Jointer Trouble

Page 3 of 6  
Paul D wrote:

Hmmmm.....have you ever needed to shift the knives to avoid a nick? Let's say that you use the traditional (hear the scrape, feel the rub) method. But, you're not so good at it. So, one of your knives is slightly higher than the others (say a few thousandths). That knife will do most of the cutting and wear faster than the others. It will be dull before the others. So, it doesn't respond the same in the "carry" method. It doesn't rub or scrape the same. And, you know that the knife alignment will need to be checked after shifting because it's not likely that the front edge is parallel to the back to within a few thousandths. Personally, I don't find this to be such an absurd or remote situation. I think that this happens to everybody.

I'm just not good at guesswork. I don't have confidence in the results. Too many times I have measured my performance at "feel the rub" or "hear the scrape" methods and have found the results to be very inaccurate. I know that some people can do it accurately but I don't have that ability. And, based on the calls and email from countless customers, I am confident that I'm not alone in this. Perhaps you just have a natural ability here. Or, perhaps you have never measured the results and, like so many others, you just don't expect much from your woodworking machines. Maybe you would be completely amazed by the performance of a properly aligned set of knives.

Sorry Paul, this is beginning to remind me of a load of bovine fecal matter. There is no "zero" with the "carry" method. From a distance of infinity to almost touching the bar (or rule or piece of wood) nothing happens. Is this your "zero"? The whole problem comes in when you try to judge that range between not touching and actually carrying the bar. How much is a rub? A scrape? Did it move? Maybe, maybe not, I can't tell. I think it lifted. No that was a rub. It scrapes when using a rule but it carries a piece of wood. Oh no, the knife squirmed a bit when tighteneing, it was scraping but now it's definitely carrying. Geez, what a stupid ignorant nightmare. Is the needle of the dial indicator on zero? Yes. Done.

Or it's a low quality model, or a moron sat on it, or you have parallelogram mounts and not dovetail ways, ... Surely you aren't saying that this adjustment is so uncommon that there's no need to address it, are you?

So, it does happen!

So, something other than "jointerese"? Really! But I thought that you didn't need any instruments. Just listen to what the machine was telling you, right? Use the force, eh? One test cut and only one test cut will solve the whole problem.

Yep, that is a fine way to do it. I prefer reading a dial indicator to sighting tiny gaps and subjectively judging the fit of shimms in a tiny gap. However, this method works just fine. But, it isn't the method that you first proposed. Originally you said that one could just learn to listen to what the machine was saying and if you were smart enough you could fix anything with nothing more than the results of a test cut.

This definitely is a big load of bovine fecal matter. Geez, what a rediculous strawman.
1. Place the indicator jig on the outfeed table with the stylus on the infeed table. 2. Zero the dial indicator on the higher side of the infeed table (if there really is a problem). 3. Move the stylus to the other side of the infeed table. 4. Place shims under stylus to bring the reading back up to zero. 5. Put shimms into slide way on the lower side of the table
Done. I think it's pretty obvious why you object to the dial indicator. A little introspection might help. Why do you feel compelled to make the dial indicator method look rediculous? It has always been my experience that people usually ridicule, overstate their case, and exaggerate to absurdity when they feel threatened by something.

In this particular case, there is absolutely no difference in what you see and learn. In both cases you use a measurement device to determine the proper thickness of a shim. The difference is in the measurement device. One is easy to read and provides you very accurate results (dial indicator). The other requires you to sight a tiny gap and subjectively fit shims (straight edge). Both can be used successfully to solve the problem with accurate results.
The real point here is this: Using "jointerese" to correct error in the infeed table of a jointer is so tedius and absurd that even it's proponent doesn't recommend it.
Ed Bennett snipped-for-privacy@ts-aligner.com http://www.ts-aligner.com
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On 18 Nov 2006 15:26:35 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@ts-aligner.com wrote:

Hey Ed-
Now here's a case where that dial indicator is really called for! Much more touchy than a tablesaw, IMO.

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wrote:

Never used a jointer or planer to remove paint from reclaimed lumber, I take it? :)
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No I have a little more respect for my machines. Apart from that being in a trade enviroment as a general rule we do not use second hand materials. If by chance an old door/window is being repaired it is stripped by hand first. And befor the issue of a moving a knife sideways because of a chip arises here, I don't do that either. As all the jointers are set up for rebating as well.

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On 17 Nov 2006 10:11:41 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@ts-aligner.com wrote:

Hey Ed-
I've been thinking about this entire subject a great deal, and here's what I've come up with.
What you're advocating is an easy way for an unexperienced person to accurately set up and align machinery for the woodshop.
(In all the following argument, "carpenter" will be used to represent an average woodworker, as it is a common background from which many fine woodworkers come)
Most woodworking equipment is not manufactured to a standard that will hold a machine shop's equipment's tolerances. (You can disagree, but I think that's a fair enough statement, having used both)
As a result of the poorer quality of manufacturing, combined with a common difference between woodworking and metalwork- namely, that woodworking machinery is more often moved to a jobsite than metalworking equipment, woodworkers have developed a vast array of hints and tips that depend heavily on a tradesman's "touch", whereas machinists have developed a standard that depends heavily on consistancy and measuring devices.
Neither is wrong- or even signifigantly more accurate than the other. (I will grant that machinist work is more precise, but precision and accuracy have different definitions.) What we are debating is experience V. inexperience.
Having worked in both trades, my personal assessment is this:
A machinist requires a smaller, but signifigantly more precise and expensive set of tools one required by a carpenter, which can stay in one location, protected from the elements for years.
A carpenter requires a larger and less expensive set of tools than a machinist, ant they need to be moved to each new jobsite as required- consistantly changing alignments and requiring lighter construction for easy transport.
These two things create experience in fundimentally different ways-
A machinist learns early on to trust indicators and known references, such as a flat granite plate and a dial indicator. He then spends his time refining techniques that allow him to achieve repeatability in his measurements, and learning formulae that aid him in interpreting his measurement devices.
A carpenter learns early on that his square might be out of square for any number of reasons, ranging from dropping it from a rooftop, to one of the other guys on his crew dropping a saw on it while loading the truck. Because of this, he quickly develops a mistrust of measuring devices, and spends his time learning to "see" squareness, and "feel" straightness. I can tell you without any hyperbole whatsover that I can measure tape coming off a roll to within 1/16 of an inch by the sound it makes as it seperates from the layer below, and see squareness to within 15 minutes of a degree (even though I may think of it as one-quarter degree) without a measurement device. I've put up entire buildings with a roll of mason's twine and a tape measure with a bent hook and a rusty blade that were within 1/16" of square (corner to corner) over a 100' x 50' area by myself. To tell you the truth, I rarely even bother with a square *or* a level, until checking the final product to make sure my eye is still *calibrated.* If you doubt this, find any experienced framing carpenter and watch him whack the end off a 2x4 with a circular saw while it's balanced on his knee- then check the cut with whatever you like for squareness.
You understand the machinists' method, so I'm not going to pursue that- what I'll do from here on out is describe an average woodworker's point of view, which you have (for better or worse- I will not make that call, because I feel that they are both valuable) departed from.
A woodworker's tools are often subjected to the elements. It is not uncommon to find a square covered in rust, or a tape measure full of sand. That just happens when you're working outside, even if you're careful.
That accumulated and sometimes immediate damage to the tooling is never a viable excuse for shoddy work. Despite your apparent point of view, most construction and woodwork must be perfect. (Remember that when I am talking about "perfect" here, it is influenced by scale- a machinist rarely needs to worry about the amount that the wind can deflect a measuring tape over a 100' run in a 40 mph wind- in that case, 1/16" is "perfect", or if you prefer, "dead nuts") A cabinet maker is required to hold a tolerance of 1/64"-1/128"- even if an apprentice on the job smacks one of his tools with a hammer, or drops a toolbox in a moment of carelessness.
Because of the accumulated damage to his measuring tools, a carpenter develops a set of "grooves in the brain" that act as go/no go guages when looking at things. This is something that most machinists do not require, and do not normally develop. Some do, of course, but it is less common than it is in a construction setting- especially considering that a machinist's tolerances are smaller than a human eye can normally discern.
What you've been encountering when defending the use of machinists' measurement tools for woodworking is a result of this. Those "grooves" I described above are much more accurate than you might imagine, and they're a hard-won rewiring of a tradesman's brain. They don't "work" for oddball measurements (at least, not for me,) but they are very accurate for things like "parallel", "square", "even", "length", "distance", "pitch", "level" and common measurements (determined by the tradesman in question's specialty).
When you claim that these skills are resorting to mere trial-and-error in an experienced tradesman, it can be nothing *but* offensive. In a person new to the avocation or hobby, precision measurement is a very useful alternative.
I can machine a blank to within .002-.005 of nominal with a handheld die-grinder (though it's obviously a lot more work and mess than using a mill) without a caliper or mic because of my experiences in woodworking. I don't care if you believe that claim or not, and it's ultimately unimportant that you do- I am just trying to help you understand your target market a little better,
What you've got going with the Ts-aligner is not a bad idea- and it has the potential to shave a huge amount of effort off the woodworker's learning curve. There is nothing wrong with making the task easier and more repeatable- I am simply trying to help you with one particular sentiment that I have seen in many of your posts, both overtly and implied. That sentiment is that most woodworkers are *guessing* at measurements and settings if they are not using machinist's instruments to measure them.
It isn't true. It took me a bit of self-analysis to know why it isn't, but the above might help you understand- if you don't already.
As a way to help you get your point across, this may well be a useful thing to understand and acknowledge. I'm assuming that you are a woodworker yourself, and not just the manufacturer of a piece of woodworking equipment. Imagine if you were not making the Ts-aligner, and someone called you "ignorant" for using the skills you had earned through repeated use and consideration- you'd get a little hot under the collar, too.
No need to alienate the folks you're trying to "educate," right? Both trades have their lessons to teach- just try and remember the woodworker's lessons when you're advocating the machinist's! Please don't take it personally- this isn't a lecture, but a gentle reminder of something you may have forgotten. To tell you the truth, I'm almost ready to get one of your tools for setting up my planer.
Being a machinist helps me be a better woodworker, and being a woodworker helps me be a better machinist- keep that in mind. It's like learning multiple languages- each one makes the next a little easier- but learning a new one doesn't make the older ones obsolete!
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"Prometheus" made a number of profound observations

Promethius, you make some wonderful points.
I have had to make furniture with many different types of tools. Some of it quite crappy and out of square. I just compensated. Square is a relative term. Not in terms of what is square on the wood, but rather what kind of hassle you have to go through to extract square from the machine.
Big beautiful tools and fancy alignment devices must be very nice. But I have had to get by with less. Many years ago, I made lots of big, rustic furniture that was held together with lag bolts. This was done with minimal space or equipment. I had to drill lots of holes of three different sizes and depths for each lag screw.
I started out trying to make each hole square. I did not do that well. The holes did not have to be perfectly perpendicular and I was a little anal about it. But after making enough pieces, I got so good at this drilling shuffle that I could drill these holes very fast and accurate with hand drills.
And they became almost perfectly ninety degrees as well. It just sort of happened. To this day, I can drill a very accurate hole with a hand drill. I am not certain if that is a profound life skill or not. But it occured as a byproduct of repetitious experience. Sadly, many other skills of woodworking escaped me. But I have observed masters with a hand saw that can cut wood more accurately with that hand saw than I could with a circular saw and guide. And they can do it much faster too.
Sad to say I never had the genetics to have that eye or hand of the master tradesman. But I have observed it many times by individuals of both the metal and wood trades. It may take time to develop and everyone can't do it. But that spot on observational skill has been a part of the human experience long before modern tools and measurement devices. Some folks still embody these ancient skills.
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There it is. Fiddling with the measuring instruments becomes a major issue.
Consider, however, that the tolerances which apply to metals or materials of consistent composition are _irrelevant_ to working a material like wood. The material isn't capable of accepting and less capable even of maintaining such tolerances.
Woodworking machines are built to less tolerance because they don't need to be. Advocates of finding out how far they're "off" rather than just finding out they're off might want to consider the course of action following the discovery. Got a micrometer adjust on the tool, or do you have to bump, tighten and recheck? No hands in the class for micrometers? Then don't add one.
The old micrometer to meataxe continuum again.
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George wrote:

http://www.ts-aligner.com
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Prometheus wrote:

Good points. This must have taken some time to write!

