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Re: UPDATE: Book Giveaway: Beautiful Boxes: Design and Technique by Doug Stowe

Box building is the best way to hone skills at the least cost, but coming up with another variation on a box design can often be difficult. With a book like Doug's written, it can really fire up the creative juices again and bring along some new techniques to practice.

Re: UPDATE: Read a review of Wooden Boxes by the giveaway winner

Building challenging boxes is a wonderful way to sharpen skills, and create great giveaways to friends and family. Having a new book with some new ideas would be a great addition to anyone's library. Sign me up!

Re: UPDATE: The Foundations of Better Woodworking by Jeff Miller

Learning never stops in woodworking or any other pursuit. Any possibility of expanding our knowledge or skills is a wonderful opportunity. Books like this are beyond useful, and, indeed, are essential.

Re: General Consolidates Operations, Closes its Canadian Factory

During the mid 90's, as a mfg. consultant, I assisted U.S. businesses in moving product mfg. offshore, mostly due to reduced labor rates. It was never to save taxes. Quality was a major issue with the overseas products, especially in China. However, as someone noted, the level of quality was directly proportional to the amount of money my client was willing to spend in the Chinese factories. There were factories that produced better quality products, but they offered a "sliding scale" of quality with a corresponding scale of price. This wasn't like a menu, it was the result of the price negotiation. U.S. companies negotiated to get the absolute lowest cost of goods, and they got what they asked for, including minimal quality controls.

Customer complaints escalated right away, and some customers bolted. The solution is, and always will be, to spend the money to park a U.S. employee (or several) to manage quality control and factory technical performance (calibration of machinery, training of employees, etc.), full time, to achieve better quality. The U.S. company almost always rejects this idea. The same company would have gladly supplied such support to its own factory in the U.S., but they always seemed to think that just throwing the product line overseas with minimal hands-on involvement would be more than enough, with no oversight. That is "magical thinking". When a bad product arrives on our shores, you cannot send it back, its too expensive and would be a wasted effort at any case.

Recently one of my clients has been moving these factories back to the U.S. with great success. Wages in China have escalated a lot, shipping costs are several 100 percent higher now, and there are plenty of skilled, non-union laborers available to man the factories. Raw material costs (steel) is no longer cheaper overseas (China is buying our steel, driving up our prices in the process). Some cities are giving incentives to companies reviving old factories or bringing in work. Seeing people moving factories overseas at this time just makes no sense to me. They are 10-20 years too late. They will regret this move very quickly.

Regarding current Asian produced tools, I was mostly working in tool factories when I was working in Asia, so I think I can speak with some authority on what it takes to produce a good product. I have been impressed with Grizzly quality (cost vs.quality), though their product is mostly coming from Taiwan, a completely different mfg. environment than China. I can tell that they do invest in their overseas factories and are not cutting too many corners in the process. I have not been impressed with too many others. It has a lot to do with the Corporate Personality of the company, and Grizzly has one of the better ones.

Re: UPDATE: Google SketchUp Guide for Woodworkers - The Basics with Dave Richards

As a beginning user I would find the Sketchup Guide a great tool for improving my skills. The timing is right since I am ready to plan my Summer projects.

Re: SketchUp: Down and Dirty

I have used Sketchup since it came out, but originally just put groups of rectangles, boxes, and and cylinders together to approximate what I was designing. It was much like a hand drawn sketch but with straighter lines. THEN I discovered the free tutorial series by Joe Zeh (http://www.srww.com/), which are outstanding and very easy to follow and understand. There are 8+ lessons in the beginner's totorials, and by the end of those lessons I was designing complete, detailed furniture plans with all joinery, and with views of each component as well as the overall dimensioned views that can be printed as shop plans. I even built the table that he uses as a teaching aid and just about every piece fit perfectly and it looks great. I also decided to change a few things along the way, loaded them into my Sketchup plan to check fit and assure I wouldn't interfere with anything else. I now find it a lot easier than hand sketching or drafting, and much faster and easier to modify when needed. Throw in the free Cutlist 4.1.4 plugin and you not only have your previou7sly printed plans but a complete written and pictorial cutlist to take to your lumber dealer.

Re: UPDATE: Building Small Cabinets by Doug Stowe

I started out building small furniture items, which were fun, and challenging, but after getting a copy of one of Doug's books at the library I decided to build a few small boxes. It's habit forming. For a small budget, small box building can provide just as much challenge and ability to show artistic talent but without leading to bankruptcy. Having a copy of the book in this offer would provide a valuable guide to further improve my skills.

Re: Cutlists are a waste of space

FWW, unless they have changed their direction, is not totally focused in its editorial policy to only support the top level expert woodworkers of the world. There is a spectrum of paying readers from beginner to top-of-the-line woodworking artisans. It would seem a shame if the policy is changed to exclude tools, like some form of cutlist or material list, to satisfy only the upper end of this spectrum. Someone mentioned that this seems to be a "dogmatic" approach. I would add "elitist", since it is obviously exclusionary for those in the early to mid stages of their woodworking development.

I'm sure that those who were trained in the top level furniture training schools had to learn to work without many of the "cheats" that we get from the magazines, and maybe that is what has helped to make their work so good. But, most of us didn't have that opportunity. Some of us work in small crowded shops with limited space. Sometimes we have to travel long distances to buy good lumber, and in these poor economic times have limited cash and need to conserve purchases to the bare minimum. Choosing a project is quite often based on whether we can afford it rather than whether we have the skills to build it. I certainly fall into that category. I have no less interest in creating high quality furniture than the top guys. I have no less interest in developing my skills to the craftsman level than the experts do either. That is why I read FWW and pay 2X the price of other woodworking magazines.

A cutlist helps a woodworker like me to estimate the costs, the size of raw material I will need to buy, and the size that material will be when I have to transport it in my personal car. When I go to the lumberyard, I can carry the cutlist to help in making decisions based on what material is available. If the cutlist is assuming we have 8 inch boards but the available stock is only in 6 inch widths, I can visualize what changes I need to make in terms of quantity of each material on the spot, and quickly. Just having a parts list certainly wouldn't do for that for me, at least not as quickly as I need when I am at the store.

The argument about the misuse of cutlists by people wanting to cut all the parts out in advance according to the cutlist comes across as talking down to a large number of your readers, which is pretty rude. We aren't stupid. Some of us may be a bit ill informed, and so there is an opportunity for FWW to educate on the subject. Some will learn, some won't. Refusing to include what many may find to be a useful tool for this reason is like a parent never letting their school age kids use a table knife because they might cut themselves. Teach the kid how to use the knife! The top level woodworkers may be a bit bored by such educational sidebars, but you need to judiciously provide for the whole spectrum of subscribers if you plan to continue to grow your publication. You don't have to "dumb down" the articles and projects, that would be a disaster. Just provide the tools that all levels of skill feel they need.

As to whether the cutlist should take up editorial space in the magazine or be provided online at this site, that should be a decision that best suits FWW's editorial, budgetary and sales needs. The partslist and cutlist should still be provided in one or the other. Purchased and downloaded plans should always include a part and cutlist as these should not be a cost issue for FWW and add value to the purchase for those of us who prefer to have the lists.

Best magazine in the field. Lets keep it that way, for all of us..



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Re: UPDATE: Book Giveaway: Greene and Greene Furniture: Poems of Wood & Light by David Mathias

As a recent convert to woodworking and furniture building, I almost immediately gravitated to Green & Green and other Arts and Crafts era designs and techniques, but the library is very limited on this kind of material. This book would make a great impact on my work and skill building. Thanks for the opportunity.



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