’m happy I had the opportunity to hear Wilbur Pan’s thoughts about Japanese woodworking tools and the ruminations of Western plane makers under the same roof. I’m glad I could represent two different corners of the publishing world and find common threads between the pages of Popular Woodworking and Mortise & Tenon Magazine. Whether your tools have tails or not, we’re more alike than we are different.
The house blend at Woodworking in America was pretty good. I wouldn’t mind a second cup.