Hand Tools Archive

Re: Hand Tool Aids (this topic)

Gary B.
First of all, thanks for all who've responded thus far. Perhaps it would be helpful to understand where I'm coming from. At the risk of offending purists with offensive (man made) materials, I'll give you an example straight from our shop.

As a shop manager, I feel it's my duty to ensure we're producing quality products, as fast as we reasonably can. This allows us to remain competitive in today's economy. I doubt it was much different 150 years or more ago. There was always more than one shop around, and always someone willing to do it for less than you. I'm guessing you needed to focus on quality, with a reasonable price instead of competing on price alone. Unless you were lucky and perched at the top of the pyramid, doing work that few could, and even fewer were willing and able to pay for.

Few are willing to work for less, so things that save time, save money. Innovation and continuous improvement provides the competitive edge required. Wood and Shop shows some video's inside the Anthony Hay Shop at Colonial williamsburg. They mention how progressive that particular shop was compared to most in the area at the time. The example I believe was being able to cut their own veneer in house.

Anyways, within our product line it is very common to cut a 45 degree cut across a built up 1-1/2" thick ACX plywood counter before laminating. For years, we would mark points, draw a line, cut to the line with a jigsaw, then belt sand to the line. This required one to do their layout, pull out the extension cord, plug in the Jigsaw, make the cut, unplug and put away, pull out the belt sander, plug in, sand, then put everything back. This would take maybe 5-7 minutes or so. We did this hundreds of times before I walked by one day and really noticed it. So, that day, we purchased a new cordless circular saw, made a repeatable fence jig for that cut which now hangs on the wall. Now it's a matter of pulling down the saw and jig, making the cut, and putting them back. 7 minutes to less than a minute, after one observation and a bit of work.

This is one tiny example of how we try to continuously to improve.

I've no doubt shop leaders and journeymen of our trade in the past would look at their processes in the same light. I'm thinking they prided themselves on a good days work and their productivity. I think I remember Toshio Odate saying in an article that the worst thing a Japanese Shoji maker could be called was slow.

To be clear, I'm not talking about aids because of a lack of skill. I'm talking about things that speed up the process. Take my two examples above (Paul Sellers, Richard Maquire) I'm sure these guys can saw to a line. The aides they present speed the process by eliminating repetitive layout.

You've all brought up great points. The story pole, Dedicated marking gauges, and others are exactly what I was looking for. There are definitely times when you need to just accept the process and push through. Working in a rhythm actually is a big deal in a production shop. It's funny when you watch older workers, ones that have been at it a long time. You can glance at them and it doesn't really look like they've done much all morning, then next thing you know, a bunch of work is done.

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