Use The Force Luke

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Blog entry by HungryTermite posted 03-04-2011 04:44 PM 1706 reads 0 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch

You know the scene in Star Wars: Episode 4 when Luke Skywalker is flying in the trench to destroy the Death Star and he hears the voice of Obi Wan telling him to turn off his tracking computer and just take the shot using his instincts? I kind of feel like Luke right now.

I love measuring devices. Occupational hazzard I guess. Layout and Marking tools are probably my favorite things to browse through in any store or catalog. Even my 6 year old Nephew this last christmas, when given $1 to buy something for his Uncle at the dollar store and free choice of what to pick out, got me a protractor. One of the last posts in my workbench progress was about how I spent several hours marking out all the legs and making sure I got all the joints pointed in the right direction because if I screw it up I have to wait quite a while for pieces that size to dry out enough to work with.

So now, I get to the stretchers and I start to hear that voice i my head… “Use the Force!”. At this point in my woodworking education I have started to read enough stuff and realize that I need to hide my rulers from myself and mark things off from the project. When trying to figure out how to make the tenons on the stretchers I realized I need to wait until I make the mortises so I can transfer the marks and they will match. This goes counter to everything I do for a living where, as long as each part is made correctly according to my drawings, the parts go together. This is kind of a mental shift for me.

As I pick through my layout tools I hear that voice again… “Put down your ruler”. I am also trying to teach myself to cut dovetails and I am doing ok I guess. When I started I made sure to lay everything out nice and perfect as well as I could. I still transferred the pins onto the tails like you should but everything looked too perfect. I figured if I was going to do all that I may as well use a router. So I put away my sliding bevel and just did the layout by hand and while my joints don’t fit any better I think they look better because they have a slight inconsistency that looks handmade. Once I get them to fit tight (without splitting the wood) they will look great.

I am also planning some cabinets someday and I have read enough to know that I need to mark my drawers from the frames so I shouldnt go and build all my drawers in advance. Some projects I read it seems like people have no idea what size anything is. They just use story sticks and dividers for proportions and everything looks beautiful and fits perfectly even though not a single ruler was harmed during the making of their project.

So we’ll see. My workbench project is on hold while I close and move into my new home and then move all my tools into my new space and get everything setup enough to work. But when I do get started again I think I will learn to use the force.


-- Good Judgement Comes From Experience. Experience Comes From Bad Judgement.

8 comments so far

View wilterbeast's profile


44 posts in 2648 days

#1 posted 03-04-2011 05:16 PM

Are you sure that voice in your head isnt your wife or your buddy speaking to you threw an air duct??? Lol

View David LaBolle's profile

David LaBolle

216 posts in 2670 days

#2 posted 03-04-2011 05:33 PM

I am happy doing all my dovetails with out any pre-marking. The only line I make is the scribed one for the depth and at times I use a compass to find the center and work my way towards that. By eye, I go far left, then far right, left, right, left, right, until I reach the center.

Here’s a tutorial I did on that a few years ago:

Measuring has its place, but it is quite satisfying knowing you have the skill to pull it off without it, and, in my opinion, the result usually has a more visual appeal.

Use the Force!!!

May the force be with you.

-- When we build, let us think that we build forever. Let it not be for present delight nor for present use alone. Let it be such work as our descendants will thank us for

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 3107 days

#3 posted 03-04-2011 05:46 PM

Nice analogy for the subject of measuring. Especially considering the nature of the material we are working with. Forgoing measuring in exchange for working further cuts to the relation of the piece and placement it is meant for can be your best bet. I don’t confuse this with dead reckoning because I discovered, a long time ago… in a galaxy far far away, that my dead reckoner is about as dead as a reckoner can get. I have also learned not to do my final cuts until I am ready to construct those items. No matter how well I measure, doesn’t do me much good if the part has shrunk and the perfectly sized dado is now too large for the piece to be received.


-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

View Mike Gager's profile

Mike Gager

665 posts in 3266 days

#4 posted 03-04-2011 06:11 PM

i really like frank klausz's method for dovetails. he doesnt measure anything. doesnt even need to use chisels. makes it look really simple

View SST's profile


790 posts in 4194 days

#5 posted 03-04-2011 06:16 PM

I agree that measuring devices will only take you so far. Woodworking, at least for me, is a pretty “touchy-feely” exercise.
Oh, one thing though. If you’re using a table saw, and you hear that voice tell you to shut your eyes & use the force to guide your hands through the cuts… I’d resist that one. -SST

-- Accuracy is not in your power tool, it's in you

View HungryTermite's profile


90 posts in 3048 days

#6 posted 03-04-2011 09:05 PM

There is much wisdom in all your words.

And I have seen that 3 minute dovetail video. It brings a tear to my eye each time I see it. There is a podcast of Frank teaching the dovetail class at one of the Woodworking in America conferences that I watch a lot in order to pick up little things. Each time I go back and watch the video again my joint gets better.

-- Good Judgement Comes From Experience. Experience Comes From Bad Judgement.

View Mike Gager's profile

Mike Gager

665 posts in 3266 days

#7 posted 03-04-2011 09:36 PM

also check out franks video “how to dovetail a drawer” lot of good info

View BigTiny's profile


1676 posts in 2887 days

#8 posted 03-06-2011 11:40 AM

The Egyptians built the pyramids without a single rule and nary a micrometer in sight, yet they still stand in the sand over 2500 years later.

-- The nicer the nice, the higher the price!

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