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alanganes
08-31-2011, 10:08 AM
Just was thinking the other day...

On this and other forums like it there is sometimes much discussion about how good is "good enough" in a given instance. Lots of us hobby guys work to standards that are much higher than one might be working in production environments, just because they like the challenge of pushing themselves and their equipment to the limit. Others are just fine with "good enough to get the job done..." Neither is right or wrong, but we do seem to sometimes expend a bunch of energy debating which is better :)

Anyhow, while I am very far from being any sort of perfectionist, I got to thinking about all of this recently after finishing up work on a project with my 10 year old son. Being 10 and a boy he is all into Star Wars stuff and had been wanting to make a light saber replica, as he had seen some that some folks had made on the web. So starting with a chrome bathroom sink tailpiece we worked on it for a while and came up with this:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v479/alanganes/DSC00298.jpg

The funny thing is, that if you look at the black handgrip part at the left side of that photo, those are made from the rubber cut from old windshield wiper blades. We glued them on with weatherstrip adhesive, and you can see the glue has gooped up on the black and looks pretty messy. I was bugged by that and told my son that we could fix that by scraping off most of it and painting the edge black so it will blend with the rubber. He stopped me and told me not to, as it made it look "really cool!" and that it could now be the "Golden Light Saber."

So what I saw as flawed and sloppy workmanship was actually a feature in the eyes of my customer(!). It spends a great deal of time hanging off of his belt these days.

It is sometimes better to be lucky than talented, I guess.

kendall
08-31-2011, 01:44 PM
Looks pretty cool, My grandson would have a blast playing with that!

While I prefer making things that function and look as good as I can, it really comes down to effort vs value.
If the 'customer' is satisfied with the way it looks and functions, that's the real heart of the matter.

With the current 'hand made' fad(?) I've noticed people have such a strong desire for some flaw in a product to prove that it is handmade that many people and even commercial manufacturers are intentionally introducing flaws to capitalize on it.

Examples include hand hewn flooring and other woodwork. most examples of 'authentic hand hewn' woodwork would never have made it into a storage shed, let alone a table top or living space floor. Table tops with randomly spaced 3/4 inch deep gouges? Umm, hand planes have been around for thousands of years.

Most people seem to assume that before the dawn of the modern IKEA age, people sat around on stumps and built everything with lumber worked by half trained beavers.

Another term (that really bugs me) is rustic, which for most seems to mean 'slapped together with no skill or concern for appearance or function'. Being a carpenter, I really hate when someone says they want something to look rustic....


Edit: I've built many things using hand hewn beams, mortised joints, trennels, pegs and other authentic 'rustic' techniques. In many cases the owners wanted everything done using period correct tools, and would have nixed any thought of matching the modern 'hand hewn' or 'rustic' look. Most of these were built when people were known and respected for the quality of work they did, not the size of their paycheck.

Personal belief is that modern tools have contributed to the shoddiness of modern construction practice more than anything else.

Scottike
08-31-2011, 02:01 PM
Rustic is to furniture and decorating as Rusty is to tools. I have some of both but I try to keep the tools not as rustic.

edit: Nice "Golden Saber" there, I'd have wanted to clean off the adhesive too, or since he likes it - fill in the voids with another coat!

Scottike
08-31-2011, 02:14 PM
My grandfather was a carpenter, and one of the things he taught me was that every carpenter/craftsman makes mistakes - the difference between a good one and a poor one is how well they deal with them.

kendall
08-31-2011, 03:02 PM
My grandfather was a carpenter, and one of the things he taught me was that every carpenter/craftsman makes mistakes - the difference between a good one and a poor one is how well they deal with them.

Another 'rule' is that a good carpenter is one who knows where he can make mistakes.

Weston Bye
08-31-2011, 03:40 PM
Where I work, I have had varying results while fixture and tool making. Oh, the fixtures and tools worked well enough, were accurate and reliable and usable, and cost an order of magnitude less than a device purchased from a "real" tool shop, but the variable results came in concerning acceptance. Something that appeared "slapped together", usually to meet a time deadline or some other constraint, meets with resistance or requires more testing to demonstrate that it works as intended.

