Interesting thread about combination machines.
It's an obvious lead into to an underlying topic
U.S. vs Euro woodworker approaches to woodworking
and their expectations.
As stated previously, I've got a Robland X-31 combi and I'm an American
so I'm a Tweener - tween the U.S. ways of doing things and the Euro ways
of doing things.
Let's compare stock preparation
- one face flat (joiner),
- one edge flat, straight and square to the flat face (joiner)
- second face flat and parallel to its opposite face (planer)
- second edge flat, straight, square to the face and at the desired
distance (width) from the opposite
edge (table saw rip)
- one end flat and square to both the faces and edges of the board
(cross cut on table saw or chop saw or miter/mitre saw or
compound miter saw or sliding compound miter/mitre saw)
- second end same as first end BUT at the desired distance from
first end [length] (see above)
New hobbiests/amateurs probably don't do stock prep but go
with "cut to length" and maybe "rip to width" because they're
using primarily ply and store bought "kiln dried" boards.of
the desired, or close to the desired, width. Only when they get
beyondlag bolts, screws and biscuits and begin playing with
traditional joinery does stock prep become an issue.
So let's talk about the approaches and expectations once one
begins to get into some "real woodworking" - rabbets/
rebates,dadoes, half laps, splines, mortise and tenons,
dovetails, half blind dovetails, triple miters/mitres, frame
Proper stock prep is essential to making good traditional
joinery for solid wood furniture making, or even box
naking. You just can't make rectangular objects out of
trapezoidal parts (ok - it is possible but you've got to be
a really great woodworker to do it and if you are good
enough to be able to do it you do it anyway)
So back to the differences in the approach and expectations
Group "A" - The Instant Gratification Group
"I want to buy a machine or several machines
that will allow me to make pieces that would
otherwise require a lot more knowledge and
skill than I have time to acquire or are willing
This huge and growing market that is being fed by clever
"With our Super Deluxe Blurfle, YOU can be making
our patented Fantasmagoric Wonder Joinery System
furniture - over the weekend! NO adjustments necessary,
perfect and effortless heirloom quality furniture making
right out of the box. Just follow our simple, step my step
instructions and you'll have a house full of heirloom quality
furniture in no time! AND if you act NOW, we'll even
GIVE you our Space Age material, precision Drill Gauge!"
This is the instant gratification "microwave" thing
- a delicious six course gourmet meal - in minutes!
( Wine not included, void where
prohibited, consult your state
attorney general's office for
details. Batteries not included ,
side affects may include nausea,
head ache, cavities, neuritis,
neuralgia and flatulance - consult
your doctor if an errection lasts
longer than four hours.
Offer good for only as long as we can
make money offering it).
This group wants a "cabinet saw" with a "precision fence"
that lets you set it for 16 and 63/128th of an inch and
rip a board that's EXACTLY 16 and 63/128th of an inch
- preferably with digitalread out but a maginifying, vernier
window which compensates for parallax and micro-adjust-
ment fence positioning will be acceptable. AND if it's
motorized AND remote controlled! No test cuts or
calibration if you buy the expensive machines- right?
Of course this requirement also requires that you don't
ever change saw blades - thin kerf/normal kerf, or teeth
patterns and that you replace your dulling blade immediately
- with exactly the same type of blade you calibrated your
fence to (you did calibrate it right?)
This group tends to work from plans,either purchased or
that they created themselves.
The novices in this group typically make ALL the parts,
EXACTLY as the plans show and only THEN assembles them.
This subgroup is identified by ground down teeth (gnashing
your teeth a lot has consequences), furrowed brow (now why
in hell is there this gap right here?) and is often surrounded
by not quite square, not quite flat, not quite right PAINTED
furniture which, for the most part, works OK.
The intermediate checks the plans more thoroughly, looking
for gaps and errors and then makes ALL the parts, EXACTLY
as the corrected plans show and THEN assembles them. This
group is calmer, has a calculator that can work with fractions,
a pocket protector with colored pens, a 0.5mm pencil and carry
a small pad of paper with them at all times. The furniture
they make is EXACTLY like the original the plans were made
for - and looks EXACTLY like the ones done by all the other
people who built their piece from this particular plan -
assuming they checked for gaps and errors - and made the
The advanced guy/gal may start with someone else's plans,
goes through them looking for gaps and errors, modifies them
to suit his or her personal preferences - or does his or her own,
thorough and detailed plans, and then starts to make the parts,
in phases / assemblies - building as he/she goes. Along the
way things often get modified to make the final piece more
personal. EXACT dimensions aren't so critical - as long as all
the parts that MUST be the same size ARE the same size. If
the final piece is an eighth of an inch taller or wider or deeper
- it don't matter.
