More Quotes from Woodwork Magazine

I am continuing to work my way forwards through back issues of the since discontinued magazine Woodwork.

There is some truly fascinating content in these old issues, and one article that comes to mind is Georges Vaufrey’s Wizardly Woodshop. The article describes the processes used by the French company that specializes in producing high quality, precision woodturnings in large volumes (600,000 watch cases in two years, 50,000 pairs of ebony chopsticks a year, for example) with a +/-0.03 to +/-0.05 mm tolerance in hard woods.

The quality of work is partially the result of refined processes and jigs, but human skill is still a key asset.

The Vaufrey sanding system is essentially simple. But in practiced hands, it yields results that defy comparison.

Vaufrey’s sanding methods works beautifully because it puts the operator not the machine, in control of the process.

David and Abram Loft in Georges Vaufrey’s Wizardly Woodshop, issue #35, page 58, paragraphs 1-2

Here are some other interesting quotes I found. Read more on my page, Quotes from Woodwork.

Krenov had asked his students for complete emotional and personal involvement in every aspect of their work, in every detail.

Tom Mcfadden in Ejler Hjorth-Westh ,issue 33, page 37, paragraph 3

Furniture is nothing but practical sculpture.

Michael Cullen in Where Engineering, Art, and Woodworking; Meet: Michael Cullen by Tom Mcfadden, issue 35, page 34, paragraph 3

The reason so much old furniture has survived can be attributed to the fact that hide glue was the only glue available until recently. Furniture repair had to be done with it. Considerable damage has been done to old furniture since the introduction of modern glues, because repairmen can (and usually do) chose to use another glue.

Bob Flexner in Animal Hide Glue, issue 35, page 46, paragraph 8

Throw Conventional Wisdom Out the Window

I am almost through a book called Rethinking Sitting, which discusses different ergonomic design styles of chairs. The author, a commercial designer of chairs, has developed many different models which are quite distinct from the typical form that you or I would recognize as a chair. Of course, he feels that his chairs have distinct ergonomic advantages over typical chairs.

This quote is from the book, and I think that it applies to designers of all fields.

One of the most common limitations in product development is conventional wisdom.
– Peter Opsvik, from his book, Rethinking Sitting


Perfection May Be a Goal

It’s not uncommon for we humans to strive for perfection. We can drive ourselves insane and spend our lifetime trying to achieve it. As David Savage would say, “perfection is a terrible taskmaster”.

The creative people over at The New York Times created a program that reads their articles and scans for haikus. They choose the best and publish them on a Tumblr page. This one, I think, is… gee, dare I say it? Perfection!

Laura Collins-Hughes - Perfection may be a goal

I keep my favourite quotes on a page titled Quotables.



There are a number of woodworking blogs that I follow and I found this tidbit of wisdom on This Business About Woodworking:

If there is something you really want to do, do it now. Don’t wait thinking that you will find time one of these days because time cannot be found. And don’t think you will make time either, because time cannot be made. The only way to get time is to take time. – David DeChristoforo

Find this quote among a collection of my favourite quotes on my page, Quotables.

Week Six of #Woodchat’s Picture Inspiration!

Start with a sketch, but make it quick. There’s real work to be done.
– Stefan Hartwing

(This quote has been added to my page Quotables, where you’ll find many more interesting quotes.)

For the past five weeks at #Woodchat on Air, we have been playing our new design game called #Woodchat’s Picture Inspiration. We looked at designs based on a photograph and discussed the creative process and explored potential variations. The discussions were recorded and posted on YouTube.

The first week, we started with a picture of shavings and came up with some really creative designs.

The second week, we examined a colourful scene from KaBoom! The Port Moody Art Explosion for inspiration.

In week three, we studied a photo of a metal bench that inspired a quilt rack built by Dyami Plotke.

The fourth week, our source of inspiration was a photo of an adjustable candle holder, that proved to be tougher to work with than we thought.

In week five, we looked at a photo of an art installation for inspiration.

That brings us to week six. For this week’s Picture Inspiration, our challenge is to design something inspired by this photo.

Jessica Anderson - Pattern Study 1

Inspiration photo: Jessica Anderson’s Pattern Study 1

Designs are due Wednesday May 28, 7pm (e-mail them to me, or share them with us on Twitter using hashtag #Woodchat), when they will be shared on #Woodchat.

#Woodchat on Air runs every Wednesday from 7-8pm, Pacific time.

How I Prefer to Make Speculative Work

When not required to make something that meets a certain set of criteria, I am free to let the design evolve on its own. Sometimes (but not often), I end up making nothing more than scrap wood and sawdust. That’s how it goes sometimes.

I feel that this quote embodies my philosophy on making speculative work (for starters).

“A good traveller has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.”

