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MDF Surprises Me

There are lines I won’t cross in my woodworking. Using a router for dovetailing, MDF for tabletops and boxes, things like that. I was never beguiled by such. I think perhaps one of my proudest accomplishments will be never having accomplished making dovetails using a so-called power router. I find it humorous the way disempowering skilled man-power with a hand held machine was somehow seen as empowering. Oh well! I never used one for any other joint type come to that; I’ve relied on my developed skills and strengths for 5.5 decades to date. But, I do understand that some people in the profession of machining wood have no choice but to – I think that that’s just fine too.

I am often advised by others what I should and should not do. “Use a sabre saw.” one says, another an impact driver, this type of high-end plane and saw. You’ll know what I mean. It’s as though buying such things is the end of woodworking life’s problems but they all need replacement blades and sharpening no matter what. Of course a lot of it is not for me and a lot of the advise is really quite silly. There again, the odd one gets my attention and I try, sometimes accept and change. An odd one, anyway. At one time a US magazine editor advised me to cut a dovetail by router and jig, just so I could experience the method, but there are some things I (and you) just do not need to try out to experience it. Unskilled work is often such a work. I’ve seen suits scoff at a man dig a ditch when I stood the others side of the same ditch admiring the economic efficiency and precision in the way every slice to the clay was parted off to a perfect load equal to the man’s strength. I want my real skills to be exposed and exemplified in the pieces I make, not the substitutes for skilled workmanship.

My method of hand work frees me to make less conventional dovetails alongside common dovetails.

I used machine routers enough in my business of making to become an expert in all areas except cutting dovetails and I rest my case there. It is as great an accomplishment some times not to do something as do it.

I read a recent article that said wood veneer saved our forests by using only very small amounts of valuable wood when compared to solid wood. I contacted the magazine to see who the author was and the woman told me it was an “in-house article written by different staff contributors”. I left it parked there and resolved it by understanding it was no more than a point of view, one of those so-called opinions we’re all ‘entitled’ to have; nothing much to do with fact at all. Reality is that the sub materials used to support veneer usually comprises over 80% solid wood taken straight from the tree and defibrated to create dry particles via a series of subsequent processes. Added to the mix as the next major ingredient is urea-formaldehyde, a resin glue, and then water and paraffin wax, which makes up the remaining 10%. Most people, and that includes professional woodworkers, actually believe that the substrate in engineered boards is to save real wood or more expensive woods and then scarce woods too. Reality is that the engineered boards like MDF, Plywood, Chip- or particle boards and OSB are all made from real wood and are pretty near the same volume as using solid wood. The next truth is that the reason these boards are indeed manufactured is for stability, economy of size and machine processing, expanse of size and so on. making a box from MDF or almost any sheet material is fast and efficient. Again, a non-negotiable for me.

Some of these are solid wood all the way through and some are veneer mahogany on pine.

Facing it with a veneer hides the ugly and often mirrors what we might get close to using real wood, hence its popularity. Even some plastic surface treatments skinning large panels can be so good that in some cases we cannot tell whether is is indeed real wood or something artificial. Plastic even. I too have been fooled. The greatest benefit to the use of substrates of artificial, or man-made, or, now, engineered boards is the resistance to expansion and contraction we experience always with solid wood. Removing this from the equation more guarantees that a product will remain stable without cracks appearing after a product is finished and installed in its permanent home. MDF and boards like chipboard (particle boardUSA) are much more stable, followed then by plywood as a very close second. Whereas MDF and chipboards do not do well with any kind of traditional joinery, plywood is better. So we may do well to save the exotic trees by using face veneers, longevity becomes questionable in high use and traffic areas. In fact many budget lines of furniture use MDF and veneering to manufacture lower cost items for the home and office, ultimately this can result in false economy. But something has changed in the last half century or so too…

…whereas prior to the last 3-4 decades families and individuals bought with longevity in mind, many today buy into the fashion world of home decorating as they would look more for how it might be acceptable for a few years instead of say a century of daily use. Disposability and its partner consumerism have taught this new lesson. I would even suggest there is indeed a planned obsolescence we never knew could be possible in furniture prior to the post war years when greater affluence among all people became the norm. What we never really realised in the beginning is the veneers actually masked the substrate of inferiority in both materials and construction methodology. With some companies this improved and with some, striving for lower prices to minimise competition, quality markedly dropped. The price is of course much greater wastage, and look into any skip or dumpster to see just what I mean. I have yet to pass through any recycle centre where the stacks of MDF and chipboard products are not the prevalent discardation material surrounding today’s furniture.

