By Gabe Ross, Farm Manager
When is the last time you saw a jobsite with no power tools? While some hand tools like hammers, screwdrivers, and levels are still a common sight, lots of things are done with power tools. Whether it be by circular saws, drills, impact drivers, or any of the myriad of other power tools available today, many hand tools have been replaced and forgotten. Here at Gallant Farm, we’re trying to change that a little bit. We’ve been building our new corn crib almost completely with hand tools. Our mission here is not only to preserve antiques and stories, but also old and forgotten skills. We try to learn not only how to use these old tools but how to sharpen and care for them so that knowledge stays alive and can be passed along. While they had some power tools available in the 1930’s most farms didn’t have the electricity needed to run them and cordless power tools definitely weren’t an option. Farms needed hammers, bit braces, hand saws, planes and chisels (and the list goes on and on) to accomplish building tasks. While hand tools can take longer to accomplish some tasks there are many advantages to using them. Here are a few.
- They’re Eco Friendly – The carbon footprint created when using hand tools is much smaller than that of power tools, especially if you use antique hand tools that can often be refurbished and usually work much better than modern versions.
- Safety – Hand tools can be safer than power tools in that things move at a slower pace. Injuries can obviously still happen but just like with power tools they usually involve improper use or maintenance.
- They’re Quiet – Hand tools are silent, which makes working outdoors more peaceful especially in a park setting when visitors are walking around trying to experience history or nature.
- Cut the cord – When working on a farm you are often far from any outlets so working with hand tools can be very liberating. There are no long chords, batteries or generators to lug around and keep you tied down. A hand saw will work all day with no interruptions by a dead battery, and it doesn’t matter if it’s freezing cold or burning hot outside. Good hand tools also last generations and need nothing but a little oil and occasional sharpening, while the life of a lithium ion battery is limited to a certain number of charges and can go bad after only a few years of heavy use.
- Good Exercise – Hand tools give you a workout but are not straining to use like power tools can be. David Tressemer put it well in The Scythe Book, “Maintenance of the machine means money spent; Maintenance of the human body means health gained.” When using hand tools, you are the power source and become part of the tool.
- They cost less – Hand tools are much cheaper to purchase than power tools, especially if you buy used ones that might need some refurbishing.
All that being said, I’m not saying everybody should give up on their power tools. They can be helpful in many situations and can considerably speed some work up. I just want people to know there are alternatives that work just as well and that they shouldn’t be paralyzed if left without power tools. Come out to Gallant Farm and see a variety of hand tools in action and feel free to ask questions when you are here if you see a tool you’d like to know more about.
This photo shows the siding being chamfered with a jack plane. Click here to see the video. I restored the plane that was made by the Ohio Tool Co. in the late 19th or early 20th century. These were made in one of two factories, one in Columbus and the other in Auburn New York. The chamfer on the siding will allow air to pass through the ear corn so it can dry while shedding most moisture from rain.