The Scene in Which You Turn Against Me

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When my friend Dean and I added the 1,000-square-foot addition onto my existing house, I made all of the moulding myself from rough stock using a combination of electric routers and moulding planes.

Every baseboard, casing, shoe mould and backbend was cut and installed by me during a six-month period where I don’t recall sleeping.

Today I went to Hyde Park Lumber Co. and plunked down $800 for all the moulding at our Willard Street storefront. I’m not happy about it, from a maker’s point of view, but the numbers don’t lie. I needed more than 300 linear feet of moulding, plus specialized corner blocks to match the original Victorian interior.

By contrast, the cost of the rough stock and the tooling I needed to do it myself was more than $1,100.

The moulding I bought today is cut, sanded, primed and delivered on Thursday morning.

So unsubscribe to the blog. Heck, I might.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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56 Responses to The Scene in Which You Turn Against Me

  1. Doug Norris says:

    Is it cold over on the dark side ?

  2. hgordon4 says:

    Huh. I guess everybody does have a price. ;>)

  3. waltamb says:

    Chris,
    You may have to watch the dark shadows you walk through at night.
    The Ghosts of Woodworkers past may come after you.

  4. Jeremy says:

    So long as it’s not 2″ wide ranch/colonial “trim” you should have nothing to worry about, if it is, your upcoming party might turn ugly.

    • Derek Long says:

      My 1984 vintage tract home has (had) those. When I looked at the house I wondered why the builder put door casings on the floor. Seriously. It was the same as the house’s door casings. Same stuff.

      • oldret1sg says:

        Long before I became as a woodworker, I worked as a framer on the side for several years so that when the time came I could build my own house. When I did finally build my house, the company that provided the doors and windows also delivered the moulding material which is exactly the same as the doorframe material. This was no different than all the jobsites I had worked on in the past. At that time, I never even knew that there was or should have been a difference. Now, I just try to not notice it.

        Maybe someday.

  5. Niels Cosman says:

    Like a prime number, I just can’t even.

  6. toolnut says:

    Redrum. Redrum. Redrum.

  7. studioffm says:

    Good choice.
    Choose your battles, you only have one life
    david savage

  8. David Cockey says:

    The original trim in your building was very likely purchased from a local lumberyard/millwork company with the profile already cut, not made on site.

  9. Sergeant82d says:

    I (sort of) understand your frustration, but seriously – I can’t believe that anyone would feel the need to hand cut trim molding for a commercial space. Even one that celebrates traditional hand tool woodworking and processes.

    While I could definitely feel the allure of cutting it all myself if I was building a new space – ala Peter Follansbee’s current timber frame shop project – entirely by hand, I refuse to accept the work as ‘necessary’ in a non historically significant building remodel. Sorry, but I think your self flagellation borders on the ridiculous.

    Love you! No hard feelings I hope!

  10. shopsweeper says:

    I was against you way back when I found out that you buy shellac flakes and don’t maintain your own colony of Laccifer lacca like a Real Woodworker would do.

  11. Paul Knapp says:

    Two hundred and fifty years ago, if you offered woodworkers (who earned their living in the trade) the chance to work with mill run moldings they would have thought they’d died and gone to heaven. Hand tool woodworking is fun, but that doesn’t mean we have to be masochistic about it. It’s a commercial building you’re talking about so it’s completely appropriate to use commercial millwork to fit it out. If we as woodworkers really want to get all purist about the good old days then lets get rid of the flush toilets and electric lights, and while we’re at it, bring back the 60 hour work week, indentured servitude and child labour. I am mostly a hand tool woodworker, but my next project is a large kitchen and you can be sure I will muster every power tool I own to lessen the workload and make the job go fast.

  12. Scott Meek says:

    I use power tools to make hand tools. Won’t get any judgement from me.

  13. fitz says:

    Does this mean I now have your blessing to buy my handrail instead of make it?

  14. wortheffort says:

    If you write another book with the time saved you’re forgiven.

  15. How utterly human of you. Hell, the other day, i (gasp) used my tablesaw to rip something.

    I am still recovering from the shame of it.

  16. tpier says:

    Just because you can does not mean you should. I am sure you could fell appropriate trees, dry the wood, dimension it and then shape it appropriately, but at what true cost. In ATC you argue that a woodworker with decent skills can make a better table than what can be purchased for the same amount of money, even when accounting for cost of time. In this case the services of others prices out better. Use a large portion of the money you saved to buy a bunch of beer to celebrate all the time you saved.

  17. I am writing a series of articles for a magazine – on use of hand tools – once you show the audience how to cut a mortise and tenon by hand I then do the rest with machines otherwise I’d never get the item finished by the deadline. At first I felt guilt – but then saw a Frank Klausz video in which he showed what he did when the cameras weren’t rolling – out came the hollow mortiser and dado stack. Now I work guilt free.

  18. turdfighter says:

    Time is more valuable then money. You made the right choice.

  19. captainjack1024 says:

    “”The Almighty finds it necessary to do things in His official and public capacity which in His private and personal capacity He deplores.” — Robert A. Heinlein, “Methuselah’s Children”

  20. ejcampbell says:

    Clearly the right choice. I build where the quality or style available is poor and buy when I can get good quality and style for a reasonable price. Also your time is worth a lot.

  21. Mike Siemsen says:

    get in your coffin, you are dead to me!

    This is said in jest for those literalists out there.

  22. Rachael Boyd says:

    I have two shops .One is my woodworking school so its all hand tools and my shop at home is all power. My rule is if I am making a one of, then its old school. if its a production run its power all the way. so spend the money,chop saw it and air gun it in. I will still love ya..

