Go big or go…?

A rant

And now for the rant part, as this article is categorized as both a rant and a ramble.

Say you (re)make a tool with some clever features, give it a nice finish and color and market it heavily through all the big guns at Youtube Academy (meaning you give it away for free until your tool is on all the channels – it’s called product placement and it is every.where.), charge a premium price – and the dinaros come a’rollin. That part is fine.

But when the suckers – that’s me and most of you – start to buy the PR owl’s barf and think that unless you have this sacred tool, nothing will ever be built – that’s where I start to take issue. It’s like brand loyalty gone mad – “if it ain’t Boeing, I ain’t going” as some flight simulator fans once stated it. Ask “how do I join xxxxx?” or “Which finish should I use to xxxxxx?”. I guaradamntee you you’ll get a dozen or so answers shouting brands like a chant. Festool. Osmo. Makita. DeWalt. Titebond. Woodpeckers. Kreg.

While there’s nothing wrong with any of those brands or their products (well…), the answer to everything is 42, not “DOMINO”. But in a world where “DID NOT READ LOL” is something certain people declare proudly, one should not set the bar too high or their Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex will start to hurt. If I ask for a finish without any oils in it, Osmo Top Oil might not be a helpful answer! I’ll admit that it is a great product (I’ve used it a lot), but it ain’t no lacquer.

If we look into the brand “Woodpeckers”, we’ll find a LOT of tools that seems to be very nice indeed. And I bet most of them are just that. Very nice tools. However, those “neat features” that put them apart? What seems to be a good idea will often turn out to be a less than useless feature – or what seems to be the new sliced bread is, in fact, just sliced bread. But you cannot choose how thick you want that slice to be. Nor can you spread any butter you want.

Side note: every time I see the brand name, I get an earworm from the 80’s

The limitation here is the diameter of the pencil lead you can use, and the fixed spacing. But I suspect that this type of tools are targeted towards a vastly different audience group than mine. Being a hybrid woodworker, I use some machines – but for the most part I use hand tools. I also demand a greater degree of accuracy than what a .9mm pencil lead can give me. I use a marking knife to get dead accurate marks – and I use relative dimensioning. Whether a part needs to be 25.6mm or 24.3 does not matter; I transfer most of my measurements from part to part – and I use a combination square, which is infinitely adjustable. This works well for me.

Two combination squares makes marking easy

Don’t get me wrong here. I do not say that Woodpeckers makes bad tools or that their inventions / ideas are worthless. Not at all. I can see why the different tools would make life easier for certain applications. But they do seem to be pretty overrated and hyped up, generally speaking.

One thing I’ll give them credit for, though – with the caveat that it is actually 100% true: they are made to high standards in the USA. Now, before you go ahead and start your “USA! USA!” chant (which makes some old Germans go “oh, ve know zhat tune; iz good jaa!”), I’d say this: the fact that a product is made in country X or Y does not mean a thing when it comes to quality. Certain countries does have a good reputation for high quality in certain areas, but that does not mean that everything made in that country magically become The Best Money Can Buy. Besides, I’m sure some of you have seen the picture of a tool handle with “made in USA” print being torn off the inner handle that reads “Made in China”. The plastic handle with the print may very well have been put on in the US, but that is sneaky at best. Filthy hobbitsess! We love to bash China for their products, but don’t forget that England – renowned for the excellent Sheffield Steel tools – also made (makes?) Land Rovers. Or Rust Rovers.

