In Which You are an Indiscriminate Sponge

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In “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest” I tried to show how woodworking journalists are treated like geese being prepared for foie gras. During my 15-year tenure I was force-fed tools, jigs and meaningless innovations (see also Bench Cookies) to fill the great void that is the autumn issue.

What I didn’t get to explain in that book were the market forces behind this Golden Corral of injection-molded garbage. Why does this happen? And more importantly: Why does it work?

Some of you won’t believe me, but that’s because you are probably a beginner and therefore an indiscriminate sponge.

When people begin woodworking, most go through a phase (I did) in which they soak up every single piece of information they can find. Many will subscribe to multiple woodworking magazines, buy astonishing numbers of woodworking books, seek out catalogs and advertisements for woodworking tools, and buy anything they can afford that looks remotely useful.

This is when people are vulnerable. They need guidance. Unfortunately woodworking is a mostly solitary pursuit. And so we spend incredible, astonishing and shocking amounts of money on equipment, books and instruction. And most of it is of questionable worth.

Because of this phenomenon:

  1. The woodworking magazine business had a glut of magazines. When we ran the numbers in the 1990s, we surmised that there should be three magazines serving woodworkers. Instead, there were more: Fine Woodworking, WOOD, American Woodworker, Woodsmith, Shopnotes, Workbench, Popular Woodworking, Woodworker’s Journal, Woodshop News, Woodcraft, Weekend Woodcrafts, Woodwork and a host of specialized magazines. What propped up these magazines? Beginners. Eventually, most woodworkers winnow their subscriptions down to one or two magazines. But the spendthrift beginner made it possible for many magazines to survive.
  2. The woodworking book industry produced a glut of books. In the 1990s, my mailbox was stuffed with new woodworking books every week. It wasn’t unusual to see seven or eight new woodworking titles in a month. That’s coo-coo. Why did this work? New woodworkers wanted the latest information. New books are better than old books (duh!). And so publishers churned out books that had an 18-month life cycle before disappearing forever.
  3. The woodworking tool industry thrives on new SKUs. After covering woodworking tool manufacturers for two decades, it’s obvious that they introduce new products every year to goose sales. That’s why you have a new crop of cordless drill/drivers every year. And it’s also why you have a rash of odd products that seem (on the surface) to be innovative – silicone glue brushes, painter’s pyramids, many router table jigs, marrying a chisel with a rasp, aluminum squares, putting a laser on everything, oddball and worthless sanders (the Black & Decker Mouse; Porter-Cable Profile Sanders), and battery-powered clamps and tape measures. The list is endless, and it’s not a modern phenomenon. When my grandfather was woodworking in the 1970s, he was charmed by a jig that let you cut dovetails with a corded drill. The only people who are dumb enough to fall for these products are beginners and woodworking journalists. Beginners don’t know better, and journalists need copy to fill the empty space between the covers.

Some of you might be thinking I’m exaggerating my experiences. I’m not. The good news is that the Internet did a Half-Nelson on most of these stupid business practices. When people now go through their “indiscriminate sponge” phase, they do it on YouTube and soak up as much ridiculousness as they wish.

Eventually they will be able to ignore the tool-chugging nincompoops and focus on what’s important: Building basic skills using simple and robust tools (and maybe a few well-built machines).

Honestly, it’s a good thing to be a bit jaded about the woodworking tool and publishing industries. It makes you a better consumer and encourages them to do better. So please, for the sake of the future of the craft, don’t buy the Bench Cookies.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
This entry was posted in The Anarchist's Tool Chest, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

70 Responses to In Which You are an Indiscriminate Sponge

  1. Hello from Catalonia, Europe.
    i’m sculptor and carving professor, i try to show my aprentices only the right stuff, the important. I tell many times that all the tools and facilities collected in their lifes, must fit in a little woodworker suitcase.

  2. I have stoped being a sponge – it gave a feeling of insecurity for a while but I am over that now. The only problem now is I am addicted to some strange people who run something called LAP. I shall be finally “cured” when I can shut this down.

