When does The Wood become Just A Material?

This is going to initially sound like a drive buy gloat but the context is key to my dilema.
Ive been gathering, collecting, scrounging and buying some nice wood over the last couple of years - a woodworker moving whos been hording some really unusual boards for 35 years and I never got to this stuff, a cabinet shop closing I bought 500 bf of this stuff and just rediscovered it during the auction inventory, a real deal at a lumber yard we got a bunch of this - they use it for decking, and so its really cheap and hard as hell - takes a nice finish too. So Ive got 20 to 400 bf of spalted amber, spalted maple, black locust, mahogany (old growth stuff from Panama), birch, ash, medular rayed sycamore, some old, really oddly figured, southern yellow pine, red gum, ipe, oak, tiger redwood, elm and god knows what else stashed away.
Heres my dilema. This stuff is so nice and it took a lot of luck to be fortunate enough to acquire it, let alone at the prices I got it for. Some of it is at least 50 years old so finding more is not likely. And for those reasons, Im having a really hard time using any of it for a project. Its just to intimidating - too rare, too expensive to replace, too beautiful to do it justice with my limited skills and experience. I can see a piece using some of it and I know I could probably do a fair to good jub of building the piece - but - I put it off. Maybe in a year or two when Ive got - more experience and skills - a few more solid wood furniture projects under my belt - that new tool - the workbench done - a space for finishing set up : :
When I was making jewelry I experienced something similar. Crack this emerald while setting it and Im SOL! If this diamond doesnt seat right Im in deep doo-doo. If I blow this solder joint or if I slip and chip this stone ... But after a while precious stones were just parts that needed to be put in a piece - no big deal. The price and the beauty of the stones went away while I was working on a piece. Gold was just a really nice material to work with, its value was in what it did and how it looked in the finished piece, not in dollars.
So my question is When does the wood become just a material and the intimidation factor go away? Shop space is always at a premium and the wood collection keeps filling space.
charlie b
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When does the wood become just a material and the

"When you learn how to measure twice and cut once".

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I look at it from the other direction. If I have to measure twice before cutting a piece of wood then there must be something wrong with my measuring skills or my shop procedures. If your measuring skills are lacking then measuring again doesn't really help and if your shop procedures are lax you will have continual problems in the shop.
Bob McBreen
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I guess I'm just human, but I occasionally catch a mistake I made the first time I measured... I typically measure, mark a cut line, then check to be sure I put it where I wanted to. When I set up a jig, I go back and check it to be sure I set it exactly where I wanted it, and it didn't move while I was clamping it down.
Maybe I'm just anal about mistakes that cost time and money (or injury). When I'm giving a firearms class, I *am* anal about mistakes, so maybe that just carries over to other activities.
"Measure twice" works well for me. Maybe that's because I'm not in a hurry, or maybe I'm just not as accomplished a woodworker. Which is probable; I've never done it for a living, I don't have a complete shop, and I haven't ever sold anything I've made from wood (but someday, I'd like to -- I want to make violins).
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Hi Bob,
I've been in the woodworking game 40-some years, and the measure-twice-cut-once- rule has been drummed into me since I was a kid. Perhaps my retention/attention span/eyesight/measuring ability/resitance to distraction etc aren't as keen as yours, but it must have saved me from hundreds of cockups over the years. I would earnestly advise any newbie to ignore it at their peril. It takes but seconds more and if it saves you ballsing up at a crucial stage of a project, or saves an expensive piece of rosewood, then it's paid for itself many times over. To err is human, but double-checking can help you avoid it.
Cheers
Frank

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I don't want to give the wrong idea about my woodworking skills. I am not a professional, but make some pretty nice stuff. I also don't want to give the impression that I never make mistakes... I do, but they are much fewer after I started looking at the reasons behind the mistakes.
I found that most of my mistakes were because I was rushing through projects and didn't have standard shop procedures. Every time I cut a dado, prepared stock, or just about any other task, I seemed to do it a different way. This lead to some big mistakes. I have spent a lot of time developing consistent procedures that have help eliminate stupid mistakes. One little thing that has been huge help is that I switched to using a drafting pencil in the shop. I keep it in the sharpener so it is always sharp, and has a very fine point. This allows me to accurately measure to the line. No more "the line is pretty fat, so maybe I should cut the piece 13 13/16" instead of 13 3/4"." I also only keep one 20' tape measure in the shop. In the past I had different tapes that gave slightly different measurements. I would grab what ever tape was handy and ended up using different tapes on the same tasks. It would result in minor differences but sometimes it was enough to effect the project.
Back to the OP. If measuring twice helps you then you should keep doing it,, but I found that accurately measuring once has worked better for me.

