Have we lost our woodworking ways

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Blog entry by cckeele posted 10-21-2007 07:36 PM 2399 reads 1 time favorited 32 comments Add to Favorites Watch

These days it would seem that we have a never ending need to spend thousands of dollars on accessories for our already costly tools. I am particularly concerned in the areas of push sticks, block planes, router fingers, jigs etc..Am I the only one who is shocked and awed when I see the price tags on the latest line of accessories. It seems alot of people are just giving in and buying alot of items that they could probably just make out of scrap material. There is no lack of talent on this website if you ask me so why has the market on accessories sky rocketed out of control? Are we to blame for buying in and supporting them. Why not stick to our guns and make them ourselves. Take the market back so to speak. Granted there are numerous items that have allowed us to achieve a new level of woodwork all together, but can these items not be reverse engineered as well and made of wood? Is it too much work? It surely could not cost as much.

I find that making things like pushsticks and jigs to be extremely rewarding and the best part is they are free. Made from scrap material from previous projects. I love it. So for anyone that has sold out to this over-priced market and given up on a tradition in woodworking, Please send me your scrap wood so I may make use of it as I cannot afford the ever growing cost of accessories that will soon just take my skill out of the equation all together.

The mission of this blog is merely to poll the Lumberjock community. Make it yourself or buy? and why?

-- All donations should be made out to me and in the form of wood or tools ~Chris

32 comments so far

View mot's profile


4911 posts in 4030 days

#1 posted 10-21-2007 08:02 PM

In my experience, it comes down to having the confidence to make something that fills that need. For me, I was always intimidated by making a crosscut sled. It has to be perfect, or I just wasted my time and effort. As I gained more experience, I realized it’s not so daunting of a task. In the meantime, though, if someone sold one that would allow me to effectively, safely and competently crosscut on my tablesaw, I’d have bought it.

Now, pushsticks are consumeables. You can make one in 10 seconds on the bandsaw. Why anyone would buy one is beyond me. Having said that, I have a TON of things in my shop that others wouldn’t buy. We come into the discussion of, “What do I want out of this hobby?” Do I want to build boxes or build jigs? For the first few projects, you want to build boxes. For the rest, you realize that your boxes will gain in precision, appeal and variety, if you build some jigs.

Have we lost something? I suppose. Everytime someone comments on a project that has dovetail drawers that were cut with a dovetail jig and say, “Nice dovetails!” I sort of think, we don’t say, “Nice glue on edgebanding!” It might be argued that more effort goes into glue on edge banding than machine cut dovetails. “Nice pocket holes!” “Nice cross cut!” “Nice use of wood on that shelf.” “Nice biscuit slots!”

...but that’s not the point. It comes back to what we want out of this hobby. I think it’s embodied in the comments posted on projects here. Whether it’s the first effort of a box, or a toy, or a bench or a shelf. Whether it’s the first efforts at handcut joinery, or machine cut joinery with a twist. Whether someone used a scraper, or a $1000 drum sander. Whether they used red oak, or bubinga. We appreciate the effort, the work, the outcome and watching someone on their journey.

I’d like to see some challenges on this site. Not a table, or a campaign, but a skill builder. Take two boards, a saw and a chisel and have a challenge to hand cut a mortise and tenon. To hand cut a dovetail. To get on your tablesaw and do an edge to edge glueup. A challenge that gets people to do something they havn’t done before and not neccessarily for a project, but just a skill. To build a crosscut sled…not with t-tracks and stop blocks, but make a piece of plywood with runners that is square to your tablesaw and add a fence that makes perfect cuts. To show people that the daunting task is not so daunting, but to grab the attention of everyone on the site to a specific skill share, skill building task. To teach the novice the skill or give them the experience of it, and to remind the seasoned woodworker about other ways to do things, or perhaps how they used to do it before they bought a Domino…

I’m rambling…too much coffee….what was the question again?


