Jul 8, 2009

Carpenters and Plinkers

Let’s say a fellow is a power tool enthusiast, presumably a carpenter.

He and his buddies study tool catalogs religiously, love to cruise hardware stores and trade shows, and can quote the characteristics of most tools by rote.

Thankfully, this fellow is good about following basic safety protocol with no problem, as are his friends (most of them, anyway.) He reads the included manuals and follows the recommended safety procedures, such as wearing eye and ear protection when using these devices and insists everyone else in the area does as well.

Unfortunately, not all of his brethren are this careful. Unbelievably, a few diehards don’t bother with such “unnecessities” as eye and ear protection. Missing digits (and pending lawsuits against manufacturers of “unsafe” tools) of a few of the real hardheaded show some are even less prudent. Thankfully, these types are a minority, but none of the group really does anything to remedy this.

He’s usually in the garage once or twice a month, sometimes more, sometimes less. So what does he do in there? Throughout the week he collects random pieces of lumber. Often, its scrap throwaway pieces. Once in a while, he’ll visit a hardware store, drool over the new tools and occasionally splurge for a piece of standard length lumber.

In the garage, drilling and cutting is done a random. A bit is picked casually and a hole bored aimlessly somewhere with little regard to placement. A chunk of wood is tossed on the table saw, an angle picked out the air and a cut make. When a piece becomes too short to cut or has too many holes, it’s disposed of. Once in a while, he’ll find a bit of junk and poke a hole in that to amuse himself. Again, safety usually isn’t a problem and he’s pretty good about keeping the area and tools cleaned up, at least better than most of his peers.

Once he started a basic woodshop project but partway through, after realizing his cutting and drilling weren’t as accurate as he thought, he quit and went back to the scrap. Most of his friends haven’t even bothered with this much.

The local hardware shop hosts classes and even sponsors woodworking shows encouraging patrons to bring in projects to demonstrate their ideas and skills, but none of these folks attend or support such activity. “Pompous”, “arrogant”, “crackpot” and “snobs” is how they describe woodworkers who use blueprints, take classes, submit entries at shows, and assert the idea that other power tool owners should do so as well. They are convinced such activity isn’t necessary to maintain their “real world” carpentry skills, provided you don’t ask them to demonstrate by showing something they’ve actually built.

Would it feel right to apply the title of “carpenter” to these fellows? Contrast this to how a serious woodworking enthusiast or professional carpenter works.

Now replace the hardware store with gun shop and public range, lumber switches to targets, replace cutting and drilling for shooting, and the woodworker’s projects and shows become shooting events and training. Note how many gun owners and plinkers follow a very similar path.

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