Fair Woodworking

May 11, 2014

Don’t hate IKEA, and don’t hate the game.

Filed under: Fair Woodworking & Hand Tool Blog,Strong opinion warning! — fairwoodworking @ 9:13 pm

Hate the player.

High-ho, captain opinion here.

I’m really tired of the players that have filled this world of ours. I’ll admit that I’m often a player in what “I” am calling “the game”, and I’m sure that many of you are as well.

So what makes us players? Well it’s not really consumerism, not even greed. I think it’s the misplaced expectations that one more new or new to me treat will make me happy.

This accepted error in human reality, is the fuel that fires the engine of the game.

Now, now, don’t get excited. It’s just that I’m on a return flight from one of Canada’s most wealthy and materialistic cities.

It was a little shocking to hear an add on the radio telling young adults that “just because you are only making minimum wage doesn’t mean you don’t deserve a brand new Toyota”.


Billboards saying you DESERVE a new house, and we all NEED more jewelry because we’re worth it.

It’s also great that Fido can get laser eye surgery. Because Fido’s worth it too.


Oh. More good news. There’s a new Pepsi! Its called Pepsi Next. Cause its the next Pepsi in a long line of must have new cola products.


Because the game needs “new” so you can be so excited that you drop everything to go get one. Who cares if you like it once you get it. If you wanted something good you would have just gotten a Pepsi. Well not really, you would have gotten a Coke.

But what we all know is they probably have already planned the cancellation of Pepsi Next because the players will quickly move on to Coke Fresh or whatever.

But we aren’t idiots!

Clearly most of us are not made of money so we have to get the best price, and we know how to find the good deals. We are smart shoppers, and sometimes we discover that there are cheaper alternatives for the trinkets we NEED. I mean really, I’m going to be tired of it soon enough so it doesn’t need to be a really good one.

But the game isn’t stupid either. It sees that you are happy with lower quality nick-nacks so the better quality frivolity mongers lower their quality to compete with the generic knockoffs. The knockoffs move overseas to lower their labor costs, and the higher end brands follow soon after.

The players drive the game. It’s the players that made IKEA possible. The player got us Walmart and the dollar store, and players like woodworking as well. Why wouldn’t we.

New doesn’t mean better. Often times these days, it means just the opposite.

A hundred years ago it we would have been free of the game right?

Not with Stanley at the wheel. Sometimes I think they wrote the book on the game.  If you are familiar with Stanley plane dating I think you can find the lessons of good game play.

At first Stanley was just trying to build a better plane. Creating a depth adjuster, an adjustable frog. A rib to keep that infernal frog straight! The adjusting nut for the frog, and then the lateral adjuster. By the time they had made type 10 and 11, they had pretty much made the perfect daily user plane. The type 11 was their longest running plane, but then the patents started running out, and Stanley needed to separate themselves from the competition. Suddenly the knobs were too low, and we needed kidney shaped holes on our locking levers. New and improved, but mostly new and different was the savior to our consuming needs.

Even the hallowed bedrock design. The original bedrock design was a marketing dud. The Bailey frog works just as well as the bedrock design, or in my opinion the bedrock is inferior. When you adjust the frog on a bedrock it changes your depth of cut. When you change the blade setting it changes the required mouth opening, and you will need to adjust the frog again. When Stanley moved the adjustments for the frog out from under the blade and to the back of the frog they made the bedrock a super cool plane with a super cool name. I’m sure Stanley never mentioned that they were fixing the shortcomings of a more expensive and less useful frog design in the process.

“But the adjuster is so handy to adjust the frog” . Well true, but I’m not buying it. My smoother is a type 11. I never move the frog. It’s set for optimum smoothing so why change it? My jack is a type 7 (I think), and the frog has no alignment rib, so if you touch my frog, I kill you. Not really, well maybe just a little. My #6 is a bedrock. It’s a LN so it’s pretty awesome and it was super easy to adjust the frog when I first set it up. Now that it is set up why would I screw with it?

