I am a writer and composer, and have been woodworking for about 30 years both as a hobby and professionally.
Using plywood doesn't necesarily make things cheaper. The desk I'm sitting at as I write this is made largely of 3/4" oak veneer plywood which runs about $40.00 a sheet. There was also solid oak involved as well. While I made the desk much cheaper than I could buy it, it was hardly made on the cheap. As a bonus, it is also custom fit and custom designed to suit not only my needs but also my work area. There is nothing shoddy about it. The oak veneer finished just as nicely as the solid oak elements.
I don't limit myself in materials. If oak plywood seems like the best choice I use it. If it's not right for the project I don't. It's as simple as that. And oh yeah, I make a lot of "fine" furniture, some of which contains as much as 80% oak plywood. I agree with Saschafer. That which makes furniture "fine" has more to do with workmanship than material.
Okay, I rarely use the guard and splitter, and I know that I should. I make no excuses. I will say that for at least half of the work I do on the table saw, it tends to get in the way. I do not stand where a piece of wood kicked back can hit me. I also use push sticks that I make myself. These pushsticks get replaced often because they get chewed up by the blade. Imagine if I didn't use them! I use fences, finger boards, and am constantly aware of the blade. I once worked as a machinist and saw many terrible accidents occur to co-workers. I never had one. Why? because I was terrified of the machines. I still have a healthy respect for the machines I work with.
I have had one accident with my saw. I was too tired, too overwrought, and upset about something while I was working. In other words I had no business in the shop in the first place. The saw was powering down and I thoughtlessly reached down to brush away debris. I nipped the end of my second finger. Thanks to a skilled surgeon, the only evidence of the mishap is an indent on the end of that finger.
Something else that needs to be stressed. Wear your hearing protection! Table saws generate a lot of decibles and can permenently damage hearing. Tinnitus (a constant ringing in the ears) is a growing problem with people who work around noisy environments. Yeah, you're probably saying that it's only a few minutes here and there, but trust me, an instant can produce ear damaging tinnitus, and once you get it, you have it for the rest of your life.
When I was about ten years old, I was in Cub Scouts. One day my den mother told us that when we met the following week we were to bring a stool to sit on. I was heart broken. I didn't have a stool, and growing up generally poor, we couldn't just simply go out and buy one. My mom talked to my Great Grandfather, who was a carpenter. A couple of days later, I was in his basement workshop. He pointed to a pile of lumber and told me my stool was in there, we just had to bring it out. He proceeded to pull out boards, and after a bit of measuring, we went to the table saw. About 45 minutes later, I had a brand new stool to sit on. I was amazed that a pile of what looked like junk wood could become a pierce of furniture just like that.
Years later, having lost my job just in time for the Christmas season, I needed to come up with gifts despite my lack of income. I remembered my Great Grandfather, and that stool. I went to construction sites, lumber yard scrap piles, and even grabbed wood from discarded furniture. A few days later, I had presents for everyone. I've been working in wood ever since, and not just to save money at Christmas. My house is filled with things I have made, many of those things made from scrap.
My first benchtop tool was indeed a bandsaw. It was actually years afterward that I got my first set of chisels. My next major tool was of course, the table saw. Between the two of them I made an awful lot of stuff. I bought as my needs and skill level grew. Unfortunately, I now need a much bigger workshop....so I can buy more tools.
The sander I use most often uses 1/3 sheets (the usual). Long ago, I made a jig similar to this one. It basically has a backstop (Made from a paint stir stick) and a base (made from scrap) with a slot cut at the precise width of the sanspaper I need for that sander. All I do is take a sheet, set it against the backstop, then use a utility knife and follow the slot. It works great and is so simple anyone could do it.
I have watched Norm for many years, and I have learned more from watching the Yankee Workshop than I can even say. No doubt that it was through his inspiration that I turned from toy making to furniture.
It always struck me as funny that he used so many tools that most of us neither have access to, or the space to use.
Out side of my great-grandfather, who got me started, Norm will always hold a place for me as the man who refined my work.
I never make a mock up. I also rarely use any kind of written or drawn plan (okay maybe once in a while I'll make a rough sketch of what I have in mind, but most of the time, I see it in my head and go from there).
For the desk I'm sitting at right now, I announced my intention of building a desk for that area of my office, and finding no objections, I measured the space, saw the project in my mind and went from there.
If we need a new piece of furniture, we discuss what we need, and I'll make it up as I go along. If I like the results, I'll take measurements and draw something afterwards so if I want to do it again, I can.
As for improvements, once or twice it was suggested that a piece might be changed in some way, and often, I can make adjustments to the actual piece.
I don't think anything I have made has caused any negative response in my house.
Me, I'll use anything that will get the job done. My most frequent tool is a metal yardstick. I bought it at an office supply store. I use it all the time.
I also use such nifties as masking tape, clothes pins, alligator clips as clamps and cool whip containers for drawing rounded corners. I've used knitting needles as hole finders, and encyclopedias to weigh down some objects that have been glued.
Add to this, pencil sharpeners, a paring knife, a jack knife, clip boards, magnets, and here's one that might be a surprise...chopsticks (you'd be amazed at what you can do with these things, and they're free at any chow mein place).
I have never sold anything I have made, but I have given them away as gifts. "Ripping off" a design? I have seen things made of wood pictured in catalogs and said, Hey, I can make that!" and I have done just that.
A legal interpretation? If the plan is public domain, anything goes. The plan itself can be reprinted and sold. A project made from a public domain plan is the same. If, on the other hand, the plan is under copyright, no, the plan may not be reproduced for profit. The project? Copyrights only cover media such as print media, music, film and so on. You can copyright a design inasmuch as you can copyright the plans, but you cannot copyright a product of the plan. To protect the actual item, one would need a patent, which would be unlikely to be granted in a case like the rocking chair since a rocking chair isn't a new invention. If it was patented, unfortunatly, small changes in design could result in a new patent (improvements is a catagory for a patent).
It gets more complex in the legal stuff, but basically, it's a moral call (remember morals?). I should think that it would be more satisfying to sell furniture of your own design, knowing that you didn't just put together a kit, you made it yourself!
It depends on the tool. I have a lot of hand tools by Craftman. They're guaranteed for life so they're easily replaced. Power tools are a different story. Several of my power tools have been repaired. One circular saw I had, I sawed through the cord almost immediately. Naturally I replaced it. Some of my older power tools came with oddly short cords. These too were replaced. A saber saw I had simply had a worn set screw. I replaced it.
On the other hand I have a pretty good collection of old cordless power tools. The batteries wear out, and often the unit can be replaced a nearly the same cost as the batteries. Major tools like table saws, I replace, but I may canibalize it first. I still use an old miter gauge, and an old fence on occasion. Other parts are also interchangable. I keep old drill bits promising to sharpen them, but never do. Other tools like planes are simply a lot of fun to restore.
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