  23. bearkatwood says:

    Call it “fallin off the wagon” just hand in your tokens and start with 24 hours sober and we’ll see where we go from here. I think you might have to do more than that to get us off your buss. Of course I like the previous comment. “get in your coffin, you are dead to me!” Funny stuff. Sounds like something my sardonic teenage son might say. Now straighten up and fly right soldier, we’re workin’ wood here.

  24. Yep, a no brainer. I had a similar thing with an equal amount of skirting board (base board?).

    I saved a bunch of time buying it in, and the at least two coats of paint that didn’t need applying and sanding back. Not to mention the architrave.

    I still hated my life when agonising over every mitre, yep all 148 of them, fitting as tight as a gnats nadger, especially when framing squares didn’t seem to exist in England in the 1930’s.

    It was a good five days work which is at least 50 hours in anyone’s book. I could have added at least 50 to that if I had bought and shaped it all by hand, and probably another 25 to get me to the two smoothed coats of undercoat that came ready applied.

    Although it is mdf, and that still hurts !!!

    Oh, and I used a mitre saw, 11inch boards don’t cut well any other way.

  25. Jim Eckman says:

    I still have Billy bookcases. I ain’t gonna toss that brick!

  26. My brother is an electrician – he has 1 electrical outlet in his entire kitchen.

  27. timotaeus says:

    Forgiven! One must be practical! Time is on your side, yes it is! 🙂

  28. Eric R says:

    for shame…..

  29. Jim Bell says:

    Pragmatic Toolchest just doesn’t have the same ring does it?

  30. mysticcarver says:

    With the expenses you have shelled out to make this a haven for the woodworking community I don’t see a problem in it. The end result is a room filled with real wood and virtually all of the interior built by people that you know all their faces. Your putting the moulding up yourself. Most anyone who looked on it would not notice that it was anything other than beautiful. I am more interested in the books you write and the awesome furniture you make. Not that you needed to save a dime on this item.

  31. jwatriss says:

    God forbid you have other priorities, and do the math for your business.

  32. We will be celebrating with a Grande Parade down two blocks of Main Street on Saturday morning, where you will be our guest of honor in the back seat of the convertible. Please dress appropriately.

  33. jenohdit says:

    The original builders almost certainly didn’t make any moldings by hand, they would have bought it from a mill shop too. Yours will probably be slightly thinner but with finer mill marks. Even with the figures reversed your choice would be the smart one if just to avoid dealing with the huge pile of shavings that much molding makes.

    Now, if you bought the finger jointed crap that’s another thing entirely, even plastic would be better than that.

  34. As Tom West (your uncle, I think) said: “Not everything worth doing is worth doing well” 😉

  35. Chris, sometimes you have to get the job done. When I built our house in Beaufort, SC, at some point I had to succumb to my wife’s desire to just move in.

  36. edfurlong says:

    I spent the busiest years of my day-job life concurrently remodeling our kitchen, including building the cabinets from scratch. I got near bupkis done on developing the hand tool skills I wanted, or on building the furniture I really want to live with and pass on to my children. It also soured my attitude on woodworking to the point that I didn’t go into the shop for weeks or months at a stretch. That was the smartest $800 you spent.

    I like those cabinets overall, and my wife (yes we stayed together despite the multiyear remodel) loves the kitchen, but I still see every flaw, most of which resulted from being burned out on that project. Stay focused on what really matters and enjoy the hell out of it.

  37. An-ar-chy. Besides politically biased definitions, the term is explained as followed in the free dictionary: Absence of any cohesive principle, such as a common standard or purpose.

    That would match up perfectly with buying some and making other.

    In a world where money is a valid means of exchanging services, one has to balance out whether making it yourself is actually the right solution, or buying it would be better. In this case you get both time and money out of it, so unless the stock bought is an inferior product, I’d say you’re in a win-win situation. Enjoy that cold brew when taking in the finished result on time left over with money still in your pocket!

  38. davelehardt says:

    To me, this is another aspect of “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should”…

  39. kaisaerpren says:

    when the cost of the wood is more than the cost of the finished product (made by someone else) the only justification for doing it yourself is that you just really like to it.
    sadly that applies to our customers also. if you check out the price of an inexpensive dining room table and chair set. I cannot but the wood to make the same set for less than twice that price, so who in their right mind would but the set from me?

  40. senrabc says:

    Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should 😉 Good call.

  41. Lots of guilt in this confession.

  42. skilledno says:

    There’s a line in pulp fiction that covers this, where Wallace is telling Butch to throw the fight.. along the lines of “when it happens you’ll feel a sting, that’s pride f*****g with ya”

    Only an idiot or someone quite young (sometimes the same thing) would have a real problem with ordering in the trim, age and common sense will always approve.

  43. leeboyz86 says:

    Oh, the horror of it all ! Seriously. You are probably the only one who could think that there was really a choice to be made. The time investment issue alone would decide the case for any sane person, iconic handwork guru, or not. Sleep well = )

  44. There are a couple of instances that I can immediately think of in which I cannot do a demonstrably better job than a factory at making woodwork. Hardwood flooring is one (done it, twice. It sucked both times). Architectural molding is another. Yuck, no thanks.

    • Only thing about industrial molding is that sometimes you get from different runs – it doesn’t take much of a flaw in sharpening and/or re-set up to change the geometry. Even though not visible to the naked eye, it might wreak havoc on your joints, which although in this case seems to be eliminated by corner blocks and the like.

      Another issue can be the face of the board. Some “just pick the pretty side” without paying attention to grain orientation – also a reason for concern, or at least a reason to pick through the bunch to find matched stock. This is of course done to maximize end product from available stock, but none the less an issue, if not quarter sawn goods.

      This of course only in my experience – some might view it differently.

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