It is also amazing the levels manufacturers go to to engineer such incredibly inferior and wasteful products.

So the true costs of using stable materials designed for mass making mostly often means we will be paying out for it in the long term. Not even me, those yet to come, yet to be born. In reality we actually can end up paying as much for the veneer as we do for solid wood 20 times the thicker than the veneer. Articles based on ignorance is not really an excuse.

A 110 year old mahogany veneer applied to a pine drawer front is still firm and dead flat with no parting of the veneer from the substrate except where the damage occurred. Not bad after so many years of daily use. But think on this. This was a whole wardrobe, hammered apart, by, guess what? A professional woodworker. It stood 7’0″ high, 4’0″ wide and 2’0″ deep and was thrown onto an actual burn pile.

Veneered wood in its origin was not intended at all to substitute for real or solid wood as it might be today but so that we could do what might otherwise be impossible to do in solid wood for several reasons including wood expansion and contraction, stability, wood type, colour and grain equalising and matching and a mass more.

Whereas I have seen some really fine veneer work that would likely not survive on anything but something as stable as MDF, I wondered then if art justifies the means these days. I then asked myself if I use a styrene-type plastic as a substrate, what would be the difference between that and MDF. Is art and the construction of the 3D pieces we ultimately always craft good enough in MDF or plastic or should we crafting artisans and amateurs alike still be considering longevity to our work?

Mostly veneer work was more about enabling craftsmen in their endeavour to create stunning surfaces by book matching surfaces and replicating repeatable grain structures to provide continuous surfaces even over or especially over large areas. By this means we can equalise texture in colour and grain density, grain configuration and colour match. Such was indeed virtually impossible in solid wood for the reasons given. Veneer did much more in it’s pioneered origin than what happens with it today which is to disguise ugly and temporary materials with a facade of real wood. In those days wood on wood was more the norm. Are craftsmen and women now sacrificing longevity of their art form for ease and even complacency? Are they self-exempting themselves from ultimate responsibility? If I purchased a box that looked stunning on the outside but subsequently discovered that the inside support material was MDF and or plastic I think I would be looking for the worm in the apple. Thankfully for my own conscience I am still rethinking my future and the futures of those yet to be born.

25 Comments

  1. Tom Angle on 27 September 2019 at 2:43 pm

    I never thought about the how the cheapness of the furniture adds to waste.

  2. Ajens on 27 September 2019 at 2:57 pm

    Oh yes, we are what we lived and learned. But based on my own experiences I think that each individuel will reach some point of saturation, where we’re not really interested in learning very much more, we just want to enjoy the things we’re able to enjoy – because we know it’s possible to continue living without very much more.
    Like in Mr. Sellers’ life which obviously has been and still is full of wood: My theory is that the satisfaction comes from the nature. Natural materials will never lose popularity, they’re nice to look at and nice to touch and smell. Not so with plastic: You can get close to the look of wood, but it doesn’t feel the same. I do understand, though, the many good reasons, there might be for using more or less artificial materials instead og natural ones. And the techniques used and results might certainly be impressing.
    BUT: It will be more than difficult to find a human that don’t like to touch wood, whereas many can live with the feeling of plastic against their skin, they would just never use the word ‘pleasant’ to describe the sensation. That’s the difference…

  3. David Wood on 27 September 2019 at 3:00 pm

    I just had my kitchen updated and all the old cabinets were chip board. All the new cabinets were MDF. Still paid as much as for the real thing. Rip off……………………………

  4. Ian Jefferson on 27 September 2019 at 3:00 pm

    Oh so much to say on our disposable society! Your comment on what goes into dumpsters is so relevant. Here in Canada and in the US also there is much hue and cry about creating a new landfill site and all the management that goes with it. Yet we don’t seem to realize as a society that the solution to landfills is to stop creating disposable one time use products… and this is only one aspect of the environmental impact of making disposable shoddy things.

