Woodworking in America

5 Things

5 Things About Me That Other Woodworkers Think Are Strange

1. I finish my drawer boxes
The drawers on a well-used piece of furniture lead a hard life; they’re constantly being touched, yanked open, and slammed shut.  Drawers get over-stuffed and items spill inside.  It doesn’t take long for a shiny new drawer to become dull, dingy, and dirty.  Cleaning untreated wood ranges from difficult to nearly impossible, and almost always requires sanding.  A finished drawer box, however, doesn’t scuff up easily, wipes clean with a damp rag, and highlights the joinery with the drawer front.

I finish my drawer boxes with two coats of a 2 lb cut of shellac.  I usually just use SealCoat, but I’ve mixed it myself on occasion, as well.  A 1 lb cut would probably work fine, I’m just used to the 2 lb cut because that is how SealCoat comes out of the can.  Shellac is easy to apply and completely odorless when dry.  I never use an oil-based finish inside of a box or a drawer because the smell from the finish will never dissipate and will permeate everything that’s stored inside.

2.  I’m extremely casual about the calibration of my machines
When I bought my Unisaw in 2006, I put it together, calibrated it, and I haven’t thought about it since.  The only time I check any setting on it is when I reset the blade back to 90 degrees.  Table flatness?  Arbor runout?  I’ve never checked either of those and it hasn’t impacted my work in any way.  The same goes for my bandsaw, jointer, and planer.  In general, I think power tool users obsess over machine calibration way too much.  I think the difference for me is that I don’t expect a finished surface right off the machine.  I will be working those surfaces with hand tools after I make my cuts anyway, so they really don’t need to be perfect to a thousandth of an inch.

3.  I got rid of my miter saw and I don’t miss it
Okay, I’ll admit that my miter saw was a crappy 10 inch Craftsman, so it wasn’t that hard to give up.  I originally bought the saw for trim carpentry tasks such as installing baseboard, etc.  It worked fine for this purpose, but when I tried to incorporate it into my furniture-building workflow, I quickly learned that it could not be trusted for accurate joinery cuts.  With joinery out of the question, I used it mainly for breaking down rough stock.  After awhile, though, I realized that bringing heavy planks of lumber to the tool was much more difficult that bringing a light hand-held tool to the wood.  At that point, I started using my jig saw for rough stock breakdown.  Now that I’ve been doing that for a few years, I’m thinking about just buying a vintage crosscut saw instead so I don’t have to mess around with the noise and mess of a power tool for such a rough task.  Eventually, the motor in my tiny Craftsman miter saw burned out.  I was using it so infrequently at that point, though, that I’ve never felt compelled to buy a new one.

4.  I hate jigs
Some woodworkers love building jigs.  I’ve seen jigs that took days to construct and were prettier than some of my finished furniture projects.  I’m not that kind of woodworker.  When I’m in the shop, I want to be building my project, not a jig to use on the project.  I have little patience for planning and constructing jigs, so mine often end up looking like a deranged caveman built it with a rock and some sticks.  As long as they work, right?

5.  I’m apathetic about the Woodworking in America conference
It seems like the year is broken into three phases: the lead-up to Woodworking in America, the actual Woodworking in America conference, and then the flood of blog posts describing what happened at Woodworking in America.  With some of the biggest names in the woodworking world presenting at the conference each year, I can understand why people get excited about attending.  In recent years, though, it seems like Woodworking in America has become a glorified social gathering.  The talk online is more about the meet ups and parties after hours than the conference itself.  It sounds like fun, but I could never justify the cost and time of traveling across the country for that.  So, every year I skim past all of the WIA coverage with a shrug and a “meh.”