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Maybe never, but I've come to realize, the biggest waste is not using something precious. Did you buy the wood to use, or are you simply its custodian now ? Naturally, you shouldn't make any cocobolo bookshelves, or solid ebony printer stands, but try to spread the precious woods around in your work. I recently bought 10 lbs of ebony, and I'm probably going to use it as tennon wedges, corner splines, handles, etc.
Incidentally, my boss HAS cocobolo bookshelves. He acquired it for free out of a barn in Iowa after helping someone move... If that wouldn't make a good gloat, I don't know what wood !
(notice I spelled it - wood)...
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charlie b wrote:

I can't speak to the intimidation factor, but the "just a material" stuff had better be 2 years after they throw dirt in my face. It's a quality of life thing. Dave in Fairfax
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I share your pain. :-) Or perhaps I should say, "Man, I wish I had your problem!"
That being said, I'm guess it will work like other jobs I've had. Not jewelry, but jobs where material was a big cost, and certain materials had different characteristics.
Some of it just has to be expended to get to the point where you're comfortable working with it. My waste was high at first, then it wasn't. It didn't taper off. One hour I was tense and worried, the next I was just picked it up and working with it. Somehow the worry about wasting product became "normal". The worry didn't go away, but I got used to the feeling and suddenly I wasn't tense and wasn't wasting it anymore.
Can't tell you how I got to that point but I watched too many other people go through the same shift to think it was unique to me.
On the upside, once I got that way it didn't matter what material I was working with, so I think if you start with the wood you're least worried about...
Dan
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wrote:

Takes me all day to start making anything. So many damn boards I can't decide which one to use. If I only had two oak boards sitting there, I'd pick whichever one was big enought, then just get on and use it. Now I have to agonise over which leaves the most waste, whether I really ought to use the well-figured board on this low-rent project...
Last few days I've been clearing out someone else's old wood store. Several years accumulation, most of which is now just rotted to "firewood grade" alone. Picked up some lime (basswood), a treestump of yew, load of narrow ash squares for interior carcasing, and some curved oak (chair backs, without bending).
Now what do I do about half-logs of lime ? 12' long, about 4" thick slabs and a foot wide.
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LMAO ... therein lies the very pith of woodworking.
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Flog them to a carver!
Cheers
Frank

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Charlie,
Don't use that wood! The psychological impact of using one of those boards might be overwhelming for you and put you over the edge. Call me and I'll remove that wood from your house so that you never have to worry about this problem again. I would not do this for just anyone, but it is Christmas time and I am willing to help my fellow man.
Bill

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<snip of content in which charlie says he's got wood>

When you have so much of it that you have no room for it, when your family complains about the unsightly piles dotting the landscape, when you grab *anything* from the pile to give to the kids to beat on or make into a "project" because you know there's a lot more of it somewhere in your collection, when perfectly good pieces that would actually make money on eBay get tossed in the woodstove because they're not whole boards, when you have actually contemplated making a large cabinet piece (or even your entire kitchen) out of solid wood becuase you have so much of the stuff.
I am nearly getting to that stage. I have three large lumber piles air drying in the backyard, a shop wall covered with a full lumber rack, a semi-trailer (!) taking up space on another piece of property containing several thousand board feet of miscellaneous species, and a shed with another few hundred feet of nice dry clear boards for "special" projects. Hopefully, it will all be used up during the construction of my new house, but just in case, I bought a sawmill so I wouldn't have to run out and buy any. I bet that I've got eight thousand board feet in two dozen different species just sitting right now, waiting for a lifetime's projects.
Actually I take great satisfaction in hoarding certain pieces of lumber simply because they are appealing to look at in their natural form, without turning them into "function". I have a really funky apple burl, riddled with ant tunnels and all spalted, that I doubt I will ever use for anything, so I have it cut in half, sanded and oiled to bring out the color. It's art for the shop - nature's art.
Jon Endres - is there a 12-step program for this?
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I had a client who collected rare and expensive woods for many years. In all of the projects I did for him over the years, he would never let me use any of his "special" woods. Said he was saving those for the house he would one day build. This eventually came to pass and I built many fine projects for his dream house using his treasurered woods.
Two weeks before he was ready to move in (after two and a half years in building) the Point Reyes fire burned it to the ground. Most of his beloved fine wood would have been in his "other" house or in his downtown S.F. office had we used the wood for those projects.
The moral? There isn't one other than we should enjoy what life sends our way. Maybe it's luck...maybe not. Maybe using your fine woods will inspire you to better things...Who can say?
DD
"It's easy when you know how..." Johnny Shines
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wrote:

For the benefit of the newer members of the group, allow me to introduce Charlie b.-- all around nice guy and consumate sandbagger.
Charles, you old sandbagger, just make sumpin with it. Use a couple of contrasting woods, use some very gentle curves somewhere in it, and if you totally fark it up, call it "Krenov: Sunday morning 2A.M." and sell it to a gallery.

Maybe what you've been experiencing as intimidation is nothing more than a feeling of reverence for a rare and precious commodity. If you really feel that it is, than you have an obligation, imo, to start building with it as soon as you find a project that merits it.
If it wasn't supposed to be _you_ building with it; it wouldn't be in your shop. Get started.
Unless, of course your bench ain't finished yet, in which case, get finished, then get started. :)
Michael
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a bf? if not it is not expensive (G) if your afraid to use it sell it. otherwise just have fun with it. or what's the point of even having it if it stresses you out.
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