    I’m not sure I would lay the entire problem of disposable shoddy furniture at the feet of these chipped wood product though. For some applications OSB (used in sheeting for house walls) when applied well will last decades we don’t really know how long I suppose. I have a portable work table with a wood core and particle board exterior (the opposite of normal veneers) that for its purpose is quite serviceable and will be indefinitely as far as I can tell… so long as it doesn’t get wet!

    As a hobby sawmill operator I’d estimate that I can only extract about 1/3 of the wood from a tree and this is with a relatively efficient bandsaw. The limbs and slabs that come off the rest of the tree become firewood for me, though in a commercial operation all that could be chipped and turned into fuel (wood pellets) put back on the land or turned into various forms of chipboard. Sadly we then mis-use that product an put it in situations that it simply cannot withstand.

    The notion that entire trees are chipped that you exposed us to is simply horrifying. As you point out the apparent economy of making things that cannot endure or be reused or repurposed is herby refuted!

  5. Ken on 27 September 2019 at 3:33 pm

    I would expect that very few good quality saw logs are chipped up to make particle board. Where I live, in the US, pine trees are grown about the same way that corn is. The first cutting thins them out so that the rest of the trees will have room to grow. These small trees are not big enough for anything but chips.

    My first job out of high school was in a plywood factory. It was a very interesting and efficient operation. Not one scrap of the logs was wasted, even the bark was used for boiler fuel.

  6. Richard C on 27 September 2019 at 4:07 pm

    Solid wood works out more expensive than mdf, chipboard and similar products probably because the timber used to make them is grown quickly and is of a very poor quality – certainly not good enough for furniture making “as is”. Which is not to say that if grown differently the softwood could be of a better quality.

    People move home much more frequently than in the past and often between small rented properties, particularly in the UK. Very often the people that are renting these properties have very little disposable income after paying their rent and food (and entertainment) bills. I think all these factors affect their attitude towards the price and longevity of furniture. Especially as a particular piece of furniture may not fit into a new home, either due to its size or to its appearance.

  7. Michael Murphy on 27 September 2019 at 5:09 pm

    Another observation in the real wood vs. veneered MDFs/melamines/low-density particle board is one you’ve touched upon. The former, when damaged or worn to a questionably productive repair point, is oftentimes disassembled and reused. The solid wood is turned into another usable and sometimes stunning piece. The engineered wood? Not so much. Maybe it’s utilized as some utilitarian shelving or similar. I’ve done the re-purposing with both kinds of materials. The real wood is salvaged to the utmost, the engineered wood is used as it fits and leftover materials discarded. Much of the time the low-density particle board (chipboard) is pretty worthless. The MDF makes good use as underlays for drilling and chisel work, glue ups and the building of shooting boards and other jigs. As another point, urea-formaldehyde in glue is becoming much less used as it does have the issue of perpetual out gassing. Little known is the fact that natural wood can sometimes exceed formaldehyde out gassing in engineered woods as it is a natural byproduct of wood’s molecular decomposition.

  8. nemo on 27 September 2019 at 5:24 pm

    “I’m not rich enough to be able to afford cheap stuff.”

