Reply by CplSteel

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Posted on How much precision do we need in woodworking?

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142 posts in 2130 days

#1 posted 08-23-2012 02:10 PM

I like it when things fit together well however, If you are asking if we need our tools dialed in percicesly the answer is no, precision can be had easily without exact error free tools. There are two different ways of working, machine precision and cutting to fit. Neither is right or wrong and they have different advantages. If you want every leg of a table the same length, you can dial in a saw to 1/100” a, measure, and cut each leg. Or you can cut one leg and use that to measure the others. In the first example, if your measurement is off between one leg and another, the variance is small, in the second because you are referencing off the piece, if you are off the variance is small. You can always go back and true them together, all four at the same time to ensure they are exactly the same length.

If you watch Roy under hill, he may measure a piece at 6” and cut it, but when he goes to drill the center of it he doesn’t measure in 3”, he uses dividers. That way even if 6” is 6 1/8”, center is still center.

Another example is door fronts. If you batch them out ahead of time then your measurements, on all the cuts, not just the drawer fronts, need to be percise because a 1/8” gap stands out. However, if you cut to the size you need, not the size you planned to need, the left drawer may be 1/8” wider than the right, but because you can cut it that way the gap between them will be uniform and unoticable.

Obviously if you are making many identical cuts in a production shop and you are using very stable material, like mdf, then taking the tIme and expense to dual in your tools will be money well spent. A home hobbiest working with real wood can just work a bit differently. After all do you need 4 legs all exactly 23” long or do you need four legs about 23” long and exactly all the same length. The latter is far easier to achieve than the former.

Most importantly is to work the way you enjoy. I am lucky enough not to own any machines made well enough to be dialed in with that kind of precision. When I do, I will probably try to get them exact as well.

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