Our tool preview in issue 176 was about the Sears CompuCarve, and it generated a good bit of comment, starting with complaints about what we did not do. – Editor 

“I read the review of the Craftsman CompuCarve System and found it added no value over reading the Sears web site. Every woodworker I know is talking about it. I was hoping your review would shed some light onto the value of an almost $2,000 tool that has created a new category. I hope in the future you devote some pages in your magazine or eZine to really reviewing the tool.” – Paul M Cohen

“I believe you should have tried one of these in your shop to get a real test.” – George Sarver

As we have explained before, we do not do tool reviews in the eZine. What you read was a preview, and in the interest of honesty we call the segment “Tool Preview.” We do tool reviews in the print version of Woodworker’s Journal, but not here. However, do read on, because some of your fellow readers who bought the machine shared their opinions. While not a review from a magazine, these should certainly help. – Editor 

“I teach at Clinton Prairie High School, and we purchased one for the students to use in the woodworking class. It is remarkable how simple it is to use. It is slow, and you will have areas that will need to be scraped and lightly sanded, but for the price, I don’t think you can beat it. If you have a design that you want to mirror, it will place it exactly on both places. It is a point and click operation when you are designing your work on the computer. You then download your design to the memory card and put this into the machine. You can import images from the Internet or other sources, as long as they are in JPG format.” – Al Hintzman

“I purchased one of these machines with all kinds of good projects in my head. The machine does a fairly good job of carving, but one has to be careful to upload the graphic in the proper manner or you won’t get as good a job. And you are right. Bring your lunch when you set it to a task, and also a very good set of ear plugs. It is very noisy. Many of the jobs I have done have taken an hour or more to complete. It has a moderate learning curve, depending on your ability with a computer and modifying graphics. I also found that it pays to find a way to add an additional means of vacuuming the dust up while it is in operation as it generates a lot. I don’t feel the investment is wasted as I still have projects rolling around in my head.” – Bob Hoyle

Whither Alowood?

“I went to the Alowood site, which referred me to Edensaw Woods Ltd. All other distributors were flooring or plywood suppliers. Where can I get some or see some in person?” – Bill Hook

“When I went to their web site, they showed three places where you can purchase Alowood. However, I went to all three on the web and could not find Alowood in any of their web sites. Can you help with pricing and order possibilities? Thanks.” – Robert B. Langston

We passed these letters on to Karen New, Alowood’s director of marketing, and she was happy to help. – Editor 

“We want to thank everyone for their interest in Alowood. Our distribution is limited right now, but we are expanding it. Edensaw, located in Washington state, does ship in small and large quantities and should be able to meet most people’s needs. Edensaw has a central location you can call or e-mail, and they are very prompt with their responses. Toll-Free: (877) 333-6729 Email: Windsor Plywood is also stocking Alowood products, and they have over 70 stores; most of them are in Canada. Windsor Plywood does not have a central number, but you can go to their web site, find the location closest to you and call or e-mail that location for information on Alowood. We are always looking for direct customer feedback on our products, so I also encourage you to e-mail or fill out our form on our web site. Tell us what you’d like to use Alowood for and where you typically purchase your wood products so that we can best fulfill your needs. We’ll also make sure to get information out to you as we expand our distribution. Thanks again for your support!” – Karen New, Director of Marketing, Alowood

Seating Chucks

A question about how to seat a drill press chuck taper elicited this suggestion. – Editor

“In the machine shops where I was trained, every oldtimer kept a piece of common soft chalk in his toolbox. A few strokes of the chalk along the tapered shank, and the tool stays in when inserted into the socket. In old shops, not only chucks but also drills and other large tools often inserted directly into the taper in the spindle.” – Peter J. Fontaine

Labeling Drawers

Our thread on whether or not woodworkers label the drawers of their cabinets petered out, but we can’t resist sharing the creative impulses of just one more woodworker. – Editor 

“I labeled my drawers to please my admittedly odd sense of humor. For example, two adjacent drawers with lathe supplies and kits are labeled, ‘One Good Turning’ and ‘Deserves Another.’ Rulers, calipers, squares and such are in the drawer ‘Measure for Measure,’ while screwdrivers are in ‘The Turn of the Screw.’ Lamp-making supplies are found in ‘Let There Be Light, ‘See-Saw, Marjorie Daw’ is obvious, as is ‘I Was Scrolling Along.’ My favorite, however, is the hammer drawer. I labeled it ‘With Mallets Aforethought.'” – A. Macassar