  9. Tom Bittner on 27 September 2019 at 7:19 pm

    I have never made a dovetail with a router either!
    Mostly because it was so inefficient to do so.
    MDF has its place because it’s so stable but I would never make a piece of furniture with it, at least I almost never have and I don’t look to use the material that way. I do have a MDF desk top I salvaged and I used it for my radial arm saw, it’s 2” thick and hasn’t moved or warped in 15 years so it fits the purpose and didn’t go to a landfill.
    We have become a throwaway society because of technology. I paid $1200 for a 55” flatscreen tv years ago. When it finally breaks I’ll toss it in the garbage because a better and bigger replacement is now $300. I can’t fix the old one because the parts aren’t made anymore, it’s outdated.
    Furniture is different ( to me) but you have to have a style that will not get outdated. Not everyone feels this way of course but some designs are timeless, we need to keep that in mind when we build furniture.

  10. Stephen McGonigle on 27 September 2019 at 9:57 pm

    Another thoughtful and well reasoned blog from Paul.

    Wood is an expensive commodity, and society treats it with little respect. While the devotion to lovely trees across the world has in some ways started to address this behaviour, there is still a long way to go. Recycling wood is something that we all can achieve. I recently decided to build a pine toolbox similar to that which Paul made. Upon pricing up the raw timber, I was saddened by the poor quality ( it still had sap oozing ) and sobered by the cost. A visit to a nearby charity shop ( I think they’re called goodwill stores across the pond ) resulted in my buying a pine bookcase with a hardboard back for £10. This provided all the wood I needed and more.

    Another good source for cheap used timber in the UK are lower level auctions. I’ve taken to buying oak drop leaf, gate leg tables. If they’re scratched and sometimes the glue has deteriorated causing them to become loose, they can be had for £10 – 20. This is an absolute bargain for decades old well seasoned oak, especially as the tops are often well figured sometimes even quarter sawn. The legs are solid, and you’ll even get a couple of sets of hinges and screws into the bargain.

    I recently purchased a William IV mahogany drop leaf table for £30! It’s scratched, gouged, looking neglected and as they’re deeply unfashionable it was consequently unwanted. To myself however, this is an ideal opportunity. I now have fine grained, very well seasoned mahogany that’s nigh on 200 years old. The fact that the oak tables are so common here in the UK means that there is a huge availability and also the there are still enough of the really fine examples which can be saved as tables. I’d always wanted to try working elm, however it’s hard to source and very expensive. A battered Ercol table at auction was mine for £50. Not desperately cheap, but fraction of what it would cost to buy from a timber yard. Haven’t actually used it yet, but it’s there for when I do. Such is the quantity of timber I’ve sourced, my purchases from suppliers have all but stopped.

    No matter what your standpoint on environmental matters, the fact is that we in the west are a wasteful society. Do find and recycle old wood, and do your wallet a favour at the same time. A win win solution you might say.

  11. sla on 28 September 2019 at 8:59 pm

    This paper ikea tables are quite resistant and lightweight. I was able to transport 4 of them in a simple small car. I imagine how much this could weight in solid wood. I was surprised that they resisted abuse in a small office and 4 assembly/disassembly and transportation. And very cheap.

    What can I say, we have to reconsider what we need from furniture in general …, an important aspect is our mobility how houses are sold, rented with or without furniture.

    • Paul Sellers on 29 September 2019 at 8:37 am

      I wonder if others feel as you do? Our staff work on half a dozen 60 or 70 year old tables made from solid ash we bought secondhand from an Oxford college library. I doubt they could be worn through, worn out or badly broken in the next 500 years. Two people can lift one and then five or six of them can fit on a trailer and pulled by a modest car too. It is thought provoking this quest for economy today as we contemplate longevity with consumerism, cheapness, lightweightness and of course the cultures of economy. I confess to feeling a bit sick when I sit at a plastic covered egg carton table with plastic coated hardboard legs. Inside me I know we must pussyfoot around such things and treat them quite differently. I am sitting in a chain coffee shop right now and everything is solid wood, comfortable and I would say acceptably attractive. I think they have good reason for buying real wood, not the least of which is indeed the bruising chairs and tables take in coffee shops.
      I do understand the need young people have for economic options, the question is is it truly economic and can we change that by providing some alternative to glued up pressed fibre boards coated yet again with a veneer of plastic. And a percentage of IKEA products are offered solid hard- and softwood.

