A bit of deja vu for regular readers. As you know I like to make boxes for carrying model boats once they are built. After putting all the working into attaching details, the last thing I want to be spending time doing is sticking things back on when those same details have been knocked off moving the model to the waterside. Of course making boxes isn't exactly exciting so it tends to get put off until there is nothing better to do.
In this case it's not just me but my Dad who is guilty of this, his Puffer has aquired a nice coating of dust since it was finished. Anyway, enough was enough and we decided to have a bit of a box making session.
In the past the boxes have been made from 3mm ply with corner strengthening. This is fine and light but fiddly to work with. On a whim we decided to try 6mm instead - the theory being that the corners could be pinned and glued. Fillets would then be glued in to beef up the joins later.
First up we needed wood, and this is really the point of this blog entry. Time and time again, people bemoan their lack of woodworking skills and I say, "Go to a proper shop and get the stuff cut for you then". They look at me like I've gone stupid, smile politely and wander off shaking their heads. I'm not kidding though. If you get the stuff chopped then you can walk away with what is basically a kit, be it for boat boxes or model railway baseboards. The cuts will be dead straight too, not the sort of straight that you (or at least I) do with a handsaw but proper straight like a ruler. The corners will be bang on too.
All this makes for a nice, neat, professional job. So why doesn't everyone do it ? Well I think there are a couple of reasons. First, over the last few years we have been encouraged to think that big shed DIY stores are the only suppliers of material. This has lead to death of many local hardware shops. Of course, some big sheds will cut wood, our local Homebase will, but most want you to pick up the stuff they have in stock, no matter how wonky it is, take it to the till, pay, take it to your car, and sod off.
For only a little more effort you can get much better service - go to a builders merchant for gravel and similar stuff and not only will it be better quality but they will load it in your car for you or even deliver. I know it's perhaps a touch intimidating to walk through the door but if you admit you need to ask questions and ask politely then the results are unfailingly good.
It's the same with dead trees - DIY store wood is often rubbish. They cut it, wrap it in plastic and then dump it in the store where is dries out and warps. Of course they don't get a new batch in until the old stuff has sold. Go to a wood shop that the trade uses and if the stuff is rubbish, someone with a scruffy van and pencil behind the ear will tell them in no uncertain terms.
The other show stopper is cost. We've all be taught by the telly that cheap and value for money are the same thing (they aren't - in the toy train world there are plenty of cheap kits but many are so bad that they can't be assembled. Value for money ones are those that go together and give you a finished model at the end of the process.) and that DIY sheds have the exclusive ability to dish out cheap. Again, they don't.
Exhibit A is the bill for wood which we bought from the excellent and friendly Torry's Hardware in Warwick. £21 for material for three reasonable sized boxes. If it helps, the biggest one holds a 1/32nd Clyde Puffer. That's 21 quid for the wood including cutting to size. Of course they can do this because they get to use up offcuts from other jobs but then this isn't cabinet making so who cares ?
So today's lesson is - lay down your saw and get the Yellow Pages out. Go forth to your local hardware store, preferably one where the "corporate clothing" involves a brown overall. You will be welcomed with open arms and your woodwork (benchwork for our American readers) will improve no end.