Several months ago, I began this hand tool only journey and I started with a moderately respectable collection of hand tools, most of them inherited from my wife's grandfather Setles. Since I started that journey I have learned so much I hadn't grasped before. This experiment of working only with hand tools has made me a better woodworker over all, and when I return to my hybrid ways, some electron power, some sweat power, I know I'll take the lessons with me that I have learned.
I find myself looking at wood differently, I pay more attention to the grain and quality. I see things I did not see before, and I find myself naturally doing things that I had to really think about how to do in the past. I have deepened my understanding of the process of working wood, and that in itself has changed my perspective. I started making sawdust around ten years ago. I sometimes say that I'm self taught because I never took an official class that told me a thing, but calling myself self taught is a selfish thing as I have let everything be my teacher. From the stacks and stacks of woodworking magazines in my filing cabinet, to the woodworking books I can pile to about three feet high. From the great PBS shows of New Yankee Workshop and Woodwright's Shop, to the internet with countless podcasts, youtube videos and blogs. I have been a student of everything.
Woodworking feels different to me now, there's a little bit of maturity hat has taken place, some growing up has happened. Would it have happened without this process? Who knows. But for the first time I feel like I am advancing past the stage of being a perpetual master-less apprentice, and beginning to head into journeyman's territory. It's difficult to say or make that assessment of yourself, but I'm noticing a difference. I know that I'm not the same woodworker I was a year ago, and I'm not sure I could just say that from year to year in the past. That feels significant to me.
The other part of walking this hand tool journey has been the opportunity to fill out my hand tool collection. In the past I have gotten a new tool once a year, tax return time, a table saw, band saw, power sander, whatever. But spending 20 or 30 dollars here and there on a plane or some chisels or whatever is not the same as dropping one hundred or two hundred dollars or more. Thus I have been able to gather many new options and tools in the past several months.
One tool I have searched for and could not find has been a doweling plate. I am interested in doing some drawboring on the legs of the joinery bench and I pretty much strongly dislike the dowels you purchase from Home Depot or Menards. I've searched on the internet and some of the high end tool manufacturers like Lie Nielsen and I have found some, but not at a price I'm willing to pay, antique stores and eBay have yielded nothing as well. So what's a guy to do? Make one himself ofcourse.
If you can't find what you need, sometimes you're better off just making what you need.