  3. xxxmike says:

    Hah! You have described my journey PERFECTLY! And, yes, I have a Porter Cable profile sander somewhere. Useless thing? I thought that it was my fault that, somehow, my technique rendered the darn thing useless. I am so relieved 🙂 .

    • Chris Decker says:

      Ditto! Except, admittedly I had to Google “Porter Cable Profile Sander” to find out what that is.

    • sryoder says:

      I have one too, xxxmike. Never found a use for it but I figured that I just wasn’t being creative enough. Good to know I was wrong about that. Not so good to know I was wrong to buy it in the first place. Seemed like such a good idea at the time.

  4. Carl Hudson says:

    *Shamefully hides his Mouse sander and Bench Cookies*

    Oh well, at least I won’t buy them again lol

  5. There is no exaggeration here whatsoever.

  6. tesla77 says:

    Always wondered how one spells nincompoops. Great article, by the way.

  7. fedster9 says:

    Thankfully I move too often to ever justify buying anything, so gadgets and fads are somewhat less appealing to me. Having said that, moving often has its own kind of issues. On a different note, all good after Handworks Chris? since you mentioned what happened before you should really reassure us.

    • Ha! All is well in my gastrointestinal tract. I broke a toe while we were loading the trailer in Covington, so I count that as the disaster of the trip.

  8. Anthony Wilson says:

    I wish I could go back to the late 1990s and start over with only a bandsaw, jointer/planer combo, two chisels (without the cherries), a few planes and handsaws, a bench, a few clamps, and some waterstones.

    A few years later I came close with the Anthony Guidice book, but he was attacked as delusional so I continued on my spree.

    The last 20 years could actually have been productive.

    Chris, now I understand what pisses me off about this blog – it’s an uncomfortable truth.

    • kaisaerpren says:

      I have made the error of trying to calm the zeal of the new woodworker for gizmos and tech… until they themselves realize that they don’t need all that clutter and the wood doesn’t want a blade so sharp that it can split atoms… well my simplicity has been received with anger and vehemence. How dare I suggest that 1000 grit sandpaper is too fine to be used on wood!
      thank you for saying it well.
      K

  9. Andy Fischer says:

    Don’t forget about the naive gift-giver. I have two sets of bench cookies and a cordless circular saw (!?!?); all “gifts”.

    • jayedcoins says:

      I haven’t been bitten that bad, but I’ve been VERY careful around my birthday and the holiday season to tell people as politely as possible, “Please, don’t buy me tools!” I know a gift is a gesture and I feel like a clod even thinking that, but really… don’t buy me tools!

      I still count myself as a beginner, but when I was brand spanking new to the craft (or more hobby, in my case), my father in law asked if there were any tools I could use to start out. I had already inherited a nice Starrett combination square that was true and just needed a cleanup, but I wanted a small try square for checking edges. I gently nudged him toward Lee Valley’s website. I ended up with a 9″ aluminum try square from Home Depot, that is bedded in a stock that must be made of lead. The thing makes a better weapon than a try square. :p He meant well.

    • Derek Long says:

      Yes, I have to discourage my father from buying power tools for me for my birthday, or Christmas, or St. Patty’s Day… For one thing, he buys crap tools. For another, he buys me useless crap tools.

    • Chris Smith says:

      I have an Amazon wish list set up with things that I will eventually buy when I find the funds/use for it. Gifts from that list are always welcome….and if it’s not there…it’s because I won’t use it.

      It has worked out well so far. I received a couple of nice Japanese saws last Christmas from family that lives out of town.

      (Rockler gift cards are always welcome, too!)

  10. Rich says:

    Stanley got us started down this path over a century ago with one of the largest tool catalogs ever imagined.

  11. Jeff Hanna says:

    I know one of the contributing editors to FW. They had wanted him to do a tool review of marking knives. They sent him all different makes from the lowly xacto knife to ones that were priced over $100 retail. He wrote the article and picked the xacto knife as the best overall. “I think it works the best,” he said. The editors wouldn’t let him pick it as best overall and made him rewrite the article, I guess because it didn’t have enough sex appeal.

