March of the Three Toed Sloth

The scrap wood project marches on to the tune of “The March of the Three Toed Sloth”, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The problem part of the project is that I am not logging the hours in the shop that I should be, but the good part of the slow progress is the fact that I am really taking my time and doing all the joinery by hand.

The legs attach to the shelves via dados. Now a dado is pretty much a snap to make with a stacked dado cutter on your table saw, or cut with a router, but there are some issues which prevented me from using the power tools to do this job. First, one of the shelves is 1/64th thinner that than the other boards, and second, the location has to be really precise and perfectly parallel to the floor. Well now, that just leaves one choice doesn’t it?! Hand tools to the rescue!

Creating the wedge cut

Marking out the layout of the dados on the legs took almost an hour. I used my marking knife, a fine ruler and a combination square to mark the lines to be really exact. I used a hand saw to cut the side walls of the dados; and to make sure the edges stayed nice and clean from the saw cut, I used a ‘first class’ saw cut. First-class sawing is used for all really important joints that will be visible.  After marking out the layout lines with a knife, you deepen the cuts with a chisel. Next, you pare away a wedge-shaped piece of wood on the waste side, working up to the widened knife line. The second chisel cut must be deep enough so that the set of the saw’s teeth is below the face of the work. Then you place your saw into the chiseled notch and make the cut. By using a chisel to define the kerf of my saw, I eliminated the problem of the saw’s teeth tearing at the surface of the work. I used the same method on the sides to make the side of the joint crisp and clean too.

Clean cut sides

After the sides are cut, I used a chisel to pare away the waste in the dados and used my router plane to make the bottom of the dado dead flat and clean.



Now I need to cut the notches for the shelves. More on that later.

And now for something completely different:                                                                                   I attended a Wine Tasting and Art Fair on Sunday as a vendor. I met some really nice people, and loads of people hovered over my table and went on and on about how lovely my work was, but sales were not what I hoped for. As I looked around, I did not see a lot of buying going on. All the shows I have been too lately have looked that way. I used to get excited when people told me that they would go to my web-site and buy some things on-line, or tell me about how their children would love to enroll in my woodworking classes, but 99% of the time, nothing happens. I even had a television person from a Public Television station ask me if I would be interested in hosting a woodworking show. He took loads of pictures of my work, and talked to me for a long time, and nothing materialized. So now, I am still excited as ever when I am talking about my work to people at shows, but I have hardened myself to know that none of those promises ever come true. Sad isn’t it?

About yaakov

Husband, Abba, Furniture Maker, Turner, Bookseller, and all around working stiff.
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1 Response to March of the Three Toed Sloth

  1. knottywood says:

    About 1990 I got my first Macintosh and learned to use the word processing program. I was blown away at how much fun it was to write, when it was easy to correct typing, edit and print professional looking business letters, brochures etc.

    I had this idea to keep a daily diary for my construction/remodeling business. After a few months, I had an idea to write a page of one liners that I could give to my clients at the beginning of each project. I felt like people weren’t listening to me or didn’t believe me… or worse, didn’t trust me. I felt like I was wasting my breath, saying the same things over and over again… only to be met with blank stares and “You never said that!”

    In the middle of the job, the homeowners would ask me questions about how some facet of the project was going to work. It was very frustrating when I had been telling them, reminding them, that A plus B would equal C. I decided to have customers read my page and initial each line. Then when they ask stupid questions, I could just refer them to the relevant line… no wasted time or breath.

    That didn’t work. Most people only hear what they want to hear and nobody wants to hear the truth… unless it has to do with PCY. You know PCY, right?? Perfect, Cheap and Yesterday.

    I reread my page after realizing that they still weren’t understanding where I was coming from. I started to write the stories behind each one liner. Like, #1. I’m in business to make money! There was a job I did, where I realized that simple fact, and so I told a story about what I tried to do, and what the outcome was.

    Fifty pages later I started to call it my “BOOK”. The book was titled Expensive Lessons. Chapter One was called Expensive Lessons. Chapter Two was called More Expensive Lessons. Chapter Three was called Even More Expensive Lessons… as in more expensive, not more lessons. Chapter Four was called, I Can’t Believe I’m Learning the Lessons I learned in Chapter One All Over Again!

    I have a friend who is a mortgage broker. He asks potential clients to fill out a lengthy form and to provide certain income information. Out of five hundred potential clients a month, only a hundred ever get the form filled out. Most people complain about how hard it is to find or get the info. Out of the hundred that do do it, only twenty finally get the income info for him. Only five of those tell the truth and don’t waste his time. They are the ones that get the loans.

    He tells me, you have to look for motivated people. They are the ones that get the loans. I did a ton of wine tastings, festivals, street and craft fairs last year. What a waste of time, gasoline and energy. I found that I went through nearly a thousand cards and even more flyers and brochures. Out of that, maybe I got twenty or thirty hits on my websites. Out of that, I had a handful of sales. Not enough to pay for my shop overhead, or my time to make products… for sure not enough to compensate me for transportation costs, every long day I spent driving, setting up, listening to hundreds of people tell me how cool my stuff is and what a great craftsman I am, tearing down, packing up, unloading at the shop, and paying for groceries so I could bring food and drink to last me all day.

    One on my neighbors at a juried art/craft festival told me he stopped putting out cards. He said people collect cards. He only gave out cards to “motivated” people. They had to beg him for a card that only had his web address printed on it. He said, people only come to these things for the hang. It’s cheap entertainment, that is why I only bring small stuff that is easy to pack and under twenty bucks… most of it priced at ten bucks. People used to part with a twenty easily… but tens are the new twenty dollar bill.

    So, we are are all writing chapters in our books of Expensive Lessons. Maybe that should be the title of my blog…


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