Decision time is here again. I still have a bit of guilt free tool money burning holes in my pockets, and because my 40th birthday is fast approaching I figure it would be a good time to spend it. I have enough set aside for the Hand Tool School, with a little left over for a purchase or two. I’m strongly considering purchasing a new Hock iron and chipbreaker for my old Stanley #7. The other day I honed the iron and got it razor sharp. It was able to take some nice shavings in oak and pine. There is one issue, though. The Stanley is a type 11 and has a thin iron and chip breaker. I’ve used Lie Nielsen’s #7 before; it has an iron and chipbreaker as thick as battleship armor, and coincidentally the plane worked great. It seems to be generally agreed upon that upgrading your Type 11 iron is a good idea, and Hock’s high carbon irons are thick and a joy to sharpen. So it seems to be a no brainer purchase…But…
Back during the winter I purchased a nice block of straight grained Ash that has been sitting in my garage growing accustomed to its new neighborhood ever since. My plan is to turn it into a try plane. I have plans for making a wood try plane that require an iron/chipbreaker that is also sold by Hock Tools. I’ve made wood planes from kits before, but never from scratch, so there is a possibility that I may mess up and make a plane that doesn’t work properly. I would still have the iron, of course, but it would be useless until I made a new plane body. So my choice is between upgrading an existing plane that I know works great, or taking a chance on what could be a really fun project and purchasing the wood plane iron/chipbreaker set. The easy answer would be to purchase both, but I also have my eye set on a Lie Nielsen tongue and groove plane, and purchasing it along with one of the Hock Irons will not only break the bank, it will put me in the red a little bit.
In other news, I picked up the material for the case of my tool chest, and also ordered the hardware from Lee Valley. I ordered two hinges, two handles, and a couple of pulls. I realize that because I didn’t order the hardware from a blacksmith that I’ve already doomed the tool chest to failure. Having a special relationship with a blacksmith is held in very high regard among woodworking snobs. Those few lucky souls who are fortunate enough to have an intimate relationship with a blacksmith also love to mention it in passing during any general woodworking discussion. I suppose it’s for bragging rights. Not only that, but they’ve always “known the guy for years”, and he also has to have a shop in some extreme, remote location, such as north of the arctic circle, or at the base of Mt Everest. Another point to mention is that the blacksmith should never actually be taking any work orders, but forging for you that certain, special piece of hardware as a personal favor. If you, too, can find a blacksmith who meets this criteria you will indeed be in rarified air and more than welcome into the woodworking snob community.
On a personal note, I’m not sure how a woodworker goes about developing such an intimate relationship with a blacksmith. Should you put an advertisement in the Personal section of your local newspaper: MWW seeks BS for possible long term relationship? Should you just walk into his shop one day, or is that too forward? From what I’ve read on the woodworking sites and blogs, it seems that blacksmiths are very shy, elusive creatures that need to be approached the same way one would approach a wild animal, carefully and delicately. So if anybody has any tips please feel free to drop me a line.
The following is an interview with The Slightly Confused Woodworker, aka Bill Lattanzio. Bill is an electrician and hobbyist woodworker. He has been married for nearly ten years and has one child. He and his family currently reside in Chester County, Pennsylvania. Bill has written a woodworking blog focusing on projects and topics related to woodworking since July, 2012.
How long have you been woodworking, and what made you get started?
I’ve been woodworking for going on four years. I guess I started to woodwork because I’ve always liked to work with my hands. I’ve been working with my hands for my entire adult life. I’ve always enjoyed doing work around the house, working with tools, fixing things, stuff like that. Maybe taking up woodworking was just a natural progression of the things I enjoy.
Was there any person who inspired you to become a woodworker?
If I had to chose one person, it would be a guy named Richard Proenneke. I can remember watching a documentary about him on PBS at around three AM. He moved to the Alaskan wilderness and filmed himself building a log cabin and it’s furnishings using some simple hand tools. The guy’s work was beautiful and his resourcefulness amazing. So if there was one person I am trying to emulate it would be him. Of course, I also watched The New Yankee Workshop. I learned a good deal watching Norm, but at the time I hadn’t really considered making furniture as a hobby.
You mentioned hand tools. What type of woodworker do you consider yourself?
I’m just a hobbyist. I do this for fun.
But do you consider yourself a hand tool woodworker or a power tool woodworker?
