Blame the .0001 drift.

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Forum topic by RussellAP posted 10-28-2012 01:40 PM 2263 views 0 times favorited 83 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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3104 posts in 2520 days

10-28-2012 01:40 PM

I remember hearing as I was growing up; “it’s a poor workman who blames his tools”. Yet it seems we all are guilty of this.

I’m not saying that LJ’s post bad things about their tools, we all have tools that just don’t do what they’re suppose to do, but who gets the blame in your shop when things don’t come out right.

I see LJ’s slaving over a .0003 drift in a TS, or obsessing over a lb of tension on a BS blade. Not to mention all the paranoia over picking the wrong brand of tool. OMG. I think we sometimes forget that overcoming challenges is par for the course in WW. Tool perversion is my specialty. For years I used an old Craftman TS with a bent fence clamp down, but I could cut a straight line that would make any Grisly owner green with envy and sorry to have lost all that $$$, but it is pretty to look at in the shop. And having a pretty shop is not to be underestimated.

One of the joys of WW is to guide a poorly designed tool to a successful function. It shows some skill and ingenuity. AND being old skool, I think you should have to work with sub par tools before you own precision tools. You appreciate them more that way and you tend to not obsess or complain about a .0003 drift so much.

So when things don’t turn out like you planned, who gets the blame in your shop, you, or the tools?

-- A positive attitude will take you much further than positive thinking ever will.

83 replies so far

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

5148 posts in 4194 days

#1 posted 10-28-2012 01:47 PM

I feeL the same about all the digital trinkets being touted as the end-all, be-all in adjustment devices for everything from saws to toothpicks.
Darn it! I can only blame the “oopserator” when stuff goes wrong. That’s not a real word, but I feel like havin’ it tatooed on my forehead when I screw something up.


View RussellAP's profile


3104 posts in 2520 days

#2 posted 10-28-2012 01:48 PM

LOL Bill. I wouldn’t have much face left if that were the case.

-- A positive attitude will take you much further than positive thinking ever will.

View Richard's profile


1922 posts in 2924 days

#3 posted 10-28-2012 02:22 PM

I can see it coming now the “oopserator” Ball Cap and Shop Apron for Woodworkers .
Now where can I place my Order.

View prattman's profile


445 posts in 2351 days

#4 posted 10-28-2012 02:28 PM

Hey Russell, I blame the operator when something goes wrong take a look at my last project and you will see that , no tool is perfect and no two operators are gonna do something exactly the same way. I guess ya just have to roll with the punches.

-- Everyone calls me Ed or Eddie , mom still calls me Edward if she is mad at me.

View HillbillyShooter's profile


5811 posts in 2526 days

#5 posted 10-28-2012 02:34 PM

Agree 100% about mistakes being operator error, not some minute mechanical deviation from absolute perfect. I leaned the basics of woodworking from my father using hand tools in the main (except for an old B&D Hole Gun and an older worm drive Skill saw). I always heard that a1/32” margin of error was to be expected in woodworking. With age I’ve gone over to what many consider the “Dark Side”: a love of power tools and I use them almost exclusively. Why? For me the answer is they are more accurate (1/64” or less accuracy) and after years of using primarily hand tools, the are easier (paradoxically, not necessarily faster) and more enjoyable. Also, with age the mistakes are more frequent and due to what I affectionately refer to as “brain farts”—entirely operator error and lapses of concentration since my 18year old PM TS is still within 0.001 tolerances I originally set and my 16 year old PM 8” long bed jointer is level to 0.0 degrees over its length (less the last 10” out feed) per my Wixley. Good tools hold their accuracy and set up but human age has not been so kind. But, hey guys I’m still vertical and enjoying woodworking more and more every day.

-- John C. -- "Firearms are second only to the Constitution in importance; they are the peoples' liberty's teeth." George Washington

View huff's profile


2828 posts in 3519 days

#6 posted 10-28-2012 02:53 PM


I love your threads; not afraid to stir things up a little. I guess I have to side with the “oopserator”. Heck, I never heard of blade run-out until I joined LJ’s and totally enjoyed woodworking and made my living doing so no knowing.

I had a friend tell me I built some pretty nice things, considering the tools I used. Now I wonder if he was giving me a compliment or just knocking my tools.

Prattman; you’re so right about no two operators are gonna do something exactly the same way. I had an employee once that everytime it was time to dovetail some drawers ( using an Porter Cable dovetailing jig and router) his blood pressure would skyrocket and he would start changing all the setting on the jig and router. I would spend hours getting it set-up to make good cuts, but he would take that same set-up and turn out terrible dovetails…...go figure.

-- John @

View knotscott's profile


8172 posts in 3609 days

#7 posted 10-28-2012 02:55 PM

The blame is almost always on me when things go wrong, and things never don’t go wrong for an entire project! I’ve used my fair share of tools that weren’t particularly pleasant to use, or that were barely capable of the task, but unless the tool is losing adjustment in the middle of a cut, most deviations are my fault. In fact, most of my “deviations” are doozies that really require a stronger term! I don’t waste much time miss-cutting a piece by an 1/8” or so… Most are far bigger screwups!

I’m heavily in favor tools that have good inherent precision, and setting them up to tolerances that they’re capable of, but I think a lot people get carried away playing the small tolerance numbers game without even giving thought to how it relates to their woodworking projects. It is wood, and many boards will expand and contract far more than the tolerances of our tools. It drives me nuts to see folks fretting over miniscule deviations from flatness on their new TS, and wondering if they should return the saw without even seeing how it cuts. Once the tools reach a certain quality level, tight tolerance are just table stakes….it’s an expectation. Their desirability for me becomes more about intangibles of how well they work, how much I like using them, how they feel, power, mass, capacities, features, sound, convenience, value, etc.

