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Thread: Good enough vs overkill

  1. #1
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    Good enough vs overkill

    Both terms are misnomers as "Good enough" seldom is, and "Overkill" never killed anyone.

    In wooodworking, as in most things in life, the world is divided into two kinds of people; Those whom adhere to the "Good enough" philosophy and those how fall into the "Overkill" camp.

    Which side you belong to determines pretty much everything that you do in your woodworking and maybe even how you go about life in general.

    When working from the good enough mindset, you carefully calculate the expected load, factor in "all" of the variables and design and build to minimize use of materials, labor and cost.

    Oops...


    Sadly i couldn't find a video of the old bridge below, apparently no one makes videos of old bridges, probably because it would be boring as the don't really do much, not like the modern ones.

    When working from the "Overkill" mindset.

    Time, materials and cost are not a factor. It's simply a matter of how good can this be built. Sadly to me, that is an old fashioned concept.

    The Roman bridge of Córdoba is a bridge originally built in the early 1st century BC across the Guadalquivir river, perhaps replacing a previous wooden one. The bridge has been reconstructed at various times since and most of the present structure dates from the Moorish reconstruction in the 8th century.

    25699372876_0523937ee5_b.jpg

    The Roman arch was the foundation of Rome's architectural mastery and massive expanse of building projects across the ancient world. It allowed the Romans to make bigger buildings, longer roads, and better aqueducts. The Roman arch is the ancestor of modern architecture

    (Apparently not everyone knows this.)

    Which camp are you in and why?
    Last edited by Mark Hennebury; 05-30-2020 at 1:29 PM.

  2. #2
    I guess I'm somewhere in the middle. I'm pretty meticulous, but without an unlimited budget you can't ignore time, materials and cost and stay in business. "Good enough for who it's for" or "good enough for government work" leads down the wrong path, but I figure good enough for me is ok as long as I'm really trying to hit a high standard.

    I have always liked this quote from a Wooden Boat article on Bud Mcintosh, a respected New Hampshire boatbuilder who got his start during the Depression:

    "About the only thing you can say about an old-timer who has survived a miserable occupation like this is that you have finally learned the balance between how good it should be and what they'll pay for, and how good it has to be before you lose your reputation."

  3. #3
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    "Overkill" originates from the beginning of the nuclear weapon era, some say as early as 1946, the first written evidence of it is apparently in 1957, with usage peaking in the early 1980's according to the Google nGram viewer. It was invented as a technical term to describe nuclear destruction capability that went beyond complete destruction of the target. In that sense it would mean something that goes beyond complete or 100% effectiveness

  4. #4
    And often the terms are mis-used to bolster the speaker's point. Some call carefully priming and painting the bottom of
    newly installed expensive door "over kill". The real meaning is " we will have been paid and spent our money long
    before this door starts to have open joints at the bottom from "compression ring-set".

  5. #5
    Remember the definition of Quality: "Quality is what the customer says it is."

    Meaning that rapid delivery may be quality for some customers. Low cost may be quality for others. Long life with minimum maintenance may be quality for someone else.

    You can't impose your idea of quality on your customers. If you do, you probably won't be successful.

    Mike
    Go into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good.

  6. #6
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    I have seen many folks who are in the "just right" category, too... But in the end, it may even vary with project. There are some things I'm more meticulous with and sometimes over build and other things that get done what needs done and no more. Most projects fall in the middle, but closer to "more better" as I've gained experience.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  7. #7
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    When I'm measuring things, I definitely fall into the "overkill" camp. Because of the machining background, I think in thousandths instead of fractions. On the other hand, when choosing materials, I'm likely to factor cost, availability and intended purpose into my decisions.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Henderson View Post
    Remember the definition of Quality: "Quality is what the customer says it is."

    Meaning that rapid delivery may be quality for some customers. Low cost may be quality for others. Long life with minimum maintenance may be quality for someone else.

    You can't impose your idea of quality on your customers. If you do, you probably won't be successful.

    Mike
    Yes. Quality is not an absolute. It means different things in different contexts.
    Beranek's Law:

    It has been remarked that if one selects his own components, builds his own enclosure, and is convinced he has made a wise choice of design, then his own loudspeaker sounds better to him than does anyone else's loudspeaker. In this case, the frequency response of the loudspeaker seems to play only a minor part in forming a person's opinion.
    L.L. Beranek, Acoustics (McGraw-Hill, New York, 1954), p.208.

  9. #9
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    Why in holy heck in this day and age does there have to be a "side you belong to". That statement in itself is utterly disgusting.

    There is a good rule in business.. "perfection is the enemy of profit". It speaks clearly to the fact that those who fall into either "side", either the extreme good enough, or the extreme overkill, do one thing and one thing well... Lose.

    The answer is, if you are smart, you reside right in the middle. You are smart enough to know when your being an idiot hack and doing the "good enough" and you are also smart enough to give yourself a firm, swift, hard, painful, slap across the face, when you are doing a bunch of neurotic overkill.

    There has got to come a day when we as humans quit pigeon holing people into one extreme or the other because the rationality in the world, in business, in the hobby or profession, resides squarely in the middle.
    Sometimes I just want to look at pretty pictures,... Thats when I go to the Turners Forum

  10. #10
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    A kitchen remodeler guy I knew once told me that he hates to work on projects that were put in by a homeowner because an amateur overbuilds everything making them harder to remove and replace. Whereas a professional knows that the cabinets, counters, etc., will eventually be replaced, so makes things just strong enough to perform the task while being easy to replace.