These folks have a cabinet saw with 52" cross cut fence -
that locks both fore and aft, an 8" wide joiner with three
foot or longer tables, probably a 20" planer AND an18/36
drum sander. You'll probably also find a LEIGH DT jig, a
LEIGH FMT "device"with ALL the bits, guides etc. , a router
table with a precison fence and precision router rasiier/
lowerer and a 12" sliding compound miter/ mitre saw
with six foot long tables and multiple flip stops.
Members of this group will be quick to point out ALL the
mistakes in each piece of furniture they've made
Group "B" The Mechanically Inclined/ Close Enough Group
"What do I NEED to make the furniture I WANT to make? I'm
pretty good at figuring things out and I enjoy the 'making' part
of the hobby/addiction more than having and using the pieces
This group is identified by the fact that they own, or as part
of their initial purchase of tools and equiptment include,
some basic set up tools - a pseudo machinist straight edge,
square, dial gauge and a feeler gague set. They probably
already had a metric and/or imperial socket set, set of
allen wrenches and box/open end set of wrenches.
The novice in this group uses a hand held circular saw
and maybe a chop saw, a hand drill and dowels to make
garage benches and shelves out of some wood left behind
by the previous owner of his house, or from pallet wood
he scrounges. He doesn't care what the final piece looks
like, it just needs to do its job. Often it will not only
do its job, but probably could support a car or small
truck. Shims fix any wobbles.
The intermediate may find a set of plans to study, not
to build from and will spend time looking at and
understanding the joinery and the structural concepts
used. The book he/she buys on joinery will no doubt
stress the importance of proper stock preparation,
layout and marking tools. If he/she is lucky, it will
also have a stock marking sytem and stress the
importance of using reference faces and reference
edges and ends.
He/she will get a good table saw, perhaps a hybrid
initially, a 4 or 6 inch joiner and a bench top planer,
the former probably found in the newspaper or on line,
maybe inherited from a woodworking relative. And
there will also be some hand tools on the list of things
to acquire - initially a block plane, some bench chisels
and a dovetail saw, western back saw or japanese dozuki.
The intermediate's pieces may not be the most aesthetically
pleasing to the eye, but every thing will fit together squarely.
Parts that are exactly 1/2" or 3/4" thick will be rare, flat,
square and straight - and of the same thickness is what's
more important than a specific thickness. This is the
genesis of the Close Enough approach, the importance of
specific dimensions will, for the most part, diminish,
replaced by the understanding that what's needed is to
have ALL parts that are supposed to be the same length
or width ACTUALLY BE THE SAME length or width.
The advanced "close enough" woodworker sketches
ideas, does one he/she likes and goes and looks
through his or her wood stash for stuff that go with
his/her idea of the piece. A fare share of that
wood stash will be rough cut wood with a wainy
edge or two, perhaps even some bark.and thicknesses
measured in "quarters" - four, six, eight and maybe
even twelve "quarters".
More time will be spent selecting the wood than spent
on any "plan" and a great deal of time will be spent
doing the "rotate, flip, shuffle and slip" process for
deciding what's going where so that the grain patterns
in the finished piece go together nicely. This is NOT an
"optimization, minimize waste" thing. If the desired
piece of wood is in the middle of an 8 foot long,
12" wide board then that's what gets used. There
will always be a future project that will use most
of what's left.
And the machines and tools this person uses to make
parts for pieces are old friends whose little quirks
are familiar and accomodated for. If a "close enough"
part is a little wide then a pass or two with a hand
plane will take care of it.
This person's stuff will be crisp and clean and,
at first glance, simple and unassuming. But if
you think about it and look more thoroughly
you'll notice that EVERYTHING goes together,
not just the parts, but the proportions, the grain,
the hardware and the finish - a whole, integrated
piece rather than a few interesting components
/elements held together by other "stuff".
Two approaches to woodworking, two sets of
expectations. Me- I'm somewhat in the middle,
being a self confessed tool phreak.
In the U.S., there never seems to be "enough" time.
The "time is money" thing spills over into time
that has nothing to do with money. And so we get
into buyig "time savers" and marketing folks
exploit our "need for more time". Europeans
and Latin Americans see time as just time -
time for work, time for family and friends
and time to play. You'll find few Europeans
or "latins" who brag about regularly putting
in 50 and 60 hours a week at "work".
Life is not a race to the finish line - the
finish line is death.. Take your time,
develop some skills and appreciation of
things - and enjoy the trip - it's a one-
way ticket. The stuff you make are just
post cards of the journey.
(babble mode now being set to OFF)