Seniors Woodcrafting

I winced to think of the elder in the first photo stabbing the knife into his hand, but realized that it’s not going to happen. Woodcrafting as opposed to ordinary woodworking is a matter of control


As any experienced cook knows, you avoid accidents with knives by limiting how far the knife can travel. But a cook is usually happy with an accuracy that you need to slice coleslaw.

Senior wood carvingThis elder is carving to an accuracy that you can barely see. If you’re carving the feathers on a wooden bird, a mistake the thickness of a sheet of paper looks wrong – and you can’t put back wood that you have cut off.

Lady carving woodLook at the control he has. He anchors both forearms to his knees. So his hands can’t move very far. That’s still too far, so the carver has his right thumb resting on the wood. That means that the carving tool can’t move very far at all. But a beginner could still get a cut that is wrong by several thicknesses of paper. The final secret is to keep the carving tools so sharp that you don’t need to use force. The tool can’t slip because he isn’t pushing hard enough to lose control.

So why isn’t the lady on the right using these control techniques? Simple – before you can start carving detail you have to rough out the wood. You need much less control for the rough work.

Is this a good hobby for seniors? Yes. It will give you back your manual dexterity, and compensate for shaky hands.

In an earlier post, I showed you some old hand tools. I could never use the plane perfectly because of the grain of the wood. It’s much easier to use a motorized hand tool. There are a couple of hand tools that have been motorized for centuries, though the power supply was the human foot. You either used your ankle movement on a treadle, or you pushed down on a beam of wood with your leg.

Senior wood turningI’m talking about pottery and wood turning.

I’ve only done a little wood turning, and it still needs an appreciation of the grain of the wood to get good work. That is because the craftsman still controls the cutting tools. I’ve done a lot more turning metal. The beauty of a metal turning lathe is that you control the cutting tool with fine screw threads.

I think if I ever took up wood turning I would cheat and use a metal-turning lathe. But that would remove all the joy of craftsmanship. If I turned a wooden bowl to an accuracy of one-thousandth of an inch, my reaction would be “So what!”

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