    In engineering school, a professor said that "anyone can build a bridge that will last one hundred years, but only an engineer can build a bridge that will just barely last one hundred years". Perfect materials and unlimited time and money are rarely available. There's a difference between being efficient and lazy.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stan Calow View Post
    In engineering school, a professor said that "anyone can build a bridge that will last one hundred years, but only an engineer can build a bridge that will just barely last one hundred years". Perfect materials and unlimited time and money are rarely available. There's a difference between being efficient and lazy.

    Reminds me of a bridge builder quote that I have loved for years that went something like:

    "The village idiot can build a bridge to carry a span, but it takes real skill to build a bridge that will "just" carry the span"

    Anyone can get across a huge gap filling it in with massive stones like the Romans, doing it with the materials required and profitably, is where the skill is.

    I know several building inspectors/electrical/etc.. that echo your exact statement. They know when they walk into a homeowner job they are going to find one of two outcomes, it will either be a complete and utter disaster, or it will be so overbuilt, clean, and well executed, that the individual could have hired it out 3 times and saved money.

    Im not sure I know whats worse. I am currently having to painfully re-work a bunch of hack nightmare work on SO home done by someone who shall not be named, or seeing someone who insist on the justification of over-do'ing everything the put their hands on lol.
    Sometimes I just want to look at pretty pictures,... Thats when I go to the Turners Forum

  12. #12
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    The purpose of life may not be about "profitable business" to everyone.

    People live their lives according to their own values.

    Woodworking as not all about making money.
    Building bridges has a whole lot of oversight, codes, specifications and inspections, furniture making has none, Customers don't know or spec tolerance or joinery etc. completely up to the individual maker to decide "quality"
    Guided by your own conscience and values.

    Perfection may be the enemy of profit, but you had better hope that some people care about it, your surgeon maybe.

    Many of the good things in life have been bought to us by people that were driven by passion, people who have pushed ahead, just because.... That's why we have competitions, games, sports.... to see how far we can go, and motivate others to push on to greater heights.
    Seeing great woodwork motivates others to do better, that's what's so great about having the internet available, and forums like this. seeing great work provides inspiration.

    I posted the images as an example of the extremes, most answers have been about how people decide when and at what level to work at and why. There are reasons to work all across the range and it is an interesting topic of discussion to me.

    Your idea of smart may work for you, but don't force it on me.






    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Bolton View Post
    Why in holy heck in this day and age does there have to be a "side you belong to". That statement in itself is utterly disgusting.

    There is a good rule in business.. "perfection is the enemy of profit". It speaks clearly to the fact that those who fall into either "side", either the extreme good enough, or the extreme overkill, do one thing and one thing well... Lose.

    The answer is, if you are smart, you reside right in the middle. You are smart enough to know when your being an idiot hack and doing the "good enough" and you are also smart enough to give yourself a firm, swift, hard, painful, slap across the face, when you are doing a bunch of neurotic overkill.

    There has got to come a day when we as humans quit pigeon holing people into one extreme or the other because the rationality in the world, in business, in the hobby or profession, resides squarely in the middle.
    Last edited by Mark Hennebury; 05-30-2020 at 4:25 PM.

  13. #13
    I've had to learn that tolerances need to be adjusted to the task. It does not make sense to cut drywall to 1/16 or finer dimensions. 1/4 inch is plenty good enough for most if not all cuts. But we need to be far better than that in woodworking - or at least be far more consistent than that.

    The bunk bed I recently built has legs 2 3/4 square of softwood and 2x6 bed rails. I am sure that is overkill, my heaviest grandkid at the moment weighs less than 50 lbs. But they will get bigger. But still a 2x6 wasn't necessary. But I don't want to worry about the safety of my grandkids.

    The only chair I have built that failed in use was built to commercial plans. I haven't seen it yet, they say a leg split. I may not have oriented the grain well or the plans may be a bit marginal. I was planning to build more of these chairs for my dining room so I need to see what went wrong. I may increase the dimensions a bit regardless.

    Often my dimensions are for appearance, not stress. I have a mechanical engineering degree and can do the calculations but I do not. For one thing, we usually limit stress to a certain level for deflection reasons, not failure. Joists in houses are designed to limit deflection to no more than 1 in in 360 inches, for instance. There is considerable margin against fracture. All building work is done that way - large margins of safety. Overbuilding. But airplanes cannot be designed that way. They would be too heavy to fly.

  14. #14
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    AFAIK All! frank loyd wright buildings have roof problems. From sagging to just leaking. There may be some of his early houses that do not have roof problems but I know at least one has had steel added to the porch overhang. To me a home should last more then 100 years without major problems. Maybe new roofing and paint. I understand that at Falling Water the plan is to leave the props in that hold it up to demonstrate that it is not as good as it looks. They also plan to leave in some of the sagging to show visitors how bad it had gotten. Kind of like not tipping the leaning tower of piza too far upright.
    Bill D

    https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/344/

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Hennebury View Post
    Perfection may be the enemy of profit, but you had better hope that some people care about it, your surgeon maybe.
    Actually, surgeons have the saying, "Perfection is the enemy of good." What they mean by that is the surgeon needs to get in, do what's necessary, and get out. Trying to be "perfect" extends the surgery and leads to worse outcomes.

    Mike

    [Another of my favorite medical sayings is, "When you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras."]
    Last edited by Mike Henderson; 05-30-2020 at 5:15 PM.
    Go into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good.

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