I've been woodworking for several years now, and I had
an interesting thought today as I was driving to town for
some red oak.
There used to be quite a bit of discussion here about tool quality.
And this started me thinking...
Given the same project, how would a master carpenter with
cheap to mediocre tools fare against an amateur with superior tools
and perhaps 1-2 years average experience?
In other words, would most of the difference lie in experience
or tool quality?
About as interesting as a bucket of spit, IMO ... tools have very little to
do with it, experience, AND talent, everything. Yo-Yo Ma can make the
cheapest cello sing like it was from Cremona .. nor was Claude Monet's art
in the brush he used.
Probably the experienced worker would win out. He should be able to
tune up his lower-quality tool and compensate for its weaknesses. An
amateur may continue to use a superior tool, not realizing it needs
It's no contest. the experienced worker is more resourceful than a rank
amateur so he'd get the most functionality out of meager tools. After a
couple months between dovetails, I have to get out the Incra manual
again. The pro knows wood, joints, adhesives, finishes, and design and
can build faster and better than a hobbyist. A seasoned hobbyist
probably has more fun, but takes longer and makes things primarily to
his liking. A pro has to come in on budget and build things to specs.
He also would have more wood at his disposal from which to pick
appropriate pieces for a project.
Bob Becker wrote:
I just love a backhanded compliment! Makes me feel so special!
You would be rational if you'd give up the Remedial Arm Saw and stick
with a TS, BS and CMS. Wassamatter witch yous anyhows?? :)
I took up golf a couple of years ago. My set of clubs cost about $400. On
a very good day I might break 100. Without knowing for certain, I would
guess that the clubs that V.J. Singh uses would run several thousand
dollars. If we were to swap clubs and play a round, who would you put your
Okay . . . probably a lousy comparison. However, the primary advantage of
nifty new, modern, high-quality tools (in woodworking) is that it enables
the craftsman to work FASTER. This is important to a professional since he
is basically selling his TIME. As an amateur, I could (and have) produce(d)
a sophisticated project with cabriole legs using a hand bow-saw, spoke
shaves and scraper blades. The result was satisfying, but if I sold it at
market value, my time would pay out at less than the equivalent of flipping
burgers at Micky D's.
What are they building?
How inferior and.or how superior are the tools?
I'm of the opinion, that a someone with a couple of years experience, (your
parameters), using top of the line tools could probably meet or exceed the
product of an acknowledged master, saddled with significantly inferior
tools, IF the project was to build a simple box. In other words, the tools
can compensate for a lack of specific experience and a hundred years
experience will not compensate for table saw fence that locks into position
in a random manner.
BTW, doing the same thing over and over again for twenty years, is not the
same as twenty years experience doing different things all the time.
A master carpenter, a master woodworker, a master pattern maker, a master
trim carpenter, a master furniture maker, a master shipbuilder, all share
some basic skills, but the expertise quickely diverges.
Many moons ago, I knew a "master" carpenter. Starting with just a couple of
measurments, he could calculate and cut a set of stair stringers, that were
PERFECT. Every riser was exactly the same height as every other riser.
Every step was exactly the same width as ever other step and ALL the steps
were dead on level. (I know that some computer programs will do it. But,
he did it with a framing square, a carpenter's pencil and a piece of scrap
wood.) He even compensated for the subflooring and flooring on the last
riser, so that AFTER the final flooring was installed, the total height of
the top riser, was still the same. But, he never figured out how to
install crown molding so that every cut was perfect. He was a master
carpenter. He wasn't a master trim carpenter.
I knew master trim carpenters that figured they reached that status by
compensating for the screwups of the framing carpenters. THEY considered a
perfect set of stair stringers as the Holy Grail, only achieveable by black
I figure a lot of what experience teaches you is what not to do. And I'd
guess the first lesson is to not try and make inadequate tools perform like
I'd guess that even the Neanders would suggest that one of the first things
to learn is how to put a gleeming edge on a piece of steel. In other words,
how to take a mediocre tool and make it immeasurably better.
Just puffing guys. Don't take it serious.
An expert *knows* the limitations of his tools, _and_ "how to use them".
This lets him overcome _most_ of the 'issues' that might arise with
OTOH, _nothing_ can "compensate" for loose/wobbly bearings on the arbor
shaft of a table saw. It will cut a rough line, _no_matter_who_ is using
But, the expert will -know- that =that= saw behaves that way, and do
something like 'cut everything a bit oversize, and route or joint the
edge to precise finished dimension.
Experience, clearly. Me, for example. I'm finally, gradually,
incrementally learning how to get good things done with bad equipment. If
I had started off with tools that could be depended upon more reliably to
do what I asked of them without balking, I wouldn't have had to develop
this sense of being totally anal about quadruple checking everything, and I
would be a lazier, more complacent woodworker.
Michael McIntyre ---- Silvan < email@example.com>
Linux fanatic, and certified Geek; registered Linux user #243621
About twenty years ago, Patrick Moraz (then with Yes, later the Moody
Blues) was doing a music trade show as a (iirc) Yamaha clinitian.
Unfortunately, his keyboards and his roadie never arrived, and he had to
make do with whatever his sponsor had available?
How'd he sound? Well DUH! He's Patrick Moraz!
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