Making a feature to create a solution in need of a problem is, in my not very humble opinion on the matter, just stupid. Not from a business standpoint, but from any other standpoints. Let’s look at those .9mm lead holes in the square. While it might seem like a great idea at first, I quickly concluded that in reality it is rather useless for me. The line produced by .9mm lead is way too inaccurate for most of what I do, and I already have combination squares that gives me unlimited accuracy:

In the image above I’m using a .7mm ball pen. I put the pen into that little groove in the ruler, and half the line is covered by the end of the ruler. I can use a much finer point on a pencil, or use a marking knife. A combination square can be freely adjusted to any width needed. This makes it a lot more versatile tool, as you can set the ruler off of one part and transfer that exact measurement to other parts. Set the ruler to the depth of a tenon, and you can measure if the mortise is deep enough. The woodpecker square can’t do that, but in all fairness that particular example is like comparing apples to pears. Still – it shows that a combination square is a much more versatile tool.

And of course the combination square can be used for 45° stuff. You need a different WP product for that. They do have a combination square too which looks decent.

The point here is not that the perforated thingamasquare is a bad idea, but we need to understand the scope of the thing. What is its intended use? How does it fit into my workflow? Is it shiiinyyyy… enough? Is it a one-hit-wonder kind of deal? To me, many products (or their features) seems to be a scratch in need of an itch. This is not exclusive for Woodpeckers, though.

I have also seen the “wall of squares” from said company. I find it ludicrous. How many “precision” squares do you need? How many sizes?? Aside from that, “precision square” for $400? You can make a wooden square that’s EXACTLY as precise, for free! Any square that is actually square do the exact same job. Might not be anodized red, though…

PS: I made a small side table where I used a 15cm Starrett combo square and a steel ruler to mark the table top for planing. I placed the ruler against the square and scribed the lines I then planed to. The diagonals on that table top came within .3mm…. No need for a big square at all!

My point is: do not for a second believe that your work will improve just because you threw a wad of valuable paper at a tool pusher. If your $400 89° square (high pricetag does not mean they defy gravity and may fall off of the bench..) are causing problems constructing drawers, something is indeed amiss. And not only the price tag.

Which one is square? Introducing the 89 and 91 degree angles, folks!

If my $20 combo square ever goes out of square, I know how to fix the problem in minutes. And I don’t have to spend a dime on it.

Let me quote from the website of this red brand:

Framing Squares Just Don’t Cut It. Conventional framing squares may be OK for construction jobs where ‘square’ means in the neighbourhood of 90°. That’s what you can expect from a square that’s punched out by the thousands or moulded out of plastic. As most woodworkers know, framing squares simply can’t be trusted in tight tolerance shop work and can be difficult to use.

Woodpeckers

This is just stupid! And it is a blatant lie! Utter and complete hogwash! If a $2 stamped-out square is indeed square, it is SQUARE!!!! Paying a premium is not going to magically transform 90° into even more 90°!

Oh, Lord have mercy. When a company goes to such lengths in creating juuust enough doubt in your mind about your current (and probably pefectly fine) tools, when they boast about their “cutting edge CNC machinery” (to be fair, most CNC machinery can be outfitted with SEVERAL cutting edges, but that’s a mere detail) and their “computer-controlled optical inspection system” (buzzwords for a maginfying lens, a camera and a robot hand placing a square against a stop perhaps?) – I smell fowl. In fact, I think we are concerningly close to scam country here.

YES DAVE! DAGGONE .0085° RIGHT THERE!

Their products might be extremely well built and of the highest quality. But you don’t see Starrett, Mitutoyo and similar brands use as many buzzwords and PR mumbo-jumbo, do you? And those brands are regarded as the best in the business – because they have put the pudding where the proof is!

Anyway, I’ll stop the rant here. If you own Woodpecker tools and love them, I am very happy for you. I would gladly use a Woodpecker tool if it is gifted to me, because I do not doubt that they are decent tools. But I do not for a second consider to buy one at the current prices!

I just refuse to be had by their excellent PR department. I don’t believe the veracity in a statement that could go something like “it might be dead on 90°, but it ain’t no Woodpeckers 90°!”

I’ll take on Kreg, Festool, Mirka and Titebond some other time.🤪

#rant off

Note: this article is meant as humor. Don’t be offended by it. I hope you take with you certain messages though…

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