Penny Wise, Pound Foolish
How many times have you seen a a well proportioned, well executed and
beautifully finished piece - thatís just not quite right - because of -
For the beginner and even intermediate amateur woodworker, thereís a
tendency / temptation to use as much as possible of each board. And
itís understandable, given the price of wood these days and the
difficulty of finding furniture grade stock. Or it could be that we buy
only what weíre going to need for the current project - and not a board
foot more. OK - so maybe we go with the 15% Rule - get 15% more wood
than your Cut List says is required.
And when it comes to cutting the parts for a piece, itís easy to worry a
lot about dimensions and efficiency - and overlook the grain of the
wood. Thatís understandable because itís pretty important that parts
that are supposed to be the same length are in fact the same length, and
that parts that are supposed to be the same width and thickness - are.
There is a reason for the maxim Measure Twice, Cut Once. In order to
make parts with the same dimensions, itís best to cut ALL those parts
with one machine set up, the same fence set up for rips, the same stops
for cross cuts, the same angles for miters, the same setting for the
marking gauge when laying out mortises, tenons, etc..
With all the things to keep track of itís so easy to fall into The
Forest For The Trees trap - the grain in the WHOLE piece and how they
work together being the forest, the trees being all the individual parts
and the machine operations for cutting them - not just rips and cross
cuts, but the cuts the joinery necessitates. There are a lot of
operations and details that go into even the simplest of pieces - itís
understandablenot surprising that the look and flow of the grain is
often overlooked. If I can make all the parts, including the joinery -
that fit together as they should - without the loss of a body part, or
even some blood - well THAT my friend is a SUCCESS. If the finish is
even half way decent - THAT is a MIRACLE!
And then the Post Project Critique begins - that joint should be
tighter, that sapwood is distracting, why did I narrow down this part
just to avoid a knot or a sap pocket when I had the wood to make a
better part? The list goes on and on - but often does not include - the
look of the grain for the whole piece and so I end up with a piece that
doesnít flow, doesnít look quite right - that leg is quarter sawn - and
this one isnít, those two boards donít go together in that door panel, .
And I suspect that the overlooked but critical part of the process of
making the piece - the grain and the flow of the grain - didnít get the
attention it deserved in order to avoid ďwasting woodĒ. Why cut off 6
or 8 inches, maybe even foot or more of a fairly good board just to get
a part with nice grain that goes with what will be around it. Donít I
have enough cut offs stashed around the shop Iím certain I can use -
someday. ďIn a pinch, maybe I can use ALL of this cherry board.Ē might
not be such a good idea - in the Big Picture.
Would you take a 26Ē x 32Ē rectangle, diagonally, out of a 4x8 sheet of
birdseye maple if thatís what the piece required? How about ripping am
8Ēwide part - out of the middle of a 12Ē wide mahogany board?
Are you Penny Wise - Pound Foolish?