But Is It Woodworking?

But Is It Woodworking?

Rob Johnstone asked the question “Is cabinetmaking woodworking?” and our readers responded with one voice. – Editor

“It seems to me if the material is wood or a wood byproduct (plywood, MDF), and it can be worked with both power and hand tools to tolerances acceptable to a cabinetmaker, it’s woodworking.” – Chris Heinbockel

“If it grew on a tree and it is not a leaf, then it is wood. Are you doing something with it? If yes, then you are working with it or playing with it. The difference between these two actions is mostly a state of mind. No man’s ego is going to let him admit to wood playing, so it is all woodworking.” – Glen Snow

Au contraire! We readily admit to playing with wood. In fact, the motto of my local woodworking guild is Conlusum cum lignum, Latin for “we play with wood.” – Michael Dresdner

“I say yes, it is, due to the fact that you are still using your skills and knowledge as a craftsman/woman to accomplish your desired finished project.” – Brad Peterson

“Think of it this way: If it has wood in it and you work with it, then as far as I’m concerned, you’re woodworking.” – Mike Barry

“Of course cabinetmaking is ‘real woodworking,’ I just completed a 10′ x 16′ pergola constructed of treated Southern pine in my backyard. I am just as proud of it as of any furniture item.” – Jerry Gardner


“I enjoyed the article on the MicroFence Mill, then got down to the bottom of the page and saw the price. Call me cheap, but I have a problem buying an accessory that costs more than the tool. I can’t help wonder how much it actually costs to make a tool or accessory as compared to what it is being marketed for in stores.” – Chuck Molnar

You raise a couple of interesting points, Chuck, and they are well worth discussing. For starters, the MicroFence Mill is not sold in stores, only direct from the manufacturer. According to the manufacturer, that’s because it is so expensive to make that there is no room for dealer profit. It’s made entirely by a small, custom toolmaker right here in the U.S. and contains over 40 precision parts.

The other issue you raised, whether an accessory should cost more than the tool, makes us wonder just what constitutes a tool. In the case of a table saw or band saw, we suspect everyone would readily agree that the motor, which is replaceable, is neither the most expensive nor the most significant part of what makes that saw accurate and useful. A trim router, though, is little more than a motor. Paying more than merely the cost of the motor to make that tool truly accurate and useful seems fairly sensible when you look at it in that light. To be honest, we have on occasion bought certain bits that cost more than our router and also bought router tables, another accessory, that cost more as well.

Maybe we are looking at it all backwards. Perhaps the Mill should be viewed as the tool, albeit one that requires you to supply your own chosen router motor. We guess the bottom line is that there’s a reason why the best tools cost what they do. The only frustration for all of us, ourselves included, is that we can’t always afford the best. – Editor

Pore Filler Down Under

“In regard to grain filler or pore filler, call it what you want; there ain’t no such animal in Australia either. The best suggestion I get is to thin down a standard wood filler and use that.” – Erwin van der Minne

Actually, a product we covered in a previous issue is sold as both pore filler and putty and, as luck would have it, the company is based in Australia. You might want to check them out. – Editor

Recreational Recycling

A web site thread about picking up usable “trash” from a curbside drew loads of comments, most of them very supportive. – Editor

“I enjoyed the piece about turning trash into treasure. I, too, have been involved in this magnificent art of saving our landfills for almost three decades. As a young married man, most of our early furniture was what we called ‘Early American Somebody Else’s.’ I have also found some wonderful treasures including a table saw, a band saw and a jointer. We have delicately placed good, yet unwanted, items at the curb several days early in the hopes that someone else could use them. Guilty? The only time I feel guilty is when nobody takes the good stuff that I have placed out at the curb and it does end up in the landfill.” – Richard Grover

“I placed a couple of leather chairs on the footpath (sidewalk to you Yanks). Too good to throw out, but the wife wanted some new gear. By the time I had walked back inside and made a coffee, they were gone! Didn’t even see them get taken; I hope they are now being used by someone who appreciates them as much as I did.” – Roger Forrester (Australia)

We’re sure they are, and you didn’t even need a sign, as suggested by our next writer. – Editor

“You’ve probably heard about the guy who had a usable but unwanted object and put it out on his curb with a sign ‘Good working order – FREE.’ Three days later it was still there, so he changed the sign to read ‘Good working order – $50.’ It was gone the next night.” – Joe Paterson

“No matter what you call it, it saves time, money and the resources that are being used up too fast in this country. Seventy-five percent of the tools and machines that I have in my shop came from stuff that was recycled. Even the wood that I have was in the cull bin at the local home improvement center.” – Joe Thomas

“I, too, am guilty of dumpster diving and trash picking. This type of reclamation has been beneficial for my children as well, as they have a better understanding of why it is important to compost, recycle and reclaim for many reasons: ethics, economy, pride and the environment.” – Harry Bogosian

“There is a business in my town that will take old windows and castaway household stuff and then sell it to others that need and want it. A friend needed a chunk of old baseboard molding for his early 1900s house, and they had the exact old baseboard he needed.” – Frank Hall

“Before bulk trash day, I drive around in my pickup looking for trees that have been cut down and piled up to be taken away by city waste management in north Phoenix. I have been amazed at the great pieces of mesquite, oak, poplar, olive and other trees I have found cut up in four-foot lengths already, and just the right size for my lathe and band saw.” – Bryan Hill

“My grandfather added an enclosed porch onto his house using nothing but wood from pallets. Additionally, he built the prettiest kitchen cabinet from the same pallet wood on the base, and the top of an old pinball machine for the top, glass and innards removed, of course. Seems to me that a little more of that common sense would be good in today’s throwaway world.” – Jack N. Donato

Yes, but all is not sweetness and light in the land of the dumpster divers. Read on. – Editor

“Our county has made this practice illegal because the divers tend to leave the unwanted trash lying around the dumpster for the taxpayers to pay others to clean it up. If you can get a treasure before it reaches the dumpster, go for it, but once it reaches a pickup dumpster, it is trash, period.” – Harold Stephens

Not to put too fine a point on it, but the original thread discussed picking up items at the curbside. We added the rather jocular term “dumpster diving,” but that is not what the writer described. Of course, we feel strongly that if you do actually enter a dumpster, you do it with the same consideration for both neatness and safety that we assume all woodworkers practice in all other areas of their lives. – Editor

“I do a good bit of ‘dumpster diving’ at home building sites, with permission of course, and a local cabinet shop. I make wooden toys, candlesticks, small desktop clocks, doll furniture, toy trucks and cars with all sorts of wood tossed in scrap piles. Oh, yes, I really do go into the large dumpsters at building sites. When there is good wood to be had for free, this granny puts on the gloves and heavy-soled boots and starts climbing.” – Beverly Taylor

Neatly, we feel certain. – Editor

Typo Corner

We can’t forget this popular spot where we laugh at ourselves for allowing our fingers to type faster than they should.

“I finished a gum wood table with Watco® Danish oil, witch looks great.”

Is that a good witch, or a bad witch? – Editor

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