The Slightly Confused Woodworker

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Enfield Cupboard penultimate edition.

Though I had a 4 day mini-vacation over the Christmas Holiday, I knew that I would have little time to actually woodwork during my four days off. I had hoped to get the door completed, and that wish almost came true yesterday morning. I needed to saw the tenons for the rails, and get the stiles mortised, and finally fit the panels.

The tenons came first, and for that task I used the table saw and my homemade tenoning jig. First I defined the tenon cheeks using the jig as a stop block. I then carefully sawed the tenons. My jig does not have a built in clamp, so I use bar clamps to hold the work piece steady. It works, but you have to be careful because the piece likes to rise, as it is technically a non-through cut. Either way, I had the tenons finished in about twenty minutes. I then sawed the haunches for the top and bottom rails, tested them, and cleaned them up with chisels until they fit. Once the tenons were fit I used them to mark the mortises.

To make the mortises I used my router table and a spiral up-cut bit. It is a method I don’t care for all that much, but I don’t have a hollow chisel mortising machine, and I quite frankly didn’t feel like chopping them out by hand. The operation went smoothly, but of course there needed to be an issue of some kind. The last mortise I made was for the bottom left hand stile, and I saved it for last because it was at the end of board that felt somewhat stringy to me, at least more stringy than usual, as Poplar can be stringy to begin with. Just as I was about to lift board to finish the plunge cut I heard a little pop, and there was some tear out on the back wall of the mortise. It is very minor, and will easily be fixed with a little putty. More importantly, it is on the back of the door, at the bottom, and will be painted anyway.

The fitting of the tenons was fairly uneventful. I cleaned out every tenon with a chisel, and squared the round edge left by the router bit with a 1/4 inch mortising chisel. Thankfully the table saw left very smooth tenons, so I only needed to lightly sand them to get a nice fit. I did a test fit by dry clamping the door and at least for now everything looks good to go. I had little time left at that point, but I did get the panels sawn to length and width. I had thought about attempting to raise them using the table saw, but a test try has scared me off of that idea. I had just enough wood left to make the two panels, and if I ruin one I will not only be out more money, I will have to either run to a lumber yard or box store to pick up more wood, and I don’t want to do either. Instead, I plan on making a faux raised panel, and lightly chamfering it as well as the door frame, which should leave a nice look, and be a much safer alternative. Before I called it a morning I test fit the door in the cupboard opening. It was slightly too wide, which I had planned, as it will allow me to plane the door to fit as well as back bevel the edge as soon as I decide which way I want the door to open. The good news is the cupboard should easily be finished next weekend.

test fit of the door tenons

test fit of the door tenons

In other news…I am unfortunately well past the age of waking up to presents on Christmas morning, but as it were, I did receive an Amazon gift card from an unlikely source, and the day after Christmas I promptly used it to order a DMT duosharp diamond bench stone, which promptly arrived this morning. I still plan on using water stones for final honing, but my days of initial grinding with them are coming to a close. I like the results they give, but water stones require a lot of maintenance, and with my woodworking time already severely limited, the last thing I want to do is spend my time sharpening, as well as maintaining sharpening equipment. The DMT plate should offer good results with a lot less hassle. Like many other things woodworking, now I just need to find the time to try it out.


****once again sorry for the lack of photos, my phone doesn’t take nice pictures, my camera is out of commission, and most importantly, so is my camera woman****


Rantmas Eve

Twas the night before Christmas, and I’m pissed off. So I decided to rant….
When I’m Master of the Woodworking Universe…

More will be written about hand saws and less about bench planes. How often have you seen a bench plane on the cover of a woodworking magazine? How about a hand saw? Hand tool/power tool arguments aside, give a woodworker a saw and he or she can build something with it. Give a woodworker a handplane, and the only thing you can make is a lot of shavings, or what I like to call a mess. I’ve read hundreds of articles in woodworking magazines about cleaning hand planes, sharpening hand planes, tuning hand planes. Know how many articles I’ve seen and read about sharpening handsaws? Two. Handsaws are perhaps the least discussed handtool when it comes to magazines and books, yet they are probably the most important tool a woodworker has, in particular if that woodworker works with handtools only. So real woodworkers make shavings? Maybe, but people who make furniture make sawdust.

When I’m Master of the Woodworking Universe…

No woodworking writer or blogger will allowed to bash the building trades unless they actually have worked at them. Once again I’ve discovered too many blog posts written by self-proclaimed “anarchists” that felt the need to knock the skills of carpenters, and more strangely electricians and plumbers. So you ask me what this has to do with “Anarchy”? I don’t know, you will have to ask the geniuses who write the posts. I can tell you from much personal experience that a lot of people think they are good at carpentry and electrical work. I’ve seen far too many homes that should have burnt down, yet miraculously didn’t, because the homeowner decided to do the wiring himself. My favorite quote of all time when working on an electrical panel that quite literally exploded and should have killed the fool homeowner who was “working” on it: “I saw it on the internet and figured how hard could it be” Know what that guy did for a living? Accountant.