  12. Moe C. on 29 September 2019 at 11:10 am

    Energy audit of MDF vs. real wood :

    MDF : a lot of energy is consumed to shred wood and then a lot of energy and chemicals are consumed again to reglue the wood fibers into a board. All of this with a lot of transport from a large factory to another.

    Real wood : wood fibers are «glued» for us by nature, for free and without any chemical.

    Plus MDF has a poor weight/strength ratio.
    And then, the argument that MDF makes possible the use of small wood and scraps : if this wood is to be shredded, it would be much better to spread it on our soils to add the organic matter that we need so much in our gardens, orchards, hedges … Or at least to heat our houses.

    That’s just my opinion, as an amateur woodworker (and gardener).

  13. Ken D on 29 September 2019 at 1:57 pm

    Had we not driven ourselves into a low wage / high housing cost corner Ikea may never have happened.

    Cheap but disposable might be symptom not cause. The deskilled work force can now barely afford housing near a job. The middle is fast being eroded.

    We now either make stuff a majority of near potless rent/mortgage slaves can afford, which implies mass production, or we tap the only source of real money walking the dogs of the property rich or parting them from their unearned piles with “artisan” made things which, for reasons of simple arithmetic, must be unaffordable to tenants or young house owners. After all if an “artisans” time has to be costed to pay a high rent then no-one with a high rent to pay can afford to buy very much of it.

    It’s hard not to be despondent. But Paul helps.

  14. CC Hogan on 30 September 2019 at 12:02 pm

    I would much rather use cut timber every time, but for me, there is an issue. Cost.

    I am building a complicated shelving unit at home for my mother. Two bookcases linked by a high bookshelf over a bay with a window seat in the bay with drawers and so forth.

    Easy for many of you; an uphill learning curve for me!

    But I had to price it out. Do I spend a hundred quid on 18mm MDF or do I build it out of pine (my preferred idea)? When I priced out the pine, straightforward rough cuts from a local building supplier, I reeled at the cost.

    So, MDF it is. I am not happy about it, but I can’t afford the other.

  15. David Oliver on 30 September 2019 at 1:23 pm

    I would love to learn the basics of veneering. I share your views on solid wood versus engineered substrates and avoid it like the plague, but as you said there are some stunning effects that can be achieved with veneering. Is there any chance you will include a project that shows the basics of using veneer in the near future?

    I appreciate all I have learned from subscribing to your Master Class channel. It’s the best money I ever spent on woodworking, bar none!

  16. William Laird on 30 September 2019 at 3:16 pm

    I have only followed Paul for a couple of years. His craftsmanship is a lost art. There is a reason his type of craftsmanship is not common. Money. The majority of us simply cannot afford to purchase a table, headboard, chair or desk made by Paul. Granted it would be given to our grandchildren because of the quality, you still need to have the financial ability to purchase said item. It is very hard to have a table set when all you can afford is part of one chair per year.
    Finding usable wood is another issue. Just the cost of quarter sawn wood is daunting.
    Someone mentioned that they just replaced their cabinets with “new” MDF cabinets and the price was the same as “real wood”. Although the material may be similar in price, the labor for quality “wood” cabinets is greatly increased because you actually need to have skill, such as Paul, to construct quality cabinets.
    I abhor our throw away society but honestly there are not enough financially able people to pay for solid wood furniture.

    • Paul Sellers on 30 September 2019 at 4:33 pm

      But that’s why we do what we do. With as much output as is humanly possible we’re providing an escape route for those who are prepared to save and make using their hands to provide fie work for their homes, offices, families and friends. Your message so counters what many are finding so rewarding. I can probably go out and find quarter sawn oak pieces in a vintage secondhand or charity shop tomorrow as I have often done through the years. Others are doing the same too. And things don’t have to be made from quarter sawn oak either. So many choices if you just have confidence in yourself.

