Sunday, October 11, 2009

Finding an Edge

(Photo from; planes by Steve Knight)

I've been spending a significant amount of time this week learning the finer points of carpentry and joinery at the level of creating wood furniture, such as tables, cutting boards, case etc. It has given me a deeper appreciation for the amount of effort, time, and skill that goes into making a custom piece of furniture. Of course, you can bang some 2x4s and plywood together and have something functional, but it would be crude.

What got me started on this path is a combination of things. As a maintenance guy I have to fix or replace stuff all the time, and what I discover is that such and such a thing is meant to break because it was made like junk to begin with--essentially some kind of saw dust and glue (MDF) with a veneer on top attached by a few screws. Mass produced garbage.

Even a lot of high end furniture, if it wasn't built entirely by hand, is a kind of MDF with veneer, albeit of a higher grade than the wal-mart variety. Most of your modern cabinetry, same thing. I've seen "custom" shops at home shows sell cabinetry that is just MDF with venneer but market their product as hand-made. Huh? If it's not wood, it's not wood. Fake wood is not wood. Sawdust and glue is wannabe wood and doesn't count.

Anyway, seeing the lack of quality out there and the attached price, I'd rather spend the money and the time at this point to make my own custom furniture, than pay somebody else for most things to buy a piece of crap. I want my furniture to last generations, to feel permeneant, not fake.

So quality and affordability are definitely motivating factors for me, notwithstanding the cost of tools, which gets expensive once you start purchasing things like jointers and planers. That said, once I make some stuff and am confident in my own products, I will begin to sell them and pay for those tools. Besides I need to find an edge as a maintenance guy.

Right now, I am still somewhat at the level of learn on the fly, jack of all trades . I can do a lot of the basics confidently at work, and even at higher levels of proficiency in some areas, but I need a more thorough grounding in a trade on which to build. Fine woodworking is it for me. I want to get to log cabin building, honestly, but I do not have the capital let alone the time and equipment to do more than study how cabins are built. I am not sure which I'd like better, fine wood working or log cabin building, but what I do know is that I'd like to put my wood furniture in my log cabin.

Over and Out,



Ben Hatke said...

Are those your planers?!? Please tell me they are!

I visited the Wood Whisperer and took a very helpful quiz that he made that lets you know if you should "buy it or build it" My result for the project at hand: Definitely build it.

Nick-dog said...

I wish those were my planers. They run about $400 a pop.

Cool. I am all about building it these days, but first I have to build my shop into a formidible work place.