Ponderings #13: Who am I? Why am I here?

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Blog entry by Tomcat1066 posted 02-08-2008 04:49 PM 1162 reads 0 times favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 12: Coming to Terms Part 13 of Ponderings series Part 14: The Most Important Tool »

A conversation with MsDebbie on my last blog entry got me to thinking about why I’m here. Why do I want so badly to build fine furniture that will last for generations? Why do I want to use tools that are 60+ years old when I could get shiney new stuff instead? It’s simple. Just one word really. Rebellion.

I, my fellow LumberJocks, am a rebel. I’m rebelling against the current thoughts that pressboard furniture and $1.99 hand tools are just fine. I’m rebelling against the idea that Ikea and Walmart are the bastions of style and taste. I’m rebelling against the notion that quality is long since gone, and that heirlooms all had to have been built in ages past. That’s right, I’m rebelling against all that!

We live in what I call a “disposable society”. Everything is disposable. Plates, napkins, even our furniture. Mass assembly lines crank out junk furniture that will, at best, last for 10-20 years…and that is usually the absolute tops! Then, in the store, you pay $200-$300 or more for this piece that you’ll have for a few years before it literally falls apart. However, if you have a pipe leak or something and that piece gets wet…well, it might have lasted twenty years otherwise. Instead, you’ve got about 20 minutes left. And people seem to think that it’s normal.

That thinking is what I’m rebelling against. Don’t get me wrong. Not everyone can have custom furniture or heirloom pieces. However, what bugs me is that most people will take the junk over the heirloom, just to save a few bucks. Well, I don’t have the money to spend like I’d want to on furniture. However, I do have a will to build the cool pieces I want myself.

I don’t want to be part of the disposable society. I want my cars to last, my home to last, and my furniture to last. Hell, this is part of why I’m going with western saws over Japanese saws! The thing is, people will toss the old, simply because it’s old. Our children’s generation, on the other hand, will have to toss what is old, because it won’t be any good anymore. My son won’t however. Sure, the TV and DVD player maybe. The stereo might as well. But the furniture and my tools? No way. The furniture will be built with the intent to last for hundreds of years. The tools? Some them have already been around for a century. There’s no reason to think they won’t be around for a few more.

-- "Give me your poor tools, your tired steel, your huddled masses of rust." Yep, I ripped off the Statue of Liberty. That's how I roll!

11 comments so far

View Eric's profile


875 posts in 4018 days

#1 posted 02-08-2008 05:06 PM

This really should be an audio post. It reads like one of those crackly, FDR or MLK Jr. speeches that will be played for all time. Well said!

-- Eric at

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 4056 days

#2 posted 02-08-2008 05:15 PM

Hi tomcat,

I think that you are simply expressing a sentiment that most of us share. We wouldn’t be here if we did not share a love of wood and an enjoyment at seeing its transformation from a once living tree into a piece of furniture or a project that captures the wood’s natural beauty. Building furniture to last for generations is one way of promoting this legacy that wood freely offers and gives us a chance to share this legacy with other generations.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 4548 days

#3 posted 02-08-2008 05:15 PM

I might add that everyone can have custom built local furniture. A basic Oak/Maple table simply built is not any more that one from overseas of equal quality. It might cost 25% more than mass produced junk…you get what you pay for. My refrigerators going bad after 5 years. We use to have one from the 40’s that we tossed and it was still working. I’m tired of buying crap….I just don’t know where to turn for quality.

View MsDebbieP's profile


18618 posts in 4394 days

#4 posted 02-08-2008 05:48 PM

I’ve mentioned this before, that our real estate friend said that brand new kitchens are being built to last 5 years because by then the owner will want a new style. Shameful.
Mother Earth must cry at such wastefulness.

Our reviews are a good start to finding quality. When our “home” site gets up and running, we’ll be hearing about quality household stuff as well, I hope. Of course we may not know the endurance level regarding time but we can start voicing our demands to the manufacturers.
We, the people, are tired of having to living in a disposable society.

great topic. and we can each make a difference.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

View 's profile

593 posts in 4206 days

#5 posted 02-08-2008 05:51 PM

Although I agree with your post I think the judgement you make on japanese saws is, at best, misplaced and unfair.

Granted there are lots of cheap saws out there—I do sell them and I can tell you there’re hundreds of different models—but there are plenty of cheap western saws in WalMart too… and they don’t last as much as a japanese dozuki well cared for. Now you can spend $300 in a backsaw… and I can sell you a japanese equivalent that will set you back for twice this amount if you desire so. They are handmade and meant to be re-sharpened as many times as you need it.