      My craftsmanship is not a lost art at all, in fact anyone can learn it just by spending a few hours a month in their garage workshops. We’re proving that over and over again. Of course it is mostly lost in so-called professional realms, that’s true, but that’s a choice many professionals make, nothing more. Many machinist processors prefer to pursue their living using alternative methods using all types of machines rather than pursuing the more skilled ways that we choose. Some of course use both but only very few, each to his own.
      I am not financially wealthy, never have been and I have never earned any more than the national average living wage, ever. I raised my family of five children as a single wage earner until they left to go to university or left home to marry. Yes it was nip and tuck but when they married I made their beds, rocking chairs and other gifts for them.

  17. Terrence OBrien on 1 October 2019 at 2:29 am

    It really doesn’t take much money to pick up very good pieces at Goodwill. And it doesn’t take much skill to sand them down and put on a new finish. I know people who have done excellent work, and they couldn’t saw a board to save their lives.

    A few years back I saw a couple guys carrying an old desk from a church towards a dumpster. I stopped and asked what was happening to the desk. They said nobody wanted it, and they were putting it in the dumpster because the room had to be cleared for renovation construction.

    Would they just leave it there for me? Sure. I borrowed a pickup, and brought it to my garage. It was the kind of desk my third grade teacher had many years back. I think it’s ash or maple, solid, and could support an elephant. All it took was an hour of cleaning and a couple hours of sanding and planing. Then a few coats of finish.

    That desk will last another hundred years, and it would probably take about twenty particle board desks falling apart every five years to keep pace. It will never have Scotch tape holding the corner of the plastic veneer on, and will never have those weird screw inserts grinding out of their sockets and wobbling everything. It will just sit here doing its job.

  18. Don Hummer on 1 October 2019 at 2:56 am

    As a carpenter who builds with both new and recycled woods I think of the old timber frame homes and barns and the long term economy with which they provide. Are they cheap? no. But consider the last house i built. It lived it’s first life as a hand hewn barn in Indiana, constructed in 1852. It was later torn down by Amish and labeled and catalogued, brought to Minnesota, appropriate modifications made, cleaned, and re-erected. This barn home graces a lake in the center of Minnesota and displays the workmanship of men in the 19th century and the 21st century. This house will stand for another 5 to 10 centuries perhaps, considering timber frames still grace Europe that were built in the 13 and 1400’s.
    No different than with furniture, One needs to look no farther than the Antiques Road Show on American Public Television! When a Duncan Phyfe writing desk made in New York is estimated to perhaps bring a quarter of a million dollars at auction and a dining table of his can bring $150,000.00 regurlarly we see the value of timeless design, exquisite hand craftsmanship, and excellent materials

  19. Alan on 1 October 2019 at 3:24 am

    Today’s mass-produced materials didn’t only become popular due to their low cost.

    There was a UK timber shortage in the late 1960’s-early 1970’s. Remember the paper shortage in schools? We had no option.
    South-American hardwoods were expensive and were now considered immoral.
    Scandinavian quick-growing Pine became a substitute for all traditional woods. Remember knotty-pine and tools for rolling wood-grain effect?
    New houses became smaller. Old furniture and welsh dressers simply wouldn’t fit.
    Tradesmen & Craftsmen became too expensive. It was DIY and self-assembly, with pine, MDF, chipboard, hardboard… Or nothing.
    Formica and laminates improved. You could now change kitchens to suit trends or budget.

    Furniture has become a disposable commodity. No longer the heirlooms they once were.

  20. Sylvain on 2 October 2019 at 11:13 am

    I am happy to live in a house built around 1895. Modern housing have low ceiling (too low IMO). That is how we were able to purchase for a good price some piece of furniture which has long be standing in a showroom.
    My daughter would like to buy an apartment. We have visited a new duplex where there was simply no wall big enough to put furniture against it as the staircase was against the only big wall. I sometimes wonder what architects have in mind.

  21. Gui on 2 October 2019 at 3:03 pm

    As to the router as something disempowering woodworkers, I fail to see logic in that. I see that’s part of the game, and I see that the polarization between hand tools and machines is more like a by-product by people trying to sell products, or as an ideological thought in order to convince people of specific approaches.

