Monday, 27 October 2008

I'm in no hurry...

I sent a friend of mine my this URL last night as he is interested in woodworking and I thought he might be interested in the same sites as I. His reply to me was, “Why these sites?” The answer to that depends on what you are looking to get as a return from this hobby. 

I’m not out to build a hand-made reproduction of a 18th century secretaire bookcase. I’d love to have one, but unless I win the lottery tomorrow, it isn’t going to happen. I’m looking to build small things; writing boxes, silverware storage boxes, maybe a little coffee table, that kind of thing. First, I live in a condo and I work on my balcony (this will change in the beginning of the year when we move to a larger one and I get to have a converted bedroom), so noise and dust has to match my work area – a minimum. Second, and most importantly, I have to be realistic about my expectations, abilities and return on time spent. I just don’t want to spend a year or two making one piece of furniture. Mainly, though, it is about my abilities, current and future.

There is a bit of a buzz on the different sites right now about a video that is displayed on http://blogs.popularwoodworking.com/editorsblog/ where Rob Cosman displays his talents by cutting a set of dovetails in less than four minutes. This is in reply to Frank Klausz’s video where he cut a set in three, which is in reply to Gary Rogowski’s video on the Fine Woodworking site where he cut a set in five minutes. Hey guys, if you can cut a set of dovetails in three to five minutes, God bless ya. I’d be happy to get one tail in that length of time and while I understand the reasons for these demonstrations, they really don’t help me to improve my work and I have no expectation of being able to complete the same feat in a year, or even ten years from now.

My old man was a carpenter and a damned good one. We were renovating a house together when I was a kid and we had to cut a new piece of baseboard for an outside corner that was far from 90° at the base of two walls that were far from plumb. I knew I was way over my head so I asked my dad to do it. He cut the inside corners, which were square, laid them up one at a time and marked the outside corner. He then struck a second line on each the width of the molding, pulled a panel saw from the kit, eyed it, and cut each in turn with only the lines as reference. He handed them to me and I installed them ending up with a perfect mitered corner – and I mean perfect. I was so shocked I said to him, and excuse the French, “Holy shit! How did you do that?” His reply to me was, “You do that on a daily basis for a lifetime and your corners will be acceptable too”.

That one line that my father answered me with forty years ago pretty much sums up my reasons for choosing certain sites over others. If I was making a whole bunch of dovetails on a daily basis, I’d be looking for a way to make them in record time, but I’m not. I could sit down for an entire day and follow these guys’ instructions and by the end of the day I could probably bang off a pretty good series of dovetails in very quick order. What happens, though, the next time I sit down to do it again, a week, a month or even six months from now? Do you think I’ll have the ability to hold the fret saw at the perfect right-angle to follow the scribe line? Some how I doubt it.

So yes, I recommend some sites over others because some sites are aligned with my needs. I really don’t care if it takes me five minutes or five hours to cut a set of dovetails. I’m not in this for the money so time is not an issue. What I am looking for is direction in making those dovetails accurately so I don’t have to stuff glue down the gaps and sand like crazy to fill them in.

Yes, I frequent the Popular Woodworking site, as well as many others, to see what’s up and if there is anything in them that I can learn from. That I have found is that the few that I have listed and recommended are more in line with my ideas of what I am looking for. Your ideas may be different.

By the way, two videos on two sites taught me more about making dovetails accurately than any of the others…

Woodtreks.com has one in a two part series where Craig Vandall Stevens shows how to cut dovetails with accuracy...

http://woodtreks.com/how-to-hand-cut-precision-dovetails-—-part-one-the-pins/75/

Another is on the Fine Woodworking site where Gary Rogowski works with one of their readers and shows him his mistakes. This one is as close to having an instructor look over your shoulder as you will get...

http://www.taunton.com/finewoodworking/SkillsAndTechniques/SkillsAndTechniquesArticle.aspx?id=31582

Peace,

Mitchell