Monday, November 14, 2011

Attention to detail

If I had to pinpoint one thing that separates good woodworkers from great woodworkers, it would be their attention to detail. How much time do they spend prepping their surfaces before applying a finish? Or ensuring that all traces of glue are removed? Or that all their edges are slightly broken, so that there are no sharp corners that can splinter away?

That "good enough" attitude makes a huge difference between being a good or being a great woodworker. Here is a perfect example - I'm building a large mirror frame that will have a small detail of inlaid tile in the top rail.

I'm a big fan of treating the edges with a chamfer bit, but when routing inside corners, you end up with a rounded cut, like the one shown below. The bearing just can't negotiate that tightly into the corner, so the bit stops short of cutting right into the corner. I know a lot of people who would just leave it that way.

Me? I'd lose sleep at night, thinking about it.

I mean - if you're going to have nice crisp edges on the corners, why wouldn't you want crisp inside corners? Hello?

Its hard to see in the photo below, but I drew a line over the area that needed cleaning up.

Then I grabbed a sharp chisel. No, not this one , I just wanted to brag on it. Two inches, baby! Awesome!

We just spent last Saturday sharpening almost every chisel in the shop, so I had a bunch to choose from.

It is easiest to lay the frame down on carpet - people who work in my shop know I'm a freak about placing carpet under whatever I'm working on - but that's because the workbench tops are a little cruel to pristine wood. I'd rather be anal about carpet than scratch whatever piece of wood I'm working on.

Now this cut is a little tricky, you have to hold your chisel at that 45˚ angle, cutting into each corner.

Cut from one direction, and then flip the chisel to the other side and cut from that direction.

Eventually, your two cuts will intersect right into the corner.

And you'll wind up with a crisp corner.

Now don't you think this looks much better than the top photo?

It didn't take more than ten minutes to clean up these four corners, but in my opinion, it makes all the difference in the world.


Jay Amundson said...

I couldn't agree more!!

Anonymous said...

Why not route the inside edge BEFORE assembling the frame?

Wood It Is! said...

What if you overshoot the area? By letting the bearing do the work, you can't mistakenly rout the wrong area.