  12. fitz says:

    I have you to thank for not traveling (much) the path described above; you’d already done it and taught me not to. That said, I do a lot of painting…and I like and use Painter’s Pyramids!

    • I know you like those doodads. I prefer to use scraps shot through with nails.

      • jayedcoins says:

        This is too perfect. I came down to the comments to say that painter’s pyramids are actually pretty sweet! But when I cleaned up an old #5 for a friend and wanted to shellac the knob and tote, I found some scraps from cutting tenon cheeks and ran 3″ screws through them to make holders for the process, it worked great.

        • jenohdit says:

          I certainly wouldn’t ever buy a “painter’s pyramid” but as someone who has had multiple nails through my foot I recoil in horror every time I see someone do that. Poor man’s caltrop.

          It doesn’t always work but I usually use strips cut to a knife edge ( more or less) when I need finishing supports.

          • jayedcoins says:

            I’ve only done the nail trick once when I was a kid, but i stuck with me. When I was done, the screws came out, went back in their hardware bin, and the tenon cheek off-cuts went back in the scrap bucket. 🙂

  13. Mark Dennehy says:

    But I really like my bench cookies!
    (And you can take my silicone glue brush from my cold dead hands)

    But yeah, I do have too many books. Some eejit keeps reprinting these 18th century things about joiners and cabinetmakers and doing readers digests of old magazine articles and I keep buying them for some reason…

  14. You nailed it in the 4th paragraph!!!!! I love every book I own and the hundreds of back issues but the reality is I reread them for pleasure when sitting in a very small room with porcelain fixtures or nights when sleep is difficult. Nothing was said about the DVD’s, they are in a different category and still teach when ever I watch them. Which is in place of mindless television or when I am exhausted from a day at work, but mostly when looking for inspiration and motivation. I love our hobby and it has served me very well. Thank goodness for eight grade shop class and a Grandfather that I greatly admired. And thank you Christopher Schwarz, for you have played a very large role in not only my enjoyment of woodworking but also in a grand awaking of things I could have never imagined.

  15. jayedcoins says:

    I’ve done okay. The worst purchases I’ve made are, not surprisingly (at least in retrospect), the ones where I cheaped out a bit. Like when I started out and thought the Xacto knife would be comfortable in my hand for marking (to each his own, I see someone above likes using Xacto knives for this).

    Or when I spend a boatload of sweat and frustration trying to get the cap and cutting irons on a pre-war #4 to mate properly… after WAY too many hours screwing with a tool instead of woodworking, I said something to the effect of, “RALKJFDLSKJ:SDJFLKJSDFJSLK!!!!!1!@!,” grabbed my phone, logged onto the Lee Valley website, and immediately plunked down $80 for the PM-V11 cap + cutting iron combo and got along with life.

    Right now the only tools I have that will probably not stay with me much longer are, sadly/surprisingly a couple of Veritas tools. It’s not a knock on their quality, they were just a bit ill-advised purchases for the kind of work I’ve ended up doing. One is the crosscut carcase saw. It’s a bit fine and slow cutting. The other is the skew block plane with the fence. I thought it’d be a great jack-of-all-trades that I could use to cut some rabbets as well. It’s a quality tool but it’s very finnicky to get set properly for cutting a rabbet, I’d rather just pare with a chisel and clean up with a router plane. In retrospect the money would’ve been better spent on an old, generic Stanley block plane for a few bucks, and then a separate dedicated rabbet plane.

  16. Erik Pearson says:

    I have bench cookies but they seemed to have disappeared during one of my 6 shop moves in the last 4 years. I was looking for them last months when I was finishing some shelves and didn’t want to go buy painters pyramids. I’ve really been winnowing down my tools to only the stuff I actually use because I’m tired of moving it all!

  17. Erik Pearson says:

    And BTW, the woodworking anarchy logo at the top of this post needs to be your next sticker.

  18. It’s too late, I’m afraid. I already bought the bench cookies.

    And the painter’s pyramids…

  19. meanmna says:

    What is your deal with Bench Cookies? They are great! They taste delicious.

