by Steven D. Johnson
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Insightful, Controversial, and Funny Reader Feedback
Click on any picture to see a larger version.
The so-called "Dog Days of Summer" is an excellent time to catch up on reader comments, questions, suggestions, and complaints. Having grown up in the South, I always thought the definition of "Dog Days" had to do with that time of the year when dogs found the coolest place (in my youth that was the damp ground underneath the front porch) and stayed there pretty much all day.
I have since been told that the phrase actually dates back to ancient Rome and referred to the time of year when the so-called Dog Star (Sirius) rose in the sky at the same time as the sun, roughly mid-July to mid-August. The ancient Romans believed that Sirius needed appeasing because its anger was causing the hot, sultry weather. I actually don't care, nor will I waste time researching the accuracy of that account. For me, the cool underside of the porch is a pretty workable definition, and I'm sticking with it.
I've been taking care of my neighbor's dogs this week, and as often as not, when I go to feed them, I find them laying on the cool dirt underneath a shaded part of his deck. My homespun definition of "Dog Days" stands unshaken.
As I lay in my version of the cool underside of the porch, which is a hammock stretched between two shade trees, iPad in hand, it seems as good a time as any to address some reader gripes, disagreements, comments, and humor. I'm pretty relaxed and comfy, so I'll start with a disagreement.
A number of folks seemed upset by my indictment of the "Discount Tool Store"
(Wood News Online June 2014)
. I think my comment about "harboring ill will" led some to assume they knew the true identity of the store but I admit nothing. Any supposed rhetorical clue was purely accidental. I'm not that smart.
Folks defending the Deep Discount Import Tool Seller generally cited either (a) the store's "easy" return policy or (b) the wisdom of saving money on a tool you might use only once a year as justifying the store's price/value/quality equation and their rightful place amongst tool retailers. Sorry, I'm not yet convinced… of either point.
I did return the faulty truck ramps described in the article, but it was far from "easy." The third person I talked with was the store manager, and he was far from accommodating. He made it clear that he thought I had actually tried to use the ramps to on-board my pet pachyderm, and that it was my fault they broke. Only after much discussion, and me producing the bill of lading that clearly indicated the weight of the equipment I had received, did he finally agree to a refund. The ordeal cost me another hour of my time and the experience was almost as pleasant as a root canal.
Of course, being the open-minded down to earth guy I am, I figured they deserved one more chance… third time's the charm, as they say…
I get it that drawing something with pencil, rule, and paper is no longer cool and that anybody who is anybody uses Sketch-up. I understand why the "drafting supplies" section of the art store has been reduced to a single tiny bottom shelf sandwiched between the leather crafts and the tie-dye kits (both are also apparently hobbies waning in popularity). But, old-fashioned as it may be, I really needed a pantograph and didn't have time to make one myself. If case you are a Sketch-up devotee and unaware, a pantograph is an old-fashioned contraption with a stylus, a pencil, and an anchoring point. Trace any shape with the stylus and the pencil on the other end draws what you trace onto another sheet of paper, but larger.
An internet search indicated a pantograph could be purchased at… you guessed it… the discount tool store. I rushed there with hopes that this third time would really be the charm, and the product would be just what I needed. Alas, it was just not to be… the pantograph was garbage. The thing wouldn't hold a pencil, wouldn't hold a setting, and was so poorly made, I actually chuckled when I took it out of the box. On a positive note though, unlike my prior experience, the return was relatively hassle free. Third time was the charm in that respect. But it is also the third strike in baseball that says, "You're out!" I won't waste my time again.
A few months ago I wrote about my wishes for some "enhanced" technology in woodworking. I suggested an app for my iPhone that would alert me when my dust bucket was full. I got a lot of suggestions for new products, but by far the funniest response was a reader wondering if I got an alert when I wasn't home, would this be a de facto alarm system? Did someone break in and start woodworking? Or did some rogue chipmunks invade my shop and start making wood chips?
last month's column
I asked for someone to please sell me the rubbery stuff that manufacturers put on saw blades and router bits so I could likewise protect my sharp plane blades and chisels. I got a lot of suggestions; some involving duct tape and a few just simply not workable; but one reader actually directed me to the company that makes the stuff. Unfortunately it seems you have to heat the stuff up before dipping in the tool you want to protect… as an analogy, think hide glue and a glue pot. In addition to needing a way to heat the stuff, the quantities they sell are rather too large for my purposes. Oh well, I still want the stuff, so maybe someday they will market a consumer-level kit with smaller quantities of the goop and an included melting pot.
I wished for wider waxed paper. I'm not sure why that was a difficult request. I'm guessing it's just not available. People have been sending me suggestions to use everything from butcher paper (which I do sometimes use) to flooring underlayment to scraps of Formica to window shades. Someone sent me a link to that sticky, heavy, brown waxed Kraft-paper that you sometimes see covering a cast iron top during shipment or wrapped around a knife blade. Well, thanks, but I really just want some plain old kitchen-style all-American wax paper in a wider roll.
I solicited wood-working specific acronyms, thinking we woodworkers should get on board with the business world's current obsession… not to mention the time acronyms could save as we are texting our friends. I got a lot of acronyms, and so far, not a one can be published here. This is a family publication! Not to worry, though… I kept all the emails and am using most of your suggested acronyms daily. There was some very funny stuff!
January's Wood News Online
, we provided a link to a "Decision Matrix" that was developed to help me decide which dust collector to buy for the Down To Earth Woodworking shop. Readers have adapted this matrix, modified it with their own important selection criteria, and used it to help make purchasing decisions on table saws, band saws, router tables, and more.
The most poignant reader comments so far this year, hands down, were in response to the
question posed in March…
"What are the most memorable reactions you have received when you gave someone a gift of your woodworking?" I will admit to getting a little "teary-eyed" at some of the stories.
Woodworkers, as a subset of the general population, are generally smarter, wittier, and more generous, and it shows in the feedback and comments you provide. Thanks for the input... and the laughs!
Next month we will get caught up on the
SawStop Outfeed Table Project
. There are two more videos you can watch now
and soon we will be wrapping up the project and providing some insight into how the SawStop performed throughout the build. Also next month it will be time (believe it or not!) to start thinking about wintertime woodworking projects, and I have a few suggestions to make your shop time an even better experience.
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Steven Johnson is retired from an almost 30-year career selling medical equipment and
supplies, and now enjoys improving his shop, his skills, and his designs on a full time basis
(although he says home improvement projects and furniture building have been hobbies for most of his
Steven can be reached directly via email at