    As a matter of fact, believing that machines don’t build up your skills, or the opposite to that, that they make you lose your skills, is delusively believed or propagated, and is an empty argument.

    I understand that people must back up their claims and lifestyle, but I also think that this creates desinformation and put people in danger in real life, following blindly such advices.

    With all due respect, but let’s face there’s the so called fourth wall about this gentleman and, again, we should not refuse to enhance our skills by using modern equipment, as the author of this blog uses too, but not in front of camera, even if it’s the bandsaw. It’s like saying: bandsaw is allowed, but a router is bad for you. I really fail to see logic.

    • Paul Sellers on 2 October 2019 at 4:18 pm

      I understand that you don’t see the logic but 90% of my audience does and that’s because they want to see it. No one has ever said don’t use this or that machine particularly but generally it is quite unskilled when compared to say running a mould on wood using a moulding plane or cutting a dovetail using a router instead of saws and chisels. Even you must understand the difference even if you have never used the latter to do so.Think of it this way too. As a boy I know that every furniture maker and bench joiner cut their dovetails by hand. 30 years ago when I went to live in the USA and met thousands upon thousands of woodworkers who could not nor would ever consider themselves able to cut a dovetail by hand tool methods. I have worked for thirty years to change this attitude and hundreds of thousands of people have changed tactic not to give up using machines but qdd in the skilled work they so respect and admire and indeed want to master themselves. These men in the USA welcomed me with open arms when they saw what I took for granted and started to learn for themselves the not so much better alternative but the alternative that complimented what they already did and then their hearts too because they knew that they were disempowered and not only because they relied on routers, router bits, guides and such but because their mindsets had been truly altered. And, they were altered in their minds into believing like you that the real power in woodworking was not un upskilling but in down skilling so that they could only use substitutes for skills which is the whole foundation of machining. The Industrial Revolution wasn’t so much to bring cheap goods but to disempower skilled men and women to control them.
      I have no problem if indeed we are going “to enhance our skills by using modern equipment“, the point I am making is that cutting a dovetail with a router, jig guide and so on is not upskilling in any way shape or form – no matter how you slice it. If you had said on the other hand that it is faster and more economical to mass make a thousand dovetail drawers `i would have totally agreed with you. I doubt that you can set up your equipment and cut double dovetails faster from scratch than a skilled woodworker like myself can. If you are making a dovetailed drawer and you have skill it takes just a few minutes.

  22. Tom Lokken on 8 October 2019 at 2:34 am

    I believe Paul is correct on the use of inferior crushed and glued wood fiber substrates as the basis of modern “wooden” family furniture. Just love that printed wood-grain effect. I just turned 72, and am in the first home we bought 40 some years ago. The interior trim features many windows – several leaded glass – and acres of gum wood trim, fashioned expertly and beautifully by migrant German craftsmen in the 1920’s. I wanted to add my two cents to the house, so I built a craftsman fireplace surround with bookshelves, another bookcase built-in and provision for a screen for our rear projection TV. I also installed new wood floors and built a library in the biggest room upstairs with yet another bookcase, window trim and a stained glass door. In the second floor landing, I built a circular stairway of my own design, as well as another stained glass door. When trying to duplicate gumwood (no longer available) I found that poplar with stain almost exactly matched the gum wood. Pennsylvania Cherry was used in the library and the Krenovian kitchen cabinets I constructed. Why am I gassing off like this? Well I used mostly power tools for these projects, and my ears, eyes, lungs and throat paid for it. I have been so impressed by Paul’s approach that I and storing or selling most of those noisy and dust creating gadgets ( except my 81/2” Inca jointer planer and 10” bandsaw) and am acquiring a nice collection of hand tools. As for dovetails, why not just cut them by hand?

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  • Jeff D on My GoalsYou are right there's no way to know! It is whether you trust the salesman or not...reputation i guess. We trust you so i will copy what your team does. Figures lie and liars figur…
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