Tales of a Hack #4: I was told there would be no math.

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Blog entry by ajw1978 posted 12-21-2014 09:00 AM 1921 reads 0 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 3: Shop status -- Full. Part 4 of Tales of a Hack series Part 5: A quick moment to say ... thanks. »

I was not what most would consider “a good student” in high school. In fact, I feel like I should be paid royalties every time the phrase “[Insert name here] would be an A student if only he’d apply himself” is used to describe an underperforming student.

Math was and remains my least-favorite subject. I hated algebra with every ounce of my soul and pretty much stunk up the room in every math class I ever took. In my many failed attempts at college, I was assigned to math classes which were the grown-up equivalent of “Johnny has two apples and Mary has three…..” and I still couldn’t master it.

In fact, I once spent a class period pop quiz writing a two-page essay on how “finding the value of “x” will have no bearing on my career as a journalist.

[Note: I got a “B” for creativity, but still bombed the class]

For the most part, I was right. I don’t use math very much. Pretty much every stat I need during the course of a game day is at my electronic disposal and if it’s not, chances are some other geek in the press box is already calculating it and will post it on Twitter. So … no math.

And then I started woodworking, which brings me to my modern-day, real-life equivalent of algebra class: angles. Angles, miters and bevels, you are my nemesis. I hate you with every ounce of my soul. I keep thinking I’d like to start working with better lumber than dimensional crap from Menards or HD, but then I look at my scrap bin and realize “you ain’t there yet, boy.”

I’ve been willing to admit defeat, and have picked up a couple of helpful tools, namely a digital angle gauge to stick on my blades; protractors, t-bevels and so on and so forth. And just when I think I’ve cut a perfect angle … my corners don’t line up.

Practice makes perfect and patience is a virtue, I know. But with a few days left before Christmas, I’m trying to fight off the frustration.

-- May the good Lord help me if I ever actually have a shop, garage or basement.

6 comments so far

View Picklehead's profile


1055 posts in 2853 days

#1 posted 12-21-2014 12:43 PM

Cut/dimension extra test/practice pieces as you go along (in an inexpensive wood species) and use it to test your angles before making your “real” cuts. Cut long, test-fit, and adjust as needed before final cuts. Do the math first, then allow the non-math parts of your brain take it from there. Each project becomes a “tool” in your collection that you can use on future projects.

-- Quote from ebay tool listing: " Has nicks and dings wear and tear dust and dirt rust and pitting but in good working condition"

View Sylvain's profile


1117 posts in 3423 days

#2 posted 12-21-2014 03:58 PM

Whatever it is, reading, writing, spelling, philosophy, latin language, hystory, chemistry, foreign language, geography, physics, biology, ..., or any craft. it will be hard to learn if you first persuade yourself that you would have no use of it.

Mathematics is not limited to calculus and you can do a lot graphically.

look here:
no algebra, no trigonometry, no aritmetics, no unit system : no calculus of any kind.

-- Sylvain, Brussels, Belgium, Europe - The more I learn, the more there is to learn

View 1965scooper's profile


19 posts in 2598 days

#3 posted 12-21-2014 04:41 PM

Math? I feel your pain. Similar struggles with grammar, especially punctuation. Three score and seven on this earth and I remain uncertain about the semicolon. I’m a long-ago journalist who works wood as a hobby and to maintain our townhouse that provides precious little space for my growing collection of hand tools, much less an area for a real shop that isn’t shared with laundry, food storage and (before they passed on) the cats’ litter box.

Stick with it. Enjoy the escape that woodworking provides.

-- 1965 Scooper

View Tim's profile


3859 posts in 2885 days

#4 posted 12-21-2014 06:05 PM

The good news is there are ways to do just about everything in woodworking without doing any math at all. You just have to know the tricks. Math makes things easier, but if the math is too hard, learn the tricks instead. Using a bevel gauge for example you can transfer an angle to wherever you need it without ever measuring it. A finely adjustable jig can sneak up on miters that will fit, again no need to measure, etc.

As far as the math, what was hard when you were 14 is most likely not going to be hard for you for the rest of your life. People that don’t get math in school can often learn whatever concepts tripped them up in school without too much difficulty when they learn it in a way that works for them or when they are motivated to learn it for something useful.

There’s also a small possibility you have a math related learning disability such as dyscalcula. It’s not as well known as things like dyslexia, but it does affect some people, and once you get tested and know for sure, there can be ways to effectively work around it.

View JoeinGa's profile


7741 posts in 2930 days

#5 posted 12-21-2014 07:51 PM

So if one train leaves Chicago at 10am, headed East and running 65mph, and the 2nd train leaves Phoenix …



-- Perform A Random Act Of Kindness Today ... Pay It Forward

View lightweightladylefty's profile


3590 posts in 4636 days

#6 posted 12-22-2014 04:52 AM

I enjoy math but, for the life of me, generally I’m unable to get a decent joint. I blame it on my equipment! And even once I get the joint fine-tuned, I mess up on the glue-up! It must be my clamps. You just need to learn to blame it on someone or something else than your lack of math skills! Maybe group therapy would help. LOL


-- “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” Benjamin Franklin -- Jesus is the ONLY reason for ANY season.

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