“Oopserator” is my new vocabulary word of the day!

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

View huff's profile


2828 posts in 3519 days

#8 posted 10-28-2012 02:56 PM

Forgot to mention; that employee was a retired engineer from IBM and he never blamed himself for bad joints, it was always the tool that screwed up. Loved working with that guy and he was a really good woodworker, just never enjoyed what he did.

-- John @

View Mike's profile


406 posts in 2921 days

#9 posted 10-28-2012 03:39 PM

I always scratch my head at the people that tune their tools to .001” and complain about being .005” off, then talk about the moisture content in wood. The reason that gets me is because they spend all this time making sure that a tool is “super” accurate, then talk about a medium that fluctuates in size based on a number of factors such as moisture. Wood moves in size naturally. Having joints super tight because you need all the tolerances to be within +/- .001” is ridiculous. I live in the north east and can tell you, after I tried making a box to exacting tolerances and then watched the box destroy itself over a year due to swelling and contraction .001” is a ridiculous fantasy.

It is more of “Oopserator” error than the tool in many cases in my humble opinion. I am thinking that the Urban Dictionary needs a new word and definition!

-- look Ma! I still got all eleven of my fingers! - -

View bandit571's profile


21968 posts in 2917 days

#10 posted 10-28-2012 03:46 PM

Gremlins! Gotta be, I don’t make mistakes, do I????

Now called “Design Points” to show off how different my work is from others…..

Note how tongue is firmly ( within a .000001”) planted in cheek. Used to be, the really bad screw-ups became firewood, leaving a mistake-free shop. Sometimes it got a might too warm in the shop.

Level of mistakes can be judged ( in my shop, anyway) by the length, and width of the “Blue Streak” coming out the windows. Somedays, even a marine would blush…..

-- A Planer? I'M the planer, this is what I use

View BHolcombe's profile


180 posts in 2309 days

#11 posted 10-28-2012 04:08 PM

I work solo, so I only have myself to blame when something gets screwed up. I spent a few years working in a machine shop so I know that often setup error is confused for a tool malfunction.

I would like to weigh in with the fact that good tools to help to reduce some of the dangers of woodworking (not eliminate!) and anything that makes a project run smoother makes and makes a shop more efficient also offers the opportunity for the project to be more profitable.

View Jorge G.'s profile

Jorge G.

1537 posts in 2709 days

#12 posted 10-28-2012 04:28 PM

One of the joys of WW is to guide a poorly designed tool to a successful function.

I have to disagree with you. There is nothing like having the right tool for the job and have it preform flawlessly. The purpose of a well design/made tool is to disappear in your hand so that you can concentrate on the task being done, not the tool itself. What you call joy I call frustration, I did not “enjoy” having to file holes and assemble/disassemble my TS top countless times so that I could make it all square. I do not “enjoy” having a miter saw that will not cut perfect 90º and 45º angles, and then having to use a shooting board to make them right.

Typically once you are in this situation fitting mistakes start to accumulate and I imagine this where the saying that a “good wood worker is one that knows how to hide his mistakes”, I never agreed with this. I call this the sloppy woodworker or the one who does not have the right tools.

It is not a sin to work efficiently with precision and accuracy. After all the purpose of woodworking is to work the wood, not fiddle with your tools…no?

-- To surrender a dream leaves life as it is — and not as it could be.

View derosa's profile


1590 posts in 3069 days

#13 posted 10-28-2012 04:43 PM

I don’t understand the need for the ultra precise measurements or cuts either, seems like a waste of time to me and while I know the machines can be made to go there is doesn’t seem like a worthwhile use of my time. To determine if my tablesaw blade is truly 90* I take a piece of scrap with a flat edge and cross cut it on the blade, I then flip one of the two pieces over and push them together on a flat surface, if the ends butt then the blade is 90, if they don’t then I adjust slightly and repeat. Also works the same for runout. No difference for bandsaw or mitresaw and it keeps everything relatively square.

Looking at old, pre-machine items you discover that even old world craftsmen that lived on what they produced weren’t that precise, just good at showing a pretty face and their stuff is still around. When I can produce things as pretty as they could, then I’ll consider worrying about precision.

-- A posse ad esse

View Don W's profile

Don W

19034 posts in 2801 days

#14 posted 10-28-2012 04:46 PM

I agree with everyone. And although there is nothing like having the right tool and have it perform flawlessly, reality is life. Until recently I never bought a tool unless I needed it for 2 or 3 projects. That means I needed to make do with what I had for the first 2 or 3 projects.

Up until recently I did all my table sawing on a portable 8” makita TS. Yes I still have that saw, its served me very very well. I built more cabinets on that saw than I ever will on my recent grizzly. Do I wish I had the cabinet saw 30 years ago, sure, but other things were more important.

If you can’t take a skill saw and cut a straight line, you don’t deserve a cabinet saw. Learn to use the tools you have, then get the ones that make you more productive (whatever productive means to you).

I tend to like fiddling with tools, so for me woodworkig is about having fun, and the tools are a big part of the working with wood.

I think its a little sad when a new woodworker thinks he needs all the cool tools to actually do nice woodworking. The fact is, its just not true.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 3392 days

#15 posted 10-28-2012 04:54 PM

I’m with JGM on this one. There’s nothing more frustrating than using a tool that doesn’t perform the way I need…and nothing is more dangerous.

Besides if your tools aren’t well-designed or well-made, then how do you know the operator is in error? Is it the tool or is it the operator?

There is certainly a level of precision that is perhaps “good enough” in that regard, but why would somebody be satisfied with a tool’s performance if it could perform better than it currently is?

Getting better at this hobby is about, in part, eliminating variables. So, when something goes wrong you aren’t left guessing about what caused the issue.

-- jay,

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