Don set up his lathe and his shaving horse in a huge convention hall filled with gleaming new edge banders and state-of-the art computer-controlled machinery. He split out a billet with his hatchet, shaved off the corners with his drawknifc, chucked it up in the lathe, and started to turn. First one, then two, then a dozen people stopped to watch as Don pumped away on his primitive lathe. In minutes the crowd was packed five and six deep. Don Weber and his pole lathe were the biggest hit of the show.
Most woodworkers have a soft spot for old tools, but few know how to use them. Those of us who do have a responsibility to keep the skills of the past alive. We owe it to ourselves, our children and our grandchildren to hand down the old wavs i of working—to demonstrate the uses of old tools and tell about the quaint and curious ways our ancestors lived and worked.
Don't get me wrong, technology has its merits. I'm not about to trade my handsaw for a bow saw or rip boards from a log by hand. But there's no better way to appreciate the power and accuracy of the machines we have today than to know what it's like to work wood without them.
August 12 and 13, I'll be turning on a 120-year-old wooden treadle lathe at the (ioschcnhoppcn Folk Festival in East Greenville, Pennsylvania. Other folks will demonstrate cabinetry, rope-making, weaving, ironwork and dozens of other old-time rural crafts. August 25 through 28, Don Weber will be demonstrating his pole lathe in the American Woodworker booth at the International Woodworking Machinery & Furniture Supply Fair in Atlanta.
There may be a similar traditional woodworking demonstration near you this summer. If so, I urge you to take your kids and encourage their questions. If you practice an old-time craft, get out there and share it.
Remember that knowledge is one thing you can take with you. When skills are forgotten, they're gone. Do whatever you can to keep the old ways alive.
David Sloan Editor & IHiblisher
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