Curiosity About Accuracy
This post began with a question from a woodworker who wondered just exactly how accurate one has to be in woodworking measuring and marking. - Editor
"First of all, I will say that having accurate measuring tools is a good thing. Especially for setting up tools. A tool off one way and another off another way can compound a problem. I don't have 'top-of-the line' measuring and marking tools. Mine are decent quality but hardly missile-making tolerance. [But] my curiosity stems from my experience with working wood. For all the accuracy I could employ measuring and marking wood, wood still has a mind of its own. Humidity, temperature and other factors make wood 'inaccurate.' I have cut wood to great accuracy before and, days later, find it is no longer accurate! So my curiosity is....how accurate do woodworking measuring and marking equipment have to be?" - Thomas S.
Some respondents had very specific recommendations, for specific tolerances, in specific applications. - Editor
"I like to set up all my tools to at least 0.02", 0.01" if I can get it and not sneeze in the middle of setting up my tools. I typically like to cut to, at most, within 1/32". I try not to get it so I won't see a line between two pieces of wood. On hand tools - I try for at most between 1/32" and 1/16". When I'm building sets for the playhouse -- if I get it to within 1/4", I'm very happy -- except for platforms which have to be at 1/16" or they rock too much. For turning boxes, I typically get a 'pop' fit and then sand it a little. I've never really measured the accuracy. For turning tenons on spindles, stretchers and such, I use the micrometer and try to turn the tenons to within 1/100" of the mortise hole -- I don't like packing the holes with sawdust or screening material if I don't have to, and I don't like having to jam the tenon into the hole." - JL
"I am a retired Engineer, and one of my last assignments was as the Management Representative for the QS-9000 and ISO programs. A large part of that job was insuring that all our measurement standards used in our inspection processes were directly traceable to the NIST. Many of our instruments were calibrated to +/- .0001, while others (our standards) were required to be far more accurate, sometimes to +/-.00001 or less. The only reason I keep very accurate instruments is to verify the ones I use in the shop to align my tools. Granted, it doesn't really matter if a board is off square by a few thousands across 6" of width, but I don't want to saw it that way. Then it becomes an error that may compound when the board moves.
"It really doesn't take much longer to set up my [compound miter saw], band and cabinet saw, planer, joiner and mortiser to very close tolerances than to be sloppy about it, and helps when combined with the wood movements and my lack of talent. I keep a 'certified' square in my tool chest that I use to verify my squares once in a while. It's not too hard to 'adjust' a dropped square if it is out of square. It just makes sense to me to eliminate any 'errors' I can -- makes up for some of mine." - Larry C.
"This is a very interesting topic, and I doubt that it will end with a definite answer or something close to consensus. It's kinda like arguing about religion or pizza -- strong opinions from every angle." - Jesse C.
Other respondents thought it wasn't necessary to be quite so accurate. - Editor
"When working with wood, there is a limit to how accurate you need to be, and I think most of these posts go beyond that limit. If I have a run out of under .02 over a length of 4', I really am quite happy." - Robert F.
The original poster summed up a host of factors that can contribute to inaccuracy -- and his solution. - Editor
"I'm certainly not against accuracy. But for all the effort I take to measure my tools for accuracy, there appears to be a host of factors that affect the wood components I make for my work. Things like: runout; humidity/temperature; sanding/scraping; wood's own movement (or temper); my handling through the machines. Those are just to name a few. Each part I make for a piece of furniture might go through dozens of processes, each one that might contribute to the size and squareness of that piece. So that caused me to wonder how much it mattered if I used my 'decent' grade measuring tools versus more expensive super accurate tools. In the end, if a wood component ends up out of square, I have a solution...lots of glue and really strong clamps!" - Thomas S.
Should This Person Own a Drill? from WoodCentral
We've all likely had this kind of chat about someone we know. This woodworker took it onto the web. Should, he wondered, his family friend - "not a handy person" -- actually have a drill. Or not? - Editor
"My wife and I have a friend.