  20. erikhinkston says:

    This is such an accurate description of the arc of my experience. Bench cookies, check. 7 or 8 magazine subscriptions, check. Sunset and Time Life Woodworking library, check. 1982 purchase of the ultimate do everything machine, the Mark V Shopsmith, check.
    It’s like raising kids though, you can tell them about bad choices but they’ll want to make some of those mistakes in their search for independence.
    Later comes wisdom, thank you for contributing to that education.

  21. jaredtohlen says:

    I always wanted to get into woodworking—rather, always wanted to build my own things—but thought I needed time, space, and money for the fancy tools and equipment. About a year ago I stumbled across Pop Wood’s video service trial, and fell into step with Chris pretty easily through his videos there. All of his talk about hand tools and simple, practical work struck a nerve.

    Chris, while I believe what you’ve said is true to a point (though I can’t speak to it from direct experience), I also think the internet really has turned things on their head in some critical ways. In my “indiscriminate sponge” phase (ongoing…), I’ve been able to soak up videos and articles for free and take leaps and bounds in learning. Even going so far as to borrow “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest” through inter-library loan from one of the very few libraries that had it, all via online catalogs and searching. Zero subscriptions, and my woodworking books total two: “The Essential Woodworker” and, now, thanks to Handworks, “The Anarchist’s Design Book.”

    With very limited funds, I’ve also been insulated from most of the gizmo and doodad hype, though I did receive bench cookies as a gift last year (I may or may not have asked for them). However, it’s important to note, in our time of high-quality tool makers, there is the danger of becoming an “indiscriminate raccoon” in which I covet the super-shiny, expensive versions of tools when the middle-of-the-pack version will do just fine (or when I have no business buying that tool in the first place).

    All of this to say, you’re doing good work, and your message is taking. I’ve been fortunate enough to bumble down the narrow path following your hand-painted signs as best as I can.

    • jayedcoins says:

      This was my experience, as well. From my late teens starting college through my late 20s, I always really had a lot of interest in arts & crafts furniture and craftsman style houses and bungalows. But I always thought, “No, I can’t really think about this, I don’t have the money yet, or the space, to put all those woodworking machines.”

      Then, just short of 30, I was flipping through a book about Stickley and it just sort of hit me. “Maybe I have a small house and cannot accommodate a bunch of machines. But what the hell, people made furniture before electricity, so I need to open my mind and do some more research.”

      From Chris and John at LAP, to Paul Sellers, Peter Galbert, and of course Roy Underhill, there are a lot of really inspirational folks right now doing really great and fun work showing that hey, “You can do this, too, you just have to want to and have to dig in.” It’s a great and heartening thing about our society.

      I don’t want to overstate it. Not just anyone can quit their dayjob and do this for a living. Sorry. But anyone at almost any age and with any background can be involved in this craft if they want to. It’s a welcoming community with an odd mishmash of folks that we might not otherwise expect to associate together, and it’s a great thing.

  22. ATC fixed the excess hand tool problem. Now we beginners (of any age) need some guidance with “(and maybe a few well-built machines)”. Festool track saw vs. table saw, joiner/planer, sanders, etc. I know you own some of this stuff. We’d love to benefit from your depth of knowledge without having to follow down the path of buying and then selling used tools.

    • Anthony Wilson says:

      My opinion, for building solid wood furniture: jointer/planer, bandsaw, and maybe a lathe.

  23. sryoder says:

    So I read this blog entry and then, being a newcomer to your blog, I had to do a search for “bench cookies”. I get two hits, this entry and one on a vise improvement called the Crisscross. Now, I NEED a crisscross when I finally get around to building my bench. It’s a wicked world.

  24. I’ve recently gotten over this period, for the most part, and it’s a refreshing feeling. I spent a good year accumulating tools and filling a shop with edge cases and surplus (biscuit joiner, several #5s, a cordless multitool, a lathe respirator face shield I never use, etc) mostly from estate sales and craigslist. Today, I still check craigslist out of some compulsive habit just in case a nice shiny piece of Lie-Nielsen shows up, which unfortunately does happen, but for the most part I realize it as a waste of time. The same for estate sales, unless I know there’s nice wood available.