– Lao Tzu

This is also how I make my jigsaw puzzles. I start with nothing more than a piece of wood and a new blade in my scroll saw. I don’t draw a pattern so I have no lines to follow. I just make one cut at a time. Once I free a piece (or section) from the rest, I proceed to cut it into smaller pieces, making cuts from the edge, end or face.

The result in a very complex puzzle with pieces that must be assembled in the correct sequence. For example, when viewed from the top,this section appears to be three pieces.

140-Piece Puzzle1

However, it is actually made of nine pieces which slide together. Reassembling these nine pieces alone takes several minutes. Can you imagine if they were mixed among a hundred other puzzle pieces?

140-Piece Puzzle2

This 3D puzzle is made up of sections one to four layers deep. That is how the complexity of the puzzle is hidden. Would you have guessed that this puzzle is comprised of 140 pieces?

140-Piece Puzzle Top

This puzzle is for sale and all the details can be found on the product page. Please contact me if you are interested in acquiring it.


You Don’t Need to Know What You Are Doing

The New Furniture

Knowledge is good, but sometimes it can be blinding.  It can lead to incorrect assumptions and closed minds. Currently, I’m reading The New Furniture which addresses how technology is changing the woodworking industry.  In the book, Ken Susnjara made this comment on how his company, Thermwood, came to invent the first CNC control.

In truth, this was not part of any grand scheme.  Much of it occurred just because we didn’t know what we were doing.

– Ken Susnjara

When I haven’t been told that something can’t be done, I am more likely to try it for myself.  Even if I hear that it can’t be done, I may still test it.  I think that this attitude is exceedingly important in the world we live in today – the age of misinformation.  Learning the basics is important, but experimentation and figuring out things for yourself is the best way to learn what works and doesn’t work, as well as why.


Possibilities Inspire Me

One of my greatest inspirations is the idea of improvement.  I am not content simply reproducing existing designs – I always like to try new things and new ideas.

Man seems to be a problem-seeking as well as a problem-solving animal.  We are programmed to change, develop, and meet new challenges until we die.

Anthony Storr

(Find this quote, along with many other interesting quotes on my page titled Quotables.)

As I continue along my chosen career path, I continue to realize what my strengths are and what I want to be doing.  Design is definitely of interest to me.  Honestly, I don’t have much interest in recreating something that’s already been done.  I am an innovator and I enjoy creating original work.  Every piece in my Gallery is an original design of mine.



Sometimes my creative urges are driven by necessity – when there is nothing else available that does what I want.  This is often the case with the specialized tools that I make, such as this extra-long marking knife I made from an old socket-handle chisel.

Chisel Marking Knife

Most of the time, I find myself innovating because I think that I can make it better, or at least more to my liking.  This improvement may be functional or aesthetic.  Either way, I need to make it my own design – I need to add my own touch of flair.

These are my sketches and notes for my redesign of the conversation chair.  It’s a work in progress.

Conversation Chair Sketches page1 Conversation Chair Sketches page2 Conversation Chair Sketches page3 Conversation Chair Sketches page4 Conversation Chair Sketches page5

If you’re ever stuck for inspiration, pick something that you think you can improve upon or reinterpret.  Also, while on the topic of reinterpreting, don’t forget to sign up for #Woodchat’s Telephone Game Design Experiment.

Can We Be Replaced?

Is Technology a Threat?

As technology improves and machinery becomes more affordable, many people feel threatened – they fear that they are being replaced and will one day be unnecessary.  In the world of woodworking, the machine of primary threat is the CNC router.

What is a CNC Machine, Really?

I do not feel threatened.  First of all, I see CNC machinery as just another tool that excels at certain tasks, just like every other tool.  And, just like every other tool, CNC machinery has weaknesses – the primary downside being, I believe, the required set-up time for an operation.  For large scale production, the set-up time is a small price to pay for the efficiency the machine provides.

Can Machines Really Replace People?

The work that I do, and the ways that I work, does not lend itself well to mass production.  Each step requires careful consideration, mindful decisions and skilled, practiced movements to execute and there are numerous chances to turn all that hard work into firewood.  Also, sculptural elements are difficult, if not impossible, to produce on most machinery.

Even if there is a machine that can make those decisions and shape and assemble wood as I do, it is still missing one thing that I can offer – the fact that it was made with care and love by me.

One machine can do the work of fifty ordinary men.  No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man. – Elbert Hubbard

(You can find this quote, along with many other interesting quotes about woodwork, art, and craft on my page, Quotables).

Bonus Resources

e-David is a robot that paints one stroke at a time, constantly analyzing its progress.  Paintings are not completely controlled by the programmer – the robot apparently makes decisions as well as using a visual optimization process.

David Pye’s book, The Nature and Art of Workmanship (ISBN 978-0713689310), explores the concept of “workmanship of risk” and the value of skilled hand work.  I recommend reading this book.