Altruism as Religion

In response to my post about the Bench Chisel Review in the December, 1999 Fine Woodworking (issue #139) some suggested “ignoring if I don't like…”, etc. I thought about that for a moment and realized it's not about me. I do have some parochialism about my tools and toys, but most of this isn't about that.

Think of all the posts on the woodworking fora from newcomers seeking our advice. And they do, and man, is there some good advice to be had on them. I am constantly amazed at the level and depth of experience available. Hardly any question goes unanswered.

Now take a look at the biographies. Many of us were fortunate to learn woodworking (I'll confine the discussion to that subject) in a structured environment (I've discussed that before) such as shop or some sort of apprentice or on-the-job program. Many others learned by getting in and trying and making mistakes. And others got books or magazines and read.

Now all of you with more than a few years experience have a real good idea of what makes a good tool. You know where to buy and what to avoid. In many cases it's been a painful lesson; I'd even say a universal lesson. But what we've learned about value and performance is pretty much the same as what someone else might have learned.

Now here's the biggie:

If I had the opportunity, I would make sure no one had to make the same mistakes I did

I want the next new woodworker to go straight to the Bosch jigsaw, or the Milwaukee drill, or the DeWalt biscuit joiner, Hitachi plunge router, etc., and not ever have to suffer through working with a dime store square, or salvage yard chisel.

So when I see pseudo-science practiced in a review in a magazine with a pretty well respected name and a wide distribution in a field with a limited number of publications, it's not because it doesn't jibe with my tool inventory. I'm past being concerned whether I made the right buying decision. I am now confident enough in my experience to be satisfied that I have made a sound buying decision.

But I picture some budding new woodworking passing over tools that we, the cognoscenti already have proclaimed buy-worthy from real world experience, and instead throwing money away on some higher rated yet lesser valued offering. Because of poor methodology. Even if my analysis of the methodology is incorrect, several have already pointed out that the sample is so small as to render the test meaningless on that point alone.

I was unsuccessful in sparing either of my children some of the pains of growing up that I knew from experience they would encounter, so I want to spare a new woodworker the pain of poor-tool-buying that they could easily fall victim to when they see an authoritative pronouncement from an apparent respected source that is clearly and outrageously flawed. It's just not right.

I don't care, for me. Really.

(Dedicated to my WoodCentral, neé Badger Pond friend, Mark Goodall)

Last updated: 27 January 2009

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