Niggardly, the Word That Won’t Die

A WoodCentral message board entry that we repeated in the eZine correctly used the term niggardly. We defended its use after a couple of letter writers mistook it for a totally unrelated word, and we even shared the etymology of the word. That linguistic tussle is still generating commentary. – Editor 

“It was pretty refreshing to hear a reasonable and thoughtful defense of a perfectly good word – niggardly – in an online woodworking magazine. As a writer by profession with a college degree in English, I have maintained for years that ours is a large, colorful and ever-expanding language, and we should strive to use it as fully as possible. Sadly, most English-speaking Americans are limited to a working vocabulary of something like 500-700 words out of over 400,000. Now it’s time to get down off of my soapbox and head for the basement to go manufacture some more sawdust. Thanks, and keep up the good work.” – K. C. Jensen, Jr.

If it is true that “most English-speaking Americans are limited to a working vocabulary of something like 500-700 words,” then we suspect woodworkers as a group, and our readers in particular, are way above average. Here’s further evidence. – Editor 

“Young people today and in the future will be sadly handicapped and poorer if the richness of our language is eroded, and if we let our children move through an education system with lowered expectations while speaking in truncated, distorted street talk.” – Gordon P. Patnude

“Hurrah for you! Standing up for what is right is the honorable thing to do, yet not always done. I agree that a devolution would follow the abandonment of perfectly good words, à la Orwell’s 1984.” – Gordon Loucks

We were thinking more along the lines of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, a novel set in a future in which books are banned and burned, but thanks for the support. – Editor 

“So, is a frugal woodworker niggardly in her use of wood? Great explanation of the word and the goal of using a word often in order to reduce misunderstandings.” – Debbie Roswell

“My compliments on your response to those who were upset about the use of the word niggardly. It’s sad to see the number of people whose vocabulary is so limited.” – Bob Spalding

“Thank you for explaining the term ‘niggardly.’ I had not heard the word in a while, but knew instantly what it meant and saw the potential for offense. Thank you for using the word properly. It is much appreciated.” – Rob Radcliff

“I compliment you for not cowering to false assumptions. It’s not about wood, I know, but your comments on the actual meaning of the word were informative and refreshing. I commend you.” – Bob Leathers

Thanks, but sadly, not everyone felt that way. This writer insisted on speaking not only for himself but for his fellow readers when advising us to dumb down our “obscure” and “pretentious” prose. Personally, we feel he is underestimating our readers. – Editor 

“Come on. You’re writing to woodworkers. How much less pretentious an audience could you have? Write to your audience. You can screw up a perfectly delightful piece when you pepper it with obscure words we don’t know and won’t take the time to look up in the dictionary.” – Tony Oliver

Because we feel a need to do woodworking, we fill our shops with tools and hone the skills to use them. Because we feel the need to communicate with one another, we fill our minds with words and hone the skills to use them. Who among us ever has enough tools? – Editor

Luthier Language

Speaking of language, Rob mentioned a past engaged in luthiery, which generated this correction. But is the correction correct?  – Editor

“I think that you meant lutherie, the craft of guitar making, which would make you a luthier.” – Joseph W. Stanecki

He did, but the jury is still out on the “correct” spelling of this word that rarely appears in dictionaries. In fact, back in the early 1990s, a spirited and drawn-out discussion on “how should we spell what we do” broke out amongst the luthiers who made up both the GAL (Guild of American Luthiers) and ASIA (Association of Stringed Instrument Artisans), the two guitarmakers’ guilds in the U.S. We know because we were part of the discussion. The upshot? We all agreed that both spellings be deemed correct, and since we guitarmakers were the ones who practice luthiery (or lutherie), it was only fair that we make that decision. – Editor

Typo Corner

This spot is respectfully dedicated to the gentle chuckles that result from a slip of the fingers on the keyboard such as the following one. – Editor 

“The chairs we varnished last year are now pealing.”

That’s no doubt a bellwether of what’s to come. – Editor 

Incidentally, the origins of that word are quite interesting.  Although the word has come to mean an indicator or portent, it comes from the Middle English word “wether” meaning “a castrated male sheep.”  A docile bell-wearing wether, or bellwether, was used to lead the other sheep. – Editor

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