Neither; I use tools to work wood and make furniture. When I first started this blog I would refer to myself as a “Hybrid” woodworker, meaning I use both hand and power tools. Now I don’t care for that term so much. Why does it matter and to whom? People are always slapping labels on something for no apparent reason. The only time something needs to have a label attached to it is so it can be sold, and I’m not selling anything here.
So you believe that terms like “Hand Tool Woodworker” are being used to sell something?
Maybe. I can’t say for sure because there are guys who refer to themselves with terms such as that who aren’t professionals. I believe they are trying to prove something to someone. I don’t know what; I’m not a psychologist. But the pros who do it…yeah, I think they are trying to sell something.
What are they trying to sell?
Could be anything: tools, books, magazines, t-shirts, woodworking classes. It’s basic advertising and salesmanship. You put out a list of tools, or books, or DVDs, and tell people that they can’t be “real” woodworkers unless they have them. After that, if you are good at what you do, the stuff just flies off the proverbial shelf. It’s one of the basic tenets of advertising: convince somebody they can’t live, or in this case woodwork, without it.
So you are saying that you disagree with it, then?
I don’t agree or disagree. I like tools, books, and videos as much as the next woodworker. I just don’t like bullshit, and more often than not that is what you are getting.
Do you have an issue with the hand tool only crowd?
You can say that. I’ve said many times before that I use hand tools all the time. I enjoy using them and I wouldn’t consider woodworking without them. However, I don’t think there is a need for the superior attitude that many hand tool users exhibit towards people who don’t happen to do things the way they do. It does nothing but create hard feelings. I can’t see any reason that woodworking should create hard feelings, ever.
Can something be done to fix this?
I don’t know if fix is the right word. I think if people who are advocating this line of thinking get down from their high horses and take a step back, maybe try to promote woodworking as a fun hobby rather than an elitist competition…maybe things will change.
Do you think woodworking is in a bad state?
That’s a question I’m probably not qualified to answer. Answering as a hobbyist? I think things are mostly fine. It’s great to see more and more quality tool manufacturers. With the internet it is simple to order tools, books, or sign up for classes. Woodworking is probably as easily accessible as it has been in history. At the same time, woodworking has absolutely no personality. There is nothing new in it. In fact, the new trend is behaving like an old woodworker. But I believe it is nothing more than a trend. If history usually repeats itself, where does that lead to? Will woodworkers once again get tired of some of the drudgery associated with traditional woodworking and the costs of expensive specialty tools, or will they find a happy medium? I can’t answer that question. I’ve said before that woodworking has lost it’s face. There are no more people like Norm Abram. Surely, most of the hard core hand tool camp didn’t care for Norm too much, calling him a glorified trim carpenter and stuff like that. But there is absolutely nobody in the woodworking community right now that is anywhere near as popular as Norm.
Why do you think they disliked Norm Abram?
The easy answer is because he didn’t do things the way they do. I jokingly refer to hard core hand tool users as Fascists, yet I’m a lot closer to the mark than I’m not. The New Yankee Workshop made complex woodworking seem plausible. Norm didn’t need years of training by a secret guild, or an extremely expensive set of specialty hand tools. Norm’s detractors like to point out the “expensive” power tools that Norm used. But look closely at what he actually did use: Table Saw, Jointer, Router, Jigsaw, Sander. These are tools that nearly all woodworkers own and have in their shops, even many of the hard core hand tool Fascists. I think it upset certain people that a “dumb carpenter” like Norm Abram was making nice furniture and had a large following. So they concluded that it must not be Norm’s ability or personality that made him successful, but the power tools he used. Bottom line is that The New Yankee Workshop helped to create an entire generation of woodworkers. Hundreds of thousands of woodworkers probably wouldn’t be woodworking right now if not for Norm Abram. Take every woodworking personality today, and I use the term “personality” very loosely, add together everything they’ve done, and it wouldn’t come within a light-year of Norm Abram’s contribution to woodworking as a whole.
Do you think there is anybody out there who could potentially become the new face of woodworking?
Paul Sellers comes to mind. I really enjoy his videos, and I’ve heard excellent things about his classes, but I think he is a bit too specialized to find a main-stream audience. I’m sure he has the ability to change his approach, but he probably doesn’t want to do that. There are others: Chuck Bender for example. But duplicating the success of TNYW is much easier said than done.
Will you continue to argue with the hand-tool enthusiasts?
