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Forum topic by Jim posted 09-18-2010 07:16 PM 2553 views 0 times favorited 54 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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253 posts in 3821 days

09-18-2010 07:16 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

Here is an interesting topic for discussion.

I just had a reaction to one of my projects that threw me completely off guard. I’ve spent the past 7 months working on a small roll top desk. The design is unique and the project is entirely made from quality oak with joinery and details that will ensure it lasts for a long time. I’m normally very critical of my projects but have been very pleased with the results on this one. It was one of those rare projects where there were no real “Oh Crap” moments, everything just fell together as planned. My wife, who I made the desk for, absolutely loves it. Fellow LJ’s have given me the usual encouragement that’s I’ve come to appreciate so much. Friends and family have been similarly supportive with many oohs’ aaaah’s and “Can you make me one’s” ... till yesterday.

A long time friend saw the desk. The instant response was “You wasted your time, I got one just as nice at Walmart for $50”. I didn’t know how to respond to that. Saying that the desk was oak and hand made so it would out live me, instead of particle board that will fall apart, was dismissed by saying she could buy a new Walmart one everytime its needed and still spend less money.

Not liking the style, design or finish wouldn’t bother me but this just seemed to come out of left field. I think what got me was, that this was more than a shot against a specific project. I took it as a statement that my passion for woodworking is a waste of time, money and effort. Have you ever had a reaction like that to a major project? How did / would you react, especially when it comes from someone who matters?


-- Jim in Langley BC Canada ---

54 replies so far

View terrilynne's profile


836 posts in 3069 days

#1 posted 09-18-2010 07:24 PM


-- Terri, Rocky Mountain High Colorado!

View helluvawreck's profile


32087 posts in 3042 days

#2 posted 09-18-2010 07:26 PM

Well, Jim, how much would your wife sell it for? I’ll bet it’s priceless to her. That’s the nice thing about woodworking we can make nice things for those that we love and one of your children will get it and pass it on down. So the joy of ownership and the knowledge of who built it will last on long after your gone. There’s no point at putting a price on things like that. Ain’t life grand?

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View HerbC's profile


1790 posts in 3035 days

#3 posted 09-18-2010 07:38 PM


I’m glad you made it for your wife rather than your “friend”...

I’ve looked at your project (the desk) and am very impressed with both your design and your workmanship.

So, your friend’s opinion is worth exactly what you paid for it, on the other hand your desk is priceless.

Be Careful.


-- Herb, Florida - Here's why I close most messages with "Be Careful!"

View reggiek's profile


2240 posts in 3446 days

#4 posted 09-18-2010 07:41 PM

It is typical of folks that do not understand craftsmanship. They do not know the difference between a craftsperson in their shop making items of quality using beautiful one of a kind woods and other high quality materials…to a sweaty factory where barely trained workers slap together prefab pieces made out of the cheapest and lowest quality materials.

I typically would say to take a look at their homes….it probably looks like it is a display room right out of KMart or such….and there is always something breaking or broken about and the place gives off the feeling of cheap and tacky. Whereas you look at a craftsperson’s house where they are using their hand made items…you will typically find beautiful items displaying fine workmanship and pretty much all the items are in good order (even in craftsperson’s homes that do not have their own items on display…they will typically have items of higher quality as they know what goes into a good piece).

-- Woodworking.....My small slice of heaven!

View Abbott's profile


2570 posts in 3479 days

#5 posted 09-18-2010 07:43 PM

As we all know whomever said that is a dunce, Wal Mart has nothing like the desk you built. That’s a lot of talent you have there Jim, that’s one of the nicest I have seen.

-- Ohh mann...pancakes and boobies...I'll bet that's what Heaven is like! ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣

View William's profile


9950 posts in 3018 days

#6 posted 09-18-2010 07:43 PM

I’ve actually had almost this exact experience. I built a rocking cradle with an inlaid wooden canopy. It was big enough you could put twins in. It was built well enough to become an heirloom piece. One guy asked the price of it. Since I’d been moving it around for a whilw, I gave him the bargain price of a hundred bucks. He commented, “No, no, I can buy a cradle at Wal-Mart for 79.99.”
I felt like telling him not to allow his baby to piss in it since particle board falls apart if it gets wet enough. I didn’t though.
My woodworking is more of a hobby. I only make enough on my projects to finance my woodworking. However, statements like that can get under your skin if you let them. I have founf that people like this that know nothing about quality never will. They will but that desk. Then when that desk goes to the curb because it isn’t worth fixing, they’ll cuss Wal-Mart and head off to Target, or some other big-box store and buy another foreign made piece of crap. It never dawns on them that by buying the higher priced, quality made piece of furniture, they actually save money in the long run. Don’t worry. You, or I, or noone else can say anything to them to change their minds either.
You want to know something even sadder? I was asked by a lady a while back that owns a furniture store about refinishing a table top she had allowed her daughter to spill acetone on. It messed the table up so deep that there was no way to refinish the table correctly. It was one of these particle board with veneer top deals. I explained to her I’d have to sand the top so far down that there was a chance of ruining the veneer and exposing the particle board undreneath. She argue with me that “no, this is quality furnuture.” After getting her to actually get down on the floor and LOOK at the bottom of the table, I finally convinced her. They was quality furnuture, by today’s standards. I mean it did at least have solid wood legs.
The problem is though that quality by today’s standards isn’t very good quality. We now live in a throw-away society. I don’t have the answer to that. I wish I did. I guess all we can do is to educate the people that want to be educated. Let the rest of them keep buying Wal-Mart, Target, and Ikea. Then look them in the eye with bewilderment when they ask you why do you think their furniture doesn’t last longer than a couple year and say, “Why I don’t know. My wife is still enjoying her hand built, quality made roll-top desk. I swear I think your’s should still be holding up to.” Then smile that sarcastic smile.