I do my own taxes. That doesn’t make me a tax attorney, and it certainly doesn’t make me think I’m one, either. If you want to do your own electrical work, be my guest; we make a lot more money on doing repairs than on new construction, but don’t have the audacity to think it’s easy because you read a book on hand tools.

When I’m Master of the Woodworking Universe…

Japanese woodworking tools will stop being  considered magical. On a hand tool forum last week a post was written about “how much more accurate” Japanese hand planes are than western planes. I tried to explain to the guy that eastern and western planes work in almost exactly the same way, with the exception that one is ergonomically designed to be pulled, the other pushed. If you know anything about how a hand plane functions, you will see that the ratio of sole to mouth is very similar on eastern and western planes; the accuracy is in the user, not just the plane.
All hand planes can be used on the push or pull stroke, it is simply a matter of comfort. Though I have no proof of this, it is my belief that Japanese hand planes are pulled rather than pushed because of the methods of work holding that Japanese woodworkers employ. A Japanese woodworker holds his work very close to the ground; it would be quite difficult to push a plane with your legs, as a western woodworker does, when the board you are working on is 6 inches from the floor. Pulling the plane allows a woodworker who is working low to the ground to sit or kneel while planing. The same goes for Japanese hand saws, it is easier to pull the saw through a board if that board is being held just off the floor, otherwise you would be pushing your saw blade into the ground.

I know I’ve spoken about this subject before, but once again I’ve come across too many self-proclaimed experts doing nothing more than pushing off their opinion as fact.

There is no magic, no mysticism. Before you open your mouth and sound really stupid, do a little fact-checking into the engineering of a handplane and you will see that both eastern and western planes work in almost exactly the same way.

If I offended anybody, I’m not sorry. This is a rant after all. Happy Christmas.

You paid what?!

I read a pretty interesting post on the Lost Art Press blog today regarding saying “no” to a customer. Well actually, the post referenced the interesting post, which was written some time last week. To summarize, a customer who had placed an order asked for a discount when coming to pick up the order, even though they had already agreed to a price. The owner not only refused to offer a discount, he also refused to sell the piece at the original cost. The moral: If you aren’t going to compromise in your work and its quality, you shouldn’t compromise in the value. Well, maybe that isn’t what the author was getting at, but that is what I think he is getting at. Do I agree with it? That depends.
In my line of work, first as an electrician, and then in the sales of electrical services and goods, I’ve very rarely come across a situation where a “discount” didn’t need to be offered, and often times that “discount” is offered without being asked. When bidding work, the basest rules of sales should be the first consideration: Know your product, Know your customer, Know your competition. What does that mean?

Knowing your product doesn’t only mean that you should know how long it will take to produce and what it does and what makes it tick, it also means knowing the value of it. It means knowing how much it can be sold for profitably.

Knowing your customer means building a business relationship with your client. It means understanding what your customer’s needs are, and how quickly he/she needs it, and it means knowing what your customer is willing to pay.

Knowing your competition, that’s the most important rule. What can your competition do that you can’t? Can your competition deliver comparable material for a better price? Can your competition provide the service more quickly? Is your competition flat-out better than you? These are things you need to know and understand. These are things that many “professionals” still don’t comprehend.

That all being said, the shop owner who refused to sell may have been in a situation where he could afford to pick and choose his cliental; that part of the story is unknown. If he is in that favorable situation, more power to him. Where I live, the competition is far too fierce to refuse work, and more importantly, refuse profit. There are some people that get insulted when asked for a discount, and maybe for good reason. Maybe the piece he was selling already had a very fair price, and a discount would have decreased the profit so much as to make the item not worth selling. Or it could be the other way around, and maybe the customers saw a similar product that was cheaper, and the shop owner was overvaluing his product. Or maybe it was a little bit of both. As I said, not enough of the variables are known to even make a guess.

Here is what I do know, most craftsman overvalue their work, and most buyers undervalue the product. Case in point, my dad happened to stop by my house last week and commented on how nice my cupboard looked. He mentioned that I should sell it when it’s finished. I wouldn’t sell it, but what cost would I ask if I did consider selling? To use round numbers, I would probably be looking for $950-$1000. I came up with that number taking into account the materials cost, time spent, tools/skills needed, and the desire to make a profit. Most importantly, I came up with that number because I’ve seen them sell for twice that price and more. At the same time, I’ve seen similar cabinets sell for $500 or so. My number may be unrealistic, or it may be a great deal; I’ve seen indications that both notions may be correct.

