At the completion of every wood shop project, I like to take a step back, take a close look, and make a general assessment of the finished piece and the processes that went into making it.
Did I make the right choices in design? Functionality? Structural integrity? Materials?
Did I use the appropriate joinery and construction methods?
Are there places where I took shortcuts or did sloppy work, maybe sacrificing good craftsmanship in the interest of haste?
Are there some skills and techniques that I should have first learned that could have made the project easier or turn out better?
Would St. Roy give a thumbs up or a thumbs down on this piece, if he ever saw it?
Most importantly, did I learn something from this project?
Such was the scrutiny that went into the completed lathe stand. Even though it is not fine furniture, in my mind it adequately passes the above tests. (not too sure about the St. Roy thing, however). Yes, there are many things that I could have done better or spent more time on, but I am confident that this piece of shop furniture satisfies all the criteria for which it was designed, and it doesn’t look too terribly bad, either.
There is one aspect of this build that, in looking back, I find very curious, and did not even think about at the time:
The project was done with very minimal use of rules for measuring and lay-out. In fact, I recall employing such devices on only a couple of occasions during the entire build.
These were for establishing the critical dimensions of the stand such as the required size of the top piece, dictated by the footprint of the lathe itself; and the length of the end frame sides, which would set the overall height of the stand, a function of the required optimum distance from the floor to the lathe center for someone of my height.
The rest of the build was done strictly by determining sizes of some components based on what I thought looked to be good proportion, and sizing other pieces by holding the stock in the location where they would ultimately go and marking for the cuts right off the project.
Story sticks and try squares were the most- used layout tools.
Many of the individual project parts were designed on the fly as I went along. The crude working drawing made at the beginning was little more than a guide to illustrate the overall form of the stand.
No precisely dimensioned cutting lists were made.
Sure, maybe some of the similar parts aren’t precision carbon copies of each other, but they don’t need to be. Instead, they are a custom fit for the location in which they reside.
I would wager that if I were to pull the four pedestal supports off the stand and align them atop each other, no two would be identical. But it doesn’t really matter. All of them were fine-tuned with a hand plane to ensure they fit in the location they were intended to go. It’s likely that no two are perfectly interchangeable without some additional plane work.
But when assembled, they fit well, look good, and function in the way they are supposed to. Isn’t that what matters in a hand tooled work piece? I’m pretty sure that none could tell that they aren’t identical unless they got out a rule and measured.
This intrigues me, since the bulk of my past woodworking activities, using power tools, relied heavily on the use of measuring devices and trying to attain precision on each and every project component, before it was even test fit for assembly. A lot of time was spent with rules, depth gauges, calipers, and other such devices in attempting to set up machines to elusive perfection.
The beauty of the hand tool world, and one of the many reasons that I am drawn to it, is that one can easily grab a saw, a plane, a chisel, a rasp, a file, or a spoke shave and fashion parts for a well-built, functional piece – without having to be overly concerned with factory-like precision.
I like working that way….