In some ways, yes. In others, no. It's also for the experienced person who just doesn't have time for trial and error methods. Anybody who is frustrated trying to get their woodworking machines to do what they want is a good candidate.

There is a big difference between a carpenter on a job site and a woodworker in a shop. The methods that I advocate and the products that I have designed are not for carpenters. I recognize that their work environment, requirements, results are very different.

No, I agree. Nobody would respect a vertical mill which was only good for +/-0.005". But, everybody has respect for a tablesaw or jointer which can work in these tolerances.

Again, I think it would be rediculus for someone on a jobsite to pull out a dial indicator. Nothing about trim carpentry or framing requires more than a speedsquare and a chop saw. I'm concerned mainly with woodworking done in a shop (furniture and fine cabinetry).

I think we're talking about different approaches to essentially the same work. In the end, the tolerances are the same. A joint is tight because it has been worked to within several thousandths of an inch. It doesn't matter if this work was done with a precisely aligned and adjusted machine, done by trial and error, or with hand tools. The end result is the same but the methods are different.

The woodworker in a shop is much more analogous to the machinist.

Yes, and I can easily see how absurd it would be for the carpenter to be using dial indicators.

Agreed. The whole approach to becoming a machinist is analytical and education based.

Whew! Good description. OK, here's what I think happens. The jobsite woodworker eventually works his way into a shop. He takes his tools and techniques into the shop with him. He draws from his experience and applies his skills to machinery and work which demands much more. His solution is to do much more - much more trial and error, test cuts, etc. He doesn't apply new tools and techniques to the new environment. He just tries to scale jobsite skills to the wood shop.

<Snip woodworker's condition>
I understand this completely. Essentially, you are describing the skills needed to overcome adverse working conditions (job site) and what eventually ends up in the wood shop (where I believe they are inappropriate).

I think that there is naturally some pride in being able to overcome adverse conditions. All noteworthy achievements carry some pride. It's just natural.

It's an emotional response. Sure, I understand this. What I don't understand is the inability or unwillingness to examine alternative methods and judge them on their merrits. It's probably because I use an analytical approach to problems. People who get threatened by new ideas don't use the same objective analytical approach.

Actually, I don't mind letting the trial and error people continue to do it their way. The problem comes in when they actively attempt to dissuade others from considering the objective analytical approach.

I understand what you are saying. If you have been doing it a long time and you feel like your estimating skills are refined and honed then you are naturally insulted by someone who calls it "guessing". You feel like these skills have a lot of value. You aren't going to be happy with someone who presents tools and techniques which place no value on them.

I understand. Eventually, economics will dictate the methods used in shops. This is what happened in machine shops. It has happened for the most part in large industrial wood shops. It is happening now in the mid-sized and smaller wood shops. It's just not going to be economically feasible to let everyone who thinks they are good at estimating to spend time and materials doing test cuts.

There is a point where I get pretty impatient with nay-sayers. But, I always do my best to understand their viewpoint first. It's my analytical approach. I just don't respond emotionally before thinking about it first.

For the most part, I believe that these specific people are alienated before I talk to them. They have an immediate emotional reaction when they hear someone talking about dial indicators. They do not even listen to what is being discussed. They do not consider alternatives. They have so much time, work, and emotion invested in their hard earned methods that such talk is personally threatening. It makes them feel like a huge part of thier life was a waste of time and that their "skills" are not needed. This is why I believe that they actively try to dissuade others from "taking the easy road" and "cheating" with dial indicators. I do not need to sell my products to these people. But, I do not appreciate how they ridicule the use of dial indicators. There is little choice for me but to engage them in a dialog to get them to reveal their motives.

Absolutely. I believe in adopting best practices from all areas of one's experience.
Ed Bennett snipped-for-privacy@ts-aligner.com http://www.ts-aligner.com
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On 19 Nov 2006 15:18:24 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@ts-aligner.com wrote:

Thanks. But not too much time- I type fast, and tend to just riff off a mental outline.

Definately- as noted by yourself below, I was using the viewpoint of a carpenter moving into a woodshop. If a machinist moves into a woodshop, they're going to be using machine shop practices already. I don't know what everyone's background in these discussion is, but I suspect that if you strip off the shellac, there's more than a few guys that started woodworking as jobsite carpenters, like I did.

You might be surprised at how much fine cabinetmaking occurs during the install- and it's often the hardest part of the job. One example- scribing the back edge of a cabinet to mate to a brick wall. Takes a good deal of technique to get it right!

There you go!

Granted- though it is often the case that even a fine cabinetmaker needs to take some tools on the road. This was, of course, more about background than shop conditions in any case.

Exactly- people use what they know, and if it works for them, there is not a great incentive to change. As you've stated several time, it's an emotional issue, not a purely logical one. If a guy does something the same way for 20 years and gets fine results, he's going to get worked up if someone tells him his methods are slipshod and half-assed.

Well, it may or may not be inappropriate- that's where a little give on your part might go a long way to ending these debates. Some folks require more assistance to acheive an acceptable level of precision- but others don't. It's kind of like the difference between needing glasses and having perfect vision- or a musician who uses sheet music to learn a new tune verses the guy who can play it perfectly after hearing it once. In any case, anyone can achieve the same result as someone else, but they may need to take different paths to get there.
Consider that guy with an analog to perfect pitch in a woodshop, who is not familiar with the proper set up and use of indicators- it is still appropriate for him to simply set the machine into the proper alignment, especially if using the machinist's tools will cost him a great deal of time, effort, and frustration. Sure, he could overcome all those things with time and practice, but for him- it's pointless.
It's very difficult to see things from another person's perspective- I've been guilty of failing to do so over and over again, and I'm sure it will happen many more times in the future. If *I* can do something, and it seems easy to me- I just assume that everyone else can as well, and if they do not or will not, they're just being lazy or stubborn.
Using this logic, if I then see something like (for instance) a cd sold to teach people how to use Internet Explorer or check their e-mail, I get irritated, and start to think that the person selling these things is some kind of con man- never even considering the idea that the product may be a godsend to millions of other people who need a little help. If I happened to run into that guy some time later, I might challenge his motives and accuse him of any number of unflattering things. The same thing is happening here with woodworking products- there's absolutely nothing wrong with the use of an indicator, but there's certainly a little sourness over the idea that one must have one to do good work.