In my career, I have taken more heat over inconsequentials (lack of finish) than for actual performance.

ME: Price, speed, cosmetics. Pick two. (accuracy not in question)
THEM: Perfect (includes pretty), free, now.

alanganes
08-31-2011, 06:07 PM
Good points from all.

I guess what surprised me most was my utter lack of ability to read what was wanted, and just assume that what he wanted was what I thought. Guess I should have asked first.

Very true, Weston. I guess sometimes, perception actually IS reality, particularly to the folks writing the checks.


I have to agree on the "rustic" furniture. We were looking for a dining room table a while back and looked at some that were made from actual recovered lumber. Really nice with a few small flaws here and there, but nice but way above what we had to spend. We looked at some commercial stuff that was "rustic style" with manufactured worm holes and gouges, spaced pretty regularly across the surface. Awful.

Scottike
08-31-2011, 06:34 PM
Another 'rule' is that a good carpenter is one who knows where he can make mistakes.

Very true dat!

Grind Hard
08-31-2011, 07:01 PM
When I am not grinding I work a press-brake.

Running a one-off job... A louvered panel made on our Hybrid Laser-Turret center... Wouldn't you know it the Center operator is out because it is time for him to do Reserve Duty.

Naturally... It slips on the back-guage and I end up with an Epic Taper. Realizing the customer is ON HIS WAY RIGHT NOW to pick it up I flatten it out in another press-brake and rebend it.

There are tool-marks all over the surface. It's got a bit of a wave to it. It's slightly out of spec.

Told Sales. Sales panics. I panic. Boss panics as this is a Very Important Customer.

We decide to offer VIC a discount and all that blah blah blah they are going to make an example out of me --doom, gloom, fire and death!

Customer shows up we show him the catastrophic damage and he says "doesn't matter it gets painted then mounted in a substation no one is ever going to see it."

That was years ago. I'm still here and I still work the press-brakes when my department is slow. :D


Often times when we make something quality is in the eyes of the end-user. I've had customers "at home" who wanted a professional level fit and finish while others are "meh close enough I'll hammer it into position here's the $50 I owe you."

38_Cal
08-31-2011, 10:47 PM
Many moons ago in Gunsmithing school, I had an instructor who graded his projects on a scale of basic points for the degree of difficulty, with a multiplier of 0-3. Zero being not acceptable on any level, one is it works but it's ugly, two is it works and looks good, and three is it looks professionally done. Very few of my projects fell to a two. Those who thought that "good enough" was good enough seldom got as high as a two.

David

mike4
09-02-2011, 11:07 PM
I agree with surface finish or cosmetic appearance not being important .

Several customers only care about functional replacements , only asking for top finish at bearing mounting areas, so long as its smooth and wont break in the first 12 months , they dont expect mirror finish on the whole part with 0.0005 tolerance .
That is because having a machine operating and earning money is what they care more about than what a part looks like because usually its either internal and not seen or its welded in place painted and then gets covered in grease and dirt.
Michael

Errol Groff
09-03-2011, 12:06 AM
Many years back when I was doing industrial modelmaking I was turning a blank out of hard maple for a project. I checked it with my micrometer and was pleased that it was right on target within .001. I got to thinking that it was pretty silly to be so pleased that it was that accurate since after it was painted and tarted up no one would EVER check it. But it pleased me to be as acurate as possible and I guess that was what counted.

Errol Groff

J Tiers
09-03-2011, 01:17 AM
it's worth doing stuff to a slightly higher standard when you can, simply because it keeps you in practice.

if you make enough "good enough" stuff, then that's all you CAN make. Either in reality, or in the eyes of your customers.

I've selected vendors for a part based on the fact that their other parts they made for us looked good, with crisp features and no marring, etc. EVEN THOUGH the parts they had been making had no actual need for that appearance.