I don’t argue with them; they seek me out. Listen, I think you should woodwork however you like and however makes you happy. Nobody needs to convince me of the merits of using hand tools; I believe all woodworkers would benefit from using them. That, however, doesn’t give me the right to act like a pretentious douche bag if somebody doesn’t agree with my belief.
If you had one thing to tell the woodworking higher ups, what would it be?
I would say that until woodworking and woodworkers drop the prefixes and specialized descriptions: Traditional Woodworker, Hybrid Woodworker, Hand Tool woodworker…until that time when being just a woodworker is enough to get you in the club, woodworking will never be as viable and as popular as it should be. I’m not saying you need to take the individuality out of it, quite the opposite. I’m saying that everybody who decides that woodworking may be a fun thing to try should be able to do it however they like without being derided by a small group of narrow minded people who think they are always right. I don’t think it will ever happen; snobbery, just like prejudice, is hard to destroy.
“A house divided against itself cannot stand!” A great man once quoted that same phrase, and it works just as well in this instance. Some of the big names in the woodworking world would do well to listen, and understand what it means.
This was an interview with The Slightly Confused Woodworker.
On my way home from work this afternoon we had a drenching rain storm, the kind that you can barely see out of your car windshield. I thought that a good way to get out of the rain would be stopping at my one of my favorite places and pricing up the material for my toolchest build. I’ve decided to make the case out of birch plywood, the back panels out of Pine, and the front, lid, and trim out of Poplar, so this will be somewhat of a mongrel chest. Total cost for the material and the hinges came to around $125.00 not including sales tax. I would have loved to take everything home right then and there, but I no longer own a truck. Now that I am driving a cool little sports wagon with the optional rally fun pack I can no longer bring home woodworking material on a whim. While the car may be safe, good on gas, and cool looking, it is not woodworker friendly. So this weekend I will have to borrow a truck and pick up my material. Luckily, the supplier is only a ten minute drive from my house.
Part of me wishes that my trip to the lumber yard was the main reason to write a blog entry tonight. Instead, my little post is concerning something a few people had mentioned to me via the internet. Just this afternoon, I received a note asking me “If I dislike hand tools so much, why do I always use them and write about using them on my blog?” My response was brief, and simply stated that I never said that I dislike hand tools. The person then replied that maybe I should clear that up so there were fewer misunderstandings. While I couldn’t tell if this person was trying to be helpful or curse me with a passive-aggressive insult, in a small way I saw his point. For the record, I enjoy woodworking with hand tools, in fact, I would go as far as to say that I absolutely love it. Much of the woodworking I perform is with hand tools. I use a table saw and sometimes a surface planer to prepare stock because if I didn’t I wouldn’t have the time to complete any projects. I get precious few hours to woodwork with. I would like nothing more than to have a well equipped little shop in a rural setting where I could spend countless hours woodworking and thinking about woodworking with only the sounds of nature in the background. Maybe years from now I will have the free time and money to make that dream a reality, in fact, my wife will tell you that I talk about it all the time. But, until that time comes I will continue to use both hand and power tools to woodwork, otherwise I would spend much of the time I have set aside for woodworking preparing lumber rather than making furniture.
My problem, or vitriol, is not with hand tools but with the attitude of some hand tool users, as I have stated several times before on this very blog. I will now tell you all a little anecdote: It was a cold, dark and stormy day around three years ago. I was still fairly new to woodworking and just getting started in making some more involved projects. I had needed to glue up a wide board and was having trouble getting a decent (meaning square) glue edge. At the time I did own a small, table-top powered jointer from Delta; I had picked it up for next to nothing as a closeout. I found that as much as I tinkered with it I could never get it to produce a really good glue edge. At first I had though that I was doing something wrong, but over time I came to learn that jointers are fussy tools that can be difficult to set up and maintain. I personally don’t like them and I never will. I’ve never used a jointer that worked correctly and I think they are dangerous. Anyway, I decided to try and create a glue edge with a hand plane. At first I tried to plane each board’s edge individually, but I was still getting a slight gap. I then decided to try and plane the two edges to be glued simultaneously. In just a few passes I had a nice, tight glue edge. I was proud of my accomplishment, especially since I had come up with the idea without reading about it. Still, I knew that somebody must have planed boards that way before so I did a little research on it. I found that most woodworkers refer to the technique as match planing, and that it had been around for some time. As I was researching the technique a little more, a very well known woodworking writer who I had a great amount of respect for added his two cents to the match planing legacy. He said that while the technique usually works quite well, he felt that it took less skill and considered it cheating. For whatever reasons, I felt a little insulted. My question was, then and now, : Cheating who? What does it mean to “cheat” at woodworking? If I purchased a piece of furniture and told people that I built it myself, I believe that would be cheating. But if I built furniture using tools, of any kind, who was cheated? Was it some dude in Des Moines who I never met who likes to work in a strictly traditional way with hand tools only? Did my match planing somehow cheat him of…something? Was it tradition that was cheated, tradition being just a thought and idea and not a tangible person, place, or thing? Was it the wood itself that was being cheated because I turned it into a piece of furniture in a way that displeased it? I am asking these questions because I have no idea of the answers and after four years of woodworking I still haven’t come close to getting them.
