Monday, March 18, 2013

Money Can't Buy You Skill

Woopst!  I forgot my camera in Garmisch yesterday.  That means my ability to use the written word to paint a picture in your head is going to have to be good enough for now.

I thought I would do another experiment today.  As if I haven't beaten the dead horse to death until it was dead regarding my lap-joint try square, I decided to make four more today.

An old photo, as my camera is not here today.

Now that I think I am getting pretty good at making these lap joints using only a Ryoba saw and a pair of chisels, I figure I can show you what having the use of the tool porn in my chest can do.

I first squared up all of the stock for these four squares using some rift-sawn oak for the blades and some not-ideal-but-pretty-with-knots-in-it walnut for the stocks.  I noticed after I completed this step that I did everything up to this point with my Basic Tool Kit (BTK, a jack plane, ryoba saw, pair of chisels, and some marking tools).


I guess since I have been using these tools almost exclusively lately, I am really getting to know them and like them.

I laid out all of the joints, and then set the timer.

With my BTK, two squares took 49 minutes to cut the two lap joints.

For the other pair, I used a Spear & Jackson dovetail saw, a BadAxe crosscut sash saw, a Lie-Nielsen router plane and a Lie-Nielsen large shoulder plane.  These two squares took 45 minutes to cut the joinery.

I'm also not sure that they look any better.

At first glance, adding $700-$800 worth of tools to the mix gained me a whopping four minutes.

I think, however, that this really wasn't a fair test.

I noticed that while I was perfectly comfortable cutting the joints with my BTK (having made several of these exact same try squares over the last few weeks), that this is the first time I have used my 'regular' tool kit to make this square.  Every time there was something to fix, I wanted to go back to my chisel.  Trimming the shoulders of the joint was cumbersome, because I wasn't used to doing it that way.  I could get the shoulder nice and flat, but when I test fit the joint, it was way off square and took quite a bit of fiddling with before everything was nice and square.

Today, I found out that lots of nice tools, even "essential" ones, take some practice to master.  My guess is that in the hands of someone accustomed to using these same tools I have, these two joints probably could be cut and fit in about ten minutes.  That will be my goal.

Pictures of these try squares will be forthcoming, once I get the clamps off and finish them up.  You will be able to see my joinery and the differences between them.

On a related note, I have plenty of try squares for sale!


  1. I have noticed the same thing about getting used to one tool. SInce I am limited to the Stanley No3 to act as scrub, jointer and smoothing plane, I am getting the hang of it. Stock preparation by hand isn't as difficult as it was two weeks ago.

  2. You make a good point about mastering a tool. I don't think it matters so much what or who made the tool but you developing the skill to use "it". Jonas is an excellent example. One tool, multiple uses, skill level increasing each time.

    1. I realized that it could be even though I have reduced the number of tools I own, I still have more than I have mastered. Focusing on a smaller tool set the last few weeks has given me confidence in those tools, and I didn't know I was missing that. This also got me to realize I am not at that level with most of my other tools.

      Time to practice fundamentals.

  3. You are going to have quite the collection of squares when you get it down to 10-minutes worktime!