    I also hoarded books, which I’m a bit more comfortable with as they look nice on a shelf, but in retrospect they are 75% fluff. The LAP books stand out, for sure, and there are a few very good books put out by Taunton, but they also put out a lot of trash (similar ratio to their magazine copy since about 1983).

    Anyway, it passes, and I’m now making furniture (still learning) instead of driving three hours into the country to dig through some old man’s barn for his treasures.

  25. wb8nbs says:

    Ah, yes. The Tool Acquisition Phase of woodworking. I am now exiting, but only because I’ve run out of room.

  26. Rachael Boyd says:

    you hit the nail on the head with this one.I also fell into the void of new & improved. now I don’t buy new stuff if it’s not close to 100 years old I have no use for it. I make a lot of tool type things, my Lathe,shaving horse,I have even made a couple of my molding planes. I do however buy books from the LAP. I must say that when I saw the add for bench cookies I just shook head.

  27. The new book idea: The Complete Gift Giving Guide to Woodworking Gadgets for the Indiscriminate Sponge.

  28. I have used my mouse sander a lot. For years it was the only powered sander I had. After getting serious about woodworking I purchased a ROS and a 1/4 sheet sander. Guess I won’t need therapy after all.

  29. I have lucked out in woodworking as a newbie for a few reasons.

    1. I had been unemployed between jobs for 6 months when I started woodworking in earnest and I was flat broke. As such, it really forced me to focus on what I absolutely positively needed to get going and I had to rely on birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas for anything to add to my tools (again really helped to prioritize). By the time I was on more financial stable ground (ca. two years) I had a firm idea of what I did and didn’t need.

    2. Quickly on I discovered Chis Schwartz and Paul Sellers and I listened (not having lots of money helped).

    3. I’ve been down this general road in other hobbies. In that other hobbie, I knew one of the big name magaizen writers and doers in the industry. He had less than kind things to say about magazines and new item reviews. In that hobby, I could easily get by on anything that wasn’t invented 60 years ago and maybe even 100 years ago. Oh, I only subscribe to one magazine for the reasons you mention. Most new stuff is completely unnecessary and I throw out all catalogs and rarely visit any forums. In fact, for woodworking I don’t even belong to any forums.

    • kedjones says:

      This sounds just like my experience. I’ve been exploring this stuff for about a year when I realized I cant cut square with a circular saw to save my life. Then I remembered my great grandfather was a carpenter and I found his jack plane and rabbet plane that my dad had in a box. Then I stumbled on Paul sellers and lost art press. Living on one income, being married to a minimalist and coming to the revelation that technology has passed me by and I enjoy quiet, I haven’t had the urge to buy a bunch of doodads and gizmos. (My dad keeps buying those for me and I keep donating them or turning my two-year-old on them haha). I’ve also oscillated from hobby to hobby and I drive my wife nuts, but when if first used my grandpa’s Stanley no 5 I was hooked and I applied everything I read about to renovating my new house even when my friends and family were baffled that I would use a hand saw to frame a wall. The last month has been a blast and I have learned a ton of stuff and feel like I can fix or build anything in my house. And it has been delightfully quiet

      I keep buying block planes though. I have no idea why but I love them and I’ve bought 5 or 6 in the last few months for a few bucks a piece they’re great I use them to get all my stupid doors to fit in this house

      Nice to hear someone with a similar story, keep up the good work

  30. matthewbosnick says:

    I count my LAP books as among my most prized tools, along with my refurbished Stanley planes and my Bad Axe tenon saw. I’ve begun to find out as a beginning woodworker that more tools are not the answer: making stuff is the answer. Now, if I could bring myself to stop shaking out couch cushions in search of pennies to add to my 12″ jointer fund, I’d go back to the shop and sharpen my Nos. 5 and 7 and finish a damn project!