It was an indication that the shop had standards, and were not interested purely in how little effort they could put into the part. And it was taken as an indication that when it counted, they could be depended on to do a good job to requirements. That assessment was rarely wrong.

These days with CNC etc, stuff often looks very "pro" with comparatively little "pro" effort.

DATo
09-03-2011, 02:22 AM
I agree with J Tiers. Both he an I are from the "Show Me State" and maybe that's got something to do with it. *LOL*

A machinist can grasp the importance of the various aspects of a project and can make an accurate assessment of what is important and what is not, but the average customer knows only what he sees in many cases. I've done a lot of work for doctors and scientists who are not familiar with machine shop practice but only believe that if something looks like crap it will probably work like crap. Going the extra mile to make something look good and to get fluid movements on all moving parts does take a little longer but the payoff is a satisfied customer. Also, I honestly believe that if you allow yourself to accept less than your best effort you can get into a habit of making this your normal work habit.

Today I had a job (an approximately 1.5" square block) which required a surface angle of 38.72 degrees on one face to hold a laser mirror. After machining I hand lapped the surface while checking to a comparator indicator while holding the block on a sine plate till it read zero / zero across the flat in both planes though this level of accuracy was not essential to the project. It took about an extra 20 minutes. This has been my normal work habit throughout my career. As a result I am often asked for by name by various research groups to do their projects. I have never been out of work for one day in the last 40 years despite the cyclical downturns in the economy over this period. Maybe there is a correlation between professional conscientiousness and job security.

mike4
09-03-2011, 02:33 AM
it's worth doing stuff to a slightly higher standard when you can, simply because it keeps you in practice.

if you make enough "good enough" stuff, then that's all you CAN make. Either in reality, or in the eyes of your customers.

I've selected vendors for a part based on the fact that their other parts they made for us looked good, with crisp features and no marring, etc. EVEN THOUGH the parts they had been making had no actual need for that appearance.

It was an indication that the shop had standards, and were not interested purely in how little effort they could put into the part. And it was taken as an indication that when it counted, they could be depended on to do a good job to requirements. That assessment was rarely wrong.

These days with CNC etc, stuff often looks very "pro" with comparatively little "pro" effort.

I do not do rough work or shabby finish , I work to the standards required by the customers, I just stated that they often do not require mirror finish ,just finished to the tolerances required to get a piece of equipment up and working ,which fits ,lasts and doesnt look much different than the manufacturers original finish.

Often time is of the essence and the extra hour required to polish an area which doesnt carry a bearing is time wasted.

I have had some customers compliment on how the repair was done under stress ,with a lasting result and a good quality finish.

Not wanting to start an "mines better than yours " session.
Michael

DATo
09-03-2011, 04:18 AM
I do not do rough work or shabby finish , I work to the standards required by the customers, I just stated that they often do not require mirror finish ,just finished to the tolerances required to get a piece of equipment up and working ,which fits ,lasts and doesnt look much different than the manufacturers original finish.

Often time is of the essence and the extra hour required to polish an area which doesnt carry a bearing is time wasted.

I have had some customers compliment on how the repair was done under stress ,with a lasting result and a good quality finish.

Not wanting to start an "mines better than yours " session.
Michael

There is a lot of truth in what you say. The original responsibility rests with the customer to tell us what they are expecting but I've found that more often than not it will be up to us to find out what their standards are if they do not explicitly state them. Most blueprints have the customer's standards outlined in the title box where the basic tolerances are stated. I've had customers who have told me they were either in a hurry or on a budget and to not spend any unnecessary time on frills, and that's OK, but in the normal course of our work when the decision is left up to us we usually find ourselves walking a fine line between providing both quality and economy for our customers. The quest for perfection can be costly and a good machinist knows where to draw the line.