-- You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. (Plato)

View cckeele's profile


76 posts in 3866 days

#2 posted 10-21-2007 08:20 PM

Lol Tom. Very well put. I agree. The competition is a great idea. I dont believe we build skills these days, we just buy them. I dont want to learn this way and I am sure I couldnt afford too. I believe that there are numerous skills to be learned through building jigs and fixtures that can be directly applied to the project. I think a lot of skills are lost when we purchase something that just does it for us. Not that I own a wooden table saw but I do like to push the wood through myself. Its getting to the point these days where we are just gonna be buying cnc routers to do the work we cant and take all the credit for it anyway. I like the task of doing hudreds of precise inlay cuts with a scroll saw.

I think for me I am going to try and learn to be a fine woodworker and not so much just buying a tool that does all the work for me. I dont want to be known for my precision glue ups.


-- All donations should be made out to me and in the form of wood or tools ~Chris

View brad's profile


136 posts in 3897 days

#3 posted 10-21-2007 08:45 PM

Jigs and fixtures are projects to me, and its how i practiced when i first got into the hobby. By the way. I’ve filled a dumpster with things I had to discard, but with each one came lessons learned and skills gained and a lot of enjoyment.
I say make it if you can, buy it if you need or want to and enjoy your time in the shop safely.
By the way:
I think a lot of people who enjoy hobby’s of all “flavors” ,deep down subscribe to the axiom…..
“He who dies with the most toys wins.”
Isn’t it all about enjoying what we like and growing in some way because of it.
Developing our skill is what we are all trying to do.

-- Brad,--"The way to eat an eliphant is one bite at a time"

View Russel's profile


2199 posts in 3932 days

#4 posted 10-21-2007 09:24 PM

I think that you have to go deep enough into the water to realize that knowing how to swim is a good thing. When I started this little obsession, my objective was to make stuff and eventually have people ask, “You made that?” My ignorance guided me to ready made tools and techniques that would allow me to produce sooner. As I’ve progressed and interacted with real woodworkers, I’ve come to appreciate and understand the value of jigs and hand tools and such. I have cut dovetails by hand and made mortise and tenon joints with a saw and chisel. However, it wasn’t until I knew that these things existed as a result of machines that I learned that they could also be done by hand. Yet expediency and the knowledge of my own lack of skills cause me to purchase many things that I could make myself. My objective is to make stuff, and making stuff to make stuff is often a diversion I’m not willing to tolerate.

-- Working at Woodworking

View Dadoo's profile


1789 posts in 3984 days

#5 posted 10-21-2007 11:37 PM

On the other hand, my objective is to go to the shop/garage/lab and have fun creating anything.

*I think that’s about the shortest answer I’ve offered yet!

-- Bob Vila would be so proud of you!

View Buckskin's profile


486 posts in 3981 days

#6 posted 10-21-2007 11:52 PM

I say make rather than buy if you can. I have a long list of jigs and toys for the shop to make. However, my scrap pile is currently not suited to some of them. In the future I will be posting some of these qizmos. In the mean time I will line up with and request scrap piles of the compulsive purchasers be sent my way as well. LOL.

View olddutchman's profile


187 posts in 3928 days

#7 posted 10-22-2007 12:17 AM

I agree that a lot of the things we buy, (jigs, fixtures ect) could be made guite easily. That is what i did when i started with my first tools as a boy. First, i seen My father and Grandfather, who were both experienced boat builders do just about everything by hand. They didn’t use any power tools other than those furnished by the company such as huge bandsaws and Table saws for heavy skelton work. So i learned to build bows, arrows, ect for quiet a while. I have all the power tools that i need, but i would drather build as many jigs and fixtures as i need. Then when doing the job with tools, and jigs that i bought & built, a big rush comes over me and i can say how slick that jig works. By the way , i am 61 and sharing these things with my grandson.

-- Saved, and so grateful, consider who Created it ALL!!!

View miles125's profile


2180 posts in 3999 days

#8 posted 10-22-2007 02:31 AM

I would guess that a lot of the store bought pushsticks are a result of woodworking catalog people, instead of actual woodworkers, driving the perception of what the novice needs for the hobby. I don;t think woodworking is alone with this problem. Surely professional body building people gotta be wondering WTF!! at the number of people that purchase Ab Rollers and Thighmasters.