  31. Tony Oltmann says:

    One of the things that helped to winnow my reading and YouTube viewing, was going to the source. I was amazed at how so many highly viewed YouTubers and bloggers indiscriminately stole designs from other sources. They would then take all the praise for “their” design, giving no recognition to the source, with many charging for plans. When I discovered this, I would track down the source and soak up what they have to offer.

    Many times the plans were taken from Popular Woodworking (I now subscribe), Fine Woodworking (subscriber), or Shop Notes (paid for a copy of the plans that brought me to their site); routinely from other bloggers and YouTubers. As Martin Luther said: “ad fontes”.
    To the sources”. This is why I love this site, Mortise and Tenon, and others like them. They go back to the sources, give credit where credit is due, and share what they’ve found valuable…without wanting undue credit.

    Thanks Chris, for having integrity, humility, and a teaching spirit!

  32. snwoodwork says:

    Bench cookies & silicon glue brushes (both gifts) serve to distract my kids from stealing other tools when I’m not looking.

  33. gusbus110 says:

    Guilty, as I’m just coming out of the newbie phase (for hand tool woodworking anyway), have bought lots of books and videos trying to soak up as much as possible (including many LAP books of course). Lots of the books are older out of print ones, Drew Langsner’s Country Woodcraft, several of Roy’s Woodwright books from the 1980’s are some examples. I find them fascinating.

    Have stayed away from most of your mentioned pitfalls, and mostly try to only buy tools that serve purposes I have no other tool for. I was lucky to have read your ATC before starting my tool collection and also have a nearby craftsman who has had a minimalist influence on me. When I do buy a new tool nowadays, I’m trying to buy good tools and only buy them once, and trying to support small makers in the process.

    Exceptions to these pitfalls:

    Does making my own bench cookies out of hockey pucks count as buying them? I used to use
    these on a table before I was able to make my woodworking bench, haven’t used them since. Anybody need a set?!

    Also have a set of the painter’s pyramids and they get used quite often by both my wife and myself. Much safer than having scraps of wood with nails poking through laying about, at least in my shop! Having said that, I was planning to create some long triangle profiled scraps of wood that would serve the same purpose but be a little sturdier and not move around on me like the plastic does. Saw that idea on the web or in a magazine somewhere, not mine.

  34. justiain says:

    I know I’ve reached that special state when I have to create a database to track all the sh_t that I’ve bought. While I started one for woodworking handtools, the interesting thing is figuring out where all the stuff I bought years ago went. Somehow, I lost a box of quality handtools.

  35. Keith Mealy says:

    I’m sure glad I never bought that little block plane with a double-edge razor blade at the woodworking shows. “It slices! It dices!”

    I think we are just fed a line of carp and in our naivete fall for it.

  36. richmondp says:

    Sigh,…you’ve explained the sponge like behavior of beginners, and I’ll take your word for it concerning journalists, but what explains the behavior of geezers like me? I drove my first nail over sixty-five years ago and I’m still a sucker for the latest woodworking gizmo or book. I never cottoned to the bench cookies but I love my painters’ pyramids, and despite owning far too many planes, I just ordered another that I’ve been lusting after for years. Perhaps I’ve come full circle and am back to beginner behavior again, though I’m not sure I ever left it. Good article. Thanks.

  37. charlie says:

    Are you a journalist or a blogger? A journalist would have included opposing points of view from the tool manufacturer, or, first hand accounts from people who have actualy used these inventions. Instead, a blogger can just spout their opinion with no oposing voices. Wile these tools you mention may never make it to the “Anarchist Tool Chest”, others may find them quite useful.

    • Charlie,

      Sorry that I pooped on your invention of painter’s bench cookie silicone pyramids. Honestly, they are great stuff. People say so all the time.

