Fair Woodworking

March 7, 2015

The Joker and Cabinet Maker

Filed under: Favorite tools,Skill development,Strong opinion warning! — fairwoodworking @ 2:44 pm

Ok, It’s hair splitting time again.

As many of you may know, I’m pretty much a hand tool guy. I rarely talk about power tools, and if you are familiar with me on the Twitters, I’ll mock incessantly anyone that dares admit to using them.

But I really don’t have a problem with people that use power tools. Power tools are great for those that enjoy using them. The hours that I suffered through (more accurately neglected) wearing safety glasses, hearing protection, and dust masks, turned me off power tools years ago. However, there are countless woodworkers that build amazing pieces with nary a hand tool save maybe a pencil.

I do however have a problem with the use of a common new term used by many hand tool users.

The Tailed Apprentice. As in how the masters of old tasked the young apprentice with grunt work, we as the modern shop master task our tailed apprentices with the lower beginner skill work.

As best as I can see it, the idea of the tailed apprentice was formed as a counter argument to the statements that using power tools is cheating, but really both arguments miss the core issue.

If you go to a track meet, you will see runners line up at an oval track. When the gun goes off, the race is on, and the runners head down the track. If one of the runners cuts across the middle of the track he would be considered a cheater.

In this scenario, running is NOT like woodworking. You can’t cheat woodworking. The final product is the finish line, but how you get there is up to you.

However, if you went to that same track on practice day two weeks before the meet, and you saw a runner practicing for the 10,000m but was cutting across the track so they only had to run 5,000m, who is being cheated? At the meet, this runner will have an amazing first half of the race, and a rather rough second half.

The runner cheated his or herself as they clearly only wanted to run 5,000m but chose to sign up for an unrealistic event.

If you have no desire to learn how rip wood by hand, that’s fine, but your table saw is not then your apprentice.

If learning to resaw by hand does not fit into your idea of a fun hobby, I can understand that, but to call your bandsaw a tailed apprentice is disrespectful.

My knowledge of the old apprentice system is not great, but I think I’m safe to assume that the average Master Cabinet Maker or Joiner had already put in his 10,000 hours of ripping, resawing, flattening, thicknessing, sweeping, and glue-pot cleaning. Nobody relishes accepting that they are still a lowly apprentice, but the true master earned the right to become a Journeyman, and then earned the right to be called the Master.

And now, I told you that, to tell you this…

I recently bought a thickness planer.


You see it’s been almost 9 years since I dimensioned my first piece of wood entirely by hand.

First hand tool project

I know I don’t know everything there is to know about dimensioning, and I’m nowhere near my 10,000 hours, but I feel I’m near enough to the top of the learning curve for my needs. Considering the limited woodworking hours I still have on this earth, there is still much to learn in other aspects of woodworking, and I’ve discovered that stock preparation now is interfering with my ability to learn. Thicknessing is just one step in dimensioning wood, but I think it is one of the more time consuming.

Think I’m splitting hairs? That’s fine.

In your shop you can call it a tailed apprentice, but in my shop it’s a learning aid.

OK, rant over.

Wanna’ know the first few things I was aided in learning?

1. Thickness planers are awesome!

2. Chip ejection impellers are powerful.

I first hooked it up to my Wet/Dry Shop-Vac, and soon discovered that the impeller trips the mechanism that protects the vac motor from water if it tips over. With the motor blocked, the impeller is powerful enough to pop a latch on the Shop-Vac canister, and spew chips throughout the entire shop.

What a mess!

In the end (as shown above) I’ve attached a hose to a dust collector bag, and this seems to work amazingly well.

3. I still hate wearing safety equipment.




  1. I was just wondering: did you split that hair with a froe or did you use your bandsaw learning aid???

    And be careful. All that sophistry might stain your benchtop.

    Comment by Polly Becton — March 8, 2015 @ 3:56 pm

    • I wish I had bandsaw! Or a froe for that matter. As for sophistry, I Googled the word and I still have no idea what it means.

      Comment by fairwoodworking — March 8, 2015 @ 5:27 pm

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