The Problem with Wearing…

Not that I wouldn’t still recommend this book, but…

Below is an excerpt from Robert Wearing’s The Essential Woodworker: Skills, Tools And Methods.

To learn to gauge, first put a length of wood in the vice, projecting about 50mm (2in.). Set the gauge to approximately the size required and tighten the screw finger-tight only, adjust to the correct size by tapping one or the other end of the stem on the bench top then tighten the screw fully. The stock of the gauge is pushed by the thumb and further held with the index finger. The other fingers curl round the stem. The gauge is applied to the work on the flat side of the stem, the pointer well clear and the fence pushed against either the true face or the true edge. The gauge is slowly rotated (Fig 49) until the pointer just touches the wood and the pressure is taken on the corner of the stem. Maintain this angle and make a stroke, with the pointer trailing and the fence firmly pressed into the work. Repeat on the end, the other long side and the other end. Always gauge from the true face or the true edge. If there is any doubt, shade the waste diagonally with a soft pencil.

Skilled workers will be seen holding the work by hand in a variety of peculiar ways. Beginners should use the vice wherever possible, learning first of all merely to gauge, then when proficient they can try out different methods of holding. (Wearing 37).

Wearing, Robert. The Essential Woodworker: Skills, Tools And Methods. Fort Mitchell, KY: Lost Art Press,
2010. PDF.

This entry was posted in Books, Magazines, & DVDs, Experts and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to The Problem with Wearing…

  1. spokeshave27 says:

    Pretty standard practice – I no longer need to use the vice (after 30 years) but the rest is spot on. Why do you see a problem?


    • Wesley Beal says:

      I’ve never used a vise. The pitfalls are things I figured out quickly just using the tool. If I were to write down advise for someone, I think I’d say something like:

      “This tool will scribe a line as straight as the face you use to reference it from, so if your face isn’t square and true, your line won’t be either. The knife can try to follow or buck the grain, so it helps to make sure the blade is following this tool, rather than leading it. Using this or any marking knife, make one or more light passes first, and then repeat with more pressure if necessary to make your line more visible.”

      My problem is that he can be SO detailed in how to do something, you get lost trying to follow along. His advise isn’t “wrong.” In this example, and sometimes other places too, it is so overdone that it’s inaccessible.

      I read this and think “Gee, this is a very complicated tool. Am I sure I’ve got enough skill to use this?”

      It’s a marking gauge for crying out loud! 🙂

      I’d never heard of using a vise to hold material to mark it with before I read him, and it doesn’t seem that necessary to me, anyway, but if someone were having trouble…

      So add to my instructions above:

      “If getting an accurate line is giving you trouble, try holding the material in a vise while you mark it. It frequently helps in many tasks to eliminate the need to worry about more than one thing at a time, and vises and clamps are there to assist you!”


      • spokeshave27 says:

        I would agree, but you are now speaking from a point that is no longer a beginner 🙂
        I think you might like Charles H. Hayward better.

        It’s like any ‘instructional’ manual, written by people that already know how to do this stuff. They fall into one of two camps – those that assume the reader knows something and so skips over much and leave the reader with gaps in their knowledge and those that treat the reader as a complete beginner and want to give so much info that there writing is bogged down by the verbiage.

        Just wait until you start to read André Roubo’s descriptions…

        Liked by 1 person

  2. TIWilson says:

    I get you, but sometimes that level of detail is good. Especially as a lot of stuff is written for the nebulous crowd between neophyte and master. Ive come across a fair amount of plans and instruction that require a bit or considerably more reading. Wearing’s book has been a big help. That said, don’t sit down and read it in one go.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wesley Beal says:

      Maybe I’m just extra grumpy lately.

      I do think there are some operations that your hand and eyes will come by naturally, such as using a marking gauge. Having some words that you can turn to if you are having difficulties is absolutely useful.

      Maybe that’s how I need to read passages like this one. Rather than as “instructions for first time use” instead as “If you’re having problems, sit down, follow closely, and do this next time.”


  3. billlattpa says:

    My opinion is simple: Just because somebody is a good woodworker it doesn’t make them a good writer. I’ve found most written woodworking instruction to be horrible. I learn far more from project books, such as a book on Shaker furniture, than instructional books.

    I won’t say that being a bland writer is some sort of character flaw, but I do have a problem with the insinuation that a good woodworker’s articles or books are by default “great” and beyond criticism. In essence, woodworking is not complicated, not really. If I read a passage that makes a process complicated I come to one of two conclusions: either the guy writing it is trying to make the scenario sound more complicated than it is on purpose, or he is just a poor writer.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Wesley Beal says:

      Of course. I’ve been trying to read some experts that I think at least are very poor writers.

      My problem here with Wearing is how complicated he makes the use of so simple a tool. Poor writing skills could be part of the problem. When he’s laying out instructions about how to do things that I don’t think are too complicated the writing reads the same, but knowing and being consistent with the level of detail is a writing skill too.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s