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Thread: Good enough vs overkill

  1. #61
    Mark,

    Maybe the problem is in part due to terminology. When I say to myself "That's good enough", I mean that it is, in fact, good enough- for me, for the design, the purpose of the job. Some people say it and think, "That's good enough to skate by when scrutinized by my ignorant client." I don't take that view.

    Overkill on the other hand has the connotation of too much, overworked, unnecessary and wasteful, whereas you are arguing for striving for excellent work, and I take no issue with that. When you say "Time, materials and cost are not a factor" though, you challenge reality as it is the rare woodworking project in which cost does not intrude.

    I strive for excellence, and (not but) I try to stay real at the same time. Excellence has always been a rare commodity. I would guess there's as large a percentage of excellent work done now as ever, and of crappy work as well. I think the golden age of woodworking is a Platonic ideal. Maybe we are in it without knowing it. Certainly the level of amateur work is far better than 50 years ago, but there has always been exceptional professional work and that is still true. Would that there were a larger market for it. The attitude that produces the throwaway crap you hate has always been there too, all we can do is reject it and provide an alternative.

    On the subject of joinery Tage Frid, who was no hack, said "Many... use a complex joint where a joint easier to make would work just as well. I always use the strongest but easiest joint to construct. I cannot see spending time over-constructing a piece. And I expect my furniture to last long after I do."

  2. #62
    I like to be able to pay my bills and feed my 3 kids, plus keep them in clothes, sports stuff, etc. so yeah, money is kind of important. Starving artist is not a career goal of mine. Production work is and will soon be viable and ready to make myself more money, I would like some new socks someday too.

  3. #63
    When you look at that picture of the 2,000 year old Roman bridge, remember there is a lot of survivorship bias in that picture. The Romans, like every society, built lots of things that were cheap and throw away; you just don't see them now, because they have been gone for 2,000 years. There was plenty of cheap items and shoddy construction from the "good old days", just like there is now.

    Heck my great, great uncle, a literal old-world craftsman, came over from Sweden about 110 years ago. He proceeded to be as bad of a carpenter in the new world as he was in the old world. A noted feature of his houses was that the doors never shut right, probably from not doubling the studs around them, among other things.

  4. #64
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    Inkerman, Ontario, Canada
    Posts
    670
    Hi Darcy,

    Good point, glad that you bought it up; let me address it;

    Doing high quality work and making a decent living are not mutually exclusive; You can do better work and make more money if you are motivated and do your homework.

    I spoke about doing more, more than is required, just to do a high standard quality job, just because. I said that it doesn't pay extra to do more, so it cost you money, money that you could have made.
    I never said that you had to starve or not make a living.

    If you are motivated you can, with a little research, find machinery that can do the finest work, and do it faster than any other way, which gives you a better product in a less time and you make more money. What is wrong with that.

    I worked in a shop that did heritage building restoration, they had maybe 10 - 15 people in the shop, another 10 in the office, big government contracts. A large part of their work was building new windows; when I went there they had a $250 bench top hollow chisel mortiser no tenoner ????????????? seriously. I sold them a Maka, and told them to get a tenoner. they had never seen or heard of one even though Maka mortisers had been on the market for 50 years? Why is that? Why would you have a business that makes windows and not research what equipment could help you do a better job, faster and make you more money?
    This stuff is not rocket science, its available to all, especially these days with internet access.
    I have been to several shops that do bad quality work, and they do it the slowest hardest way, and am not talking about some retired guy that wants to whittle chairs with a pocket knife, I am talking about businesses with the owner in the office hoping to make money.

    There is no reason why anyone canít do good work efficiently. And I donít understand the attitude of not doing it.
    Good industrial machinery can be purchased used, pretty cheaply. Both you and I know that, you have to do a lot of work to fix it up and get it running, but once its running it works forever, in a small shop.