Stanley was the king of marketing mumbo jumbo.

Ah, who am I kidding.
Don’t hate the player.

Hate Stanley.



  1. a few observations …
    your rant makes it sound like Stanley was redesigning planes so as to cause current users of planes to buy newer improved models.
    This is inaccurate — the buyers of the newer planes were persons buying their first planes; it is absurd to think that anyone owning an older model was thinking of trading it in to get one of those new models with the kidney shaped lever cap hole.
    Moreover, plane prices were not absurd as they are now — even adjusting for wages, a person of even moderate means could afford to buy many 5 or 7 dollar planes

    Comment by john sayles — May 12, 2014 @ 12:11 am

    • Hey John, Ya that’s fair, but consumerism didn’t start over night. Companies like Stanley have worked hard over the years to encourage us to get to this point. So even if the old guys didn’t trade in their old planes, Stanley didn’t make the best planes out there, they just convinced each years new rookies that they NEEDED the improvements of the latest model. As for today’s prices, they are not absurd. The market has changed volumes don’t cover the same overhead of the old stanley days. You can’t just do a dollar comparison. I discuss that in an old post called Handtool economics I think. I’m afraid you are dead wrong on what a moderate income could afford beck then though.

      Comment by fairwoodworking — May 12, 2014 @ 1:00 am

  2. I agree. As far as Stanley, I’m not sure how they were running the business then-not that I disagree, but I don’t know enough one way or the other-yet it sounds completely plausible.
    I don’t hate any store, or company, or brand. I hate most Chinese made hardware, but I don’t hate the companies that manufacture it, or the people that work for them. They are like everybody else, trying to manufacture a product that they can sell for a decent profit margin, and the people are just trying to earn a living.
    I hate when people blame stores, because nobody is forcing anybody to go there, at least not that I know of. Ikea didn’t kill furniture/cabinet making as a trade, the need for a lot of inexpensive furniture for immigrants did. While I can’t say for certain what is was like in the 19th century, I know that the prices of furniture were high, in many cases a chest of drawers may have cost 3-6 months salary for the average person. At that, there were far more “average” people than there were people that could afford to buy that stuff, in particular from the 1830’s onward. When furniture began to be mass produced that’s where they bought it, and the wealthy people that could afford shop furniture did the same, because wealthy people like to keep their money even more than poor people.
    I also agree that you cannot do an apples to apples comparison of purchasing tools “then and now”. Theoretically, tools were less expensive dollar for dollar 100 years ago, yet in actuality it’s the exact opposite in most cases. I’m sure you know this, but in order to compare costs you need to compare what the average person made relative to what a tool cost at the time, and you can easily see that a hand plane in 1902 may have cost more than a week’s salary.
    Anyway, sorry about the diatribe, this is your blog, not mine.

    Comment by billlattpa — May 12, 2014 @ 4:07 pm

    • Ikea is the poster child for everything we don’t like in consumerism, but they only exist because people love their cheap quickly replaced products. The more people buy cheap, the less profitable quality furniture is. To maintain profits, quality furniture prices have to go up, and people of modest income have very little choice on what furniture they can ever hope to buy. Today, few young people can hope that they might inherit furniture, and if they did, chances are it’s not much better than Ikea furniture. So they buy cheap furniture from Ikea to avoid sitting on milk crates. For lack of another option, yes we do force others to buy cheap ikea products. The thing is consumerism is not just about furniture. It’s houses, and cars, shoes and watches, jet skis and designer coffee. The whole 1st world seems to be buying one of everything, and then buying it again in another color, and I’m sick of it. Supply is driven by demand, but our demand has been taught to us by the suppliers and most of us gladly go along with it. The old chicken and the egg.

      Comment by fairwoodworking — May 12, 2014 @ 9:07 pm

  3. Those ad execs, CFO’s, and marketing specialists have it down to an exact science. People like you and me can only do what we can: buy good stuff when possible and make good stuff in our free time.

    Comment by billlattpa — May 13, 2014 @ 7:44 am

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