That Robot Took My Job! and Other Legitimate Outcries of Woodworkers

The place of technology in woodworking, and in any craft, has always been a controversial issue. How much automation is too much automation? Can technology in the woodshop be dehumanizing? And as woodworking technology becomes more and more sophisticated, won’t woodworking talent, at least partially, disappear?

Wendell Berry, notable author, poet, and farmer, weighed in on the issue. He holds that we need criteria for evaluating good and bad technology. Good technology is serviceable by you or people who live around you. You or someone you know and trust should be able to fix it when it breaks. Good technology facilitates humanness. That is, good technology doesn’t turn us into machines, it allows us to focus on the work that makes us human, and the work that we do so well because we are human.

So, here’s an example of what we believe to be a good technology: A carpenter’s clamp. I can fix it, mostly because it’s so simple. It helps us create things, and creation is one of the purest human experiences. And, it doesn’t rob the enjoyment from the process of building, of creating. Conclusion: Clamp = Good technology. Our thanks to the good people who invented the screw and the lever, and the clever fellow who put them together.

At Bourget Design & Millwork, we make a concerted effort to keep the “man” (or woman) in “craftsmanship.” Admittedly, we do have a pretty nice CNC router (that’s a computerized router), but we haven’t used it to replace anyone, nor has it made our work less fulfilling. This shop is chock-full of chisels and handplanes; precision squares and calipers; and, of course, lots of clamps.