She is not a 'handy person.' She is not descended from 'handy' people. She is one person who knows who has the best takeout -- so I wouldn't describe her as someone who really does much in the kitchen. Years ago, she came over to our townhouse when we painted the dining area because she had never really seen anyone paint a room before. She is in her 'old family home' - that is on the order of 40 years old. Needless to say, it needs work. The home has brick facing on the lower portion and wood siding up above.She doesn't have a corded drill. She did get a small, inexpensive drill/driver a while back -- that she has used (but not often).
"Does she need a drill? In my opinion - yes. Every house should have a bare minimum of tools. (Among others, a pry bar, a hammer, screwdrivers, pliers, an adjustable wrench, a saw and a drill.) But if you aren't 'handy,' which drill? I believe that she should have a 1/2" or 3/8" hammer drill. This would do the vast majority of household tasks that she might need. The big question is - would it be a waste? Would she ever use the drill after she got it?" - JL
Some respondents wondered why anyone -- J.L.'s neighbor and themselves included -- would need a hammer drill. - Editor
"I also have a 40-year-old house and do a lot of my own work around it, so I am certainly what you would call 'handy.' I own a cheap corded drill and it has done anything I need. I've never felt the need for a hammer drill. I'd make sure she has the hammer, screwdriver, adjustable wrench and the like. If you feel she needs a drill, then buy a simple corded one. The hammer drill would never get used.- Ryan
"I'm curious. What is the application that needs a hammer drill? I've never had one either and been up to my ears in honey-do work most of my life." - Jesse C.
Others saw the benefit -- for themselves, or for J.L. - Editor
"I got along without a hammer drill for many years -- even drilled holes in brick. Now that I have one, I have learned it is the ONLY way to go for drilling brick and hard concrete. That said, I doubt that a non-tool person would have a need for one. The non-tool person would probably also not bother to keep the battery on a cordless drill charged, making the cordless drill useless." - Jerry N
"Do you want her to get a hammer drill so you can borrow it?" - Kevin F.
"In my opinion, anything more than an average 12-volt cordless drill is a waste. Only have her buy something that you want to use when she calls you and you don't want to haul yours over there." - Nat R.
"I got my kids each a cordless combo comprised of a drill and an impact driver. That way, they have something to drill holes and such plus a driver that also doubles, quite nicely, as a hammer drill for masonry, etc. The extra bonus is that it leaves more room in the trunk since I don't have to schlep my own tools along when I'm asked to go help with something. - Mark M.
There was a brief sidebar discussion on the benefits of corded vs. cordless tools. - Editor
"OK, so corded are not as 'handy,' but they always work. Those who use drills very infrequently will not be good at charging the batteries. Some either leave the battery on the charger for months or not at all and the battery is dead right when they need it. A decent 'residential' corded will probably cost less, too" - Thomas S.
"The one downside to corded drills that I've found where they don't substitute well for cordless drills is that their AC motors are lousy at low-speed, high-torque screw driving, unlike a DC-motored cordless."-Jason R.
And the discussions circled back to not only whether the person under discussion should own a drill, but whether she should be attempting any DIY projects at all. - Editor
"There are certainly many benefits to being a DIYer, but it's not for everyone. You might have some conversations with her about what her long-term goals for the house are. If she's looking to have it maintain or gain value, then she should seriously consider professional services for repairs/maintenance/upgrades. If she's looking for the catharsis of doing the projects herself, then she may need a mentor as much or more than tools. And, there's always YouTube -- which, of course, comes with a caveat emptor.
However, if she's never done any of this stuff and no one in her family did either, I would suspect that her interests and hobbies naturally lie elsewhere, and working on one's own home can seriously cut into those, perhaps at the expense of one's balance of life." - Jason R.
"She shouldn't. I've met this person (or MANY like her) many times. Given any serious drill she will soon be swayed into believing all those TV DIY shows. And you KNOW that there is nothing good down that road. Forty projects started, none finished. Or worse: injury. Some folks are destined to HIRE things done. It's the way of the world." - Steve M.