Vintage Vs. Modern The debate rages, (but in a nice sort of way) A quick read on one guy's take.
A fellow recently inquired about some planes for sale and was questioning the desirability of new, modern planes vs. the old vintage stuff hat folks like us sometimes pick up in yard and garage sales, eBay and maybe from grandpas estate. By new and modern, I'm not really talking about big box junk that you can get at the HD or Lowes for $49.99. I'm referencing the Lie Nielsen, Veritas or even the Bridge City products that cost a day's or even 2 day's pay. Lots of folks would make the investment, some not. The following short essay explains one guy's take.
There is some debate over the quality of modern tools in general but it really boils down to preference. Modern tools as those I mentioned are precision made using modern metallurgic compounds, computerized machining techniques and laser based measurements. They generally come from the factory ready to use with only the tiniest bit of fine tuning required. The tools I sell are of course vintage, probably hand cast for the most part and hand machine fitted parts and hand tuned. I'd guess that precision was a bit less of an issue back in 1920 but craftsmen relied on their own experience and expertise, not the tool, to make great things out of wood. Flatness was a relative term and the blade only as sharp as it needed to be for the project. I don't think the craftsmen of yesteryear got as hung up over those terms as many folks do today because they were indeed craftsmen, relying on their own skill rather than a piece of iron. They didn't have time to waste on endlessly lapping the plane bottom to perfect flatness or polishing the backside of an iron to a mirror-like finish. However, comparing those tools to those made today is akin to comparing a Model T to a Tesla...two different worlds. So when I say it's a matter of preference, it's more of what you value.
Using old tools gives me a connection to the past and a feeling that I'm actually working with something that someone 100+ years past worked with. New modern tools may be more precise and refined but the old tools have a history that the new modern tool won't have for generations...maybe never. But, like with the electric tool user, it's a personal preference and there is nothing wrong with using new modern tools if that's what you like or using old tools if it floats your boat. One gives the user pleasure one way, the other gives pleasure a different way.
Just yesterday I drilled holes in asphalt...a task that took less than a minute with an electric impact drill. It probably would have taken half an hour with a non-powered hand drill. Sometimes the efficiency of the tool is more important than its history and that's where the modern planes have the advantage.
So, I will step off my podium and suggest to you that a new, modern tool is designed for efficiency and precision are fine. But if you want history, pick yourself a nice vintage plane that has a story to tell. Just remember that as much of a story it already has, your life with it, adds to it's history, regardless of when it was made. What you do with it is up to you. But I know what my heart tells me to do.