After a few years of reading stories about “traditional woodworking”, “hand tools vs power tools”, “the demise of woodworking”, I started to blog about it. Yeah, it pissed me off that much. Not only that, when I started to receive notes and emails telling me that my woodworking ideology isn’t “good” for woodworking, or telling me that I should get better chisels, or telling me that I won’t be a real woodworker until I stop using a table saw, that really pissed me off. So, to make you all aware, when I started writing posts that may have come off as inflammatory, or vitriolic, it was nearly always provoked. As far as vitriol is concerned, and my overuse of the word lately, it stems from a well known woodworking writer who referred to me as vitriolic, and wondered how my attitude would be if it was “face to face”. I’ve answered this question before and I’ll answer it again: Unless you are Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, I’m not impressed. Still, I am liking the sound of “The Vitriolic Woodworker” and I am strongly considering making it the new title of my blog.
Hopefully this answers my commenters question(s) and leaves no misunderstandings. I know that I’ve written about this subject before, but I believe it bears repeating. I don’t like to be misunderstood. I am nothing if not honest, and honesty should leave no misunderstandings. Whatever I’ve accomplished over the past year with this blog I know that I must have struck a nerve. That isn’t saying much. I’ve come to realize that there are far fewer woodworking blogs than I first believed. On paper there are probably hundreds of them, but very few people manage to keep up with it. I’ll say that it isn’t always easy, but most of the time I really do enjoy what I do, especially when I’m not having to explain myself. At that, I will end this post feeling better for have written it. Maybe I am the Vitriolic Woodworker, I’ve been called worse, but at least I am honest. The truth hurts sometimes. I’m not out to hurt anybody, not in the least. But honesty is the best policy, and it’s the one I subscribe to.
The rare and even more unwanted combination of a sore back, a poor nights sleep, a pulled muscle in my shoulder, not feeling all that well, a hot and humid afternoon, and a long day at work did not leave me in the mood to woodwork this fine evening. In fact, it didn’t leave me in the mood to do much of anything. So when I finally did get home from work I promptly went into my garage and sharpened a few chisels just for the hell of it. I wasn’t being a glutton for punishment, or trying to prove my undying love of hobby woodworking, it was just to blow off a little steam, and also to get myself reacquainted with being at the workbench again, something I’ve found myself missing for about a week now.
Actually, my bad day did have a few bright spots, and one of them came during my break at work. I had planned on sitting comatose in our air conditioned break room for thirty minutes or so sipping iced tea and turning off my brain; instead my mind turned to my tool chest project that will hopefully begin this coming Sunday. I’ve had the basic idea/design in my head for some time actually, but it wasn’t until a few days ago that I actually did some drawings and came up with some measurements. Originally I had decided on a chest roughly 31″x31″x12″ deep. I think I will stick with the 12″ deep part, but I will make the height 32″ and the width 36″. Two things brought me to this conclusion, firstly I have decided to make the case body and shelves from birch plywood. Two 2×4 sheets will give me the sides, and the top and bottom shelves, and maybe most importantly, make the case much more stable in terms of warp. Secondly, the added height will give me just that much more room in the case, and since I have an area roughly three feet wide on the floor where the chest will go I think it would be foolish not to take advantage of it. As far as the trim, the back panels, and the lid are concerned, I’m leaning towards Poplar, but if Pine is more readily available (in as far as the quality of the boards) I will use it instead.