Yes- and it's also a response to some of the words you're using. If someone feels that they're being talked down to or mocked, they're going to get angry enough that they no longer care what the original point was. Once again, I've been guity of it myself more than a few times, and probably will be again.

That's the whole shooting match right there. It's not so much the existance or presentation of the product, as it is the insult of the use of the words "guessing" and "trial-and-error." The fact that they *are* skills indicates that they are neither guesswork nor trial and error.

Sure- and that's part of this, too. A lot of the folks on this group are engaging in a hobby or very small businesses- not worrying about employees or financial decisions. The folks that don't need to do woodworking to put food on the table have the time to learn the older methods, and may find a lot more pleasure in using them.
This is one of those things that I (even if I'm alone it the idea) do to escape a constant pressure and drive to maintain profitability during working hours. It's nice to not worry about how much a thing costs to make in terms of a balance sheet, and just focus on making something you like.

Sure, and I've seen that in you, or else I would not have bothered with this to begin with. Sometimes running a syllogism in your head comes up with the wrong human answer- most people are not severely bound by the constrants of an impersonal logic. If you're going to sell things, you aught to know that- and probably do.

No, you may not need to sell your product to "these people"- but wouldn't it be nice if you did?

I disagree. As you've noted above, you feel that economic stresses will inevitably cause a change in the production woodshop. If that's the case- and there's certainly an argument for that, you don't need to engage nay-sayers at all. The product will be it's own spokesman, as it does the job and gets recommended. Look at the example of Lee Valley- I've never seen Rob Lee jump in on a thread about how Amazon has good deals to question the motives of the person who made the statement, and they get more free advertising on this group than I might have believed possible without seeing it firsthand. There's a lesson to be learned in that.
No problem at all with announcing sales, explaining the product, etc.- but if you start to dig at folks to uncover hidden motives, they start to get sore about it. I know that in most cases, you're trying to help with something unrelated to your own product, but there are some subtile barbs in a lot of those posts you may not be aware of. There's no conspiracy to keep indicators out of the shop, just head-butting over wording.

Well, I'm off to bed. Hope all this helps calm the recent spat of arguments over the dreaded dial-indicator at least a little. If not, I suppose it's something to read.
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Thanks for taking so much time and thought in your response.
One of the things that I have decided to do as a result of what you have said is to update the "jointer" page on my web site with demonstrations of alternative methods. I think you are right, this will probably help. I don't know how long it will take me but I will probably announce the updates here in the wreck.
I would like to respond to everything you've said here but I am not sure how much time I will be able to spend. I think we are in agreement on a good deal of it. There are a few points where we disagree but I think that they are minor. Right now the VMC is calling me. Must get back to work!
Thanks, Ed Bennett snipped-for-privacy@ts-aligner.com http://www.ts-aligner.com
Prometheus wrote:

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Rather than reply to each and every point, maybe I can just summarize some of the themes here.
The workshop doesn't suffer the same environmental turmoil that the jobsite does (unless it's a really crappy workshop). On the jobsite, a woodworker must learn to cope with adverse working conditions in order to perform his job. These conditions compromise the performance and accuracy of tools, machinery and measurement instruments. So, these "coping skills" involve tricks, methods, and techniques designed to produce quality craftsmanship in spite of the hardships.
In a workshop the tools, machinery, and measurement instruments can be maintained at a high level of quality, accuracy, and reliability. There is no need to treat them the same way that they are treated on a jobsite. When properly used, they can be trusted to do accurate and reliable work. The "coping skills" used on the jobsite can be (and often are) used to produce quality craftsmanship in the workshop, but they generally require more time and result in excessive scrap. The reliability, accuracy, and efficiency of these tools, machines, and instruments are therefore neglected.
People who continue to use jobsite "coping skills" in a woodshop are very proud of their abilities. They advocate them to others, teaching them how to cope with conditions which do not exist. Their "skills" demonstrate abilities and accomplishments which earn them some prestige and respect. So, it is only natural that they find it very difficult to accept methods and skills which involve the proper use of the tools, machinery, and measurement instruments in the workshop. Their skills are based on the notion that these things are unreliable and should not be trusted. So the suggestion that they can be used properly to achieve accurate results which rival the highest levels of craftsmanship is summarily dismissed without the least thought. When challenged they often become defensive and critical of the methods and those who advocate them. In some cases they actively dissuade others from adopting these methods because they feel very threatened by the suggestion that their "coping skills" are not needed, inappropriate, or just plain ignorant.
Is it possible to win these people over to an approach that doesn't include their "coping skills"? Back in the 70's there were incidences where a group of UAW workers would get together to destroy a Japanese car. The idea was to strike back at "the competition" and expose them as evil. Quite often, the process would reveal the very thing that threatened them the most - the Japanese car really was a lot better. Even after everyone could see the stupidity of their efforts, they did not recognize their error. I think the situation here is the same. You cannot challenge a blind pride. These people must be willing to abandon their "coping skills" in favor of something better before they will be able to entertain new ideas. If they actively dissuade others from having an open mind, then they are completely blinded by their pride.
A good example of this is our friend "Paul D". He is so blinded by his pride that can't seem to recognize the dilemma he has put himself in. He has taken the argument to such an absurd extreme that he characterizes the use of dial indicators as idiocy. And yet, he professes proficiency in their use. It's a contradiction. It's easier for him to walk away looking like an idiot than to admit that he is deliberately trying to dissuade others from using dial indicators. Why can't he just admit that using a dial indicator is a good method but he prefers the "carry" method? Blind pride.
Some minor comments:

This isn't cabinetmaking! And, it's not cabinetmaking to build a plywood carcass and apply some factory made doors and drawers. Scribing cabinets to walls does require some skill but it's not like making fine furniture.

The guy who plays by ear should recognize that there are some disadvantages to being musically illiterate. The person who has poor vision should also recognize the disadvantages of not getting it corrected. I look at it more like the "machinist" who aligns his vise using test cuts. The guy is wasting a whole bunch of time and materials because he just can't recognize the disadvantages in avoiding the use of an indicator. Same is true with the woodworker who insists on trial and error.

