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The Benefits of Monotonous Production Woodworking

Posted on September 25th, by Andy Brownell in marketing & promotion, Projects, Publications. 1 Comment

70 poplar boxesI’ve been going through the process of building 70 boxes that are a part of a larger, high-end invitation project. They are 14″ x 7″ x 3″ each, made from 1/2″ poplar. These are a far cry from “fine furniture” but still need to be built in a way that holds together and looks decent. Making 70 of anything can be both daunting and extremely boring.

Despite the monotony associated with production woodworking there are some positive aspects that can come out of an exercise like this beyond getting paid. My brother, who is also a woodworker, reminded me of this based on his own experience in building 1000’s of custom cutting boards at Nautical Boards.

Production woodworking forces you to seek out efficient ways of assembly as well as body movement. Right from the beginning, I was aware of the importance and benefit of being aware of everything I do with this project. Here are a few observations so far:

  • I ran the boards through an industrial thickness sander at Midwest Woodworking. This involved lifting and moving 550+ linear feet of lumber. Every movement counts with a volume of lumber like this.
  • Ripping and cross cutting all of the pieces in stages forced me to move equipment around (joiner and table saw), relocate my floor mat, and stack pieces within a consolidated area of my shop.
  • Each box had ~32 pin brads applied with a nail gun. Assembly flew by taking the time to build a quick jig that aligned all of the pieces. A variety of hand positions allowed me to align quickly without putting a nail through my hand.
  • Sanding edges and corners on my power sander made me look for the most comfortable height to set the table and again seek out efficiency in body movement and optimal posture.
  • Leveling all of the top edges on the top with my tiny Lie-Nielsen block plane allowed me to learn how awesome the gap stop and tail vise function on my split-top Roubo bench. Additionally, I found a new way of holding the plane by hooking my pinky finger under the  concave side of the cap iron.
  • Finishing is simple enough, one coat of Aniline Dye, and even though it’s hand applied, I’m trying out different applicators to speed up the process.
  • Each box will get a set of hinges, a clasp, and handle, all requiring a variety of repetitive movements. Plenty of calluses are in my future.

My point here is that even from the most mundane of woodworking exercises you can improve as a woodworker. By taking the time of being aware of how you use your body, learning as you work, as well as a heightened awareness of movement and muscular efficiency – you can constantly tweak your technique.

These principles are what Jeff Miller refers to as “The Fundamentals of Woodworking” and are covered in his latest book due out this October by my friends over at Popular Woodworking. Pre-order the book now here.

Stay tuned for a more in-depth write-up next next week.

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