Friday, 3 June 2011

Class; A Rare Commodity These Days...

Because my cynical view sees a world full of ScrewYouJackIGotMine type of people, when someone shows some true class, they stand out to me. Sadly, for whatever reason, true class is a rare commodity these days and because it is so rare, when it rears its beautiful head, I think it should be noted.

Take for example, Kari Hultman, over on The Village Carpenter. Now there is class personified. Like thousands of others, I have been following Kari’s progress for about four years now. The advances she has made with her abilities to work wood over these few years has been amazing, but the fact that she has taken the time to document every step of it and shared them all with us is nothing short of astounding. How she was able to keep that process up for the five years she did is beyond my abilities to comprehend. Blogging about one narrow segment of your life and interests isn’t an easy task, to put it mildly, yet for all those years she did so, on average, more than once a week, with each post holding a wealth of information. She has slowed a bit for now, and I can’t blame her. If anyone has earned some time away from the keyboard, it would be Kari. True class.

Another example is Stephen Shepherd over on Full Chisel. To quote my first blog post, back in October of 2008, I stated that Stephen “is as "earthy" as you can get”, and I still truly believe that. Because of his unpretentious ways, I think many fail to comprehend how much knowledge Stephen has been able to share with the world when it comes to historical processes. You might not be dropping any garlic in your linseed oil to boil it any time soon, but the fact that he has brought this long-forgotten process back from the dead is just one example of how he has devoted his time to these time-honoured processes. A few years ago I was always surprised to see his name associated with an article written by one scholar or another about the historic ways of working wood. Now I have come to understand that this seemingly quiet, gentle man is actually an internationally known scholar on the subject himself, and is recognized as such by some of the leading conservators of historical furniture around the world. The fact that I had to learn this from sources everywhere else but Stephen's own blog, shows me just how much true class this man really has.

The topic for this post came to me last week in the form of a marketing email, the latest edition of Lee Valley’s Woodworking Newsletter. Lee Valley is probably one of the classiest commercial operations that I have ever encountered. To me, this company is the epitome of how a business should be run as they operate solely from a customer’s perspective, not from a banker’s or shareholder’s concept. If I need something, and Lee Valley sells it, even if a box store sells it for a few dollars less, I’ll still make the trip to Lee Valley and buy it from them. I do this simply because it is one of the very rare companies out there that deserves my business.

As with all Lee Valley newsletters, the first topic I view is the “From the Collection” entry. In these posts, Doug Orr never ceases to amaze and educate me about all things historical for working wood. In the May edition, this entry not only offered up the usual, it also told me that Doug Orr is one of those rare people with true class.

I would doubt that most of you that follow this blog, and it always amazes me how many do, remember a post I did back in August of 2010 about a saw I had recently purchased from Jim Bode Tools and had retoothed by woodnut on eBay. While most of you won’t remember it, it will always be the one post that will stand out in my brain forever more. It was in that post that I inadvertently insulted one of the world’s leading authorities on historical tools, one Doug Orr. Yup, the Doug Orr I insulted is one in the same as the Doug Orr that writes these entries for the Lee Valley Woodworking Newsletters.

To give you a quick synopsis, I bought this saw from Jim Bode as a large veneer saw. When I posted about it, Stephen Shepherd commented that the saw was actually a trim saw. When Stephen says an old tool is something, I tend to take his word for it, so off I went searching for more information about it. This quest ended up bringing W. Patrick Edwards into the fray. The result of two solid days of research was no additional information other than the fact that Stephen was right, it was a trim saw to use with a mitre jack. In the midst of all of this, a Lee Valley Woodworking Newsletter arrived and in it was an article on the exact same saw. In his post on the saw, Doug Orr gave its probable use as a trim saw for baseboard or moldings when laying flooring, or possibly for doing trims on partially assembled furniture. I also remember something about it being a stair saw.

Being all caught up in the research of this saw and not knowing who Doug Orr was at the time, I gave some pretty unflattering reasons why I didn’t heed his thoughts on the saw. Those comments were so insulting, in fact, I immediately removed them and posted an apology as soon as I realized my Faux Pas.

Mr. Orr, much to his credit, gave some credence to the results of my research and started to do his own. The results of that research is presented in this edition of the newsletter, and yes, he too believes now that the saw is indeed a “Française scie à recaler”, a French trim saw.

Over these past nine months Mr. Orr has been in touch with me numerous times, updating me on his research of this saw, as well as a few other things, so I was prepared to see the results in one of the newsletter posts, but I was expecting it to be delivered in a slightly different manner. When it arrived, I was surprised that I wasn’t singled out as the “ignorant bugger”, “idiot” or “putz” that I so rightly deserved. Instead, he eloquently stated, “…benign saw descriptions can raise the ire of dedicated tool fiends, and that article brought numerous comments from subscribers regarding my description, ranging from complete agreement to adamant rebuttals.” He then went on to discuss the mitre jack of the same style as the one I bought from him at the Tools of the Trade Show last year. At the end, he presented the results of his research on the saw that proves we both were right.

Class act, that Doug Orr.




  1. Mitchell, thank you for the kind words. :o)

  2. Hey, I doubt there is much I could offer you in return for all that you guys have given me, so the very least I could do is acknowledge your contributions.