The joinery on the case will most likely be very simple. The shelves will be rabbeted and the back panels dadoed. I think I will use cut nails for the trim and also to help strengthen the shelving joints (and any other exposed area) while the back panels will be tongue and grooved together and simply screwed to the case. I had considered running the boards for the back of the case vertically but I believe that horizontal boards will not only look much nicer, they will also add to the stability of the case. For the lid I considered making a traditional raised panel and frame, but when I thought about it for a while it sounded less and less like a good idea, for no other reason than I don’t think it will look as nice as a single battened cover.
Besides a saw till, I’m really not sure what kind of tool holding I’m going to incorporate into the chest. Spacers for the hand planes will probably be a must, and a small rack for screw drivers and measuring tools. I’m still not sure if I will install a chisel rack or just leave them in the roll. I will cross that bridge when I get to it. Last thing is paint color. Everybody seems to like black, and for good reason. Black will probably take the most punishment and still look decent, but I can also see myself going with a dark green or red. Again, those are details that can thankfully wait.
So the good news is I have my measurements down, the material chosen, and the stock amounts all ready to go. I will start by picking up the case material and the trim for the front on Thursday, and hopefully on Sunday have a finished case. Until the case is constructed I don’t want to do much else. A lot can change between the theory phase of a project and the practical phase; that is why I don’t really like following woodworking plans. Woodworking plans look great on paper, but they cannot and do not account for everything. I’m going to estimate the build time at roughly twenty hours, though that can also change very quickly. Build time isn’t very important to me, but I like to know how long something takes. Maybe it’s a character flaw I have. Maybe I should just enjoy the process…No, enjoying the process is for other things, I woodwork to make stuff.
I’ve never been one to shy away from my heritage. I am who I am: a 3rd generation American of Irish and Italian lineage. I’m proud of my ancestors just as I am proud of my country. I’ve noticed there are some woodworkers that distance themselves from anything that’s happened to be made or developed or innovated in America. If the project, or tool, or whatever they are endorsing doesn’t have English, European, or Asian roots then it seems that it’s not worthy of being discussed, or built. I think that’s a shame. I, for one, am not an America basher. Maybe being an America basher is somewhat popular right now among the hipster, yuppie, and wannabe citizens of the world that populate the woodworking community. I’m not sure of the answer to that, but the way I see it, If I build something using American wood and American Tools (and a few Canadian tools eh, what’s that all aboot?) I’m going to consider it an “American” project. So with still un-started workbench top looming over me, I knew that my current toolbox situation would have to be changed if I wanted my hopefully new bench top to work. At that, I’ve decided to build the
Dutch… Xenophobes…Patriot’s Toolchest to serve as the new keeper of my most used hand tools.
Dutch Patriot’s Toolchest was resurrected and made popular on another blog. When I first saw it I knew that if I ever were to build a toolchest then I would base it on that design. The design has two features that I really like: it has a small shop footprint, and it elevates the tools off the ground, thus eliminating at least some of the stooping and bending that every woodworker finds himself doing while he is at the bench. I rough sketched a few drawings based on some photos of the chest. There are currently no plans available for it that I’ve seen, which doesn’t really affect me too much one way or the other because I rarely follow woodworking plans. But one aspect of the chest that I wish I had some numbers on is the angle of the board where the front lid will sit. I made some scale drawings of different angles to scale using a protractor and the 35 degree and 40 degree angles seemed to fit best. I originally thought that 30 degree would work but on paper it just looks too shallow. Conversely, the 45 degree board seemed to be too steep. If I had the spare stock laying around I would have just done a few test cuts and judged from there, but I don’t have that type of stock.
Speaking of stock, I’m not exactly sure how I want to make this project and what with. The dimensions I’ve come up with are a chest roughly 31″ tall x 31″ wide x 12″ deep. I came up with those dimensions because the floor area I have set aside is roughly 6 sq ft, and the chest would fit in there nicely with room to spare. Also, it seems that it would be large enough to hold all of my most used hand tools and any future expansion I have in mind. The way I see it, my current tool kit is basically the one I am going to be using for a long time, and there will really be only a few major additions to it that I can imagine. My current toolbox is a metal Craftsman with two drawers. It’s large enough to hold a decent portion of my hand tools, but I can’t fit my chisel role or any saws in there, or my jointer plane for that matter. But the box has held up nicely, and I never really did have woodworking tools in mind when I purchased it about twelve years ago. I originally bought it for my former job to use as a portable box. I also had a much larger version that was kept locked and chained to a girder. Unfortunately, when my former company shut down I sold the large box to another maintenance guy because I didn’t feel like hauling it home. I wish I had it now but that’s life. Yet, because this chest will be holding woodworking tools, I think that it’s only proper that it should be made of wood.
