Professional corner-cutting : Havoc's Blog

submited by
Style Pass
2024-05-12 19:00:03

Steve Jobs famously cared about the unseen backs of cabinets. Antique furniture built with hand tools isn’t like that at all. Cabinetmakers made each part to the tolerance that mattered. The invisible parts were left rough, with plane and saw marks, to save time. The visible parts, however, were cleaned up and polished. Some surfaces were made precisely straight and square, for structural reasons; while nonstructural surfaces were only straight enough to look good to the eye.

Think about an apprentice in an old cabinet shop. An apprentice painstakingly smoothing an invisible surface would be yelled at for wasting time. An apprentice failing to smooth a visible surface would be yelled at for producing crappy work. To become a professional, the apprentice learned to work efficiently but still do a good job. Crucially, a “good job” was defined in terms of customer concerns. [1]

Cabinetmakers were focused on what their customers cared about. Customers wanted the furniture to look good, and they wanted it to be structurally sound. They didn’t care about invisible tool marks, and didn’t want to pay extra to have those removed.

Leave a Comment