Facile Bonum Est

In the early days of developing a Folklife program for a governmental agency, a planner in another department asked how we came up with so many neat program ideas. We were flattered by the compliment, but my colleague and I looked at each other, hemmed and hawed a bit, and then expressed our formula: 

” Simple; easy, is good.”

“So- Facile Bonum Est?” – Easy (or simple) is good?” The little epigram became the motto of our center and the guide for all our programs. Avoid over-complication. I carved a simple banner with that on it for our office.

Avoiding complicating things applies all over: from plot complications in novels, cooking, folklife programs, and of course, my favorite woodwork. 

You can’t put too much complication into a gouge. You might alter the handle, the tang, or the steel, but the essential tool seems to have been the same since Roman times. You can, of course, complicate sharpening. And that’s what many people have done. As a carver, it’s your choice how deep in the weeds you’d like to go with that. Up to that point, the complications are a personal and additive choice. 

When we come to power tools, it’s another story. Manufacturers add on “improvements” that promise to improve the quality of the product.

A few years ago, my ancient Delta power planer bit the dust. It had about twenty years of hard duty on it, planing everything: pine, oak, cherry, lots of mahogany, sassafras, and more. In the parlance – it owed me nothing. Too many parts were shot to consider a rebuild, so I bought a new planer.

The new planer was very well-reviewed online and in woodworking magazines. It had several new features that promised to make my woodworking experience incredible. Over about three years, those new features made my woodworking experience incredibly miserable. Last fall, I sat down to weep over some locally cut pine stock that looked ruined by the great planer. I called someone up who loved all the widgets and told him he could pick this up on Wednesday morning before the trash got picked up for a reasonable price; free. I just wanted it off my property and out of my shop. The unique features just never worked for me and seemed to get in my way. Critically, they were not optional.

The new planer is a Hitachi, powerful, simple. No doodads to get in the way.

A big part of why most of us work in wood is the sheer pleasure that comes from just doing it. Keep it simple – “Facile Bonum Est.”

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