Birch plywood would be a good choice because it’s stable and inexpensive, and one 4×8 sheet would build the bulk of the chest with little waste, but I really don’t feel like carting a whole sheet of plywood around my garage. The other option is 1x12x8ft Poplar. Two boards would handle the sides and the bottom, middle, and top shelf, along with the front trim pieces. I would still need to make a lid, back, and front cover though, which would mean at least 16 more board feet. Both Poplar and Birch Ply paint well, and it seems to be in vogue to paint your toolchest nowadays. Though I like to consider myself an individualist (like any good American), I think I will follow the trend of painting the chest because it makes sense. I will also install a set of casters that I have waiting for such a job. They will not only raise the chest off the ground four more inches, they will also make the chest portable. But other than the case itself, I really don’t have any design features in mind. I will more than likely add a saw till and a chisel (among other tools) rack. And a dedicated section with spacers to keep my hand planes from sliding around. I think those features can be thought about a little more in depth later. For now, getting the case built is the important part.
I’m estimating that the material cost for the chest will be somewhere near $150.00 including paint and hardware. I have some nice pieces of Walnut that I’ve been saving to make a saw till (as soon as I get around to finally signing up for the Hand Tool School), but I should have plenty to use for the interior tool holding components, so that will save me a hardwood purchase right there, and I already have the casters and some brackets( a good American is prepared for anything!) I think this weekend I will pick up the material for the case and next weekend I will start the project. I’ll be honest and admit that I’m not a real big fan of shop projects like toolchests and workbenches. They have their place, certainly, but they also can get expensive and usually take as long to make as a regular piece of furniture that will see everyday use, not just sit in a garage. Still, I will go into this project with a good attitude and high hopes. I will bring the “can do” spirit that all Americans share deep down. If you want to refer to your chest as Dutch, or French, or German then go for it. But I’m an American God Damn-it! And this chest will be a patriotic chest made with pride in the good ole U.S. of A! Hell, I might even put the Captain America emblem smack dab on the front…the stars and stripes! If that offends you then you can just hop on a boat and go back to wherever it is you came from!!
I heard something interesting earlier today in a conversation. The topic was Josiah Warren and the Cincinnati Time Store. I didn’t stay long enough to hear why the topic was brought up; I didn’t have the time and I didn’t want to eavesdrop. For those of you who don’t know, Josiah Warren was considered an Anarchist. He opened the Cincinatti Time Store sometime around 1830. Warren’s business idea for the store centered around the labor theory of value. He proposed a store where goods were obtained not by money, but by time and labor. Say, for instance, you wanted to purchase a bag of potatoes. You would sign a voucher selling your labor for the predetermined cost of the spuds: 1 hour of work performed = 1 pound of potatoes. I don’t know what the exchange rates were but at least this will give you an idea. Anyway, the store was successful for a number of years. The labor theory of value is centered on the notion that the value of an item can really only be measured by the work needed to acquire it. In theory this is a wonderful idea and a fair one, but what does it have to do with woodworking? It’s connection to woodworking is through Christopher Schwarz’s book: The Anarchists Toolchest. The labor theory of value is central to the ideals of the books in some ways, and is also the one real issue I had with a book I otherwise really enjoyed.
