Toolin’ Around

Considering human traits of opposable thumbs and high intelligence, tools are important to us, and help us advance our species. During the Industrial Revolution, we built machines to save our bodies from strenuous labor and to save ourselves time. Initial machinery was usually big, heavy and cumbersome, requiring physical strength to operate. We continued to develop improved machines to make production better, quicker and easier. This development has brought us to the Technology Revolution.

Tools are more efficient than ever because of microchips and computers, plastics, lightweight building composites and cleaner burning fuels. Understanding traditional methods lets us understand why the tools and equipment of today exist, and we appreciate the work that has been put into the craft. Traditionally-taught tradesmen and tradeswomen should continue to educate themselves with the new technologies that can help them produce efficient results.

My favorite reminder of how far technology has taken us is displayed at Rod’s Saw Shop in downtown Fairbanks, Alaska. Inside the shop above the storefront windows are a suspended collection of chainsaws from yesteryear. I look at these monstrous metal beasts every time I go into the shop to get my chainsaw tuned up. Each antique chainsaw weighs 30 pounds or more and some require two men to operate. If I was born 40 or 50 years earlier, I don’t believe I’d be operating a chainsaw. With the technological advances such as plastics, we now have designed an efficient, powerful and lightweight tool that a tiny woman could spend all day operating. Remember the big, muscular lumberjacks who used hand saws and axes to clear land? Now I can easily clear an acre of land by myself with my Shindaiwa 488 chainsaw. Although, a few handsome lumberjack assistants are always nice to have around.