On the other hand, when you toss a japanese saw you bring the blade to recycle and keep the wooden handle, so—even if still not the ideal—it is not such a big waste after all.

Actually, pretty soon I will restore an old ”maebiki nokogiri” (a japanese traditional mill saw) that is over a hundred years old, actually a family heirloom coming from my wife’s granddad and much probably used to build the house where we live in.

I must tell you that one of the worst things of living in Japan is how superficial and “disposable” this society is. If you think the States are materialistic you’d better stay away from here. To give you an idea, you go to the convenience stores and find that the sodas and refreshing drinks (alcohol mix included) change and disappear in cycles that vary in between 15 days and 3 months. So when you get used to a drink you like it just disappears and a new and strange “taste” (and I use this word loosely) replaces it.

That leads to things like last spring’s Pepsi: ”Ice Cucumber”... Yes, it only lasted 15 days, obviously. It was crystal clear and I wasn’t able to taste it… not that I regret it, obviously. ;o)

Back to the main point though, there are great Western saws… and great Japanese saws as well. Don’t just blame them for their origin. On a side note, and independently from my business, I couldn’t saw in the push stroke ever again since I first used a Japanese saw, it just feels unnatural to me and those wide kerfs….

View Tomcat1066's profile


942 posts in 4030 days

#6 posted 02-08-2008 06:23 PM


Please understand, my decision for western saws wasn’t because they’re bad saws, but that the principle is still ultimately, that the blades are disposable. Now, there are high end Japanese saws that can be resharpened. However, it’s my understanding that this isn’t something for someone to do at home, but needs to be done by a professional. I could be wrong on that however.

Also, it’s not a matter of where they are from. There’s a lot of things to respect about Japan, though in all fairness, I’m not sure how much is really BS as opposed to reality.

And I agree with you about cheap western saws. However, I’ve mentioned in previous blogs that my saws are typically vintage Disstons, my planes vintage Stanley, stuff like that. Cheap is bad, no matter where it’s from. However, for the same money you’d spend on a couple of cheap western saws, one would be better served with a couple of decent Japanese saws instead.

With the quality western saws, I can buy them, sharpen them, show my son to sharpen them, and they could last for generations just within my family alone. That alone made my decision for me.

However, I have no intent on EVER telling someone not to use Japanese saws. For a limited budget and a lack of desire to fiddle with them, they’re nearly impossible to beat!


You may be right. However, I haven’t got a clue who to talk to about a custom table here in my town, and I suspect I wouldn’t be alone. Hence why I’ve never gotten a price. My fault there.

What bothers me is that people don’t seem to care. Even at 25% more, the majority of folks would balk at that much of a mark up. People seem to demand crap instead of quality! It’s sad really.

-- "Give me your poor tools, your tired steel, your huddled masses of rust." Yep, I ripped off the Statue of Liberty. That's how I roll!

View Mario's profile


902 posts in 4285 days

#7 posted 02-08-2008 07:54 PM


-- Hope Never fails

View Alin Dobra's profile

Alin Dobra

351 posts in 4122 days

#8 posted 02-09-2008 12:31 AM


I feel the same way you feel about furniture. I came up with a name for most furniture sold today curb furniture, since in few years will end up on the curb as free junk and new curb furniture will be purchased. Some friends ask me occasionally how to fix their curb furniture (they usually come up with an elaborate plan how they’ll send it and put stain and bla bla bla). What I usually tell them is that it is better to buy an old piece of furniture and refinish it (they figured out how to really build crap only when computers started to get involved) since they will not completely waste the effort. Am sure most of them will just put it on the curb and get new junk (that looks just like the nice antiques until you bump into it).


-- -- Alin Dobra, Gainesville, Florida

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 4548 days

#9 posted 02-09-2008 12:48 AM

Most of us don’t even try to do affordable, just no market for it. My own mother would buy from a store before she would have me build something. I think the real deal breaker is asking someone to wait 2 weeks while you build it.

View MsDebbieP's profile


18618 posts in 4394 days

#10 posted 02-09-2008 12:55 AM

that’s a good point Dennis … we want everything now.. we don’t want to wait for it and we don’t want to work towards something… that’s why woodworking and gardening are two wonderful interests to instill in our children

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

View Tomcat1066's profile


942 posts in 4030 days

#11 posted 02-09-2008 04:17 AM


Curb furniture. I like it! And, unfortunately, oh-so true.


I certainly understand why. People want fast and cheap, but at least they seem content with the quality that gets them. I’m not sure which is sadder, that they get disposable stuff, or that they’re OK with that!

-- "Give me your poor tools, your tired steel, your huddled masses of rust." Yep, I ripped off the Statue of Liberty. That's how I roll!

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