Very true, if a person could "eyeball" the correct setting without any test cuts then using a dial indicator would be a waste of time. That would be the epitome of skill, right? But, that's not what we are discussing. Everyone who argues against the use of dial indicators is advocating a method which involves much more time, labor, and/or materials. They are not advocating the "zero" test cut method or the "trial" and no error method.

But, that's not what is happening here. In each and every instance I have been extremely careful to explicitly say that there are people who use the traditional "trial and error" methods to do excellent quality work. I am not even arguing with the notion that dial indicators are "not necessary". Of course they are not necessary. Everything that can be done with a dial indicator can be done without one. And, fine woodworking has been done for hundreds (if not thousands) of years without dial indicators (and the same thing can be said for the Jointer, the Planer, the Table Saw, etc.).
The argument develops when someone falsely characterizes the use of the dial indicator in an effort to dissuade others from using it. *They* say that people who use dial indicators aren't craftsmen. *They* say it's "the easy road". *They* say that using a dial indicator is "harder", "more trouble", "difficult", "tedious", "time consuming", cheating, etc.

I would say that every time a person uses test cuts to achieve some sort of machine setting they are "guessing" and using "trial and error". It is the most primitive and least skilled method. If they are insulted by this then they should really spend some time thinking about it. Their "skill" isn't in getting it wrong and making fine corrections ("trial and error") - it's in getting it right. If they can achieve the proper setting without using test cuts then they have demonstrated some real skill that has value. If they choose to do this by eyeball, then nobody can argue that it's a remarkable feat. If they choose to do this with a dial indicator, it's just as fine. Getting it wrong over and over isn't a valuable "skill". Getting it right the first time is a valuable skill that an employer or client would very quickly recognize.

Nope. Later on they complain to others that they bought the thing but never use it. They make it sound as if it is not very useful but the truth is that they were never willing to abandon their trial and error methods. They align their saw blade and fence and never touch it again. People who are willing to learn new things make good customers.

There is some truth to this. Year after year the business grows. More and more people appreciate better ways of doing things. But, every year the nay-sayers become more adamant in their attempts to dissuade others.

OK. People make these comparisons and I have largely ignored them but I think that this deserves a bit of attention this time. The analogy breaks down when you look at the details. I am not arguing with people who advocate a competitive product or idea. I'm not questioning the motive of the guy who came up with his own dial indicator jig. Geez, I'm supporting his use of it! I'm recommending it to others! I'm not questioning the motives of the guy who prefers to use trial and error. I am questioning the motive of the guy who is trying to dissuade others from using any thing related to dial indicators (including my products).
It seems unlikely that Rob Lee would jump in on a thread where someone was praising a competitive dealer. But, this isn't an analogous situation. I think that he would jump in on a thread if someone were trying to dissuade people from buying anything from Lee Valley. If that person were making ridiculous and untrue characterizations about Lee Valley in this newsgroup I would not be surprised to see Rob Lee do something, including jump into the thread. It didn't take me long to find several threads that he jumped into when someone had a complaint - even the slightest complaint. Here are a few examples:
http://groups.google.com/group/rec.woodworking/tree/browse_frm/thread/85215ddb8014b349/cca83d5348cdc742?rnum=1&_done=%2Fgroup%2Frec.woodworking%2Fbrowse_frm%2Fthread%2F85215ddb8014b349%2F79df57229539a741%3Flnk%3Dst%26q%3D%26rnum%3D6%26#doc_cca83d5348cdc742
http://groups.google.com/group/rec.woodworking/tree/browse_frm/thread/5c3ebfb73c4bd8dd/49dd2a181b495091?rnum=1&_done=%2Fgroup%2Frec.woodworking%2Fbrowse_frm%2Fthread%2F5c3ebfb73c4bd8dd%2F8fd4d36365999149%3Flnk%3Dst%26q%3D%26rnum%3D7%26#doc_49dd2a181b495091
http://groups.google.com/group/rec.woodworking/tree/browse_frm/thread/d9f27bbf6074d706/8de2b68cbd98a496?rnum=1&_done=%2Fgroup%2Frec.woodworking%2Fbrowse_frm%2Fthread%2Fd9f27bbf6074d706%2Fa7c68d2c9c39d7b6%3Flnk%3Dst%26q%3D%26rnum%3D3%26#doc_8de2b68cbd98a496
And, these might be of particular interest:
http://groups.google.com/group/rec.woodworking/msg/e2afb0665fb3371f
http://groups.google.com/group/rec.woodworking/msg/cb1c71c7108f99b5
I didn't do an exhaustive search but I couldn't find a single complaint that Rob didn't jump into the thread on. And, he's not above making critical remarks about certain competitors and their practices. I don't quote these to embarrass Rob; I think such action make him most admirable and commendable. I have a lot of respect for someone who defends the honor of their business and has enough integrity to show his face in the wreck.
Beyond all of this, Rob Lee and I are in two completely different situations. I run a one man shop which struggles every month to make ends meet. Rob sits on top of a multi-million dollar empire with lots of people taking care of lots of stuff for him. He has huge resources at his disposal and can marshal them to take care of anything for him but his participation here proves that he is every bit as passionate about his company and its products as I am about mine. The difference is that he doesn't do it for survival.
'nuff said.
Ed Bennett snipped-for-privacy@ts-aligner.com http://www.ts-aligner.com
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Sure he does.
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Edwin Pawlowski wrote:

I think he does far better than survive! There are thousands of dealers and manufacturers who have absolutely no presence in this group. They still survive. Rob is here because he wants to be here. It really is proof of his passion for the business. I'm hard pressed to think of any other corporate officer from any other retail company who is willing to deal directly with customers. In general, they just like to move in, rape the company for gazillions of dollars of unjustified salary and bonuses, and then bail out with a golden parachute a few years later.
I have no trouble saying that the wreck is vital to my survival. Not just for sales (which doesn't amount to much), but for a lot of market research, honest feedback, dishonest feedback, product ideas, etc. I can't afford to pay a market research firm for this information. Heck, I can't even afford to pay anybody to clean the toilet for me! But, I can show my appreciation to the group by sharing technical expertise and offering the annual specials. It's ironic, the people who resent my presence the most tend to provide me with the best information.
If I didn't have a passion for this, I would go back to making money for a living.
Ed Bennett snipped-for-privacy@ts-aligner.com http://www.ts-aligner.com
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I can't handle this bickering and arguing over $170 or so worth of equipment. This is rediculous. I asked a simple question and then it turned into flaming. I've gone through other threads over instrument alignment and I can't believe how people still go back and forth with Ed Bennett over his TS-Aligner. In some sense I think it's their being irked by his refusing to give an inch. But, people, consider this. Whether you agree or disagree with his methods the man is still doing something that many find immensely valuable and helpful. That process, as woodworkers, should be what we strive for. OK, there are other methods to get the same results, but Bennett never says otherwise. He tells the truth, tries to help people, is productive and makes a product that obviously have value. Why take shots at the guy over semantics and technique? In fact, when have all the bashers made a decent product that a single woodworker can attest to by saying, 'that helped me'? If we're going to argue with anyone about anything it shouldn't be someone who's really working to make the world a better place and not hurting anyone in the process. You don't have to buy the TS Aligner but you don't have to knock a man for trying to make things easier for the rest of his fellow workers. If anything, shouldn't we be mad as hell about the tool manufacturers who contract all their work to be done in Chinese sweatshops and pretend to the American public that they're still getting the same quality they used to get in 1950? Or how about the fact that public high schools make education regarding hand made crafts (wood and metal working) seem like a second class education fit only for criminals- even though much of what we gain through science and industry is based upon it?
I think those who bash Ed really need to step back, have a beer (or wine or water or whatever makes them take it easy) and refocus. We have a common interest. Why make things painful for those who want to help it along?
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I didn't bash Ed; can I still have a beer or a single-malt? I'll even step back.
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wrote:

Oh sure, I *am* mad at them- and not mad at Ed at all. I hope you weren't misreading my motives.

There's a subtext you're missing here- precisely *because* of the points you've made above, there is a very good reason to advocate keeping the hobby accessable to everyone- and not just all becoming cheerleaders for the latest innovation.
If a new guy jumps on this list, and begins to think that he needs $500,000 in tools and measuring devices, a 120'x80' shop, and exotic hardwoods to make a simple foot stool or a bird feeder, he's probably just going to skip it all together and buy one from the discount store. $170 is a lot of cash to some folks, myself included, and there's plenty of value in helping people figure out how to do a nice job with the tools they have at hand. We just need to stop trying to figure out which one is "right", because they both are.
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On 24 Nov 2006 16:43:17 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@ts-aligner.com wrote:

<< Snipped for brevity >>
No disagreement on any particular point- At this point, I'm conceding the value of using the methods you're advocating in the shop, and was just trying to walk you through the other point of view, in case you had forgotten it in the pursuit of your methods.

While scribing the back to fit the wall may not be cabinet making in and of itself, in a smaller operation, it's still the cabinetmaker's job, and is a large and visible part of the overall project. And having made plenty of "fine" furniture using traditional joinery and solid planks, I'd still say that scribing to a rough wall is usually harder than any particular internal joint, including hand cut dovetails and m&t joints.
And while I'd love to agree with you that building a plywood carcass and applying factory made doors and drawers is not cabinetmaking, I can't. Step back and look at your total argument for a minute- you're falling into the same error you've accused others of in this particular case. I have limited respect for the cabinetmakers that slap together carcasses out of plywood with pocket screws and mount other peoples' doors and drawers on them, but that is a matter of economics in a lot of shops- it's that same old march of progress that you can love or leave, and it applies just as easily to the finished woodwork as it does to the shop setup.
Making plywood boxes is 99% of the job for most cabinetmakers these days. I'm sure that there are plenty that do things the old way, but for every one of them, there are twenty (or more) that whack together mdf boxes and push them out the door as fast as they can- they're still cabinetmakers, because (drumroll....) they make cabinets. You can't redefine the term to only include the ones who make the stuff you like.
Is it fine furniture making? I can't even really make that call- I've seen some really expensive antiques that anyone would consider "fine furniture"- but when you turn them around, the back is made from old barn boards nailed into place. Using an engineered substrate is not terribly different, provided the joinery is still well-excuted and the veneers and finishes are attractive.

Well, sure- but that was my point. If you have 20/20 vision, there's no need for the glasses.
Here again, you've got this notion that everyone is insisting on trial and error, and not acknowledging that an alternate approach may work just as well, without being a half-assed way of going about things.
As an example, on Tuesday I was making a part for myself (a metal spinning toolpost for the lathe) that required nine holes (as I had drafted it) each centered on the y axis, and equidistant from one another and the ends. When I jumped on the mill, I found that someone on day shift had dropped a vise on the indicator and smashed it.
Rather than skipping the project until a new indicator arrived, I squared the vise by using the edge finder on both sides of the back jaw of the vise. There was no "test cutting" involved, and the total deviation between the first hole and the last was less than .001" over a run of nine inches. It took a few extra minutes, but it did the job just the same. Without the indicator- and without trial and error. What it did require was the trade skill of using an edge finder to determine relative squareness mechanically- just as other trade skills can be used to setup machines using things along the lines of a square and a set of feeler guages. Hell, I even sharpened the bit I used for the drilling freehand- because it took less time than setting up the sharpening jig.
There was no waste of material in the project, and a minimal waste of time that could not be avoided.

Not true, though that may be in the case of the jointer setup thread. (I don't own a jointer, and can't make any claims about it one way or the other.) I don't have money to waste on wood that isn't going into the finished project, so I set up the tools to be right without using any test cuts. From what I've read in these various threads, most people are doing that as well- just using different tools than you are to do so.

There's a communication block here, and it's directly centered over the use of "trial and error". Perhaps you mean it in a manner other than the way in which I keep reading it- what I take you to mean is that you're envisioning people just casually tossing their machine into a "sort of" alignment, and then making a cut, checking it, adjusting a little, making a cut, checking it, ad nauseum. That's not the case- in the case of setting a saw blade to 90*, a square will do the job without that, and in the case of a jointer, I would imagine that a straightedge would do the job of setting the knife heights without test cuts as well.
While I have seen one or two sentiments that reflect exactly that approach, I have to assume that you are saying that this is what I'm advocating, as you replied to the statements I made.