View BritBoxmaker's profile


4611 posts in 3212 days

#7 posted 09-18-2010 07:47 PM

Your wife loves it. You enjoyed working hard on it and as you say you are pleased with it. That is all that matters.

Not everyone appreciates hard work and quality. Some people know the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

-- Martyn -- Boxologist, Pattern Juggler and Candyman of the visually challenging.

View CharlieM1958's profile


16278 posts in 4394 days

#8 posted 09-18-2010 07:49 PM

I’ve learned that with woodworking you have to take pleasure in your own pride of having created something from raw materials. A lot of people only look at the outward appearance of the final result, with no appreciation for the time and skill that went into it.

Your friend’s comments were a little thoughtless. He should have kept that to himself. But I can’t really blame him for feeling that way. It’s like choosing between an antique Tiffany lamp and a $10 WalMart special… If all you are interested in is the light, why pay more? In other words, there is the utilitarian view, and there is the appreciation of the finer things in life. Some people will only buy designer clothes, but will get that $10 lamp. Other folks might buy their clothes at the bargain basement, but spend a week’s salary on a bottle of fine wine.

Everybody has their own sense of what is important. Different strokes for different folks.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3291 days

#9 posted 09-18-2010 07:51 PM

it doesn´t matter what it cost for you
its your hobby and a hobby don´t have to pay for it self in money
it pay for itself during your joy of making it and the years after both as a joy for you to loke at
but allso as a great convesationpiece

take care

View Jim's profile


253 posts in 3821 days

#10 posted 09-18-2010 08:19 PM

Oh I’m not upset, more curious in how you guys would approach a similar situation. I’m enjoying, and appreciating all the insightful responses.

-- Jim in Langley BC Canada ---

View BritBoxmaker's profile


4611 posts in 3212 days

#11 posted 09-18-2010 08:59 PM

Jim, I tell them ‘go ahead, buy your cheap version’. There will be someone just around the corner who appreciates the real thing and I already do..

-- Martyn -- Boxologist, Pattern Juggler and Candyman of the visually challenging.

View edgarO's profile


68 posts in 3081 days

#12 posted 09-18-2010 09:29 PM

i think an instant backhand and kicking them out for their blasphemy would have been in order. if they were a woman i would have falcon punched her. google it.

View Gregn's profile


1642 posts in 3159 days

#13 posted 09-18-2010 09:47 PM

Jim, your friend is like so many others who have no idea of what they are talking about. I’ve gotten the comment thats to much when they have gotten just the materials list alone. Then their comment is much like your friends comment that they can get it cheaper. But who do they come to when they want their cheap stuff fixed. You got it, its you. My reply then is heres the duct tape cause its a waste of time to fix that cheap junk. Cheap stuff is for cheap people who care less about the real value of things. I’d like to see your friend get something as nice as your desk at Wal-Mart. This is why I don’t like to make things for sale and keep woodworking as my hobby. I’ve yet to see something that I have made for someone try to bring it back or re-gift it. That says more to me than any negative comments can.

-- I don't make mistakes, I have great learning lessons, Greg

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

10985 posts in 3604 days

#14 posted 09-18-2010 09:59 PM

“How did / would you react, especially when it comes from someone who matters?”

I reacted with a smile and they don’t matter any longer.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View William's profile


9950 posts in 3018 days

#15 posted 09-18-2010 10:01 PM

I make a clock that’s called the Cottage Clock. It has about fifteen hours worth of handcut fretwork in it. It stands fouteen inches tall. I had a guy tell me he bought the exact clock for ten bucks at the dollar store. I asked could he bring it by sometime. He did. Most people can’t help it when they thing they have beaten someone over. Before I even saw it I knew he was either full of $#!+ or mistaken. He brought it by about a week later. The two clocks looked nothing alike. They both were clocks that looked like “little houses” as he put it. They both run on a AA battery. That’s where the similarities ended. Oh, and his even had a little light inside to highlight the cutouts all throughout it. It even looked like wood, from a distance.
Until I pointed it out, he hadn’t even noticed the “made in indonesia” molded into it on the inside beside where the clock movement was. With his permission, I took a knife and shaved a tinyi sliver from the inside to show it was plastic.
Then he and I had a long discussion about the difference between hand crafted and factory made. I think it was his guilt for insulting my work, but he threw his clock in my garbage can and bought mine.

Also of interest along this same topic is something I was talking to a guy the other day about. I have a little benchtop drill press on sale on Craiglist. A guy came by to look at it that does metal work. He has a shop here in my town. He cuts everything with a torch. Then he carefully grinds everything to spec according to what his customer’s needs are. The type work he does is usually done on CNC machines in much larger factories. Our discussion revolved around the similar comment he and I have heard with his metal work and my wood work. He is often told that it can be done cheaper in a factory and imported into America. So, if it makes anyone feel better, it isn’t only wood workers that experience this “quality control issue.”


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