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Lately, I have been reading posts and woodworking blogs and there seems to be a lot of comments like, I am new to woodworking and the quality of my work is not very good, or it's okay, but I am just learning; the quality is so-so but it's a little better that my last project.

I started wondering, what are they comparing their work to? Is there some magical standard out there that everyone compares their work to? What is the definition of quality and who sets the guidelines? Is it connected to the cost of the wood or hardware? Is the quality based on the difficulty of the project?

This past spring I had the honor of judging at the finals in the Michigan Industrial & Technology Education Society (MITES) competition in Battle Creek, MI. http://mites.cc/ I judged in the "woods" division. As we worked our way through the awesome woodworking projects, the comment, "This is quality work" was heard over and over again. Considering that these projects were built by junior and senior high school students, the work was nothing less than spectacular, not to mention encouraging. All of this made the task of judging a challenge and I loved every minute of it.

Last night at our monthly woodworkers meeting (www.mmwg.org) it came up again. One of our members, Dick Woodham brought in an owl for show and tell, that he had carved. It was beautiful, the 200 plus hours that Dick spent on the carving showed in every detail. During a break, while we standing around admiring all of the projects displayed, someone said, that owl sure is a quality piece.
The following poem was written by my brother and sums it all up.

Quality
by Doug July

Quality is meeting someone's need,

a teacher's job is planting that seed.

What a wonderful experience it must be,

watching that flower grow from one seed.

Quality is power, freedom, love and fun.

The quality needed is different for everyone.

Quality is doing your very best.

And then finding out there is much more,

still out there to reach for.

Quality is a concept that seems to be without definition.

Yet, it is defined by many and agreed upon by so very few,

you see what is quality to me, may not be quality to you.

Quality is the satisfying of needs,

no matter how difficult that deed may be.

I'm sure everyone can agree,

life is more meaningful, when Quality is achieved.

And what a wonderful world it would be,

if there was always Quality for you and for me.

What are your thoughts???

Keith
 

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Hmm, for me it is the fit and finish of the work that exudes the quality.

I see a lot of guys on here that build furniture, so their projects require precise joinery from start to end, and after all their man hours and precision work, they have to sand, and stain. I can comprehend and appreciate those projects, just not duplicate theri efforts at this point, but that to me exhibits quality.

I also see a lot of lathe workers on here. Bowls, pens, lamps, etc. which amazes me as I have virtually no knowledge of how they accomplished those beautiful pieces. So the quality of their work is exuded in the final presentation, and though I don't aspire to lathe work at this point I can appreciate the form and function of it.
 

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Keith, this is obviously a very subjective topic. We tend to be our own worst critics and often focus more on the "flaws" in our work than the successes. But I do not believe that this is an undesirable trait. By critically examining ourselves we will strive to improve the quality of the product that is produced, with the implicit understanding that we will never achieve perfection despite our best attempts at doing so.
 

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Perfection has been defined as "being as it should be." In woodworking it probably relates to the accuracy of the joints, the consistency of the lines and the overall balance of the finished product. I'm betting that we all strive for perfection. Quality is a measure of how close we are to perfection, it is a scale.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Russel,
"Quality is a measure of how close we are to perfection, it is a scale"

So true.
As our skills improve the bar continues to rise.

Thank you
Keith
 

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I think I would fall into the category of one of the new people that is getting better and improving the quality of my work.

To answer your question to me it is being able to produce a finished piece as close to as possible the vision I have in my head when I start, and improving my skills to be able to do it in a reasonable amount of time. The time factor for me is key to finishing a project before you lose interest in it or other things in my life pull me away. Perfection is an illusion and there will always be room for improvement, I look at most of my work as evolution and what I learn from 1 project is applied to better the next.
 

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This is sort of the antithesis of the post a short while back where we should point out our difficulties and errors so others can learn from them. And, I think that pointing our our level of experience lets everyone know the level of comment that could be made.
 

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Look you don't have to be a concert pianist to know when someone hits a wrong note.Just like woodworking even an amature knows when his work is not correct.Most of us come into the world with a sense of artistic apreciation from the womb. I believe this is cultured during nurturing years but everyone has ability.Some have other regions of their brain that is more developed as they are nurtured throught to adult hood learning is a forever process no-one is perfect and there are nearly always slight flaws in man made objects ,but that's what makes them beautiful and unique .Newcomers should be encouraged constantly to show their work and await Praise and criticism so long as it is helpful .I am teaching my nephew to turn wood at first it seemed he had little talent then he took off and seems to be very quick to learn and is doing great in my opinion.Alistair
 

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A quality piece is any one better than my last project. :)

I'm only half kidding there, because I realize that my perception of quality changes as my level of experience and skill changes. I think it is only natural in any pursuit that the more we know about something, and the better we become at doing it ourselves, the higher our standards of quality become. For example, a newbie woodworker might look at some of my boxes and consider them quality work. But I have to look at guys around here like Dennis Zongker, Les Hastings, Lee Jesberger, etc. to see real quality.

Or to give a non-woodworking example: I play the piano. To a non-musician I play really well, but to a trained professional, I'm just a rank amateur. So I guess you could say that quality is relative.
 

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I think this is the somewhat the same as the 'what is perfect' question i.e It looks how it's supposed to look, but I think quality goes above that in so much as the quality of a piece is best judged by others.

I mean if you are knocking out pieces that perfectly match your vision but everyone that see's it thinks it's a pile of junk then chances are you aren't producing quality work.
 

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Scott gave a good answer.
Personally, I'm a novice who chose to attempt woodworking late in life as therapy. I am not yet able to tackle craftsman type projects, but making anything is a triumph for me and I get encouragement from LJ's. Progress is what I strive for, learning is a lifelong experience for everyone, I'm just starting to achieve woodworking experience. Whatever I make, whatever the "quality", I am confident that the next project will be better quality and I will learn another method or tool use. I am very happy that I get so much personel satisfaction.
 

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I really appreciated this poem this morning, thank to you for sharing it and thanks to your brother for writing it. I've been feeling intimidated about providing "quality" to my clients… I should relax. Quality exists in the experience and I've never had a client come back at me and say… "You've wasted my time."

Phew.

In my turning… when I finish a piece and it works as it was intended (I make yarn spinner's tools)... and it spins true (rotates on its axis without wobble on a pointy point)... I can intuitively feel that I've made a quality piece. It fulfills a need… then I just have to make sure it gets into the right hands.

Happy Friday!
 

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From studying 18th C "Masterpieces" of American furniture we have determined that some of them are perfect pieces. I use Albert Sacks book Fine Points of American Furniture where he rates the pieces as good, better, best and superior. Careful examination reveals that there were available better construction methods than what was used on some of the pieces. Does this mean that the period pieces are not quality? Perhaps the ones recreated today are better quality? The term quality is subjective. If beauty is in the eye of the beholder then surely so is quality.
 

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mic 54 this is not spam I think it is a legitimate discussion. As it has been said I think quality is in the eyes of the person you are making it for. It is true, we are our own worst critics
 

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I personally think quality is different than accuracy. Most of the time the 2 are intermixed. I can build a quality workbench, but the trim may not be accurate but that does not make any less than desirable quality.

Now don't get me wrong, the 2 are best when they work together. But I have seen many students build a project that is in my eyes is quality construction, but the accuracy falls short.

Another Question, is it quality if all the joints are tight and no gaps, but the cabinet doesn't fit the space it was designed for?????
 
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