    This me 30 odd years ago. using my Balestrini tenoner to do tenons on a set of back slats for 10 chairs, 80 tenons, about 15 minutes to set it up and do test cuts, and 10 minutes to cut them all of them! Super accurate, infinitely adjustable within the capabilities of the machine, independently adjustable length width, depth and radius, clean scibed shoulder, chamfered edged tenon, tenons adjustable from vertical to horizontal, adjustable table and fence for compound angles. You can even adjust it to cut dowels if you want. The mate to this is the twin table mortiser. There is incredible machinery available if you look.
    With this equipment i could also subcontract work; I did all of the mortise and tenon joinery for 300 sets of hard Maple bunk-beds for a company, easy work for me, virtually impossible for them to do.

    094[1].jpg

    The mortice
    5-SAM_1349.jpg







    Quote Originally Posted by Darcy Warner View Post
    I like to be able to pay my bills and feed my 3 kids, plus keep them in clothes, sports stuff, etc. so yeah, money is kind of important. Starving artist is not a career goal of mine. Production work is and will soon be viable and ready to make myself more money, I would like some new socks someday too.

  5. #65
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    Inkerman, Ontario, Canada
    Posts
    670
    Kevin you are probable right, my use of the term "good enough" was as in cheaply made. And "overkill" was as in made above minimum passable standards of quality, not as in badly designed overly heavy use of materials to compensate for bad design or such. Of course in reality we all call a stop at some point and say that's good enough, we can't go on indefinitely. So i apologize for any confusion. I posted the photo of the roman bridge as an example of "built to last"
    There are many great woodworkers doing excellent work, today as always. have you seen the work that Chris Hall did on his blog "The Carpentry way" Incredible stuff!


    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Jenness View Post
    Mark,

    Maybe the problem is in part due to terminology. When I say to myself "That's good enough", I mean that it is, in fact, good enough- for me, for the design, the purpose of the job. Some people say it and think, "That's good enough to skate by when scrutinized by my ignorant client." I don't take that view.

    Overkill on the other hand has the connotation of too much, overworked, unnecessary and wasteful, whereas you are arguing for striving for excellent work, and I take no issue with that. When you say "Time, materials and cost are not a factor" though, you challenge reality as it is the rare woodworking project in which cost does not intrude.

    I strive for excellence, and (not but) I try to stay real at the same time. Excellence has always been a rare commodity. I would guess there's as large a percentage of excellent work done now as ever, and of crappy work as well. I think the golden age of woodworking is a Platonic ideal. Maybe we are in it without knowing it. Certainly the level of amateur work is far better than 50 years ago, but there has always been exceptional professional work and that is still true. Would that there were a larger market for it. The attitude that produces the throwaway crap you hate has always been there too, all we can do is reject it and provide an alternative.

    On the subject of joinery Tage Frid, who was no hack, said "Many... use a complex joint where a joint easier to make would work just as well. I always use the strongest but easiest joint to construct. I cannot see spending time over-constructing a piece. And I expect my furniture to last long after I do."

  6. #66
    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Hennebury View Post
    Hi Darcy,

    Good point, glad that you bought it up; let me address it;

    Doing high quality work and making a decent living are not mutually exclusive; You can do better work and make more money if you are motivated and do your homework.

    I spoke about doing more, more than is required, just to do a high standard quality job, just because. I said that it doesn't pay extra to do more, so it cost you money, money that you could have made.
    I never said that you had to starve or not make a living.

    If you are motivated you can, with a little research, find machinery that can do the finest work, and do it faster than any other way, which gives you a better product in a less time and you make more money. What is wrong with that.

    I worked in a shop that did heritage building restoration, they had maybe 10 - 15 people in the shop, another 10 in the office, big government contracts. A large part of their work was building new windows; when I went there they had a $250 bench top hollow chisel mortiser no tenoner ????????????? seriously. I sold them a Maka, and told them to get a tenoner. they had never seen or heard of one even though Maka mortisers had been on the market for 50 years? Why is that? Why would you have a business that makes windows and not research what equipment could help you do a better job, faster and make you more money?
    This stuff is not rocket science, its available to all, especially these days with internet access.
    I have been to several shops that do bad quality work, and they do it the slowest hardest way, and am not talking about some retired guy that wants to whittle chairs with a pocket knife, I am talking about businesses with the owner in the office hoping to make money.

