Craftsmanship in a word is just a word. We envision the ensemble of things we understand it to mean when we hear it, or think of it. We know what it is when we see it, on it’s face, we recognize it, but it is more than just a few simple words.
Busting a 2×4 in half with a sledge hammer is not an example of craftsmanship, it is however an example of demolition. The important thing to understand, while many people are capable of performing demolition, far fewer are capable of performing craftsmanship, even though they have the ability to recognize it, or even purchase such things for themselves.
But we all have the capacity to learn and do if we apply ourselves.
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When it comes to shooting boards, Traditional designs come with limitations that have to be accepted. The downside to this is that these limitations become part of the mental lexicon that woodworkers carry in their mind when they consider the capabilities of the shooting board. I’d like to take a moment or two and address how our shooting boards help overcome many of these limitations.
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There are a lot of different opinions floated out about accuracy and precision in woodworking, and further, about how it applies in handtool woodworking. I’d like to take a few moments and help add some additional perspective from a toolmaker, and from someone who has also had a long career as a journeyman tradesman. This read is a little long, but I feel the perspectives will be helpful to us as we develop our craftsman skills.
I don’t want to overstate what others I’ve read are saying, but cumulatively I read a lot of woodworkers who write say things like: “wood has too much movement for a need to work accurately”. “Measuring is unnecessary, just match things up so that they are good enough”. I could go on, but I am sure we are all aware of what I am referring to.
On it’s face, sometimes these statements may be true, maybe only true for those who state them, but they can be precarious things to say in a context where the reason why is not well prefaced. Let me explain.
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There is a lot of information about wood movement on the information highway, and some of it has painted itself in a corner. That’s ok, We can help sort this out.
More often than I wish were true, I find myself reading generalizations about wood as a building material and woodworking methods that I wish were better understood, because they create incorrect impressions and misunderstandings. Some we may have seen are: “Wood moves, so being very accurate with it isn’t all that important”, “Wood has seasonal movement you know, so there is not too much concern for high accuracy”. “Just get it close” and “Wood moves, so you can’t really rely on it as an accurate or precision material”. Sound Familiar? It’s unfortunately not the best of advice.
There are many other statements often made along these lines, but they don’t even tell half the story. In fact, statements like these have influenced many who read them that wood is a terribly inaccurate material and is difficult to use for making fine things. Some go on to reiterate what they have heard: “Well you know, wood moves and so there is that accuracy issue”, or “Wood isn’t really a precision material”, without really understanding that this issue is really not nearly as big as they have been lead to believe. See, it looks a lot like what was said in the preceding paragraph, only paraphrased, and not at all any better understood. Understanding this is one of the most important things in woodworking. Sure, knowing how to use tools is great, but what good is that if we don’t understand the material the tools are used for?
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One of the most important tools in a woodworkers design arsenal is the Golden Ratio. It is the ratio that balances the long sides of rectangles, with the short side of rectangles, and as a ratio it can be used for either interchangeably as long as one leg length is known.
The Golden Ratio , or Phi as it is commonly called is a ratio that is described as:
Phi= 1 + the square root of 5 over 2. (approximately the ratio of 1 : 1.618)
It has been used in design work going back some 2,400 years. It is still commonly used today for design in Architecture, Engineering, Furniture, Art, Publishing, even Web Design. It has even been found in Nature. If you would like to know more, the Wikipedia Article on the Golden Ratio is very good. A search engine will turn up even more information. Continue Reading »
Metrology is defined as the science of measurement. More particularly for the woodworker or the home shop machinist/toolmaker, one of the divisions of metrology, which is of particular interest, is applied or industrial metrology. This is about the application of measurement, the suitability of measuring instruments, their calibration, and the quality of the measurements they produce.
So the accurate instrument is applied to create a needed measurement. The quality of the measurements becomes the layout that evolves into successful production. The gist of it is that the woodworker is trying to produce a thing, and the thing is often rendered from a drawing and plans which include materials and cut list. The go between that takes the project off the prints and puts it on the materials being used are the tools of metrology. The measurement and layout tools. Continue Reading »
Layout work is a tedious and exacting part of woodworking. We select boards for size and grain orientation. We hope this is in part, the “art” of our work that separates our project from that which is good, to that of greatness.
We sharpen our tools and skills, we buy accurate measuring and marking tools all with the hope of accurately conveying our vision. We go to work and accurately lay out the work, checking, and double-checking everything as we go to assure we have everything right. Continue Reading »