Issue 11 T.O.C. – Dr. Mike Epworth – “The Drawknife & the Butterfly Effect”

This post is part of a blog series revealing the table of contents of upcoming Issue Eleven. As is our custom, we’ll be discussing one article per weekday in order to give you a taste of what is come. 

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Dr. Mike Epworth – “The Drawknife & the Butterfly Effect”

When a butterfly flaps its wings, the resulting tiny movements of air can compound in unexpected ways to alter massive weather systems on the other side of our planet. This chaos-theory shorthand, known as “the Butterfly Effect,” can be applied to other systems as well – including woodworking. 

The initial choices that go into making an object out of wood, such as the selection of tools and materials, have the potential to alter not only the end product, but the whole mindset of manufacture. In Issue Eleven, chairmaker and author Dr. Mike Epworth explores this concept through the divergent stories of two different historic chairmakers in northern Tasmania. One, the legendary Jimmy Possum, primarily utilized the drawknife in shaping his chair components. George Peddle, on the other hand, opted to turn his parts on a lathe. Epworth follows these craftsmen and their chairs as they gained regional popularity and notes the remarkable changes to the Peddle chair as the maker adapted his methods to a machine approach, eventually leading to an industrial manufacturing process. Meanwhile, the Possum chairmaking tradition continued on the front porches and in the barns of rural farmers and makers.

This is a cautionary tale, but an optimistic one. Epworth shares a vision of community production to meet local needs, allowing individual creativity to flourish through the use of simple tools. The drawknife is an age-old implement, but it also represents a process of engaged handwork in an era of mass-manufactured goods. The choice is ours to make.

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