Nicholson's Short Bit on Hand Planing

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I see that this kind of stuff doesn't generate much interest, but I get that - if you don't want to do the work by hand, it's a bit of a burden. The language about doing everything by hand is misleading, though "that's what tailed apprentices are for" or "it's not important work" with the flip side of the interpretation being making stuff with gobs of exposed joints.

it would likely make everyone a better maker and provide a better understanding of how tools work (it becomes a matter of efficiency and the time commitment allows for experimenting 10 percent of the time and literally doubling productivity, and then that time spent on rough work -which has to be done relatively neatly - making the close work far easier).

The short passages in nicholson are easy for me to make deep sense of because I didn't read them first - they are still dead accurate as far as efficiency goes working entirely by hand. Had I read them two years on when still figuring out which tools should get a wixey, they would've seemed like just another set of rules. And maybe they really are just for hobbyists (I think I'd have assumed that, anyway). Brian Holcombe took a shot at working totally by hand making only higher end very crisp stuff (he lives in an affluent NYC suburb where you can actually find people who will pay for that) and found that he couldn't keep up with orders even just for very high end high value work.

Sort of a shame, but that's the way it is. I don't think the hobby is going toward more skill at this point, either, but there's no natural law that it will.
I live in UK....Whats a Wixey ?
Perhaps more interesting than the possibility of secret knowledge is the blindness to the knowledge in plain view in the chapters on geometry and layout.
They produced ways of doing things without standard measurements or instruments and with very little maths. Instead, dividers were used for precision (down to 1/64") and extending in the opposite direction they could build cathedrals - as we see with Adam's fascinating WIP! The MA thread - AKA Everyday Fan Vault Construction for Beginners.
Meanwhile our modern woodworkers struggle with Sketchup, can't use a drawing board, may not know how to work a vernier calliper or even how to use a rod!
Alchemical secrets - easy to forget that Newton was an alchemist - modern science had hardly begun. His most astonishing alchemical discovery was gravity and he made no effort to keep it secret. He was secretive about other work in progress, most likely because it wasn't going anywhere. I don't believe in lost secrets, other than locations of hidden hoards, lost recipes for beer, etc.
The secrets are hidden in the setting out as you rightly say, and they are something which I hope to find out more about in the coming months when I visit the master masons and carpenters at York and Gloucester.

I believe that there is still a plaster setting out floor for a vault at York Minster.

I've also been asked by the Worshipful Company of Carpenters to deposit my research in their archive, which I'm more than happy to do seeings they support it.
I live in UK....Whats a Wixey ?

Sorry for the delay in responding - I saw your question and forgot about it, but wanted to respond..

Wixey was a small seller who came up with all manner of digital readouts. They're low quality (i know some folks still use them). They gave people getting into woodworking the means to start seeing thousandths of TS fence set (which goes up to the push stick thread) to table saw wood to width, or angle gauges to measure the angle vs. gravity on anything on any surface, or bandsaw height or planer thickness).

I think it wasn't uncommon for folks to buy 6 or so different little digital measurement bits to use in their shops - I did it, too. All in all a waste of about $400 the TS device that I had blew through batteries fast (which wasn't a big cost, just a nuisance) and then stopped working - and that TS is long gone. The planer device quit working in a year, and the angle gauge (the only thing i may still have) no longer works regardless of battery.

I didn't really need to know the set of the TS to the thousandths, but I started woodworking being "learned" by a mechanical engineer here who makes his plans in autocad. What's nice and that fits better with the Nicholson notion here is working to a couple of thousandths more or less by eye and function of a tool and not having to check it very often because the rough work isn't expected to get to the thousandths, and the fine work is expected to fit something and look right aesthetically, not measure with calipers.

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