*I* didn't say most of those things- the only thing that I recall saying was that purchasing a dial indicator for home use, waiting for it to be shipped to my house, and then making a jig to put it on involved a lot more time and money than just using the square that is already sitting on my saw. If I were to run to a local store to buy one, it's far more money than it's worth to me ($38 was the low price the last time I was at the hardware store)
But that is neither here nor there- the point I was attempting to clarify is that for a guy that already has an adequate technique, finding, purchasing, setting up and interpreting the measurements returned by unfamiliar tools may well be a lot more time and effort than using the old reliable way of doing things. From that guy's point of view, it *is* harder, more troublesome, more difficult, tedious and time consuming- and in the end, may result in no measurable difference from doing it his way to begin with.

I guess I can understand that.

Well, that didn't save the coopering trade, or the thatchers, or the blacksmiths, did it? If you've got the superior method, there's no real problem with letting the naysayers howl away- this little corner of the internet by no means represents even the "average" woodworker- most of the regulars here have gone so far beyond the ken of what is normally accepted modern tooling and technique that the average carpenters and cabinetmakers I've met in real life regard most of the things I've learned or discussed here the way they would some obscure branch of ancient alchemy.

Granted- though I was referring more the the fact that I do not recall ever seeing Mr. Lee actively putting down potential customers. He could easily be jumping in on these threads and spouting off about how a Veritas plane is better than an electric jointer, but he doesn't. He just sells stuff that is hard to find elsewhere- as you do.
<Snip of links (this post is long enough already!)>

There is a fine qualitative difference between the behavior of Mr. Lee and yours. I'm not trying to put you down- I was just making an example of his superb aplomb when dealing with issues. I saw nothing in the posts you linked to that compare to the issue at hand, though everyone reads different things into the subtext. With one exception, I've never seen a post from the guy that led to a flamewar- and the other party in that case was really frothing to begin with.
Nor am I saying that you are poorly behaved or boorish- you're obviously an honest guy that is passionate about what he's doing. All I'm getting at, 110% of it, is that you are either intentially or unintentionally insulting some people in these discussions. There are plenty of ways to avoid that while saying exactly the same thing. If you can keep peoples' hackles down, they're a whole lot more likely to seriously explore what you're advocating.

Ahhhh... And how does one *build* a multi-million dollar empire? Or maintain it?
While I'd like to think it's solely quality product and fair prices, there's a fair amount of diplomacy involved as well.
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Hmmmm.....
I think we're going round and round in circles.
Prometheus wrote:

No, it's the installer's job. Sometimes the cabinetmaker plays "installer" because he doesn't have a dedicated installer. It may be a very visible part to the customer, and it may be the most complex thing done on the job site, but it's not a large part of the job. It's one of the last things to do before bolting the cabinet to the wall.

I wasn't saying that it was harder or easier than any other part of the process. I was just saying that scribing to fit a wall isn't cabinetmaking. In fact, it's not "making" anything. The cabinet is all made. Scribing is an installation task.

It's really "cabinet assembly".

No, I'm not. And, I think that this is a very revealing point. I'm saying that a person who pays someone else to do 90% of the cabinetmaking job (doors and drawers) doesn't deserve credit for doing the whole job. I recognize that there is room for differing opinions.
If you believe that this is analogous to the indicator vs traditional methods discussion, then you must feel that 90% of woodworking is setting up the machines. And, you would have to believe that using a dial indicator is like paying someone else to do the setup for you (i.e. "cheating").

Sure. Finished cabinets can be delivered at a very competitive price if factory made doors and drawers are used. But, those who don't have the skills and equipment to make doors and drawers can't be regarded as equals with those that do.

This is not an "old way" vs "new way" thing. The doors and drawers are still being made by someone - just not the person you refer to as the "cabinetmaker". This guy isn't applying the skills required to make doors and drawers. The guy who uses a dial indicator is still doing his own alignments and setups. He does 100% of the work, applying the skills required to do the tasks. To say otherwise is to reveal that you believe he is cheating.

There is a very widespread misconception that it has to be old (or made with old tools and techniques) in order for it to be considered "craftsmanship". I've seen the same thing you relate here. A lot of antiques are poorly designed and poorly constructed. There are a few examples (like the Stradivarius violin) that reflect a level of craftsmanship which is lost to history. But, they are darn few. The knowledge, skill, understanding, and technology available today enables craftsmanship on a level which couldn't even be dreamed of 100 years ago.

But, if you have 20/20 vision with glasses (or contacts, or surgery), then it isn't "cheating", is it? Which one is cheating, the guy who reads music or the guy who plays by ear? Your analogies really don't speak to the issue. The glasses thing has to do with physical disability which can be easily corrected. The music thing has to do with talent, not skill. I think you are trying to say that various people have different skills but end up accomplishing the same thing. And, I think I've said that I agree (several times now!). I have no argument with this.
If it bothers you to think that it takes skill to properly use a dial indicator to align machinery, then that's a problem that you will have to work out on your own. If you are insulted by people who find no use for "jobsite coping skills" because they have learned other skills (like how to use a dial indictor) then you are just going to have to deal with it.

No, I really am arguing with those who are against using dial indicators. Many of them advocate trial and error methods. Some advocate other methods. But, the common thread here is that they are opposed to using dial indicators in the woodshop. I'm not sure why I'm arguing with you because you say that you are not opposed to using dial indicators. Yet, you keep turning it around to try and make it look like I'm attacking those who advocate anything but dial indicators. Why?

That's great. But, you would have used the indicator if it had been available, right? You wouldn't be against using an indicator to align a milling vise, right? You wouldn't be advocating the use of an edge finder over the use of an indicator, right? I'm not challenging people for being creative or demonstrating ingenuity. I'm challenging people who try to dissuade others from using dial indicators in the woodshop.

Fine, no problem. Congratulations. But, you aren't going to start abandoning the use of dial indicators in the machine shop are you? You aren't going to start ridiculing people who use an indicator to align a milling vise, are you? Are you going to start saying that people who don't use an edgefinder to align a milling vise have less skill? You don't suddenly think that using an indicator is "cheating" do you? You aren't going to start criticizing tool and cutter grinders are you? People who use them as "cheating" or having less skill? If you answer "no" to all of these, then I'm not sure why you keep coming back on this topic.

OK, fine. Not all of them are advocating methods which waste time or materials (using a square to set the blade to 90 degrees). But they are all arguing against the use of a dial indicator. And, they do so without trying it.

That's exactly what I mean.

