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Expert advice

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What does someone who’s supposed to know a lot do when he doesn’t know something about stuff he’s supposed to know about? When it’s me, I ask those who do.

Because I write woodworking books and articles for a living, I am -- rightly or wrongly -- sometimes considered to be an expert on all things woodworking. Well, after being a woodworker for more than four decades I suppose I’m smarter than the average bear on the subject, but I don’t know everything. I know next to nothing about carving, for example; cutting hinge mortises is the closest I come. While I’m familiar with some basics about spray finishing I don’t do it myself, don’t own spray equipment, and would be the last person to ask for advice on the subject. And I am no mechanic by any definition of the word. I can’t change the oil in my car, troubleshoot an engine/motor of any kind, understand torque calculations, or work comfortably with electricity more complex than replacing flashlight batteries. Unfortunately, woodworking sometimes involves those things.

As an example I’ve been having some issues with my lathe, the most troubling of which involves a doesn’t-sound-very-good noise coming from it. Is it the bearings? A bent shaft? A loose screw down in the innards? Some volts or something leaking onto the floor? Heck, as far as I know it could be anything.

I checked the manual first, of course, but when I couldn’t solve the issue I took the problem to the guys on forum. The topic has generated a lot of discussion, helped me eliminate several things, and has put me on the right track to nailing it down. (Looks like the motor brushes are the likely culprit.)

Admitting in a public setting that I, a so-called woodworking expert, am weak in certain areas of the subject is no problem for me. I know a lot about most things woodworking, but not all things. And when something comes up I don’t know, I just ask those who do. The point here is that no one person can know everything about a subject.

Except Star Trek. I’m an expert on that.



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Expertly speaking

I got a nice compliment this week from someone impressed with my expertise. Don’t know if it was warranted, but it sure felt great.