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A "perfect" hand made rustic look?...I don't understand.

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Forum topic by Catspaw posted 12-25-2007 04:44 PM 1274 views 0 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Catspaw

236 posts in 3723 days


12-25-2007 04:44 PM

I’m interested in opinions. Because of the diversity here I should get a good sampling.

We deal with the mid- to higher end of high end clients. We often work through a design house. One in particular does the finishing. In this case they take our “perfect” product and hand scrape it for that rustic hand made look. For context we make casework, coffered ceilings, frame and panel wall coverings…usually doing a complete room like a library, study, or office. Our work is not made to appear machine perfect….usually.

I constantly run into a desperation for “perfect” joints and surfaces and dimensions, etc. THEN I get the “wood is alive” mentality…it moves and changes etc. And I’ve never been on a site where the room was perfectly plumb, level, and square.

Now…what I can’t reconcile is….why are we (my environment) worried about making everything so perfect when someone else is just going to muck it up anyway? Do we start with “perfection” so that any natural occurances don’t get skewed too far one way or another?

I know a good joint is always desirable but it doesn’t have to be made as if it were one peice of wood to be strong and stable.

So what if a gap between a door and a frame is slightly off or the reveal is not machine perfect (we’re not talking huge differences here, just minor things)? Chances are that gap will change with humidity and temperature anyway and a reveal that’s been hand scraped will, by default, become uneven.

Maybe this is driven by the boss or maybe by clients who think a product should have a “perfect” hand made look (oxymoron.)

Mongo not understand!?

(for those of you too young to remember….that was a movie reference from Blazzing Saddles.)

-- arborial reconfiguration specialist


14 replies so far

View Douglas Bordner's profile

Douglas Bordner

4021 posts in 3972 days


#1 posted 12-25-2007 07:30 PM

Candy-Gram for Mongo. Sorry no profound thoughts, just wanted to jump on the Blazing Saddles reference.

-- "Bordnerizing" perfectly good lumber for over a decade.

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 4222 days


#2 posted 12-25-2007 08:09 PM

I understand from the point of view that so much “rustic” is just crap. Very poorly made. A lot of log furniture is extremely uncomfortable and poorly made. I don’t care how rustic a piece is if the door is built a 1/8” out then warps another 1/4” on the job I don’t want my name on it. You are actually lucky to get to work at a place that gives a damn…even it it doesn’t make sense.

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Catspaw

236 posts in 3723 days


#3 posted 12-25-2007 09:26 PM

land shark!

All seriousness aside though, I certainly see why certain things must be made precisely.

But, take a coffered ceiling. It may be 10 or 12’ up. If a butt joint has a slight scarf on one side, say an inch where the saw clipped it or you pushed on the saw when you finished the cut or something for maybe an inch over 6” with a gap of less than 1/16”, the finishers will fill it, you couldn’t see it if you tried, it’s not what you want to do, but it will still look fine particularly when the product is hand scraped.

[Note: quite often we do walnut with a rather dark coloring so a filler usually is just a dark edge or line that is no different than some of the grain pattern.]

Or even a little ding or nick here and there. It happens. But, I don’t think you should spend a half an hour or so and srcap $20 or more worth of wood to fix something that no one would ever notice.

I don’t want to produce defective products but there is a practical side to it also. Does the client really care? Are you compromising any integrity?

I’m working hard to find a balance as ultimately I’m responsible for QA while trying to run the shop profitably.

-- arborial reconfiguration specialist

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dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 4222 days


#4 posted 12-26-2007 02:53 AM

That is a line I walk everyday building kitchens. I try to remember the cabinets only have to be strong enough to make it to the job. After being installed they never get moved again.

View miles125's profile

miles125

2180 posts in 3913 days


#5 posted 12-26-2007 03:00 AM

I firmly believe theres a thing called overkill. Every job calls for its own level of quality and concern. And each artisan has his own idea of whats “good enough”.

This variation is why apples rarely get compared to apples in the woodwork business.

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

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Thos. Angle

4445 posts in 3870 days


#6 posted 12-26-2007 04:35 AM

I agree with Miles, we all draw our own line in the sand on quality. It comes down to what you want to leave behind. If the client is happy and stays happy, I’m happy. Like Dennis and Miles, I have a living to make. Are we trying to impress our clients or our peers? Sometimes it seems the FWW crew are more intent on impressing other woodworkers.

