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
This definitely is a big load of bovine fecal matter. Geez, what a
1. Place the indicator jig on the outfeed table with the stylus on the
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
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.
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
On 17 Nov 2006 10:11:41 -0800, email@example.com wrote:
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)
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
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
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!
"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
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.
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
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
The old micrometer to meataxe continuum again.
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
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
<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
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
On 19 Nov 2006 15:18:24 -0800, firstname.lastname@example.org 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
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
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
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.
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!
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
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",
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
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
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
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:
And, these might be of particular interest:
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.
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.
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?
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.
On 24 Nov 2006 16:43:17 -0800, email@example.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
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
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
While I'd like to think it's solely quality product and fair prices,
there's a fair amount of diplomacy involved as well.
I think we're going round and round in circles.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
: 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
-- Andy Barss
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