    There is no reason why anyone can’t do good work efficiently. And I don’t understand the attitude of not doing it.
    Good industrial machinery can be purchased used, pretty cheaply. Both you and I know that, you have to do a lot of work to fix it up and get it running, but once its running it works forever, in a small shop.

    This me 30 odd years ago. using my Balestrini tenoner to do tenons on a set of back slats for 10 chairs, 80 tenons, about 15 minutes to set it up and do test cuts, and 10 minutes to cut them all of them! Super accurate, infinitely adjustable within the capabilities of the machine, independently adjustable length width, depth and radius, clean scibed shoulder, chamfered edged tenon, tenons adjustable from vertical to horizontal, adjustable table and fence for compound angles. You can even adjust it to cut dowels if you want. The mate to this is the twin table mortiser. There is incredible machinery available if you look.
    With this equipment i could also subcontract work; I did all of the mortise and tenon joinery for 300 sets of hard Maple bunk-beds for a company, easy work for me, virtually impossible for them to do.

    094[1].jpg

    The mortice
    5-SAM_1349.jpg
    Which is one of the reasons I have a 10" profilematic profile sander set up as my last operation machine. The few places around here think a flap wheel is good enough after the moulder. They don't even sand the s3s they sell.
    Would like to add a feed through priming machine sometime as well.

    You want to talk about a hole you throw money in...

  7. #67
    Some techniques are considered the same except one is faster. But they are not the same. I've seen elliptical cased openings laid out with the "two radius " method. I hate those things and would not use them. Even when given a pic
    to copy ,I pointed out they were wrong and laid out a real ellipse. Clients who did not know the difference when they
    walked in were always grateful for getting something with grace.

  8. #68
    Join Date
    Mar 2019
    Location
    Los Angeles, California
    Posts
    250
    I am decidedly in the overkill camp.
    Regards,

    Tom

  9. #69
    "have you seen the work that Chris Hall did on his blog "The Carpentry way" Incredible stuff!"

    Yes, he was an inspiration. His untimely death is a real loss.

    There are numerous posters on this site who exemplify the best of our craft and I am equally grateful to them, and appreciate the fact that we can learn from one another here.
    Last edited by Kevin Jenness; 06-02-2020 at 9:58 AM.

  10. #70
    In furniture making, I think we should not confuse "overkill" or "engineering overkill" with "advanced design" and "attention to detail". Overkill connotates over-building or over-engineering. In fine furniture making, instead the time is invested in developing a design that appears sleek and light , yet has the strength to pull it all together. It takes time to both design and to build to this standard. So it is not overkill but instead can be attributed to "elegant, light styling". Beginning woodworkers tend to create bulky pieces since they don't have the experience. Advanced furniture makers instead will emphasize a light design that maintains the strength necessary in the piece to counteract stresses. This comes with experience. More to say about this..

    Norman
    Last edited by Norman Pirollo; 06-02-2020 at 9:38 AM.

  11. #71
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    WV
    Posts
    3,916
    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Hennebury View Post
    So would you like to have a table built the cheapest, fastest method that makes the maker the most money for the least amount of work, ( good enough) or one built by someone that feels the obligation to do the best job that they can do, and does a little more (overkill) keeping in mind that woodworkers that do good enough don't usually tell their customers, and customers cant usually tell the difference or would even fully understand the difference anyway.

