In the beginning #1: Close but no cookie

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Blog entry by DonLumberJohnson posted 04-11-2013 06:07 AM 1054 reads 1 time favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of In the beginning series Part 2: Sweet Progress - I may have a problem »

So to a certain extent woodworking is a snob sport. Somewhat because a table is not a surface to eat on it’s a stature symbol in modern culture. Square, level, ornate ergonomic, functional, and tough enough to prevent the neighbors turd kid from ripping the leg right off of it.

When a craftsman progresses into the world where mortices, dovetails and dadoes are involved, acceptable tolerances usually can’t be accomplished by Home Depot or Lowe’s brand commercial equipment.

The first time I tried to carve a tenon was with a plastic bodied Ryobi table saw where part of the table slid around on a track and the mortice on a Delta bench top drill press with a wobbly table and aggressive Dewalt bits.

I was meticulous in every way and read every piece of literature I could get my hands on. The best practices produced beautiful looking pieces. However, when I tried to put the pieces of my backed bar stool together Salvador Dali came to mind and having a sit looked pretty hazardous without duct tape and glue.

I had a machinist friend look at my work and equipment. The Ryobi sliding table wasn’t square, wasn’t flat, wasn’t within 1/8th of an inch of anywhere on that machine. We tried to fix it but the problems were in the everything. The drill press I was, and still am working with, doesn’t keep perpendicular to the bit under pressure…. working on it.

The point is that if your equipment is 1/16 of an inch off at the table saw and your drill press is another 1/8th off and your creation has forty-eleven joints you are literally better off whittling with a pocket knife. That way, the pieces you create will fit because you whittle a little at a time and make them fit a more abstract form. They fit ….

With some new equipment, still determined, and very little experience I spent 4 days thinking through, picking materials, planning cuts and rabbets, measuring, measuring, measuring, measuring …. to make a single 4 drawer, one door face frame for my new Incra router table stand.

2 Pieces down about 8 to go and I still don’t know how I am going to joint them….. We are all masochist maniacs to think this is fun. Did I mention I am looking for a sadist friend, with less experience than me, to watch and offer an encouraging word here and there just to keep me plugging away.

May we all survive our hobby…. Best of luck… Breathe…. Smile…. Break…. Resume… sometimes Beer and lots of additional safety equipment…

-- Don, Roanoke VA

6 comments so far

View JoeinGa's profile


7736 posts in 2032 days

#1 posted 04-11-2013 10:28 AM

Well said Don, well said :-)

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View RGtools's profile


3372 posts in 2680 days

#2 posted 04-11-2013 01:10 PM

I really enjoyed your writing style on this post. you tell a story that I think most of us have been through at one point or another. Thanks for sharing and keep it up.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View stefang's profile


15881 posts in 3359 days

#3 posted 04-11-2013 10:18 PM

One of the foibles with power equipment. They have to accurate or they are worse than useless.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View RGtools's profile


3372 posts in 2680 days

#4 posted 04-12-2013 01:57 PM

^same goes for hand tools, they have to be set up right or they will convince you they don’t work.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View AngieO's profile


1267 posts in 2172 days

#5 posted 07-05-2013 06:33 PM

I loved reading this!!! SO TRUE! I tried and tried to get square cuts on a 10” benchtop craftsman table saw. I now have a new table saw and although it’s not as accurate as i want… it is pretty dang great in comparison. :)

LOL… went on a building trip recently. I worked along some carpenters. I was given the task of cutting this pile of lumber…

I was given a cut list and a very awesome sliding compound miter saw that cut the 2”x12” boards easily. I was cutting the materials for a sound/media booth. A guy came up to me and watched for a few seconds. I guess he was wondering why I was taking so long. He said… “Here watch…” and he cut a few “You don’t have to be so accurate as long as it is close enough we can make it work”. GASP and EYES big…He was at least a 1/4” off the line. Even moving fast enough for them I was more accurate . LOL! It’s amazing what is acceptable to a carpenter

View JoeinGa's profile


7736 posts in 2032 days

#6 posted 07-05-2013 07:33 PM

Yep! Been there, done that. I remember being told more than once as a young carpenters apprentice… ”Dont worry bout it kid. Just cut it close, the drywall mudders will cover it up”


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