Workshop Philosophies #1: The Justification Formula

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Blog entry by David Craig posted 10-04-2010 01:55 AM 15324 reads 0 times favorited 12 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Workshop Philosophies series Part 2: Midlife ... »

I am a person with many contradictory attributes. I am a computer analyst with an artistic side. While one part of me wants to let loose and go with my feelings, my more analytical side will keep me in check and anchor me the other way. I look at woodworking as a hobby and I also look at it as potentially a way of life. Depends on which side of my brain I wake up on in the morning. I make a pretty decent salary, am a home owner, pay child support, etc. So responsibilities take a good portion of my paycheck and the rest has to go through, what I call, the justification formula.

I am an individual on salary, not hourly as some folks are. The negative of this is that my work hours are often way more than they should for the “hourly” rate that I am listed for. On the other hand, I look at time a little differently. I think of it in terms of value and try to, as much as possible, get a decent return on my investment.

In short, I have two items of value that has to achieve some form of balance; my time and my money.

The old maxim in tool buying talk is to “purchase the best that you can afford.” Now my analytical side finds this a bit too arbitrary. “Best” has so many definitions and “afford” is a whole other avenue with twists and turns involving feeding the kids too many peanut butter and jelly sandwiches if I am not careful. In order to help with this, I apply The Justification Formula.

The way it works is as follows -

Time and Money must achieve a balance. I cannot make a purchase to tip the scales too much in one direction or another. Doing so will result in disaster (be it small, medium, or large) and I have no interest in going through disaster more times than I have to.

Time has a value. I am generous with myself as an employer, but not too generous. For my labors, I give myself the wage of 15 dollars an hour. No one works for free, I shouldn’t either. Whether I enjoy what I am doing or not is besides the point in this exercise. I am laboring, that time is worth something, so I give myself an hourly wage.

I cannot financially afford the “Best” so I have to base tool and wood purchases on what I can do to compensate that. If I buy a cheaper tool, I have to made a decision on why it is cheaper. Is it used? Is it not tuned, honed, outfitted, or otherwise labored on to perfection at the factory? Or is it just because it is a piece of crap that will never work the way it should from the pre-production stages?

Once that is determined, I take the pirce of what it would take to make it the very best (i.e. additional hardware, materials such as sandpaper, rust remover, grinding wheels, files, etc. ) add it to the purchase price and add it to the hours it will take to make it work and I have the “real” price of the tool. Once I have the real price, subtract that from the cost of buying “The Best” and I have an idea on whether I should pursue it or not.

Sound complicated?

Think of it as this – time + cost = true cost… ideal tool – true cost of alternative =? If there is a positive number, I am good. If it is a negative, I steer far away.

Anyone else have their own strange “justification” method?


-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

12 comments so far

View MsDebbieP's profile


18619 posts in 5445 days

#1 posted 10-04-2010 02:34 AM

1. do I want it?
2. do I need it – to enhance my life?
3. am I going to end up buying it anyway?
4. is the “need” coming from my ego or is it a real “need”?
5. will I regret the purpose at the end of the month?

Not quite as complicated as yours, except #4 which is the real mind-wrestling debate.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

View degoose's profile


7285 posts in 4639 days

#2 posted 10-04-2010 03:06 AM

I want a new tool…I see my wife.
My wife asks the following questions..
IF I can answer truthfully yes to all of them then I can buy it.
Do you need it? YES
Will you use it? YES
Do you have the money to buy it? YES
Can you afford it? YES
Then buy it… so says SHMBO

-- Be safe.

View NBeener's profile


4816 posts in 4459 days

#3 posted 10-04-2010 03:13 AM

Great stuff, David :-)

Oh, I, too, have a well-honed process to make purchasing decisions.

As yet, it eludes me. I don’t really understand what it is.

I do know this, though: when it’s over … if I DO get the tool, I feel relief, satisfaction, accomplishment, and pride.

If the net result OF “The Process” is that I cannot, should not, or … in other ways … DO not buy the tool, I get pouty and lethargic.

Yeah. I wish I did understand it ;-)

-- -- Neil

View kcrandy's profile


285 posts in 4717 days

#4 posted 10-04-2010 03:33 AM

Hmm…. Well, you can’t pay yourself. High end CEOs sort of do it when, for example, they use their “star” power to feature themselves in a company commercial and then charge the company for their “talent” time. But they are not dipping into their own pocket to pay themselves.

Simple analysis here, I think. What woodworking project(s) do you want to do. What would it cost for someone else to do it. What would it cost for you to do it if you had the tools to do it and can factor in the possibility that you will use that tool(s) to do more projects.