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View oicurn2it2's profile

oicurn2it2

146 posts in 3746 days


#7 posted 12-27-2007 03:15 AM

just a preseption offerd here ,ive struggled to become self employed for this very concept(having to be hasseld for taking” to much time” when” its good enough”” come on,hurry up” , mainly due to the fact that i personally enjoy the challenge of the wood, shaping it ,fitting it and basically seeing how close to 100% i can get it and i dont always get close, so im on the otherside of the fence concerning overkill {chalk it up to my age (still a pup i guess) but why i do this isnt for other woodworkers ,heck i cant even say its for the client . i love what i do and id do it for free the tools, the wood, the math, the joinery, dude its a bonus i can get paid, from what ive read & heard the oldtimers would take out their pocket “plane” (knife) and dial that joint in if it took 15 min and 7 fittings now i realise this is a different time a faster time but i think that them ol boys where on to somthing….could be wrong …. sombody on here has a tag at the end of their name
i think it says “work to satisfy yourself and let all others be pleased” was just what popped in to my head reading this

-- "when you think youre going to slow, slow down just a little bit more" .... Pop's

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Catspaw

236 posts in 3723 days


#8 posted 12-28-2007 01:14 AM

Well, I would agree in my basic work ethic, OI. The problem I’m running into…(and I just had this conversation today)... is facing things like contracts with deadlines, slow workers who can’t seem to think for themselves (that aren’t slow because they’re really trying to do a really great job….just slow) and such.

While I’d prefer to make a product just so, or trying to get my minions to do it in a reasonable amount of time, I can come face to face with $1K every day over our promised completion date. You have to really make a hard decision.

Everything we do is custom. My mfg. brain tells me to get the process down and crank it out. You can’t mass produce custom stuff. You also have to run things profitably to pay for that 5 head moulding machine.

BTW, I think the responses are good so far (it’s not a right or wrong question.) It’s the sense of where people’s heads are at that will help me fix my brain. So, hopefully there will be more.

The next step would be figuring out how to fix tornado-boy….(my boss.)

-- arborial reconfiguration specialist

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oicurn2it2

146 posts in 3746 days


#9 posted 12-28-2007 01:34 AM

when i was in the mill shop (this being the very reason i left it burnt me out ) the position id take was one of advocating for the lead time oh i realise that the time crunch is a tempest of horror with every body thinking thast they are the only one in the world with a schedule and the boss looking at nothing but the $ .....
i hope you can sipher this to a reasonable solution ,icount get it to line up and ended up dreading work because of it you said it “you cant mass produce custom stuff ” seems it custom or production and the dollar tips the scale
have you considered your own shop ? fixed it for me,
love the tag.

-- "when you think youre going to slow, slow down just a little bit more" .... Pop's

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 4222 days


#10 posted 12-28-2007 05:23 AM

I worked at a shop where the boss was a real craftsman. We did beautiful mid range work. Never made much money but it was beautiful work. When he went belly up I bought most of his tools and eventually opened my own shop. Now I do “not as beautiful” work and make “not as much” money. It is a strange world. People would never consider getting a custom made $600.00 table wont bat a eye at ordering a $3,500.00 prefab (piece of crap) cabinet for the kitchen. Then I see guys getting $15,000.00 for the table I can’t get $600.00 for and I’ve just got to think this world is crazy!

View scott shangraw's profile

scott shangraw

513 posts in 3977 days


#11 posted 12-28-2007 05:53 AM

I know what you mean Dennis.I am one of those guys trying to get the $15000 for the table ,well at least 4,000-5,000 I’m not at that fifteen level yet!!or not finding those kind of clients

-- Scott NM,http://www.shangrilawoodworks.com

View miles125's profile

miles125

2180 posts in 3913 days


#12 posted 12-28-2007 05:29 PM

This probably all goes back to Mark Decou’s blog on Image and presence. The difference between the $2000 table and the $15000 table is found in the self marketing efforts. People pay high dollar for a reputation, not so much a table.
This is a crazy world and it runs on perceptions rather than reality it seems. I’m probably as guilty as anyone else of keeping it that way when i instinctively go for the brand name product in my purchases.

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

View Catspaw's profile

Catspaw

236 posts in 3723 days


#13 posted 12-29-2007 01:47 AM

There’s a nice close degree of seperation miles. Which also relates to OI’s question about why don’t I open my own shop.

The boss is that one in a million salesman. Me….well….that’s not me (“presense” and being who you are as in Mark’s thread.) I can do it, but, I wouldn’t be true to what I’m doing on this here marble.

I guess maybe I just need to let the boss do the schmoozing and I’ll just stay in the shop. If people are going to pay us big bucks to pitty pat them then I guess that’s what they’re paying for. If it’s supposed to be just so then that’s the way we’ll make it.

And miles, I was recently asked about my still under construction house and the cabinetry I would be “sometime in the near future” be making and I basically told them I couldn’t afford to buy the cabinets I make. What makes my cabinets worth anymore than anyone else’s?

Perception is probably the key word…so who am I to fight it. I guess I’ll just go with the flow. Ultimately spending time bothering with the conflict seems wasteful.

-- arborial reconfiguration specialist

View miles125's profile

miles125

2180 posts in 3913 days


#14 posted 12-29-2007 05:27 PM

People seem to instinctively correlate price to quality in their perceptions. So it seems that the fine line we have to dance, is charging enough to put ourselves in the percieved high quality category, without pricing ourselves out of a lot of bill paying work.

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

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