      • skink007 says:

        😂Sick burn🔥 I think I have a good idea on a story you could do, I bought your book “Workbenches” and noticed your tool rack, what a great idea, I’m still collecting the necessary hand tools for woodworking, so it’s too soon to build a proper cabinet, but I need the storage now, your rack is the solution, because it’s so easy to expand as needed, I bet there are a lot of other wood workers in my situation as well, so I was thinking that maybe you could refine it a little bit and make it as a stand instead of just the screwed to the window option? Like I said there are probably a lot of us out there that need the storage, but aren’t ready for the full blown cabinet. I enjoyed your book, and have a few others, I think it’s awesome that you’re bringing these books out from the past and republishing them, I’m partially disabled so I’m kind of tight on money, but if you could only pick one book to learn wood working with hand tools, which book would you choose? I’m sure you’re too busy for the free standing tool rack and my question about the book, but I thought I’d try anyway! Thank You!

  38. Thanks for the great description of my journey, too. Now I feel better. But I’m still keeping the painter’s pyramids.

  39. manitario says:

    Toolmakers and magazines sell easily won success. Of course I want to learn 5 new ways to cut half blind dovetails in half the time(!) rather than continue practicing with the slow, crappy looking dovetails my skill level results in. Add to this the naivety that comes with being a weekend woodworker and it didn’t take long to fill my garage with jigs and useless tools that promised success.

  40. If only the Lee Valley store down the street would close it’s doors, I’d be safe.

  41. smkindem says:

    Me exactly! Anyone need a PC profile sander? I’ll toss in a set of bench cookies, too.

  42. SSteve says:

    I bought a Porter-Cable Profile Sander in 2000 when I was getting into woodworking. At the time, I had just moved and had a decent job so it was one of the only times in my life when I had both time and money. I bought a lot of stuff. Bench cookies? Yes. Painter’s pyramid? No, but I have an Accuspray HVLP system that I’ve used once.

    Anyway, once I started becoming part of my new community, my time commitments shifted toward my true passion, music. I occasionally make some time for small woodworking projects. A couple weeks ago was one of those times. At one point I thought, “Hey, that profile sander might come in handy here.” I pulled it off the shelf, ignored the thick layer of dust coating the plastic case, opened it, looked at it, and thought “This thing is useless!” Thanks for validating that assessment. You’ve given me the courage to actually get rid of a tool. Now, my conundrum is what to do with it. I guess I can bring it to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore so they can make a few bucks. But then it’s going to uselessly clutter up someone else’s shelves. Is that better or worse than parting it out to e-waste and landfill? I’m honestly not sure.

  43. This post rings so true. We all start woodworking full of enthusiasm and at some point begin feeling bilked buy tool vendors, plans makers, etc. etc.

  44. jzahn4858 says:

    I was worse than in indiscriminate sponge. I didn’t even begin to know what I didn’t know. Funny story: the first ‘real’ project I built, a couple years ago, was a cherry hall table that I built for my parents. I got the stock from a lumber supplier who milled it for me. So, I started out with nice true stock on my very cheap Skil contractor table saw, and moved on to my very cheap doweling jig and very cheap ROS. And…all went together like a dream, due to the flat, square stock that I had started with.

    So I was hooked, and moved on to replace my cheapo table saw with a decent version, started to learn a thing of two about traditional joinery, and bought the stock for my second project, NOT properly milled and prepped for me this time.

    Needless to say the project went together like a demented modern art sculpture, and I was left cursing my newer, ‘better’ tools, never even realizing that what was missing was that all important stage that I had completely bypassed, you know, where I should have learned the most rudimentary skills necessary for a joint to come together squarely!!

    So I not only bought into the ‘more and newer tools’ phase, I didn’t even bother with the knowledge phase. Embarrassing, I know.

    And yes, I had bench cookies too…

  45. Do you really think this is true?

    “Unfortunately woodworking is a mostly solitary pursuit”

    You build skills on your own through practice but historically you had masters and apprentices working together. I think my favorite projects have been the ones I worked on with someone. Some woodworking (timber framing) is impossible without help.

    I think half the reason new woodworkers fall prey to lots of advice/videos/blogs/books/tool salesmen is that they are searching for a community and for guidance. I guess for me, my local woodworking community and working projects with family are important so what I do definitely doesn’t feel like a solitary pursuit. Hell, even my first sawbench is the Chris Schwarz $5.87 sawbench…so like it or not, even you have a place in my shop

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