I would estimate that I am doing 85-90% of my work with hand tools these days. Because of this, I am constantly looking for better lighting so I can truly see my work. Lately, I haven't even been turning on my overhead fluorescent lights, instead favoring the incandescent work light right over the bench. I point the light at the white ceiling and work with only the reflected light. Sometimes, I'll turn the bulb right on the work for a spotlight effect. It is really amazing how little light you need to woodwork, and I can't help but think of my forefathers in the cabinet shops working in the waning light of day.
I can't really put my finger on it, but there is something very calming about working in a semi-dark shop. It feels more intimate, and that it would be wrong to make a lot of noise—like I might wake someone—so it seems that this low lighting actually lends itself to hand work, which is quieter than power tool work. The weather is currently too cold for me to open my garage door, and the two windows I do have shed some natural light on things but not quite enough; hence the incandescent task lights.
All of this preamble leads up to an experience from this weekend. I was working in my shop most of the day on my Wood Whisperer Guild build table with only this one light on over the bench. I continued to work until just before the sun went down when I took a break to walk the dog. That led to dinner, and a few other things in the house, so I was not able to get back down to the shop until it was fully dark outside. As I walked through the door into the shop, I was greeted by this sight:
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Behold my shrine to hand tool woodworking! How can you not be inspired to produce your best work when confronted with this setting!
This "Hand Tool School" series is provided courtesy of Shannon Rogers, a/k/a The Renaissance Woodworker. Rogers is founder of The Hand Tool School, which provides members with an online apprenticeship that teaches them how to use hand tools and to build furniture with traditional methods.
Shannon Rogers started woodworking by trying to build a proton pack, and has been in love with the craft ever since. He runs The Renaissance Woodworker website which is dedicated to spreading the love about hand tool woodworking. He is also the head glue pot keeper at The Hand Tool School where teaches thousands of woodworkers on 6 continents (still trying to find somebody in Antarctica) how to cast off the power tool oppressors and build "the hard way".
By day Shannon is the Director of Marketing for J. Gibson McIlvain, a lumber company founded in 1798 that supplies high quality hardwoods from all over the world to everyone from Calvin Klein, the New York Yankees, and the US Government. He is a wood nerd through and through and often finds reasons to inject latin botanical names into everyday conversation.