Popular Woodworking 2000-01 № 112, страница 31

Popular Woodworking 2000-01 № 112, страница 31









of books and magazines devoted some or all of their space to home-shop instruction and inspiration. Finally, a roaring postwar economy and generous government programs for GIs provided the final piece of the home-shop puzzle — affluence.

Home ownership is a useful barometer of a modern society's wealth. Home ownership in the United States tripled between 1890 and 1930. After World War II, housing exploded again. Between 1946 and 1949 more than 5 million houses were built in this country. By 1961, six out of every ten families owned their own home. New homeowners were young (median age of 35 in 1950) and imbued with the can-do spirit of the recent war. Millions of American men had learned practical skills in the services. Millions of American

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women had done the same in war-time industry. After the war, they focused much of their energy and ambition on their homes. Contemporary surveys found that 62 percent of home buyers claimed to have done some work on their new house themselves; 23 percent said they'd done most of it themselves.

Affluence can also be measured by increased leisure time — time that could be devoted to working in the shop. The phenomenal increases in productivity that have characterized the 20th century American economy reduced work hours and increased paychecks for millions. In 1900, for example, a manufacturing worker could expect to log a 59-hour week and be paid about $.22 an hour. By 1950, the work week had shrunk to just over 40 hours and the hourly wage increased to $1.44.

Today's Tools at 1970s Prices

The affluence that helped make home workshops possible is now reflected in the shops themselves. Today's woodworker outfitting a home shop finds a cornucopia of hand and power tools, and a wealth of peripheral equipment and hardware specially designed for wood shops — lighting, dust collectors, storage racks, workbenches, assembly tables. While the essential nature of most woodworking tools and machines has changed little since the 1950s, improvements and innovation abound in cutting-tool technology, accessory design (rip fences, miter gauges, router jigs), and a host

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Some early home woodworking machines combined two tools in one for efficiency and afford-ability (courtesy of Dana Batory).

of other areas. Hawked in home centers and shopping malls, in department stores, hardware stores, specialty woodworking stores and mail-order catalogs, and now on the internet, home-shop equipment is not hard to find. And the range of choice for price and quality has vastly increased since I set up my first shop and is exponential since my grandfather's day. The rise of inexpensive Pacific rim manufacturing has more or less frozen prices of home-shop woodworking machinery for the past 20 years. The result is almost surreal — companies have been forced to compete by improving quality at more or less fixed prices. This has, of course, turned the woodworking machinery business upside-down. My grandfather wouldn't recognize many of the names in today's tool catalogs: Jet, Makita, Hitachi, Grizzly, Sun Hill. And he'd be surprised to hear that familiar companies, such as Delta and Powermatic, sell at least some tools made in Taiwan, Mexico, or the latest up-and-coming third-world country.

Back to 1900

When I look at my workshop today, I wonder what my grandfather would make of it. As a young man in the early 1900s, he would have been astonished by the machines. But the old man I knew in the 1950s and 60s would have taken them all in stride; he owned several similar machines and most of the others that I now own were commonplace in home workshops by then. Oddly enough, what might surprise him are my hand tools, a few of which he wouldn't have seen since his youth. Like my dad, as soon as grandpa found a machine to do a job, the hand tool it replaced was consigned to gather dust on a shelf. Having grown up in such surroundings, when I started woodwork on my own in the early 1970s, it was hand tools and the traditional techniques they served that caught my interest. Inspired by Arts and Crafts precepts 100 years old, I joined a growing number of woodworkers interested in rediscovering and revitalizing

40 XXXI Popular Woodworking January 2000

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