-- "The way to make a small fortune in woodworking- start with a large one"

View cckeele's profile


76 posts in 3866 days

#9 posted 10-22-2007 02:47 AM

oh man. lol. Thats good stuff right there.

-- All donations should be made out to me and in the form of wood or tools ~Chris

View SPalm's profile


5319 posts in 3875 days

#10 posted 10-22-2007 02:58 AM

I tend to agree with Dadoo. For me it is a hobby, and I get to define it.

I believe that one should be careful about setting rules for other people on what is or is not woodworking. My father (who was an accomplished amateur woodworker) would have not considered making a box as woodworking. He would call that a craft. It also drove him crazy when someone would make a beautiful tool out of exotic wood. He saw woodworking as a practical art only. If it wasn’t furniture or something like built-ins, it was not woodworking. Yet he loved to carve but he called that just art. Go figure.

I know of other guys who want you start from rough lumber, preferably stuff you have dried yourself. Others can not stand it if you build from plans, or worse, a kit. Still others will not allow paint into their definition.

So I believe that we need less rules. I want to appreciate it all. I love the unique, and the classics. I love the simple and the complicated. I love the serious and the whimsical. I love hand cut and I love machine cut.


p.s. My Dad would have gone ballistic seeing an expensive router table from a uppity store like Rockler. Me, I am kind of jealous.

-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View miles125's profile


2180 posts in 3999 days

#11 posted 10-22-2007 03:50 AM

Spalm, there are purist, then there are PURIST. When we get to the day when you can put a chair or table design in the computer, and then go out to the shop and watch robots build it and finish it…i gotta draw the line!

There are plenty of factories that can spit out a curio cabinet faster than a woodworking artisan can. Portrait painters ran into this problem with the advent of photography over a hundred years ago. I take comfort in the fact that a hundred years later, a photograph, by its very ease of being produced, is rarely considered as valuable as a human created painting. This gets even more interesting when you consider that the photograph and its process wins hands down when it comes to technical accuracy in capturing a persons likeness.

True woodworking art iseems directly proportional to how much a persons talent and efforts are revealed to you when viewing the piece and studying how it was achieved .

-- "The way to make a small fortune in woodworking- start with a large one"

View cckeele's profile


76 posts in 3866 days

#12 posted 10-22-2007 04:11 AM

I think your Dad would be right Steve. When I look back at that purchase, it was money wasted. Practically $300.00 in laminated particle board with a couple of machined aluminum parts. Atleast I made the rest of it. Yeah, if I had to do it all over again, I wouldnt have spent the money on the table. I got plenty of material that I could have made just about anything and probably better. I think miles125 got it right when he said pushsticks are something novice catalog shoppers buy because they think they need it. I certainly felt that way. Hindsight is 20 20

-- All donations should be made out to me and in the form of wood or tools ~Chris

View Chip's profile


1904 posts in 4086 days

#13 posted 10-22-2007 04:18 AM

After looking at those push sticks I went back to restudy Steve’s CNC Router. What a wonderous woodworking world we live in. And it’s all kinda relative isn’t it?

I agree with miles though. I like studying a handmade piece and seeing the tiny mistakes. They define the journey and after all, isn’t that what it’s really about?

-- Better to say nothing and be thought the fool... then to speak and erase all doubt!

View SPalm's profile


5319 posts in 3875 days

#14 posted 10-22-2007 03:04 PM

I agree with you guys more than you might think. Some of my real inspirations in woodworking came from Maloof, Krenov, and Tage Frid. I love hand made works of art. I just keep trying to tell myself to ignore the little voices and keep my field of vision wide.

I still buy flowers, and make my popcorn on top of the stove.

Take care,

-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4154 days

#15 posted 10-22-2007 03:25 PM

sounds like the “film vs digital” photography debate as well… the end result is: do you like the process? do you like the end result of the efforts?

I was watching someone on tv show how to turn 4 table legs to make them “identical”.... I turned the channel. I found the process to be annoying to watch. Now, I’ve also watched bowls and pens being turned and oh how fascinated I am by the process. Everyone has their own preferences and their own interests.

Tools, building/buying jigs, carving with hand tools, power tools, or electronic equipment— “To each his own” and “to thine own self be true”.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

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