My dad, on the other hand, would tell me to sell the cabinet on the high side, somewhere in the $1500 range, which is what most individual furniture makers are charging from what I can tell. Yet at the same time, my dad wouldn’t pay more than $500 for one in the store. And there lies the dilemma. A professional salesman needs to know what to charge. A professional needs to know that Customer “A” may pay $1500, and customer “B” may only want to pay half that; the good salesman knows how to sell to both. Because that is the only way you stay in business and earn a living. Telling customers “no” doesn’t fly in my world, and neither does giving it away. Figuring out a way to say both “no” and “yes” is how you prosper. At least, that is what I’ve learned.

1-800-FLOWERS. Wow you really suck!

My years spent both as an electrician and in electrical sales have taught me something about customer service. Customer service is much more than a friendly demeanor, or a reassuring voice; first and foremost, customer service is about getting the job done correctly and on time. I’ve found that all of the friendly smiles and kind words in the world don’t really mean shit if you can’t do the job.

So with tomorrow being my wedding anniversary, I thought I would surprise my wife with a nice flower arrangement, balloons, and some chocolates sent to her office. Normally for our anniversary we like to go to a nice restaurant, but because a member of my wife’s family has been experiencing some health issues, those plans had to be cancelled. On Monday I went on the 1-800-FLOWERS web site and placed the order, figuring that four days should be more than enough lead time to make a local flower delivery. To its credit, the process was easy. From what I gather, 1-800-FLOWERS is a network of affiliated florists, and a flower shop near my wife’s office was contracted to do the arrangement and delivery. I received a confirmation e-mail which said that on the morning of the delivery I would receive an email notifying me when the delivery left the florist, and then another notification of delivery. I printed the confirmation and went on with my day.

Today, the day which the delivery was supposed to be made, I began to get a little nervous by around 2pm when I hadn’t received a notice of shipment from the florist. By 3pm, I had decided to call 1 800 FLOWERS customer service, as my wife’s office, like most offices, is open from 8am-430pm. A customer service representative, from the far east, who was very friendly, called the flower shop and did indeed find that the arrangement had not left the shop yet. I explained to the customer service agent that my wife would be leaving work soon, and he asked if I would like the delivery to be sent to my house. I was okay with that, and once again he put me on hold to speak to the florist. A few minutes later he was back and explained that because my house was more than 10 miles from the florist, and because it was a Friday, they really didn’t want to make the delivery there, BUT, they would get the flowers to my wife by 430 pm at her office, and they would give me a phone call when they left for the delivery. 430 came and went, so I called my wife and asked her if she received a flower delivery, thus ruining the surprise, she had not. I called customer service again and was told that they were running a little late, and they would be there shortly. The excuse being that because of the holidays they were busy and unable to make deliveries on time, which is sort of like a restaurant telling customers not to show up around dinner time because they just can’t get the food cooked. Anyway, 45 minutes comes and goes and no delivery, and at this point my wife has to leave.

I called up 1 800 FLOWERS yet again and told them to cancel the order. After the customer service rep spent 5 minutes trying to convince me to reschedule the delivery, I began to get angry, as in very angry. At this point, I told them to cancel it or there would be a problem. I was put on hold for 15 minutes, which didn’t do much to make me any happier, and the order was finally cancelled.

I’ve experienced some bad customer service in my life, we all have, but this was by far one of the worst experiences. Several very nice emails I sent this morning inquiring about my order went unanswered, and it was only until I made threats that I finally got a miniscule amount of help. So I would like to go on record thanking 1 800 FLOWERS for royally fucking up my surprise and nice gesture, and then completely dropping the ball after the fact. So would I recommend 1 800 FLOWERS? No, I wouldn’t. They fucking suck balls.

Who gives a rat’s a$$?

I’ve noticed lately that quite a few of the blogs I follow on WordPress(both woodworking and other topics), as well as other blog sites, have sidebars that contain what I consider meaningless little factoids about themselves. Normally, I would say “who f@#king cares?” but lately an odd sense of tranquility has befallen me, so I’ll bite and present a few of my own take on these “interesting  facts”.

Currently Reading: The stuff I’m typing on the computer screen. My eyes both point straight ahead, so I can only read one thing at a time. If ‘currently reading’ means ‘book’,  then, would anybody really care? Though I’m pleasantly surprised that so many people have decided to follow my blog and apparently enjoy reading my thoughts, I find it really hard to believe that somebody would care what book I happen to be reading in my spare time. If I do happen to be reading a book, I will mention it if I think it’s relative to the topic. Otherwise, I think it’s pretty self-important and arrogant to even mention it.