I don’t have the time or inclination to get into Marxist theory here. I’m hardly an expert on Communism, Socialism, or Anarchy for that matter. Before I read the Anarchists Toolchest, the only other time I really heard of Josiah Warren was in a high school history class, and that was a rather brief mention at that. If some person wanted to open a time store today I would be behind the idea, but I will never be in agreement with the labor theory of value. My problem with the theory is: who judges the value of labor? For instance, let’s say the cost for a pound of potatoes is one hour of labor. That sounds like a fair exchange, but let’s say that during my hour of labor I accomplished twice as much as the guy next to me doing the same job. Is the pound of potatoes a fair exchange of value for labor? Let’s say for arguments sake that to ammend the issue, one hour of labor is equated to a task performed, such as stacking a set amount of stones, or wood. A skilled or strong worker could perform that task in a more efficient manner than an unskilled or weaker worker, yet in the end the value of his labor is the same as the least skilled worker in the warehouse, or wherever the work is being performed, and in the end he is getting paid the same amount for his work. The labor theory of value, while on paper is a rousing success, actually is a huge detriment to skilled workers, or workers further developing their skills, which in the end is why so many Communist regimes failed miserably. The labor theory, again, while on paper is fair and impartial, basically rewards labor over skill; yet it does not really see the difference between unskilled labor and skilled labor. In an era where every woodworker who learns how to sharpen a chisel wants to refer to himself as an Artisan, don’t these two ideologies directly clash? Or could I be wrong? Aren’t we as woodworkers always trying to further develop our skills? Wouldn’t the labor theory of value method of pricing be a huge conflict of interest with a professional furniture maker trying to make a living? Afterall, according to the theory, if two cabinet makers made the same table using the same material in the same amount of time, they would be equally valuable, even if one looked like hell and the other was beautiful. That, at it’s heart, is the true nature of the theory. In the ideal world of labor theory of value wages and pricing every person who applies himself will be a skilled worker with relatively equal talents, but in reality any person whose ever played organized sports, or gone to school and taken a test for that matter, will tell you that it simply isn’t accurate. In fact, one of the only instances where the labor theory of value has real merit is in a production setting. Machine operators and such all were paid the same wage because the machinery performing the labor placed them on equal footing. The operators worked within the limits of the machinery and for the most part a trained operator is generally equal in skill, as far as the machine is concerned, to other trained operators who work the machine. This form of production is in many ways the antithesis of anarchism, woodworking or otherwise, yet it is the only place where the labor theory of value’s math actually adds up.
According to Robert Heinlein, if you give two chefs the same ingredients to make the same pie, no amount of labor can make the pie taste good, only the skill of the chef/baker making it. Yet, the labor theory of value will price those pies equally. If you want to take it a step further, a skilled baker can possibly make a better tasting pie in half the time of an unskilled one, yet if we went by the strictest defition of the labor theory of value, the longer it takes to prepare and bake a pie, the more it is worth, no matter how it may taste. They may have the same ingredients and nutritional value, but nobody can tell me that they wouldn’t rather have the pie that tastes better, or that they feel that both pies are worth the same.
That’s my two cents. As I said, I only touched on the subject. There are books written about the labor theory that go much further and deeper than I could ever think of doing. But I thought it was interesting enough to write a post on, and maybe let you all know where I am coming from, just a little.
I decided to spend a few hours yesterday finishing the battens on my back yard shed. While replacing a few that had rotted out, I had found that the stiles on the door had started down the road to disaster/rot, so rather than just paint over them, I thought it best to just replace those as well. In all honesty, there really isn’t much to say about a project like this, it’s just too simple for description, but I will try.
Because my local lumber yard was closed I ran to my local Lowes. I had planned on picking up a 1x6x8ft piece of clear pine and just ripping it to width, but I found 1x3x8ft pieces that were flat and clear, already at the width I needed, and less expensive and less wasteful than purchasing the 1×6, so I got lucky there. The pieces were already fully surfaced so the only prep work I did was taking a pass on the edge with the jointer plane. I cut the pieces to length using my powered miter saw. It was nice that I could set it up in the back yard without it throwing dust all over my garage. Once the pieces were cut the length I primed the backs and ends and set them aside to dry. While they were drying I removed the rotting battens, cut them into more manageable pieces, and tossed them out. I then did a quick clean up of the door with a masonry brush I have, clearing off any debris and dust, and I primed the underside where the old battens had been. After that, I cleaned up the old latch, getting rid of the spider webs and grime, and then spraying on some WD40. It’s in remarkably good condition considering it’s age, but I think that once the shed is painted I will put on a new unit. The latch is nothing special, and therefore is not worth a restoration project. Once everything was dry and ready to go I started with the installation.
To attach the battens I used stainless steel screws and my little Dewalt impact driver. I was sure to caulk all of the ends and gaps before I screwed the boards into place. The entire installation took maybe 5 minutes. I cleared off any caulk squeeze out with a damp cloth. Last thing I had to do was drill the 5/8 hole for the latch. I almost went old school and used the brace because I couldn’t find the 5/8 spade bit for my drill, but it turned up, as usual in the last place I thought to look. Once that was finished I primed the boards and called it a day. I think I will make a few flower beds for under the windows of the shed, but other than that it only needs to be painted to be called finished. I thinking of a deep green for the shed and white for the trim. Otherwise, my little shed project is done. It was fun and easy, though I did get a little sunburned. Still, I could get used to projects as simple as this one.