    In this scenario who is the lazy one?
    So are you in an internal war here insinuating that anyone from an auto mechanic to a furniture maker to a high-rise architect, who evaluates the customers wants, needs, desires, in direct and solumn correlation to thier budget, are somehow being hacks, or scammers, or somehow "less-than", in your mind? Your comments read like the really sad but tried and true recipie for so many who work in this hobby/industry. Someone who simply cant see the forest for the trees, cant adjust their process to meet the specifications of the job, and to that end, they never are truly profitable. The either operate in a world where their neruocies leave them with a balance sheet that equates to $.0875/hour in compensation OR in the more common incantation they are in the dead negative column because its a hobby and they have income from elswhere or retirement, or they have a spouse with a good job (who likley wants to gouge your eyeballs out because they'd like to have a vacation or fat 401K), and you justify going WAY WAY WAY WAY WAY above and beyond NOT because the job or project commands it, but because your neurotic nature cant shake itself free of the Rainman model of moving through the world?

    A kitchen designer doesnt design a kitchen with high dollar euro appliances, imported tile, and high dollar accents, even though they may feel its best for the structure.. they design to the client and to the budget. Whether it be hobby or proffessioinal the math is simply the math.

    Your initial post insinuating that the alternative to anal retentive overkill is a catastrophic bridge collapse is a bit crazy. There is a mile of perfectly viable ground between the overkill and the extreme of a bridge collapse. Understood it speaks to your need to justify going 63 miles off base in overkill which its wonderful that you have that luxury. But to insinuate that the miles of perfectly solid ground between you, and a bridge collapse, is somehow, I dont know.... crappy? Is pretty self endulgent.

    Mike Stetsons, and the other posts that speak to designing and manufacturing ANYTHING to the specifications and standards commensurate with its use and cost are spot on hobby or not. Its fine if that doesnt work for someone and they are comfortable with their loss in going overkill but just as you stated,.. dont force it on others. Post #1 clearly attempted to insinuate that the alternative to overkill is a catastrophic bridge collapse..

    Weird.
    Sometimes I just want to look at pretty pictures,... Thats when I go to the Turners Forum

  12. #72
    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Bolton View Post
    Mike Stetsons, and the other posts that speak to designing and manufacturing ANYTHING to the specifications and standards commensurate with its use and cost are spot on hobby or not. Its fine if that doesnt work for someone and they are comfortable with their loss in going overkill but just as you stated,.. dont force it on others. Post #1 clearly attempted to insinuate that the alternative to overkill is a catastrophic bridge collapse..
    Overkill in bridge design is great, all other things being equal, as long as allowances are made for easy repairability. Thanks! Our responsibility and reputation doesnít end after weíre dead.

  13. #73
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    South Coastal Massachusetts
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Seemann View Post
    When you look at that picture of the 2,000 year old Roman bridge, remember there is a lot of survivorship bias in that picture. The Romans, like every society, built lots of things that were cheap and throw away; you just don't see them now, because they have been gone for 2,000 years. There was plenty of cheap items and shoddy construction from the "good old days", just like there is now.
    ^^^^^
    This.

    Plenty of satisfactory, fit to purpose shabby crap in every era.
    There's a body of body of thought suggesting Rome went under because of maintenance costs.

  14. #74
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    South Coastal Massachusetts
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    Using Chinese construction failures to illustrate your point is a poorly constructed argument.

    The false choice you presented belies a fallacy undermining your premise.

    A more revealing notion would be "What do you celebrate most?" Nobody thinks about our technological achievements, until they fail.

    Even money says that the perfectionist in one craft has skipped an oil change, eaten substandard food or dumped something that *could* be repaired.

    Caution should be exercised in framing such questions, lest they say more about *you* and less about your audience.

  15. #75
    Join Date
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    Location
    South Coastal Massachusetts
    Posts
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    Russians bore the brunt of German artillery, mobile armor and air power for 5 straight years.

    The Russians built a marvel, as their lives depended on it. Tanks weren't falling apart on the firing line, they were under siege.

    "You can't believe everything you read on the internet."
    - Abraham Lincoln

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