In my own case, I have an cheap Delta table saw and would love to be able to spend mega hundreds on a good table saw. But so far, investing in a good blade, using jigs etc. I have been able to do everything I need to do to accomplish the projects I want to complete. I can’t justify spending the dollars for a better table saw. Yet…

On the other hand, a bargain came my way to get one of those Dewalt cordless track saws and that has really been worth it. Had I bought it at its original price it I never would have done so, but at the reduced price it has proven to be a wonderful buy/

-- Caulk and paint are a poor carpenter's best friends

View Dark_Lightning's profile


4941 posts in 4394 days

#5 posted 10-04-2010 03:46 AM

If I need a tool, and let’s be clear, I need it if I can’t do the project without it…even if I don’t need the project, I buy it. It didn’t use to be that way. I’ve delayed buying tools for so long and made do with inferior alternatives, which in the long run cost me more time AND money. Now, I don’t make a living on my woodworking per se (more’s the pity, I cleaned up on those birdhouses, and really should educate my sons on that moneymaker); I have an engineer job that doesn’t pay all that badly. My wife has a $4000 sewing machine (which by the way I paid for), and she makes no money on that hobby. It have maybe twice that much invested in all the tools I own, most of which I bought before I was married and extend from Pfiel hand chisels to impact wrenches for auto repair. My tools have paid for themselves many times over. I do my own maintenance and repair on all our vehicles, and do almost all home upgrades, maintenance and repairs.

-- Steven.......Random Orbital Nailer

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 4394 days

#6 posted 10-04-2010 04:20 AM

Thanks for the comments all.

kcrandyAtomJack has come very close to how I would explain paying one’s self. When I perform DIY projects around the house, I am saving money doing it myself. Last year, I did a roofing project and I don’t even want to think about how much it would have cost had I hired someone to do it for me. If I save money by doing labor around the house or down in the shop, I give myself justification dollar credits. Why? Because my tools save me money. And when I can demonstrate that, I deserve a few tool and wood dollars my way. Those were my methods of justification when married. If you want me to save us some dollars, I should be allowed to get the tool that helps me do that effectively :)

Larry – Somewhat jokingly, you have effectively demonstrated the advantages of an honest relationship with the spouse. I always had to do flowcharts and graphs, you only have to answer four questions honestly. Kudos.

Debbie – Honesty with the self can be the biggest hurdle in the whole process. Number 4. makes my process seem almost too simple :) Ego vs. real need? Answer that question honestly and you deserve your own cave in the mountains with the title of “Guru.” :)

Neil – Lethargy and poutiness? Right there with you brother. Just because I make an adult decision doesn’t mean I have to take it like one :) Tool purchasing is my form of lactation. Take that boob away and I am going to cry like a baby…

Thanks all for your participation and comments!


-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

View RonPeters's profile


713 posts in 4165 days

#7 posted 10-04-2010 05:08 AM

I tried using splines to put a carcass together. I soon discovered that it was hopelessly impossible to get it right.

The set up, adjusting, measuring, cutting the splines etc. It took all day to cut the grooves with a router!

I then decided to buy a Porter Cable biscuit joiner that cost $220, but it DID the job and in 1/4 the time! I could have gotten a cheaper one, but I figure it will always be worth what I paid for it. It’s a good quality tool.

Will I use it a lot? Probably not, unless I start making cabinets, but I have found it really handy to increase the width of a board if it wasn’t wide enough. I plan to make a tv stand in the future. I could buy a stand for about $1000….but I can learn so much more by doing it myself.

-- “Once more unto the breach, dear friends...” Henry V - Act III, Scene I

View MickeyD's profile


130 posts in 4811 days

#8 posted 10-04-2010 05:33 AM

all this thinking and analyzing sure takes the fun out of impulse buying.

-- -Willing to try

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4275 posts in 4449 days

#9 posted 10-04-2010 06:44 AM

I value my time a whole lot more than you do.

If whatever I do isn’t interesting or fun I don’t do it, and buy the equivalent, whatever that is.

Energy is my limiting factor, not time or money for the hobby, so it really gets complicated and subjective.

When I grow up, and get smart I will figure out the formula… the meantime, I will just muddle along.

But when you really get down to it, none of the above is important, because I have a screwed up value system. I have this propensity to see if I can do something without very much…..........

David, could I hire you to figure out a formula for me?


Oh, and PS…...

I am not really sure what my role in this hobby is going to be….........

Could you help me with that too?


-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 4400 days

#10 posted 10-04-2010 08:32 PM

Jim LOL :-)
David you always come with the tricky one :-)
but I think I buy your DIY explanation tis very close to what I do openly
but I still sneak in those Jewlry needed for future use…LOL

take care

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4275 posts in 4449 days

#11 posted 10-04-2010 11:29 PM

You, mister practical, fancy shoes, gaudy gowns, and jewels for the shop. I would never have believed it.

I admit to having a few jewels, that I haven’t even worn yet…....the Workshop 3000 and a certain Veritas block plane come to mind…......a PC sander, and a Bosch Colt router, too, upon reflection. I will really be happy when I get off of the plywood and MDF kick and start using some real wood.

Getting some good shop time today in preparation for the workweek, thankfully a short one.

Making a mystery gizmo…......I don’t even know what to call it.

I too have an inexpensive old table saw, but it hasn’t let me down yet, so I’ll keep on using it. If I have to I will buy a better one, but not until.

My wife has so much money in sewing machines and sundry, that I will be hard pressed to outdo her. My tools last longer than her machines, however, as they aren’t as subject to fashion and new technolgy.

Sitting here covered in sawdust….......time to go back to the shop….......


-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 4400 days

#12 posted 10-04-2010 11:40 PM

its just that lately a few (maybee a little more) juwlry´s has fuond its way to Ærø
and I have to strechs the revael of them a little this time, after all theese ain´t for the house
but for how I feel and look …..LOL :—))


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