Digressions & Diversions
The first of many projects is under way and if you’re keeping up with me, you’ll note that cock-ups, goofs, mistakes… (call them what you will), won’t get glossed over, or as my old dad was fond of saying when he used to bend my ear… “Ten thou of paint covers a multitude of sins”.

I take the view that nothing is ever perfect because as sure as the Lord made little green apples, we’re all human beings with all the follies and foibles that go with the territory. No matter how seemingly perfect the job, if you dig deep enough, there will always be a niggling little fault. It’s not the mistakes though; it’s how we get round them that’s important.

If you can’t achieve perfection, what can you achieve? The answer to that one’s very simple… precision.

The nature of the material means that to be precise with wood is tricky as it’s a natural material and whether we like it or not, the stuff moves. It’ll shrink, twist, warp, bend, bow and spilt at the drop of chapeau under the right (or wrong, as the case may be) circumstances, so as a furniture maker, it’s something that I have to accept and live with…but there are strategies which can be done in the workshop to get round these difficulties and if you’ve got the mind numbing willpower to stay with this blog long enough, you’ll find out what they are.

As an example, in the previous entry ‘Influences’ there’s a pic of a pile of mahogany on edge on the lay-up or assembly table, supported on 10mm thick batons. This hasn’t been done to make it look pretty, but to allow air to circulate all round the timber so that the stuff becomes acclimatised evenly. Any possible movement ought to be negligible, but lay a piece down on a bit of wet newspaper overnight and it might be a bit bendy in the morning! The fact that this mahogany has been conditioning for nearly forty years is neither here not there… it’s still good practice to allow the timber to acclimatise gradually, especially after machining, when any stresses inside could be released.

The lay-up or assembly table is a pretty important part of the workshop. It’s only a simple framework, but it has a wide top with about 50mm of overhang all round. This means that it’s easy to cramp stuff to the edge and of course the big surface area means it’s ideal at glue-up time…it’s also heavily waxed so any glue scrapes off easily when dry.

Enough of this rambling… back to the project.

End grain preparation
End grain preparation

The next step is to plane the ends of the legs dead square, using a nicely honed block plane …not quite such an onerous task if you keep checking for squareness regularly and only remove whisper thin shavings off the high spots.

I’m a bit of a sucker for shiny tools and had been after a dowelling jig for a while so Derek Jones’s test of ‘Dowelmax’…

Dowelmax in use
Dowelmax in use

…in a fairly recent edition of Furniture & Cabinetmaking was enough to make my fingers start twitching for the credit card. It’s beautifully made, very accurate, highly adaptable and the joints (to my surprise) are very strong. We sell something similar (Axminster or Veritas dowelling jigs) but they won’t give you that… “Good grief, what have I done?” feeling of impending doom when you open your CC statement.

  • brian nibbs

    Just spoken to a very helpful lady however had to refer back to another person often !! then I found the 160 dia blade I was attempting to purchase was not a stock item as Axminster did not sell tools needing that size—average as it is Not impressed.

  • Yes well said that precision is the key to your work how precised is the work the more good it appears but sometimes people get confused between accuracy an precision let me make it clear:-

    Accuracy is defined as the ability of a measurement to match the actual value of the quantity that is being measured.


    Precision is defined as,the ability of a measurement to be consistently reproduced and the number of significant digits to which a value has been reliably measured.

    • Rob Stoakley

      Thanks for your reply, an interesting distinction between the two. I’m not sure if there’s a distinction between accuracy and precision as far as woodwork goes as the nature of the material means it’s a bit of a ‘moveable feast’…literally! It’s the movement that we as woodworkers need to understand and compensate for, at the same time being as precise and/or accurate as we can possibly be, within the boundaries of how the material is going to behave.