A Tip from “The Little Red Book” can help your hand tool work

No.  Not “The Little Red Book” by Chairman Mao.  “The Little Red Book” by Harvey Penick.  You might ask, “who is Harvey Penick?”  Well, Harvey was a legendary golfing coach.  Then you might ask “what the hell does this have to do with hand tool work?”  Patience…

Harvey recognized that many golfers had the problem of allowing their elbows to come away from their body during their downswing.  This action causes loss of control of the swing path resulting in wildly unpredictable ball flight.  I know this first hand, as this is my second biggest problem while playing golf.  The problem results when the golfer attempts to swing the club using only his arms, not by moving his body.  Harvey advised that this is a “must fix” problem!  And this is how it relates to woodworking…

Many woodworkers, either due to inexperience or reduced mobility, attempt to do fine hand tool tasks while using only their arms.  Tasks like honing, paring and planing (especially when using long planes) are best accomplished with the arms held close to the body.  This not only promotes better tool control, it allows the craftsperson to use body weight and the large muscles of the legs to his or her advantage.

So, the next time you’re standing at your workbench, assume an athletic posture, bend those knees a little, keep those elbows in and “lean” into your work.  You should notice an immediate improvement in control and find that your work requires far less effort.

Thanks for the tip, Harvey!

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2 Comments on “A Tip from “The Little Red Book” can help your hand tool work”

  1. Derek Long Says:

    This is so true! I catch myself doing this every time I notice my saw tracking off square. Look, there’s that damned elbow flaring out again.

  2. larry Says:

    my first biggest problem with golf is – arriving at the course !

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