Sure enough. So, not everyone who has spoken against dial indicators is advocating trial and error. But, they are still speaking against the use of dial indicators. And, they aren't willing to listen to potential benefits (faster, easier, greater accuracy, etc.) or even try the dial indicator.

Please do not assume. If I said that you are advocating trial and error over using dial indicators then please point it out to me. If you are talking about something other than trial and error when you describe jobsite coping techniques being used in the workshop then please be more specific.

Geez, this is really getting convoluted! I didn't specifically say that you said any of these things. But right now you are arguing with me for arguing with people who have.
Nobody said that you have to wait for a dial indicator. Nobody said that you had to spend $38 on one. Nobody even said that you have to try one - until you started being critical of those who use one. I'll have no argument with you if you have nothing against dial indicators and the people who use them in the woodshop.

Fine, let this guy do it any way he wants. I don't care if it takes him more time or less time or whatever. I challenge his method only when he uses it to put down dial indicators and those who use them. In the case of using a square on the table saw blade, I honestly think that Stoutman's jig is easier, faster, and more accurate. Geez, it even costs less than a halfway decent square. In the case of using the "carry" method on a jointer, I think that using a dial indicator is easier, faster, and more accurate. Advocates of both methods were challenged to try using a dial indicator. So far, no takers (well, there's one who claims he tried it but it's pretty obvious he hasn't). Quick to criticize, not very quick to back it up.
You keep arguing about some sort of skills which seem to be completely unrelated. Perhaps you have generalized my arguments against specific traditional "trial and error" techniques to include anything a person might learn anywhere that doesn't involve using dial indicators. The examples you cite certainly seem to fall into this category. I know that you say they all came from what you learned working on jobsites (even if the examples don't always seem to line up). I'm sorry that you feel like my arguments defending the use of dial indicators makes you feel like I'm putting down the use of these jobsite skills. Like I said, I see why they are appropriate for the jobsite. But, there are better ways to do things in the workshop.

Hmmmm.... I'll give this a whirl...
First of all, nothing in business happens all by itself. I can't just sit back and watch my sales grow. There is competition and if I am not actively working on moving forward then I'm going to be sliding backward. Yes, better methods eventually overtake inferior ones. But, that doesn't mean that my business will automatically be successful. The automobile eventually replaced all of the horse drawn carriages. But, not all of the early automobile manufacturers are still in business.
The wreck itself doesn't represent very much when it comes to actual sales. But, it does represent a market that I have targeted. Yes, I know that it is very different from what you know of jobsite woodworkers and cabinetmakers. These are hobbyists. If you read the hobbyist magazines you will understand them much better. The feedback I get from the group is valuable to me. People here react the same way that other hobbyists react when the see or hear about using dial indicators for woodworking. The big difference is that they are extremely vocal here. They don't care about insulting me, they just say what they think. There's a unique dynamic here. I argue with them to draw out their true motives. When I understand why they feel compelled to dissuade others from using dial indicators I can develop better approaches to reach those who haven't yet made up their minds. I can address objections that will likely come to them when they ask friends about my products (or when the topic comes up in discussion groups). So, I will have prepared them in advance.
I could do this anonymously. And, I could do this without making any contribution (sharing expertise and offering the annual special). But, that's just not my style.
If you have trouble understanding this then please just let it drop. I'm not going to sit here and argue marketing strategy in the NG.

Well, as I tried to relate, Rob and I aren't the same person. We don't operate the same business. If he wants to do market research, he tells his Marketing department to go spend a bunch of money with a market research firm. And, there's nobody out there trying to dissuade others from buying Veritas products. There is no group of people who feel offended every time someone mentions a Veritas product. One of the quotes I provided did show how Rob addressed a person who said a particular product was overpriced and unnecessary. This is just about as close as it gets but its still not the same thing. There are people who have a philosophical opposition to everything my business stands for. Nobody has a philosophical opposition to Lee Valley.

Yes, of course there's a difference. We are different people in different situations doing different things. I really can't afford to be like Rob in my situation. Give me a million dollars and then I could probably afford to be a lot more like Rob.

I think it's safe to assume that Rob is here mainly to develop and maintain a reputation for customer satisfaction. If this is true, then his goals and objectives are much better served using an approach which is very different from mine.

Yep, some people do get insulted. Not because I'm looking to insult them. I don't engage them until they express their opposition. Then I really want to know how they react when confronted with the facts and logic of their own thinking. I want to know what motivates them to actively oppose the use of dial indicators in the woodshop. I really do not understand what compells them to be so strongly opposed my products. In the process of finding out, they become insulted. Why? Because more often than not their opposition is emotional, not logical. And, when confronted by logic it looks pretty stupid.

Nope. Not possible. You can't explore the opposition or expose the motives of blind pride without insult. The only way to avoid insult is for the person to abandon their pride and look at the situation objectively. That's a problem when the person can't even see their pride. Just let me know when you are ready to start talking about aligning and adjusting woodworking machinery (as opposed to all the perceived insults).

It's a topic that goes way beyond this discussion or even the group. Everyone I meet has platitudes about building a successful business. You are right, having the best products or the best prices won't do it. "Diplomacy" is important but it won't do it either. I can name a big pile of extremely successful businesses that were built by people who are pretty darn blunt. There is no simple trite formula. People always look at a successful business and try to identify a particular quality which is responsible. It's a lot more complicated than you think. One thing is for sure - you can do everything exactly right but if you don't have significant financial resources then the going is incredibly rough.
Ed Bennett snipped-for-privacy@ts-aligner.com http://www.ts-aligner.com
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snipped-for-privacy@ts-aligner.com wrote:
: There is a very widespread misconception that it has to be old (or made : with old tools and techniques) in order for it to be considered : "craftsmanship". I've seen the same thing you relate here. A lot of : antiques are poorly designed and poorly constructed.
Not only are a lot of surviving antiques poorly made, consider the large number of pieces made in the past that didn't survive -- often due to shoddy construction. I'd venture a guess that most furniture made in the olden days was of not very high quality. What we see is what managed to last, due to decent craftsmanship and/or design.
There are a few : examples (like the Stradivarius violin) that reflect a level of : craftsmanship which is lost to history. But, they are darn few. The : knowledge, skill, understanding, and technology available today enables : craftsmanship on a level which couldn't even be dreamed of 100 years : ago.
Absolutely true.
    -- Andy Barss
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