Efficiencies - or lack of them

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Efficiencies - or lack of them

Postby gavin » Mon Oct 24, 2011 4:10 pm

I do find it interesting when looking at many greenwood workers on Youtube how much flex and twist is tolerated in their equipment, jigs and gripping devices. I make a LOT of devices for others to use at shed therapy sessions either here, or at shows. So I now give much thought to making equipment that delivers energy where it needs to go, and so to make it as easy as possible for a rank beginner to achieve a satisfying outcome. For many years I had a shave horse that worked - just. I got used to its foibles, and perhaps took pride that I knew how to compensate for its defects, and even forgot that it was v uncomfortable. It made me look even more skilful if Joe Public had a go. :shock:

If your chopping block wobbles, or if your lathe twists in use, or if your shave horse flexes - then consider that you waste your energy. Then it is your call whether you are better served in making a new one, or making do. I was much struck by someone's comment at Bodgers Ball 2012 [ edit: I did mean 2011 :oops: ]about a shave horse he'd made as a stop-gap measure some 5 years earlier and to his own surprise finds himself still using it, and aware of its defects.

Given that - apart from sharp edges - for few of us the inefficiency of our equipment actually matters, it is not surprising that people will stick with equipment that they first make because to make another one usually is not seen to offer a big immediate improvement. That is until you borrow someone else's shave-horse, chopping block, cleaving brake or what have you, then you become aware of lost energy or accuracy. I wonder how many have returned from a gathering of greenwood workers only then determined to make a specific improvement to their own equipment.

At the least, get someone else look at your equipment as you use it. Ask them to point out any flex they see. You may be leaking energy and precision.
Last edited by gavin on Mon Oct 31, 2011 7:32 am, edited 1 time in total.
Gavin Phillips


- teacher, demonstrator & supporter of greenwoodworking & human-powered turning
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Re: Efficiencies - or lack of them

Postby monkeeboy » Thu Oct 27, 2011 9:47 pm

gavin wrote:I was much struck by someone's comment at Bodgers Ball 2012 about a shave horse he'd made as a stop-gap measure some 5 years earlier...


You can time travel?!?!?!
That's amazing!!!

But seriously, there was an interesting article in The Land magazine a while ago about "The Myth of Resource Efficiency" and the Jevons Paradox.
This basically means that the more efficient a system becomes, the more we use it, therefore negating the efficiency saving.
Something worth thinking about.
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Re: Efficiencies - or lack of them

Postby woodness sake » Sat Oct 29, 2011 4:26 pm

Well said, Gavin. As an historical portrayer, it is important for me to use equipment and resources as efficiently as possible while maintaining optimum simplicity. Early woodworkers were under a great deal of personal economic pressure to produce, sometimes in order to survive.
For instance, when wood gets too dry it is relegated to the fire since greenwood techniques are very difficult to apply to dry wood. When equipment is uncomfortable to use- turning centers are too low, chopping block is too short, shave horse is so wobbly you use most of your skill and energy just to stay seated- you also run the risk of becoming physically mis-shapened. (I've seen a lot of old photos of craftsmen with permanently stooped shoulders and necks so craned froward that they have to turn sideways to look you in the eye.) Our craft equipment needs to be very personalised, practicle, and sturdy for our own comfort and therefore our optimum efficiency.
btw- I just built a new carving bench with which I use a bench seat. Your comments have gone a long way toward justifying the extra upgrade effort. Thanks.
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