Duluth, Minnesota


Recent comments

Re: UPDATE: Arts & Crafts Furniture Projects

Looks like some inspiring projects

Re: UPDATE: Best Workshops from the editors of Fine Woodworking

Always good to get tips on improving the shop

Re: Design journal: A tea box gets a face lift

Yeah... I agree with mraarons... very nice.. would like to see another detailed pic of the inside... and would be intrested in reading a walk through.

Re: It's impossible to cheat at woodworking

Tommy Mac (from PBS's Rough Cut) on "selling out" while working on his Bombe Secretary...

Watched this video today and was immediately reminded of this blog... had to post it.

Re: It's impossible to cheat at woodworking

You know I think this issue strikes a chord in us all because the underlying topic is craftsmanship. There have been entire books written on the subject. A common theme describing craftsmanship is the passion of the craft in pursuit and the drive to do your best, to produce quality. Nobody whom considers themselves a craftsman and believes they are doing their best, and producing quality work takes kindly to being told they are cheating nor should they, as it is most certainly undeserved.

In my 40 years at woodworking, I began as a teenager by being taught basic woodworking hand tool skills and quickly tossed them aside for the glamorous power tools that so called to me. I loved working with power tools and for years and years my first approach on a project was to tackle all aspects of it with a power tool. I worked in an architectural millshop, where time was money, and virtually never picked up any hand tool except maybe a hammer or a screwdriver. It was a semi-production shop and things had to be done fast and cheap. Later in life I started to grow bored with power tools and my interest shifted to hand tools. I discovered that there is a great satisfaction in working with hand tools and more importantly, that hand tools were, at times a better option than power tools. I now think in my senior years, that it behoves any woodworker to have skills in both power tools and hand tools and once they have good skills using both they can make a better decision as to when to apply them instead of quickly looking to the router as a solution and building up that pile of kindling.

Regardless of where I was at any point in my 40 years of woodworking, I always thought of myself as a craftsman and took pride in my workmanship, and would most certainly would take offense if anyone pointed at me work, and said I was cheating. So I still say that “cheating” is simply a completely wrong word here. I love what Casahanson just wrote... “get rid of the training wheels!” That’s perfect! Jigs such as the one described are indeed shortcuts, but they are certainly not cheating.

Re: It's impossible to cheat at woodworking

I agree with much of what Cadabra says, except for his closing comment about IKEA, and can appreciate his comment about the kindling that piles up when setting up machinery.

There are skills required to layout and chop dovetails freehand, which is certainly to be admired, partially because its impressive to see a nice clean good looking dovetail joint made freehand and partly because it is difficult to achieve freehand. It's undeserving to those that can to be snubbed as a snob. Its a skill that requires both talent, and time.

But on the other hand, for those that do posses those admirable skills it is not right to accuse those taking advantage of jigs as cheating. The word "cheating" is just not the right word here. Making joinery, such as dovetails using jigs instead of freehand, is just simply not cheating. Its a means to an end. In this case the jig, helps to obtain, a flat even baseline, that would be more time consuming, and difficult to obtain than without a jig. Using the jig is a means of accomplishing the task, but employees less skill, but one does need another set of skills to devise and utilize these jigs, which is also to be admired.

An objective of any woodworker is the best outcome of his project, it is up the individual to decide what process to take, using his/hers abilities, time, and tools in whatever way they wish to the desired outcome, and to criticize a well built project because of the method of building is just unfair.

Perhaps another objective for the woodworker (amateur or professional) wood be to develop their skills outside of the powertool realm... and if one does not to wish to, it is fine with me... but it is one of mine.

To present another analogy as many others have used their own analogies in response to this post. I would hate to teach math to our children using only calculators instead of them learning how to do the math using their heads. The same for the serious woodworker... they ought to develop the skills to work with both hand tools and power tools as an apprentice, and choose which to apply as a journeyman.

Re: It's impossible to cheat at woodworking

I think cheating is too strong of a word to use. I think a better way to say it is less of a challenge.

I attended a boat building school which, as an initial project, everyone was to complete a shipwright's toolbox with dovetail joinery. The instructor demonstrated chopping dovetails with no jigs and let the students go at it. One student decided to use the clamped board technique you describe as he was familiar with it prior to coming to school. It caught on with a few other students. The instructor saw what was happening, and was rather disappointed that students were using the jig, but none-the-less, reassembled the class and talked about jigs. His point was that although the jig was helpful, he wanted us to learn without one and not go to the jig until we could do it accurately freehand.

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