Currently Drinking: Nothing. I had some iced tea not too long ago. I usually drink a cup of coffee in the morning when I get to work. If this refers to ‘alcoholic beverage’, then nothing, either. I’m not a lush and don’t drink while I enter blog posts. In fact, I don’t drink much at all because I’m an adult. Every now and then I drink a little wine, or a mixed drink if I’m at a wedding or similar type event. I’ll admit that I’m somewhat vain, in a healthy sort of way. I go to the gym and lift weights on a regular basis, I try to eat healthy, I do a lot of walking. I want to keep a flat stomach, and in my opinion drinking a lot of beer doesn’t help matters. I don’t know too many middle aged guys who drink a lot of beer that are also not flabby and weak, and even more importantly, look flabby and weak.

I did all the drinking I needed to by the time I was 25. After that I put on my big boy pants and became a full-fledged grown-up.

Currently Listening to: Once again, nothing. On the way home from work I listened to the area station that plays Christmas music 24 hours per day until the season ends. In my opinion this is another piece of information that is completely useless. What music I am listening to, or what any other person is listening to for that matter, bears no relevance. If I were listening to Led Zepplin would that make a difference? Would you say, “I really didn’t like this guy at first, but now that I know he’s a Zep fan I think he’s alright!” Or how about Chopin? Does it really matter? Will my choice in background music drastically change your opinion about me? If so, you’re a lot shallower than I thought. And if you want to listen to what I am listening to just because I’m listening to it…well that’s pretty creepy. When I was 15 it was probably pretty important for me to know which type of music the people I came in contact with happened to like. Now, I really couldn’t care less.
I’ve come across many other blogs with “vanity” sidebars, but at the least most of them had some bearing on the type of blog they were on, for example: current project, or latest tool purchase. Those are two topics I consider relevant if they happen to be on a woodworking blog. Otherwise, the rest is a lot of fluff. Why does it bother me? It actually doesn’t. I came home from work in a bad mood and I feel like complaining about something. Because my contact with the professional woodworking world has been virtually non-existent over the past few months, I have very little to complain about when it comes to woodworking. This is all I could come up with. I know, it’s pretty lame, but does anybody really care?

Enfield Cupboard continues.

I had little time to woodwork this past weekend, but as it were, I did manage to get a few things accomplished on my cupboard.

First thing I had to do was simple, and that was to saw off the protruding pieces of the top moulding. For that task, I turned to a tool that I rarely use, a Japanese Ryoba saw. I’m not such a fan of Japanese style tools. I have nothing against them, but I’ve failed to discover any of the mystical qualities that some woodworkers claim they have. That being said, my experience with Japanese woodworking tools is very limited, so I could be wrong. My Ryoba saw is a Marples, a cheap one, that was given to me as a gift. It’s definitely sharp, but I don’t find it any more accurate than a backsaw. In fact, I think it is less accurate. I do, however, like it for flush cutting because of its flexible blade and thin kerf. I’ll say this, if the Marples handle was better and more comfortable, as in made from wood rather than the licorice like plastic handle that it does have, I may just think more highly of the tool. In any event, the saw did a nice job and made a clean cut.

As I said, my time was very limited, but I wanted to at least get the door parts started, so I ripped the stiles to width and finish length, and then cut the rails to length, adding 2 inches to each to account for the tenons. For the rail widths I once again followed the measurements from the original cupboard: a 4 inch wide bottom rail, a 5 inch wide middle rail, and a 3 inch wide top. Before I put the table saw away I got out the dado stack and ripped a ¼ inch wide x ¼ inch deep groove down the center of each stile. I would have loved to also finish up the mortises, but I didn’t have the time. Even had I finished the mortises, I’m going to need to pick up the board to make the two panels before I go any farther, and I would actually like to make them first.

With next weekend being my wedding anniversary, as well as being the weekend before Christmas, I’m not sure how much more work I will get done. Thankfully I have a few days off after Christmas, and if I can managed to get the board for the panels between now and then, I should be able to finish the door construction in around 2 hours if I can maintain a good pace. I’m hoping that to get the construction finished by the last weekend of December, and the paint applied the weekend after the New Year. With that, I can start on my next project, which I’ve been mapping out in my spare time, and should be a simple but very useful piece of furniture that I probably should have made a long time ago.



Bill Shakespeare

In a shameful attempt to get published in Popular Woodworking Magazine, I’ve begun my own fictional woodworking tale. I’ve just finished a few paragraphs; so this is what I have thus far…

When I recently returned from a trip to Stratford-Upon-Avon I noticed my cat ‘Puck’ lying atop the Othello board in my dining room. My cat greeted me knavishly, and as I reached to pet the barmy beast I pricked my thumb upon the buggered board. Old Puck had mischievously scratched the table, and by the pricking of my thumb I knew that it needed to be replaced.

My penchant for woodworking and cats lead me to devise a contraption that couldst both function as an Othello table and a place for kitty litter.

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