So in principle I agree with you. I once told a boss that a project could be made "TOO good". His response was that no project could be made "too good". Personally I think he was full of crap. Can you imagine how long it would take to make every dimension on every project that is stated as + - .005 come out + - .0002? (EDIT: He would have us REAM clearance holes for screws. Then he'd spend an hour trying to assemble a complex instrument such that not one screw would be fitted without dragging on the clearance holes. My fellow workers and I called it "tightening and loosening". The guy was a total idiot.)

I'm not trying to put words in his mouth but I think what J Tiers is saying is that when economy is not going to be grossly compromised it is good form to spend a *little* extra time to make a project look like it was created by a pro. His first point is one which I also believe in - one can begin to fall into bad professional habits which become permanently part of our personal work ethic by constantly cutting corners with sloppy work.

J Tiers
09-03-2011, 10:20 AM
I'm not trying to put words in his mouth but I think what J Tiers is saying is that when economy is not going to be grossly compromised it is good form to spend a *little* extra time to make a project look like it was created by a pro. His first point is one which I also believe in - one can begin to fall into bad professional habits which become permanently part of our personal work ethic by constantly cutting corners with sloppy work.


Correct.

And it may not really take much more time, it may be a tooling choice, or a real roughing pass plus finish, vs a slower "medium" pass that is reasonably fast, but gives a "good enough" finish.....

Check a German-made machined item. I rarely see scratchy IDs even on screw clearance holes..... and the part always looks crisp and "finished". That's a bit of excess, maybe, but then, I assume your opinion of German manufacturing is a tad higher than others, even though BOTH the German and Malaysian (for instance) units function correctly.

You know the old saying..... if the tray tables are not clean, that means they cut corners on engine maintenance too.

Scottike
09-03-2011, 12:02 PM
I've always found it to be good practice to give my customers a little more than they expected. And it is usually a matter of the customer's perceptions and expectations.
Getting a rush job finished sooner than promised, taking the time to put a little better finish on a piece than they expect, bringing a job in under budget, or just generally doing a better job than the "last guy", has always served to keep me working when others arn't.
But it also means sticking to your guns, don't promise unless you know you can deliver, don't do shoddy work because the customer wants it that way (it's seldom faster than doing it right the first time) and allow for the unexpected to happen. (it usually does)
If you foresee a problem, solve it, or make the customer aware of it so they can.
Don't "let it slide" because it's not your area of responsibility, or "that's what the customer wants", often times, they don't know enough to know the right questions to ask, let alone figure out what it takes to get the job done right or if they do know, they're busy dealing with other things and it got overlooked.
Quality workmanship isn't just skill with tools, ultimately, it's an attitude.
That attitude is in abundance in places like this forum, but I always find it suprising how seldom it exists in the "real world"

J Tiers
09-03-2011, 03:04 PM
And don't forget that the person suggesting "just get it done, the looks aren't important" may be:

1) just an errand boy, NOT the person who will be judging the part, without the authority to say anything.

2) friends with the prior vendor, trying to show that others are not as good.

3) a manager working on his own priority list and agenda, NOT the project person's or even the corporate one.

4) actually the correct person, with authority, and means what he says.

Scottike
09-03-2011, 05:18 PM
And don't forget that the person suggesting "just get it done, the looks aren't important" may be:

1) just an errand boy, NOT the person who will be judging the part, without the authority to say anything.

2) friends with the prior vendor, trying to show that others are not as good.

3) a manager working on his own priority list and agenda, NOT the project person's or even the corporate one.

4) actually the correct person, with authority, and means what he says.

And if your lucky, your only dealing with one of the above.

DATo
09-03-2011, 08:46 PM
Quality workmanship isn't just skill with tools, ultimately, it's an attitude. That attitude is in abundance in places like this forum, but I always find it suprising how seldom it exists in the "real world"


AMEN !!!! We got some great guys here.

But I think it naturally follows that the type of person who would produce crap probably wouldn't subscribe to a forum like this. On his own time his trade is probably the last thing he wants to talk about or perform as a hobby or business from home. To the people who participate in forums like this, pros or amateurs, machining is a vocation - a "calling", if you will - rather than just a job.